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.

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.

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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 Schedule

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.

Even at Anchor, there’s fun to be had.

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.

 

 

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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