A November to Remember

As you may or may not know, I homeschool my two DDs aboard a 40 ft cruising catamaran in the San Francisco Bay Area.  This can be challenging due to space constraints and losing internet connectivity when the tide goes out or when we go sailing.  (Not so bad now that the harbor has made some upgrades, but still worth noting)

I’ve owned homes before and there were always tasks that needed to be completed, but this in no way compares to a boat’s fix it list.  Our catamaran had a massive issue that needed to be fixed.  It turned out to be covered by warranty.  This was phenomenal news as extensive work needed to be done.  That usually means expensive.  Our boat manufacturer sent two workers from Europe to Alameda for a week to get the job done.  The nature of their work would leave us homeless for about a week; the week of Thanksgiving.  Naturally we decided to visit family out-of-state.  Amazing how things come together!

We put all the cogs into place.  Then the manufacturer called.  They would be delayed until we returned.  What was I saying about things coming together?  Things were now falling apart.  We were going to have to live in a hotel for a week.  My feelings of happy anticipation now were clouded with dread.  Homeschool in a hotel?  How exactly does that work?  I put that out of my mind and focused on enjoying our family in Washington State.  Ever the committed educator, I sussed out local museums and got to work getting the kids out.

We visited MONA, the Museum of  Northwest Art in La Conner.  It’s a great art gallery that features artists from the Northwest.  They made a wonderful effort to include the kids, giving them a nicely put together activity sheet.  The girls were encouraged to ponder the images in front of them, and I was appreciative that all of the art was  family friendly.  I have not had this experience in every gallery we have visited.  “Mommy, what is that?”  Ahem.  Hello awkward silence.

Next on the list was the Anacortes Museum.  This was a very small museum, but so well done we spent over an hour there.  The steam paddle wheeler was closed for the winter, but we made the best of what was available to us.  Being originally from the area, I was surprised at how much I didn’t know about this little town.  It really is worth stopping by if you have the opportunity.

With still more time to kill, we headed to the Skagit County Historical Museum back in La Conner.  This was probably the largest of all the museums we visited.  They have a great collection of Native American artifacts and document the history of the differing populations really well.  The combined history is celebrated in what seems to be a very honest and balanced manner; neither whitewashing atrocities, nor vilifying an entire populace.  We left with a greater knowledge set than we had when we came.

The time in Washington came to an end all too soon.  We headed back to the Bay Area, homeless.  Stopping by the boat prior to checking into the hotel, I got to work packing up.  Clothes were easy, activities even easier; the challenge was what school work to bring.  While homeschooling on a boat can be difficult, whittling down to bare necessities for hotel life was daunting.  Obviously, it was time to rely more heavily on the internet.

We focused on computer programming and reading/English.  Code.org and ReadingEggs.com mixed with reading time and lengthy walks to the park ate up our days quickly.  We utilized Starbucks, libraries, and the hotel lobby for work spaces.  It worked out great!  When the time finally came for us to move back aboard, though, I was ready.

Typically, I think of living on the boat as being in a  small space, but after being in a hotel for a week and a half, it felt luxuriously huge.  Everyone had their own space again, with a door!  We sailed back to our home port, happy to have put that experience behind us.

 

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Where Have We Been?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and all I can do is offer apologies.  What has been going on?

On the Homeschool side, I think I have finally cracked the math nut.  My goal has been to make math fun; that’s where Beast Academy has served us very well.  Unfortunately, we need to do more practice questions.  This typically equals “not fun”.  So, for my tactile learner, we have started Math-U-See.  We took a step back in our math so that I can figure out how to teach this new curriculum. This tactic also provided us with an opportunity to improve already learned skills.  Two thumbs up.

For the book learner, I added “The Life of Fred”.  It’s about a little boy named Fred.  Mathematics are taught in an entertaining story format that was a pleasure to read.  The story engaged BOTH kids and I can now use our math curriculum as a REWARD.  Seriously, where was all this stuff when I was growing up?  I missed out on being a mathematician!

At any rate, we are now using all three math curriculums concurrently to complement one another.  “Math-U-See” works well for introducing the initial concept and practice, “Beast Academy” works for teaching creative problem solving, and “The Life of Fred” shows situational math.  The last two listed are really fun.

So our biggest Homeschool challenge thus far appears to be resolved.  On the boating side things have been really hectic and worthy of another post.

History Curriculum

Frequently I’m asked what I use for curriculum.  The truth is, I don’t.  When I find something that works for us, we use it, and then move on to the next thing.  Initially, I made up my own “curriculum”.

We are heavy into history, because I feel understanding the past helps us to deal with the present.  One day, a friend of mine mentioned “Story of the World”.  Open to any and all suggestions, I checked it out.  Low and behold, everything I was doing had already been done!  I decided to purchase this curriculum and have been mostly pleased.  For an in depth study of history, it falls woefully short.  For two young kids who are being exposed to history for the first time, it’s great.

So there you have it, my history pick of the moment.  What do you use?  Comment below with why, someone might benefit from your experience.

xxoo!

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!

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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Red Rock.  Great hike.
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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.

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homeschool field trip – Police Station

I’d been thinking about it for a while.  We had already visited the fire station, which was a great experience for the girls, but how about the police station?  My concern was that the kids would see something that would either scare them, or would prompt questions with answers that are decidedly age inappropriate.  Finally, I asked our neighbor who happens to be an Officer what he thought of the idea.  His response was highly enthusiastic.  We set up a day and time.

The girls and I showed up Tuesday morning with a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  Unfortunately, it turned out that our neighbor had to make an appearance in court.  On the plus side, there was another Officer who was happy to step in.

Officer Rassmussen met us minutes later and escorted us throughout the facility.  The girls met the 911 dispatchers, saw the shooting range, crawled through the vehicles, and learned a great deal about what goes on in the station.  He literally left nothing out, stopping along the tour to pick up his mail.  On our way out, he gave them each a bag of swag, and told them to remember when they go to bed that the Police are out in the streets making sure things are safe for them.

We don’t have a television, so my kids haven’t seen the news of late.  They did, however, hear about an “incident” on the radio as I was flipping stations.  That one piece of a story was enough to shake their complete trust of the entire police force and cause them to question the role Police fill.  This field trip was a great way to combat them developing fear.  It sparked a wonderful conversation; my kids now realize that while there are a few cops who are not so nice,  most of them are there because they care about their community.  A big Thank You to the entire Redwood City Police Department!

Proud to be an American

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A beautiful thing happened today.  We were invited to come to the Citizenship Ceremony of a family member.  What a fantastic way to be supportive to a loved one and get some civics in today!  This is what I love about homeschooling.  Without a thought I packed up the kids and away we went on a field trip.

The location was the Paramount Theatre in Oakland.  My photos of the venue itself did not turn out, but trust me, it is a treasure.  The ornate, art deco styled, historical building stood proudly whilst we waited for the ceremony to begin.

We busied ourselves by getting familiar with the ceremony agenda..

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It began promptly, and we soon were singing along to patriotic melodies with TOSCA.  Some of these songs I don’t think I’ve heard since I was a child.  My heart was uplifted, and excitement was in the air.

Then my kids were introduced to the concept of Social Security, and registering to vote.  Even the concept that you have to go get a passport was a new idea for them.  They have had one since birth, so they don’t recall that process.

There was  a lovely address by President Obama (on recording, of course, but still very cool), another one by Madeleine Albright, and even the Secretary of State for California turned up to speak.  All of them did a beautiful job recognizing the hard work and persistence our new citizens had displayed to get to this moment.  I don’t know if there was a dry eye in the place.

We stood for the Pledge of Allegiance together; a moment that moved me to my core.  There were over 1000 new citizens, and the spectator section was packed.  In that moment, regardless of our ancestry we were American; standing tall and together.

With all that went on, the kids came away with a sense that being a citizen of the USA is a privilege.  They were lucky enough to be simply born in this country, while others wait literally years on the path to citizenship.  The golden ticket these people have worked so hard for, my children and I were handed without question at birth.  It was a sobering moment of realization for all of us.  The kiddos had questions, and lots of them.

We went to this event to support our loved one, and hoped a little civics might rub off.  Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that we would come away so enriched.   I’m proud to be an American.

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