Friday, March 7, 2014

A Crazy Year of Theatre

I remember the day when Claire came home after a cat neuter and Mocha (one of our rescues) was spayed at Ridgehill Animal Hospital.  Claire had watched and been shocked by the procedure and decided then and there that she didn't want to be a vet anymore.  This was quite a shock to me as all her life she had been all about animals.  She had recently been to a vet camp and loved it and I had been checking out all of the top vet programs in the country fully expecting her to be going in that direction.  People had warned me that children change their minds but I was pretty sure Claire was set in that direction.

From that time on, Claire dove into writing her book, spending countless hours writing and editing with her editor from Writopia.  Along with that, an intense passion for theatre developed and it hasn't subsided one bit.

With Book of Mormon star Nic Rouleau
I remember the moment too when she decided singing was a new passion, hearing Juliet sing at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.  I have been watching her developing her talents,  blossoming into a fully fledged theatre nerd and just soaking up everything she can about the history of theatre and anything else associated with it.  The cynic in me tells me that this is just a phase however, I can't help being drawn into it.  Passion is contagious.

In The Woods cast at the Ridgefield Playhous

I decided to just enjoy it.  In honor of that I decided to get tickets to a piece of theatre every week.   We have been going to many of the local town and school productions, to shows in regional centers and Broadway too as a treat.  It has been fun exploring all of our neighborhood theaters.  I am surprised at how many there are...we can't get to everything we want to see.  This experience is instilling in me a love of theatre that I didn't know I had and Claire just loves it so much.

We sometimes end up here for dinner...the food is oust but the singing.....GREAT!


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Academic Co-op

I have so much to write about because I haven't been blogging for a year and it is hard to know where to start.  The most profound change in our homeschooling life has been our attendance at an academic homeschooling co-op (Phoenix).   This co-op is a collaborative of like minded families who desire tutor/teachers to teach their children particular subjects as part of a homeschooling lifestyle.  The co-op is designed to run for 60 days (2 days/week) during the school year, from 8am-5pm.  There are three levels (primary, prep, honors) and children slot in where they have the best academic fit.
Our co-op at St Marguerite's
We decided to choose an academic co-op because Claire was tired of spending so much time on the computer taking courses.  She wanted to take advanced courses but felt she needed the stimulation and motivation from other students and good feedback from her teachers.  She wanted to take part in group activities and have more social opportunities.

She still wanted time however to write her book and keep Lucky Tails running smoothly.

Tristan wasn't quite as enthusiastic about joining the co-op.  He would rather stay home and play Minecraft!! however he has seen the benefit of participating and feels his skills have improved a lot, especially his writing and his ability to work independently.

In the honors program Claire does AP Biology, Biology labs, World Literature, World History, Algebra 1 and dance.  (She also does Adobe Photoshop at the Potter School online, French and a ton of theatre arts classes.)

In prep Tristan studies Modern Literature, Modern History, Architecture, Science Club, Critical Thinking, Language Arts and private Math tutoring. (At home he does Science, French, Destination Imagination, Theatre Arts and dance)

The co-op also provides opportunities such as Model Congress, Model UN, 4-H clubs, many fun nights and parties, school trips and a prom.

Now heading into spring I have to say that this co-op has been a good match for our family.  Claire has found the work challenging, yet invigorating at times...a little dry at other times.  But on the whole she feels that the co-op is preparing her well for college and feels confident that she is on a good track for her.  Tristan said that he would give me another year... lol.   He is not 100% in.  So I am enjoying fun activities with him on days he is not at Phoenix.  I like the idea of a hybrid homeschool model: academic/project based homeschool.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Minecraft Club

Tristan's Minecraft Club has been happening at the Wilton Library for over a year now.   We meet every Saturday morning and playdates often follow.  We have a group of regulars and new people trying it out every week.  The library has had to cap participants to 25 and we have a waiting list.  It has been a great fun start to our weekends.

So this is Tristan with a couple of his buddies that have been coming to the club for over a year.

It has been interesting observing these children play.  We went for a long stretch without girls and now we have around 8 who come regularly. The boys are louder and like to play "seek and destroy" games.

The girls are busy creating "machines" and villages.  Of course there is a lot of crossover too and everyone seems to have a great time.

We have also played around with table configuration and have decided a particular layout is most enjoyed. The children like to sit in groups so we have 4 tables of 6-7 kids.

We have a craft table now also to design and make pixel art with wooden blocks.

Tristan has also started a new Minecraft related programming course at Youth Digital.  I am a strong believer in not just playing games, but creating them.  This course is called Mod Design 1.

Children are taught how to make their own swords, food, and other Minecraft elements (called "mods") using Javascript.  It is a course designed for children aged 8-14 and it is the 4th course we have taken with this wonderful little company from North Carolina.  Check them out here.  I purchased this program from the Homeschoolers Buyers Co-op at a substantial discount.

(I am not being paid to plug these companies but I highly recommend them)

We will be continuing to host the Club through May and then we will have to make a decision about whether to hand it over to other enthusiastic parents to host it over the summer.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Cooking in French

This year we have a wonderful French teacher, Elhem, coming to our house once a week to speak French (only) with my children.

Tristan asked to have French lessons and I found a teacher who lives nearby.  Tristan has convinced Elhem to teach him how to bake French recipes.  Today they are baking financier. These are little almond and raspberry cakes.  He is having to measure everything in grams and all the wonderful things that baking involves.  Tristan has quite a list of all the things he wants to bake!  Next week they are making creme brûlée.  He doesn't realize he is learning French as he bakes; he just thinks that he is having fun.

Claire has started a 4 year French course with the Potter School online, which terminates with the French AP exam. The class includes all of the grammar and conversation but the teachers are not native speakers and Claire needs to be able to converse in French with her Grandparents about all of the things she is interested in.  Elhem challenges her to talk about herself and clarifies the grammar rules so that she can speak confidently.

The Potter School specializes in providing rigorous courses for homeschooled children.  They have a large selection of classes and I thought we would try some out this year (Adobe Photoshop and French). Her French class is well organized, live! and she has 12 other classmates.   There is a screen that serves as a blackboard.  The students can hear everything and contribute either through their microphones or through a text feature.  It doesn't feel like a classroom environment and is definitely not as social as a regular class.  Claire's feeling is that online classes are OK, but she wouldn't want to do all of her classes online (even if she can do them in her pajamas.)  We did however meet Claire's teacher when she recently visited Connecticut and Claire has met all of the other students learning French at the Potter School in our area. So far it has been working out well for us.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sound of Music

A highlight of our year has been the children's performance of The Sound of Music.  Both Claire and Tristan had roles, Claire as the Mother Abbess and Tristan as Kurt (one of the children) and Rolf.  Both of them love acting and have been taking singing lessons.  I thought I'd add a couple of clips from the performance.

Firstly, here is Tristan playing Rolf and singing "I Am Sixteen"!

We have had a wonderful time at The Studio and look forward to doing musicals again with them next year.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Pi

For this Mother's Day I purchased this for myself.   It's a computer.  Tiny and so so cool.  I miss the days when I used to tinker with computers, pull them apart and add little upgrades here and there.  I enjoy the challenges of getting myself out of a technological hole by watching youtube videos. I use predominantly the trial and error method to learn.  I need to be fixing problems to have the resilience to climb steep learning curves. My brain enjoys the challenge.

I am still coming down off the high of the Maker Faire. And when Dale, the techie at the library showed me his Raspberry Pi displaying the library's catalog system, I couldn't resist testing it out for myself.

The computer is around $35. It is a little green motherboard with a bunch of ports to plug things into it.  I have monitors, keyboards, USB hubs etc around the house to plug into it.  My challenge is to set up Minecraft in Linux and play it on the Raspberri Pi.

Armed with Raspberry Pi for Dummies and an SD card, I set about making a boot disk card with Raspbian Wheezy (Raspberry Pi Linux for beginners) on it....which led me on a little journey in fixing line errors in Python (rather intimidating).  I then abandoned Python and went with Dan on Youtube.  He had a nice slow English accent that gave me confidence.  After many trials and errors, I booted up my new little computer.

It takes a little getting used to.  It is like a PC from 10 years ago without all of the annoying pop up windows and messages.  It's a basic, yet very usable little computer.    I feel like I have entered a new little world.  Instead of Google, for example, I use Midori and Duckduckgo to search the internet.  Cute names everywhere.

I am excited about it. I want to see what it can do: experiment!  I am going to push my envelope with code and find reasons to use it/write it and not be intimidated by it.  I am going to teach my children to set up their own Raspberry Pi's.  I might even hold a tech class next year in preparation for the Maker Faire.

This is such a fun project for a tinkerer like me and a great present for kids interested in technology.

Happy Mother's Day!

... Minecraft was a piece of cake to run on Raspberry Pi.  It is not the same version as on the Mac and I couldn't play it in full screen mode. Yet Tristan was quite delighted with it and now wants his own Raspberry Pi.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Museum of Natural History

Our archaeological dig is just around the corner and to prepare we usually go to a museum in NYC with Geof Pursell, affectionately known as Big Dog.  As we are researching the Maya, he chose the American Museum of Natural History as the museum with the best representation of Maya artifacts in our vicinity.  We were a group of 8 families, all excited to hear what Geof had to tell us.

Geof communicates using stories.  He was trying to help us understand the world view of the Maya. The Maya were a very successful civilization lasting 4000 years.  They developed a powerful way of helping people deal with the uncertainty in their lives.   The Maya developed a fascinating culture and belief system, the nuggets of which Geof shared with us, enthralling us with stories of smoke snakes, piles of childrens' bones and giant canoes.  Such great stories!  Geof helped us make sense of what we were seeing in the museum and to construct the story of how it must have been so many years ago. He teaches us to think like an archaeologist.