Thank you Neil Patrick Harris

It was late.  I wanted to watch something prior to getting to bed, so we perused the latest on Netflix and started watching “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”.  The entertainment value was high, my favorite actor was brilliant, and I discovered the show was based on a kids book series.  Now before people start cursing me for exposing my kids to something other than “Little House on the Prairie”, let me just say that I’m a cautious parent.  I also realize that keeping my kids in a bubble is not healthy; we discuss things as they come up to contextualize.  Kids are happy, we are happy, it’s all good.  (we finished the “Little House on the Prairie” series a while ago BTW)

Anyway, we checked out the first of the books from the library, and my older daughter is hooked.  This book appeals to her outrageous sense of humor.  Thank you Neil Patrick Harris.  I’m not certain I would have encouraged her to read this series if you had not done the show.  BTW:  If you ever read this, I admire your many talents and have had a healthy (non-stalker, non-creepy) appreciation of you since I was younger than I care to think about.

Field Trip: the state Capital

Hubby had a an extra day off due to his birthday.  Normally we would take an opportunity like this to drop the dock lines and raise the sails.  This time, however, it was really cold on the water.  Freezing for days is not my idea of family fun.  Hubby, therefore, thought of another plan.

Off we went to the capital of California.  Annoyed at the thought of dealing with notorious Bay Area traffic, we opted to take the train.  The kids were stoked.  We seated ourselves comfortably, enjoyed the scenery, and two hours later arrived in Sacramento.

 

img_1609
Inside the Sacramento Train museum is AWESOME!

 

The station was about a 15 minute walk from the Embassy Suites.  We checked in, left our luggage, and decided to head back to track down the source of an intoxicating scent we passed along the street.

It didn’t take long.  The restaurant was called Lotus.  It was fabulous Thai food.  If you happen to make it there, take the restauranteurs suggestion regarding wine.  It had the feel of a family run place.

 

img_1611
Incredible Thai food

 

We then made our way to the Sacramento Train museum.  My my my how times have changed!  Before our eyes, trains morphed from experimental curiosities to beautiful works of art, and ending with the industrial behemoths of today.  Sleeper and diner cars set for guests invited us to imagine the experiences of a by-gone era.

img_1618

Leaving the museum behind, we took a walk through Old Sacramento, and then to downtown.  Passing the Wells Fargo office, we noticed a mini museum in the atrium.  That was five minutes very well spent.  An old Wells Fargo stagecoach was surrounded with artifacts from the wild west.  We continued our walking tour of Sacramento.  As I looked up the road, I saw a building that looked like it belonged in Washington DC.  Once we made it there, we googled the structure and found we were on the steps of the State Capital Building.  Not only that, but it was open during the day with tours available.  Homeschool Score!

img_1621

The next day, we hotfooted it back to the Capital Building; arriving just in time for a tour.  We began with the Governors offices from 1906.  The offices were classically and tastefully furnished.  Our attention was then directed to the stunning architecture.  Truly every where the eye turned there was a something to delight it.  Mosaic and tile floors beautified the hallways.  Our heads were crowned with elaborate crown molding, and the dome was absolutely spectacular.  We visited the Assembly room and were given a crash course in California State politics.

img_1638

 

After that, we headed back to Old Town to do the Sacramento History Museum.  The city  built itself up over 12 feet to save it from flooding back in the old west.  We learned a great deal about Sacramento, and I highly recommend this museum.

Next up, we went to the schoolhouse.  It’s a recreation of a one room schoolhouse from the 1800’s.  The kids loved ringing the school bell and writing on slate chalkboards.  I was stunned at the number of rules that teachers had to follow in their personal lives.  They couldn’t even go to the local ice cream shop!

We had some dinner, then went back to our hotel and CRASHED.  What a great day!  In the morning, we packed up, had breakfast, and walked back to the train station.  Getting off at Jack London Square, we met family for lunch, and headed home.  What a fantastic trip!

Testing, Testing, 1,2,3 now we’ll try a spelling bee!

As a kid, I loved tests.  It always felt like a game to me.  While that does probably make me strange, the positive results could not be denied.  With rare exception, I was at the upper end of the class.

Fast forward to now.  Part of my has an issue with testing, as now it’s referred to as an “assessment” test.  I already know the value of my kids, thank you very much.  They are invaluable; unlike my car for example.  What I’m interested in is my childrens’ education level.  Thus, I ensure my children are tested three times a year.

Since we do the testing at home with an adaptive computerized test, I can see my children’s test taking techniques.  My younger child takes after me:  testing is a fun game.  My older child is sullen, annoyed, and simply clicks boxes to get through the process.  Let’s just say the results reflect their attitudes.

Homeschooling them as their teacher affords me a window into what they know, so I can compare their results with my insight.  This has been enlightening to say the least.  I pretty much just leave the little one to her own devices, as when she finds something she doesn’t know, she goes and researches the answer.

The older one shrugs her shoulders and goes back to whatever she was doing to begin with. I have found, however, a secret weapon.  She has discovered she loves bees.  (yes, the insects, but also of the spelling and geography types) It started with a spelling bee she begged to be a part of.   She enjoyed the process and the event itself so much, that she insisted on doing the Geography Bee.   This has motivated her to study in a way that a computerized test never could.  Incidentally, the bee itself lends itself to a testing format that works better for her.  It might be feeding her natural competitive spirit, but as long as she is a good sport I can live with that.  So there you have it, our testing solution.

 

Actually, no. That was not a homeschool fail.

My seven year old was in the shower, I was washing her hair.

“Mommy, did you know that sometimes one plus one isn’t two?”  My heart sank to my stomach.  Talk about a homeschool fail.

I responded as neutrally as I could, “Is that so?”  My thoughts quickly turned to all the math material I have onboard and how I could have taught something so basic so very very wrong.  This was something that had to be corrected, and quickly.

“Yes, in dropland one plus another one is a bigger one.” She was obviously pleased with herself.

Wanting to get to the bottom of my epic homeschool fail, I pressed further.   “I don’t know about dropland.  Can you tell me about that?”

My daughter pointed to the water droplets that remained on the shower wall.   “Look Mommy,” she said.  She proceeded to touch one, causing it to zoom down the wall until it joined another drop.  “See?  In dropland, one drop plus another drop makes a bigger drop!”

“Oh,” I responded.  “So in our land one plus one is ALWAYS two, but in dropland one plus one is a bigger one?”

Triumphantly, she proclaimed, “YES!”

I was initially quite relieved, but then realized the significance of this conversation.  That’s pretty deep thinking.   We never know what is going on in our kids’ heads, but if we take the time to listen and ask probing questions, we are likely to end up with something noteworthy.

 

 

 

Vegas baby!! Yes, I can homeschool there too….

My birthday coincides with Thanksgiving.  This year, I had a big birthday and wanted nothing to do with domestic chores.  This is a major deviation from my normal line of thought.  I thought about what would make this birthday memorable.  My birthday list was pretty simple; I wanted to go to some shows and have awesome meals that someone else would clean up after.  I wanted to lounge by a pool whilst consuming fruity beverages served by adorable cabana boys.  I wanted night life with enough activity during the day to keep the kids busy.  Where oh where could we go?

The answer came to me in a vision of a flashing neon light: LAS VEGAS!  I promptly informed my husband of my birthday wish, and he dutifully arranged the flight, hotel, and a show.  Before I knew it, people beloved to me were making their arrangements to meet me in Vegas, and a party was born!

 

img_1545
A shared drink in Vegas.  WAY too much for one person!

 

We stayed in the ARIA.  Our room was lovely, but what really put me over the edge was the bathtub.  When you live on a sailboat, showers are all that’s available.   A bath is a serious luxury for me.

Since it was Thanksgiving evening, we headed out to rustle up some grub.  There were all kinds of Thanksgiving buffets to be found, but the prices were a little more than we were willing to spend.  We decided to take a walking tour of the strip.  Along the way, we ducked into a steakhouse and had our holiday dinner.  This did not sit well with the kids initially, but a few mouthfuls into dinner and all complaints were silenced.  The girls enjoyed all the lights and unique architecture, but were befuddled as to the lure of the city itself.

The next day, we took the kids to the Springs Preserve. This is actually where the city of Las Vegas started.  The history of the area was displayed beginning from prehistoric fossils, to current flora and fauna, to modern Vegas.  Outside, there was a small zoo of local animals.  The best display there, in my opinion, was the flash flood room.  We were able to experience a flash flood from the safe and dry vantage point.  If that’s not cool, I don’t know what is.  We had lunch at the Café there, which afforded us not only a phenomenal view, but also gluten free pizza.  The kids were in heaven.  That night, the girls spent with Grandma, while hubby and I went out with some family.

 

img_1243
View from Springs Preserve

 

 

We ate at a place called Bizarre Meats.  The restaurant certainly lived up to it’s name!  Foi Gras on a stick wrapped in cotton candy, pork rinds instead of chips or bread, and appetizers served in a glass tennis shoe.  It was a vegetarian nightmare.  I think the wine was the only thing I consumed that didn’t have some animal product in it.  To say I enjoyed myself would be a vast understatement.  The food was delicious and entertaining, and even the staff was amazing.  They accommodated my gluten-free requirement zealously.  After that, we were off to Fremont Street.  If I hadn’t have been wearing a dress, I would have done the zipline.  Alas, I had not planned for that.  Regardless, it was an experience.

 

 

img_1532
Fremont Street.  Love the overhead light show!

 

The next day, we went for a light hike at Red Rock.  This resulted in a new item being added to my bucket list.  Someday I am going to cross the Mohave Desert.  We spotted a desert hare and a few birds, so the desert didn’t feel devoid of life at all.  The landscape is hauntingly beautiful, though admittedly a bit phallic.

 

Re

img_1540
Red Rock.  Great hike.
img_1537
The red rock from which the park gets its name.

 

Our Lyft driver met us at the entrance to the park, and brought us back to ARIA.  We had some down time, left the girls with their other Grandma, and headed out to dinner at the Mandarin.  That’s definitely my favorite spot in Vegas.  The feel of the whole place was calm and relaxed.  After my pad thai and crème brule birthday treat, we went to Ka.  It’s a Cirque Du Solei performance that entertained the socks off me.  The highlight of the show for me was the moving stage.  Just a tour of that stage would have been intriguing.  What could we possibly do after dinner and a show?  Dancing!

We went to the club at ARIA, mainly because it was painfully cold outside and we had received a comp from the hotel.  (that’s a story unto itself)  Regardless, we made our way inside and had a blast with dancing and cocktails while counting down the minutes to my birthday.  It was an epic night, but I had to get to sleep so I could be a quality Mom the next day.  So once I turned into a pumpkin, I was off for some well deserved shut eye.

The next day, we went to the Bass Pro store for a while, then  explored the strip as my Grandparents had never been to Vegas before.  It was a mellow, relaxed day, and is one of my favorite memories.  The day was topped off with dinner at the Excalibur.  We watched the Tournament of Kings, which oddly coincided with our homeschool; our studies have moved from the ancient world to medieval Europe.  The girls watched the show with wide eyes and complete focus.  Horses thundered back and forth in front of us, fireworks exploded, all in the midst of “Hazaaaa!” being shouted by actors and spectators alike.  There was jousting and sword fighting.   Finally, my kids understood the lure of Vegas.  We made it back to our hotel, but I needed some time with my Grandparents.

I dropped off the kids to be with hubby while I spent some time in the casino with my Mom.  The two of us had cocktails and gambled away pennies.  It was $30 well spent.  When I left Vegas, I didn’t feel like I was leaving “Sin City”, but that I was leaving a place that had afforded me a wealth of cherished memories all in a four mile stretch of road.

Dear America Books

Sifting through the books in the library, I came across a series everyone else probably knows about, but was new to  me.  It’s the “Dear America” series.  They are pretend diaries written from a child’s point of view from historically significant times.  For example, I checked out one from a child in Jamestown Virginia from 1609.  It recounts the hardships the settlers experienced.

There are a number of these books that cover everything from the pilgrims, to the trail of tears, to child factory workers.  For those of you looking for interesting history books for your kiddos, here’s one series to try.

Field Trip: City Hall

With all the craziness with the most current election, I opted NOT to follow it in our homeschool.  There was frankly way too much being brought up that I wasn’t comfortable exposing my kids to.  Yet, given the climate, I felt we should do some kind of Government study.  Since the Federal Government was going to be off-limits for now, the logical place to start was local.

This gave me a great response for when I asked by others why we weren’t following the presidential election.  “Oh, we’re starting with local government.”

Anyway, I contacted my local City Hall in Redwood City.  They were absolutely great and penned us in for a tour.  We arrived bang on time, and were met by the Deputy City Manager.

img_1217

He took us into the council room, and since there were only two kids, the girls got to sit in the Mayor’s chair!img_1218

Now THAT was exciting!  The girls learned a lot about our city and it’s charter.  They even got to see minutes that were taken over one hundred years ago.IMG_1221.JPG

This brought home the idea that we should have nice handwriting; you never know who is going to come along in a century or so and read what you have left behind.

In all, I think it was a very worthwhile field trip and am very thankful to Alex and the rest of the people in City Hall for their time and willingness to share their knowledge.