Whalefest 2018

What to do on a Sunday?  We had no plans, and it was a beautiful day.  Heirs to our Oceans sent me notice of this event, so we decided to check it out.  The drive to Monterey, California isn’t terribly long; only about an hour and a half.  It’s a drive that I thoroughly enjoy, as the scenery is breathtaking.  Unfortunately, while driving, I was unable to take pictures.

Forests gave way to inviting sand dunes and the kids became antsy to explore.  Admittedly, I was keen as well, but we were on a time crunch.  Making our way down the main street, it wasn’t long before the wharf came into view.  I parked the car and we began our adventure.

Loads of vendors were represented: various Marine Science camps for kids, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Marine Mammal Center, Sea Shepherd, and a host of others.  Naturally, there was a lot about whales and cetaceans in general.

We headed to the theatre to catch the presentation by Heirs to Our Oceans.  For those who have not heard of them, they are an impressive group of kids.  We learned about the extent of the damage being done to our oceans and how essential healthy oceans are to well-being of our planet.  It was incredible to me how much we didn’t know.  My kids were inspired not just to learn more, but to DO more.  (I’ll blog on that topic in the near future.)  To see kids standing up and taking ownership of problems they didn’t create was very powerful.

The rest of the afternoon, we spent meandering through tents of vendors.  There were a few other presenters I was interested in seeing, but the kids needed to move.  I bought them lunch, and both of them informed the server that we would like our beverages without straws.  “It’s a single use plastic, Mommy.  That’s bad for our oceans.”  What a proud moment for me!

At the end of the day, we piled into the car.  It felt wrong to be driving a vehicle running on fossil fuels after attending that event, but I was heartened that we were even thinking about it.  Now the big question is, what next?

*Am so sorry at the lack of pictures.  I was focused on keeping track of my kids!


Turpins Were Not Actually Homeschoolers

It’s taken me a while to be able to write this post.  When the news stations came out with the Turpin abuse story I was horrified.  As I learned more and more of the details of the inhumane treatment of these kids, I was physically sickened.  Then, the initial shock wore off.  I saw heroes coming forward espousing the best of humanity:  love and compassion.

As the situation was brought under control, the children sheltered from their deranged parents and filthy living conditions, a new dialog began to form.  Before I knew it, the Turpins were being held up as an example of “Homeschooling” gone wrong.

Let me be clear here.  What happened in that household is beyond criminal.  I feel, however, that I need to speak up on this.  Homeschooling has nothing to do with chaining and torturing kids; it’s about preparing children to go out into the world and live healthy, happy, independent lives.  Many of the kids I know have sever sensory or attention disorders (some even kicked out of school because of it) .  Their tremendously devoted parents live EVERY DAY to meet their children’s needs.

Now the legal requirements for Homeschooling in California  are under scrutiny.  Yes, it is a relatively simple process with pretty much no oversight.  Usually, there isn’t much need for it.  Most parents I know are not doing this for fun.  It would be much easier for us to drop our kids off at the local school and get on with our day.  We are Homeschooling because our kids have unique challenges, situations, religious beliefs, or our available public school is not up to our standards,  and the cookie cutter solution doesn’t work for us.  Someone I know mentioned that a lot of homeschoolers would love to take a few classes or be involved in sports through the schools.  Once we go down the homeschool path, though, we are not typically welcome.  Want to keep tabs on us?  Make it possible for us to join the party on our terms.  Isn’t inclusivity and diversity supposed to be a primary focus these days?  Don’t attempt to use more legislation, that’s the last thing anyone needs.

Let’s look at the most popular alternative, public school.   Why is it that school shootings are still happening  despite our schools efforts?  Please explain to me why I keep seeing in the news some sick person who happens to be a teacher has abused one or more students.  The frequency of these reports is incredible.  We don’t, however, blame all the teachers and administrators for this.  Most of them are great people, doing the best job they can do.

The same is true in the homeschooling community.  The real issue in the Turpin case isn’t that they claimed to be homeschooling, it’s that no one in the community spoke up when they saw something odd.

In my own community, when my girls and I aren’t seen for a while, I’m questioned.  “Where have you guys been lately?”  You know what?  I love it.  The girls tell about trips we have been taking and new stuff we are studying.  We are missed when we are not around.  This is what was lacking for the Turpin kids.  Nothing about their interactions with their community was even remotely approaching normal, not to mention their relations with their extended family.

Just last night, a beloved neighbor of mine expressed to me how she hopes this case doesn’t affect what I’m able to do with my kids.  Another neighbor chimed in with an effusive review of the results of my labor.  I’m sharing this not to toot my own horn, but to highlight that this lifestyle does not typically create shy, social outcasts.  My kids are well-liked, bright, and happy.

I’m hopeful we can all realize that the Turpin case was not a Homeschool fail, but a failure of an entire community and the few schools they attended, to ring the bell for these poor kids.

Field Trip – Point Reyes

On the coast of Northern California is a lovely spot called Point Reyes.  It’s a place that is noted for thick fog, punishing winds, and loads of whales.  Our experience, however, was lovely weather, but cold, weather.  The history and geology of the area is remarkable.  I was particularly surprised to learn that it moved north 21 feet in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake!


Happy cows do indeed come from California!  Look at their view!



We admired the ancient sedimentary rock formations, delicate rock dwelling plants, and spotted a handful of cetaceans.  Then we made our way to the lighthouse.  While its history was fascinating, I found myself fighting an urge to re-in-act the scene from Pete’s Dragon when Mickey Rooney and company were cleaning their lighthouse while performing a song and dance.  Sigh… another lost opportunity to showcase my innate lack of talent.  We climbed the inordinate number of stairs back and made our way to the parking lot.

As we passed by one of the docents, we were informed that just up the road was a colony of elephant seals.  That seemed like a pretty good idea to us, so we made our way there.  What a fantastic experience!  The docents were full of awesome information, and had set up high power binoculars for the public to get a better view.  Happily, we even got to see some babies!


Not a baby, but look at that sweet face!


Enjoying our day, we decided to check out the boathouse.  There we were able to get even closer to the elephant seals, while staying a safe and respectful distance away from these incredible creatures.  Honestly, I was amazed at how big they really are!  Having sufficiently exhausted the kids, we hiked back to the car and headed home.




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.


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.


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.


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!


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.



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.