Monday, June 29, 2015

Annie Get Your Gun... Featuring Maceo!

Maceo just completed a production of Annie Get YourGun!

The choreography was great fun and I so enjoy watching him perform.
He is a great dancer and a smart actor - very entertaining!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Growing Pains

In an effort to fulfill goal #6 of my list of things to do in 2015,
I have spent days now sorting through items in the attic and purging many an item.  Today I brought down a box of Bishop's toys.  Most of them had already been organized by kind in bags so that we could get rid of them.  We did this about two years ago and I remember having problems letting go of them then so I tucked them back up in the attic to deal with at a later date.  Today is that later date.  I had Bishop look through the bags and tell me what to do with them.  He sat on the bean bag chair, looking into the bags, pulling out Bionicle containers and remarking on the coolness of these toys.  Then he closed the bag and said, "Get rid of them."  My heart ached a little bit.
When I watched him examining the cool contents of the bag I caught a glimpse of the little boy that he once was.  The charming, vibrant little boy that he once was; a boy that brought me indescribable joy and delight.  When he closed the bags with the declaration that they should go that boy disappeared and before me sat a man.  And I wondered, did I relish enough all that that boy offered me?  And I marveled at how much I miss those days.
Then I took a good look at that man sitting before me, the one so willing to let go of the things of his childhood, and I marveled at who he has become - a charming and vibrant young man.  A man whose company I so enjoy, who teaches me so much and challenges me to grow.
Just yesterday Bishop and I spent nearly two hours in a meandering, yet intense, conversation.
Several days ago Bishop and I watched Sense and Sensibility.  Yesterday we began to watch Pride and Prejudice.  We really didn't get very far before we paused to discuss the themes prevalent in Jane Austen's work, the time period in which she wrote and some of the author's biographical information.  We discussed how she may have established an archetype of sorts that is seen in contemporary romantic comedies.  This led us to discuss the fantasy archetype established, in part, by J.R.R. Tolkein.  Which, in turn, led us to discussing the folktales and such that influenced his work and his relationship with C.S. Lewis.  We found a great article about this friendship and the challenge that they issued each other to write about the realm of the divine in a way that hearkened back to medieval literature, that would capture the imaginations of men.  Somehow, I cannot remember now, this led us to impressionistic paintings and then, of course, to Van Gogh.  We talked about how he may have come to cut off his ear lobe which then led us to explore the artist Gaugin and examine some of his work.  Again we seemed to make a quantum leap from Gaugin to probability and yet another one from probability to the differences in the ways that we "think."  A while back a question was posed, "Do you think in words or pictures?"  I think in images.  Bishop surprised me with the answer, "Neither really.  I think more in sound."  This intrigues and mystifies me; as my way of thinking does him.  We spent significant time trying to figure each other out.  Bishop kept throwing out words and asking what I saw.  "Portrait."  "A bust of a person."  "A specific person?"  "Non-specific."  Or "Red" "A swatch of red."  "Like an entire field of red?" "No, like a red paint smear on a white background."  This totally fascinated him.  I learned that when hearing a story read aloud Bishop does create an image of sorts in his head but it is different then the way that I do it.  I have images constantly running through my head, not always detailed (ie. not always facial features, etc.), but consistently being developed as the story unfolds.  Bishop doesn't do that.  When something catches his attention in a particular fashion he develops very detailed images in his head; otherwise, there are no pictures in his head.  We then moved on to talking about Bishop's relationship and fascination with sound.  How when the keyboard was set up he would play a single sound or series of sounds over and over, analyzing them then layering them.  I suggested that he might enjoy using a mix board.  We discovered Launchpad and listened to examples of it being used.  When all was said and done we had covered a lot of territory and I was actually a bit mentally fatigued.
It was a good evening and it reminds me that my life is very rich presently
The moments of joy don't come in the form of watching Bishop build Bionicles and create alternate worlds with elaborate storylines anymore.
They come in different forms.
Forms that are just as delightful.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

It Makes My Heart Sing

I never showed you my fabulous Mother's Day gift, did I?
Let me remedy that now.
Here is the completed flower bed with the flowers that the boys selected for me.

Are you ready for your close-up?
I have coreopsis...
coral bells and gerbera daisies...
hydrangeas and penstemon...
more coreopsis and petunias...
all surrounding the roses that I already had in place.

Isn't it lovely?

There is also some other loveliness in the yard.
My hydrangeas are in bloom.

And my potted geraniums are in bloom as well.

It is all so very lovely and it makes my heart sing!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

An Invitation

Yesterday's post has me ruminating about the ways in which allowing the boys such control over their education has been successful.  And that rumination led me to thinking about "invitations to learn" and how those invitations lead to invigorated learning, lead to a successful education.  Let me see if I can take you down the path of my ruminations.

Bishop has a significant creative streak and he is very adept with his hands.  Any artistic endeavor he has undertaken has always involved a very clear artistic vision.  So I have always tried to make sure that he has opportunities available to him in the area of the visual arts.  
Of course, when I opened a pinterest account I began collecting ideas.  Two years ago I decided to use pinterest to create an art "curriculum" for Bishop.  It was detailed and involved studying particular artists and creating our own art inspired by their work.  We never utilized it.  Last year I decided to simplify the "curriculum" and picked a handful of techniques and projects that I just knew Bishop (and I) would love - pyrography, papier mache, mask making, sculpture, and printmaking.  As exciting as the plan was we never utilized it because Bishop had his own ideas about how to spend his time and which skills and techniques he would like to acquire in the area of visual arts.
Of his own accord he did this photography...

and these drawings...

and this pottery...

He blows me away!
And he gets me to thinking, he doesn't need me to create a curriculum and provide him with instruction.  He simply needs me to come alongside him and aid him in getting the education that he wants.
This, however, does not mean that the only part I play in his artistic education is to provide him with requested supplies, pay pottery tuition, and drive him to lessons.  I recollect some of our most invigorating artistic learning experiences and I realize that they were moments when I was excited about acquiring a new skill or testing a new technique.  Like the time I was exploring all of the painting techniques offered up in a book that I owned.  He observed for a bit and became curious about what I was doing.  I extended an invitation to him.  He accepted and he came up alongside me and created the most exquisitely colored tags I had ever seen.  He even painted a paper towel with the same technique.  These pieces of art were mounted on foam board and entered in the fair where they took a blue ribbon.  We have tried our hand at jewelry making and needle felting in much the same way.
He has made invitations to me as well.  A while back I accepted his invite to draw routinely alongside him.  We would pull out our sketch books each evening and draw something, anything.  We got distracted and this ritual slowly gave way to something else.  Bishop returned to drawing this year.  He has issued another invitation to me, "Mama, I think you should start drawing again."
I think I shall have to accept this invitation
and I think that "curriculum" I developed on pinterest is for my educational purposes but if Bishop looks intrigued I will extend an invitation.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Little Evaluation of the Lifestyle of Learning

In previous posts I have explained my educational philosophy (here and here and here) and for a couple of years now I have documented and shared our lifestyle of learning.  I have even shared how difficult it can be to just have faith in the process of true education; to not be anxious and intervene in the process,  I encounter the anxiety more routinely as the boys have begun to earn high school credit and as I face the fact that they will fly the nest relatively soon; as I wonder - have I done enough? have they done enough?  The textbook approach can seem reassuring; you just check the boxes (read that chapter, did that assignment) and then you get to tell yourself that your child's education is complete.  At the beginning of the last academic year Bishop had determined that he wanted to complete high school biology during his eighth grade year.  The plan was for Bishop to simply work his way through the biology textbook that Christian and Keegan used in high school, doing the accompanying lab work.  He expressed desire and intent to do this.  In the fall he began determinedly doing just that then life just took off and the book went to the wayside.
Well, the end of the academic year has arrived and that textbook remains to the wayside with only three chapters read in it.  Thinking about that makes my throat tighten a little bit but before I begin worrying that he may never get through high school biology I chose to evaluate his records and found that he has made significant progress in the realm of high school biology without making it through that textbook.

Below are notes that I compiled that compare the contents of the textbook with his work and experiences.
Check it out....

Chapter 1 - Introduction to Biology, related terms, the use of the microscope, the scientific method and the classification system:
He studied the classification system at a science center, read the chapter on Leeuwenhoek in Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif, read this chapter in the Biology textbook, learned to use the microscope and make slides and proceeded to examine a host of items found around the house, and read the chapter on Spallananzi in Microbe Hunters. 

Chapter 2 - Kingdom Monera:
He collected samples of pond water, created cultures and examined under the microscope, and read this chapter in the Biology textbook.

Chapter 3 - Kingdom Protista:
He read this chapter in the textbook.

Chapter 4 - Kingdom Fungi:
He participated in a lichen survey sponsored by our city,  and went on a mushroom walk.

Chapter 5 - The Chemistry of Life; atoms, matter, molecules, DNA:
He was given an introduction to DNA at a local science center and extracted DNA from an onion,

Chapter 6 - The Cell:

Chapter 7 - Cellular Reproduction:

Chapter 8 - Genetics:

Chapter 9 - Evolution:
This is one of those subjects that are addressed consistently in the culture.  Bishop has watched countless biology related shows and they all speak of evolution.  We have had numerous discussions about the distinction between microevolution and macroevolution.

Chapter 10 - Ecosystems:
He researched ecosystems/ biomes with nature study group, used a pin map to identify the various biomes of the world, did an ecosystem project with his nature study group that involved attempting to create self-sustaining mini-ecosystems, attended a lecture on endangered species, earned environmental science merit badge,  took a class regarding ecosystems at a local science center, made a terrarium, researched products of the rainforest, took a field trip to the local zoo and the St. Louis zoo and identify the biomes that the animals reside in naturally.

Chapter 11 - The Invertebrates of Kingdom Animalia:
 Twice he dissected a squid at a local science center and took a field trip to an aquarium and observed jellyfish and other invertebrates.

Chapter 12 - Phylum Arthropoda to include Class Insecta:
He earned the insect studies merit badge,  took a field trip to The Butterfly Palace,  identified and observed carpenter bees. 

Chapter 13 - Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata:
He dissected a fish at a local science center, he dissected a frog at a local science center, can distinguish between exoskeleton and endoskeleton, studied the composition of bone and made a model, has studied the closed circulatory system, he has observed sharks, rays and skates, among other marine vertebrates at an aquarium, 

Chapter 14 - Kingdom Plantae Anatomy and Classification:
He earned the forestry merit badge, 

Chapter 15 - Kingdom Plantae Physiology and Reproduction:

Chapter 16 - Reptiles, Birds, and Mammals:
He dissected a rat at a local science center, took a class on comparative anatomy and dissected a pig at a local science center,  earned the mammal studies merit badge, took a field trip to a local museum that had an exhibition of Audubon's depictions of mammals, took a field trip to a tiger sanctuary, took a field trip to Exotic Animal Paradise where he actually got to feed tigers, attended programs offering introductory information on birds and bird identification, attended a warbler walk in which an ornithologist presented information about warblers that might be in our area then led us on a walk helping us identify a variety of birds, has researched birds in hopes that he will own one as a pet one day, has helped care for the chicks and hens, has read countless books and has seen movies and shows on reptiles, birds and mammals, he has identified a number of snakes, has handled snakes and has researched what would be required of him to own snakes, as part of his research on snake ownership he watched many videos produced by snake breeders.

The breadth and depth of his knowledge about the natural world astounds me.

So, with that I dispel my doubts and the accompanying anxiety and my conviction that this lifestyle of learning is appropriate and effective grows.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Lifestyle of Learning Volume Sixteen

June 1-6

Although several of our routine activities have paused for the summer there are still some that the boys are participating in.  Maceo's vocal lesson was canceled but he still did troupe, Annie Get Your Gun rehearsal and his troupe mentorship.  Bishop did pottery and attended scouts.  Scouts was a little different this time; rather than having a regular meeting they had a patrol leaders conference and set the schedule for the next several months.  Maceo also had a troupe performance this week.
Most of our week has been spent just breathing, thinking and talking, and socializing.
Several nights this week Maceo hung out with friends after rehearsal.  Him and I attended a friends dance production then they went to the dance studios after party.  He also attended another graduation party.  Bishop hung out with friends after scouts.  Yes, they played in the Burger King play place, there were no children present, and they discussed things that they might like to do with the elder patrol in scouts - visit the American Ninja Warrior training gym, go zip lining, white water rafting and scuba diving, hike the Appalachian trail, attend Northern Tier or Sea Base.  This is going to be fun!  Bishop also spent the night at a friends house.  this friend lives in the country with a river running through his "backyard".  Bishop spent an entire day swimming and kayaking in that river.
Bishop and I continued our culinary adventures.  Bishop tried Thai food for the first time.  He had Pad Thai at a food truck that parks across from the studio that Bishop does pottery at.

And Bishop and I continue to make our way through the menu at Creasian.
I LOVE hanging out with this guy!
We had a pork belly dish, two ox tripe dishes (one hot and one cold) and a shrimp dish.

The one atypical thing that we did this week was to prepare Bishop for church camp.  He will be leaving on Sunday.  Going to Creasian and having pork belly for the second time is what he wanted prior to leaving for a week.  Done.
Our time dining together also allowed us to talk about what he would like to do this year.  He would like to begin to study some foreign languages - French, Japanese, and Swedish.  He would also like to learn to play the piano.  I ordered him a cajon.  It came in on Thursday.  He immediately began to create rhythms.  It was cool and I think he will enjoy it this next year as well.  Bishop most definitely wants to continue with his culinary education, history group, nature study group and service projects.  Bishop and I talked about more than subject matter to pursue this year, we talked about music that he enjoys and he introduced me to a really cool logic game.  We definitely challenged each other with those puzzles.
Maceo and I also had conversations about what he might like to pursue this year.  He requested a slew of books on singing technique and vocal pedagogy.  I ordered one of the books that he requested.  He began reading it immediately.
I love this picture.  I know it's not great but it is the best that I could do given the fact that I was driving and trying to take the photo discreetly.  At the moment I snapped the photo I was driving Maceo to rehearsal.  He was alternating reading his new vocal pedagogy book and an article on his phone while listening to musical theatre songs through his headphones.  I love this guy.
Maceo has also opted to take piano lessons and would like to learn Italian.
He researched schools that he might apply for after graduating from high school and also researched some vocal performance summer programs.  he would like to attend an opera camp in Italy when he is 18.
My guys have vision and I love it!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Steps Toward Financial Fitness Volume Eleven

I have been so terribly negligent in both focusing on being financially fit and documenting those ways in which I have been successful.  As stated before I find it hard to be super focused on two areas simultaneously and I have been quite focused on sorting, purging and organizing as of late.  I have made some mental strides in that area and believe that I can do both simultaneously with more consistency.  Here is some of what I can recall having done recently...

-I used a Shutterfly coupon to get a free 8x8 book.  I have decided to finally do something with my photos from Seoul.  My intent is to make a small book for each day of the trip.  I will wait to order each one until I have a really great deal.  For this first book I used a Mother's Day discount code and a $20 coupon.  I did pay for shipping but, wow, what a discount.

-I had $10 in Kohl's cash and a 20% off coupon.  I purchased a "just because I love you" gift for Keegan, a really cute little shirt.  I paid $4 for it.  I think she's gonna love it.

-We have been taking advantage of a lot of free or inexpensive community activities.  We went to ArtsFest (I even remembered to buy the discounted tickets in advance.  I paid just $3 and Maceo got in free because he performed).  Bishop and I took a hike with an ornithologist and learned about warblers.  We attended an outdoor fair that was created specifically for homeschoolers.  We took advantage of our city's amazing parks and the beautiful weather.

-I have been enjoying the irises blooming in the flower bed in my backyard, the one that I began working on last year.  Someone had culled these from their garden and had left them in a brown bag for someone to claim.  They were free and they are beautiful.

-I was finally motivated to do some work in the yard.  I am digging up an entire flower bed, removing everything that is difficult for me to maintain or that doesn't fit my style.  I am also removing every bulb, every daffodil, every iris from this bed.  These will be planted in the aforementioned flower bed.  I probably already pulled a hundred bulbs from that bed and still have more to go.  This time next year that back flower bed is going to look even more amazing and will have only cost me my labor.

-I received a Shutterfly coupon in my Kohl's statement that I utilized to get the second of my series of photo books on my trip to Seoul.  Again, I paid very little for the book.  Now I must go ahead and make the next book or two in the series so that they will be ready to order when I get a great coupon.

-I am learning to say yes.  Although many times frugality requires us to say no it can also require us to say yes.  I have long been good at saying yes to a neighbor sharing their abundance of produce or flower bulbs but I find it much more difficult to saying yes in other situations.  Recently I got it into my head that our history group should come over to my house instead of our regular meeting place to make fairy houses (fairy houses get you into the Renaissance Faire at no charge) and that I would treat them to a garden tea.  When I have such ideas as this I find it difficult to accept offers from others to bring things but this time I did.  Another mom brought drinks, yogurt and blueberries and a veggie tray.  It was very helpful and, as a sweet bonus, she left the leftovers with me.  I am learning to say yes.

-I have been terribly off track with eating at home and using items from my pantry but I am getting refocused.  Wednesday's meal was a roast with potatoes, carrots and green beans and a peach cobbler.  The roast was taking up a lot of space in the freezer and cooked with it I used carrots that were in the veggie tray mentioned above and a can of green beans just sitting in the pantry.  I used two cans of peaches and a can of evaporated milk from the pantry to make the cobbler.  We have lots of leftovers.

-I ate the cobbler for breakfast several days.

-I boiled a number of eggs that were on the verge of turning bad.

-As the temperature has been unusually low recently I have been able to keep the a/c off for the most part.

-I have purged a great many things from the property and have documented the donations and secured a tax receipt.  This will be very helpful when I do taxes next year.

Christmas Jar of Change:  The previous balance was $94.31.  I will add $14.15 to that for a new total of $108.46.

Home Emergency Fund:  $0

52 Week Savings Plan:  I have been so negligent in documenting my progress in this area.  I have made a total of $627 worth of deposits into this account.  They account for the months of March-June 2015. The previous balance was $206 and is now $833.  The amounts deposited were $14, 16, 20, 24, 35, 36, 37, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, and 49.  Totally making progress!