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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
He took us into the council room, and since there were only two kids, the girls got to sit in the Mayor’s chair!
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.
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.
So here it is, our homeschool schedule for this term. Both girls have three classes outside of the home. I do this on purpose for socializing, and to keep us moving. Without outside events to attend, I find we tend to hunker down and adopt a “holiday” attitude. This keeps us active and social.
Wednesday is park day. We leave the boat in the morning, practice tennis for a few hours, and then meet up with other homeschoolers to take over the park. In the afternoon, my younger daughter has violin class with an incredible teacher, and then we return home to get some book work done. After dinner, my older daughter has youth group. Then we run home and all fall into bed.
Thursday, late in the morning is Rockit Science. If you are in the Bay Area, I highly recommend this place. We have been taking classes here for 5 years. Mr. Mac is a fantastic teacher, and Jill, Kris, and Greg are really great as well. My younger daughter takes the essentials science class with Mr. Mac, and my older daughter has a computer programming class with Greg that runs concurrently. That leaves me with a whole HOUR to do what I want, which consists of rotating between the two rooms so I know what is being discussed in the classes.
Once Rockit Science ends, we pile into the car, I hand each kid a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (telling myself it’s okay because it’s all organic), and we head off to Art Class with Inja. This class is hosted by a super sweet homeschool family. We have been doing this for four years for a good reason; teachers like Inja are not easy to find. She is amazing, and incorporates geography and study of other cultures into her class. The kids paint, sew, draw, sculpt, and use such a variety of media it frankly makes my head swim. After class, the kids have some time to socialize and play. Then we rush back home for dinner.
Friday is pretty mellow. We usually spend the day in the library, and then head to tennis in the late afternoon. Once a month we have presentation day with one of our homeschool groups. I highly recommend organizing an event like this. Being comfortable speaking in front of a group of people is a useful skill. The kids also have a great deal of pride sharing something they find interesting with others. I find the Q and A sessions to be particularly entertaining.
Outside of classes, when the girls get up, they hit the books. We usually start off with their computer based learning while I’m making breakfast. There are two reasons we start our day this way. 1-if they are paying attention to the computer there is no way there will be any bickering. 2-when you start homework at 7 in the morning it tends to get done, and the rest of the day can be devoted to classes and free time. After breakfast, the girls get dressed and such, I teach whatever I have on the docket, and by 10am we are finished.
Somewhere in all this, we manage to practice violin and guitar. Whew! I’m tired just thinking about it! In their free time, the girls like to catch fish and other wildlife in their little fishing nets, they carve soap, grow veggies in the garden, and play minecraft. I’m stunned at their energy level. So there you have it! That’s this terms’ schedule. For us, homeschooling actually means very little time at home.
As the work day was coming to a close, hubby had a thought. That usually means work for me, and this time was no different. I filled the water tanks, and got things cleaned up and ready to sail. Ok, I don’t mind the work so much if there is a reward. I’m kind of shallow that way.
As soon as he arrived, we dropped the dock lines and took off for Treasure Island. We anchor there frequently, but there was something new this time. the Treasure Island Flea Market was scheduled to be opened. Additionally, in Jack London Square there was a food festival. We figured since the Flea Market was closer we would do that. We hopped into our family car, the dinghy, and zoomed to shore. There were stilt walkers, loads of food trucks, plenty of bars to pick up a libation of choice, and phenomenal weather. Vendors were selling everything from antiques, to campers, to plants. In the pet section was someone selling vegan dog food. Now that’s unusual. What’s next, carnivorous cows? I tipped my hat with appreciation to the creative endeavor and moved on.
Then I saw something that took…my…breath…away. Not kidding. It’s a suitcase that has a dollhouse built into it. There were versions that were very gender specific, others that were gender neutral, but all of them awesome. Here’s the thing, you have loads of room to use it as a suitcase. With this, you don’t need to worry about an activity for your child where you are going. The furniture is Melissa and Doug, so you know it’s good quality, and dolls are included. There is a full size, and a carryon size. Ever try to keep a small child engaged in an airport during a lay-over. Enough said.
We still had a lot of daylight, and the kids were getting hungry. Some brilliant person (me) suggested we should dinghy from Treasure Island to Jack London Square and check out the food festival. It turned out, that was sheer genius.
During our walk-through, we found Brazilian Breads. It’s gluten free little rolls that are kind of between a doughnut and a dumpling. They are HEAVEN! I’ve looked up a recipe and am going to attempt to create these lovelies.
Then we found a place called Core. All I can say is WOW. Veggies never looked so good! We had the Thai zucchini noodles with a coconut and lime sauce that put smiles on all our faces, and a coconut meat bowl with apples, cinnamon, and honey that tasted like sin. It was amazing. Our tummies were literally singing!
Hubby and I were dying for a bloody mary at this point, so we headed to Scotts, ordered our desired beverages along with steamed clams for the table, and enjoyed being out of the heat. It actually felt like a vacation.
We headed back to Treasure Island, tummies full and happy, and let the kids have some beach time. Then it was on to Reverie to watch the sun set and put the kiddos to bed.
The next day, as we were sorely lacking in any breeze, we motored back to West Point Harbor. A brief shower for Reverie to get the salt off, and we were pooped.