Welcome to my adventure. This blog started out focused on parenting and school but now that Katie's nearly baked, it's way more about me these days. My experiences, more likely my point of view and good times to share.
Welcome! I'm glad to have you aboard.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Do boys and girls play differently? Oh yeah they do!

Today began so simply. Up early, bugged out to breakfast so the housekeeper could kick some butt. Took home school work to do at the IHOP. All good.

Then it started raining. We got home to find the housekeeper freaking because the vacuum nearly caught on fire. And then Josh called: could he come over? Did anyone care that I actually had work to do?

I don't care what anyone says, there is a difference between how boys play and how girls play. This day is living proof.

By 11:30, mom had stopped by to pronounce the vacuum officially "dead". Oh yeah, she also needed ant killer. I am nothing if not the woman with everything.

By 12:30, the kids had completely dismantled the vacuum. CSI has nothing on what Josh managed to do to this thing. Plastic flying, wires akimbo; a total mess. The upside is Katie would never have gone after the vacuum in the way Josh did. I consider this dissection home school because they did get to see every stinking part in the machine including the mother board, wiring and the strange little thing that got caught in the motor - the "incapacitator".

At 1:30 I sent them away to go get lunch. Thankfully the donut shop down the street sells sandwiches and there was a break in the weather so they needed to get out! Unlike some of Katie "girl" friends who aren't allowed to go anywhere, Josh has more freedom. So off they went.

Apparently it was a great time at the donut shop as they met a veteran who has served as a Marine and they talked to him about the USS Hornet (both Josh and Katie have overnighted there) and they learned about his tour of duty on the USS Colorado. I just a little proud my two urchins were able to have such an informed conversation with the man.

By 2:15, the rain started again and Josh informed me he had powered down a whole Rockstar, "with 80 milligrams of caffeine!" I assured him under no conditions would he ever need an energy drink. Just giving him food was enough to wind him up. The action turned to Legos.

We have had Legos since Katie was tiny. They were deriguer in our house growing up. My mom was convinced Katie would love them. Nope. Never happened. But with Josh on board, they went nuts. Lots of building, fighting, arguing, creating, sorting, breaking, building and it all stayed in a relatively centralized location. Cool.

At 3pm, I could no longer take the noise. I had managed to get through a WebEx or two, pounded out a blog and worked on a presentation. Time to get them out of the house. Off to buy a vacuum (which I did - spent a fortune but it looks like a winner). Good outing - the ran like maniacs around the store and didn't get in trouble. Whew.

At 4pm, Josh left to go walk his dog (the rain stopped) and Katie's friend Rose came over. And the energy shifted. From the full-body contact sports of vacuum CSI and Legos to the quiet, contemplative, deliberate stuffy play of Build a Bear. Animals were everywhere with elaborate stories, lots of drama and giggles. Oh thank god, I could get just a little more writing done!

At 6:30pm, the day wound down with dinner - mac and cheese and apples - and lots of girly laughter.

I love Josh. He's the son I never had. He reminds me so much of my brothers when I was growing up. He's smart, high energy, a total pain in the butt. And he's so good for Katie. At one point I was convinced they were going to end up in a big fight (as I also remember from growing up with brothers) but it never happened. I guess they had good talks as the day went on and I am grateful he's around.

But man oh man, is the energy different!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Life Aboard the USS Hornet: We Lived Like Sailors - Awesome!

Katie and I slept on the USS Hornet!

Holy cow, talk about bringing history to life! It was a fantastic experience - from walking up the gang plank to choosing our bunk to eating in the mess. What a ship.

We arrived in Alameda on Saturday at 4pm. It was a little "Navy" from the start and I explained to Katie that a big part of how things work is the "hurry and wait" routine. We queued outside the ship while we rustled up all the Girl Scout troops that had come to the event. The ship loomed over us but seemed very welcoming - despite its reputation has a haunted ship.

We were assigned to a terrific team of rag-tag Scouts (Katie is a Juliette which is like a home school scout and so we are often freelance at these things). Our leader was funny and easy-going and eventually got us to our sleeping quarters to choose our bunks. We learned the rules quickly (no eating except in the mess, clean-up after yourself at all times, and never, ever run.

After a fire drill, we headed down to dinner. I think I know why they call it a "mess." There's a reason sailors are skinny - they work hard and eat really bad food. I can't remember the last time I ate canned veggies. After dinner, we had free run of the place. Katie and I started exploring. We share rampant curiosity and as a result, we ended up exploring areas of the ship all by ourselves. It was incredible.

We were in the officers' quarters and the Marine head. We found the room where the fly-boys got their orders and the post office. On the wall was a special picture of Snoopy on the USS Hornet - Charles had a soft spot for the ship! We eventually ended up in the torpedo room which is, ironically, really close to the sick bay.

We decided one of the best parts of the whole event was spending about a half hour on the bridge, alone with three wizened vets who told us stories of their time on board (in the 60s) and in Vietnam. Mostly they had stories about their hijinks, bad food and their buddies. The guys also told us to make sure and ask for a private tour of the captain's quarters and the admiral's quarters. We did the next morning and it was totally worth it!

I highly recommend making time to see this fascinating vessel. It's very accessible and I had no idea the Hornet brought in the astronauts from Apollo 11 and 13. We left with profound respect for the men and women who serve and a better understanding of the sacrifices they have made for us (thank you Uncle Don, Bruce and Herb!).

[You can see all the photos here.]

Home School POV
Prior to the event, Katie and I spent some time researching World War II. Then, to help her understand how we got involved and the role of an aircraft carrier, we watched Carrier (an excellent, almost soap-opera like documentary) and Pearl Harbor. We also plan to watch Tora, Tora, Tora because the guys insisted it was one of the best, more realistic movies about Pearl Harbor they had seen.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fostering Independence (While I Take a Pill and Try to Stay Calm)

I figure one of the big "themes" of home school is letting Katie try to do things on her own. Giving her the freedom to experiment, fail, succeed and having me stay out of it. But holy crap is that hard!

It started last weekend. She had a good friend over who she hadn't seen in a long time. The weather was kind of cool and cloudy so they were spending a lot of time indoors. I was on a roll, cleaning house and really tried to leave them to their own devices.

I think that was my tactical error.

Around 3pm, the girls decided they wanted to "cook." Oh my. Katie really hasn't done that much cooking yet. She's helped me a few times, but typically lost interest before the job was done.

Thankfully, we had an "Oreo Pie" box mix on the shelf that I had clearly bought in a Safeway stupor. Most likely it was something Katie had picked out and I didn't have the wherewithal to fight. Who knew it would end up working in my favor?

The girls did a great job making the pie. They used every bowl in the house and had no idea what a pie pan was (even though they have both had pie in their lives - sheesh). I think they discovered the process was more fun than the finished product. And I learned that holding my tongue and staying out of it is MUCH harder than I could imagine. After two hours I was a wreck from holding it all in and we needed to take a walk that evening so I could get my wiggles out!

But Sunday's training (and patience) paid off when Katie received a late Christmas present yesterday that was a cupcake decorating kit. She wanted to make "four" cupcakes. Imagine her surprise when I explained she had to make the whole box - which was nearly 24 cakes! I handed her the package and told her to read the directions and go for it.

Then I left the room.

I figured this was a home school experience. Following directions. Problem solving. Self-reliance.

It was going okay until she asked how long she had to pre-heat the oven (hmmm, interesting question, never thought about it in terms of time), what is oil and where do we keep them (oil, plural, another strange question), and what happens if she mixed the batter too long (she found out later, the cupcakes were slightly rubbery).

I learned she's not great at reading directions - I sense a career in technology, none of my high tech friends ever read directions - and she's really good at cleaning up after herself. She still has to learn to do only one thing when she's cooking; that playing with the cat during food prep is gross (and dangerous, that's a huge cat scratch on her nose!).

The cupcakes turned out great. Frosted very creatively and pretty tasty.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Home School: With a little help from my friends...

One of the best things that happened in early winter is a friend joined us in home school. Jordan and Katie had played together and I had always thought Jordan's mom Heidi seemed cool, but I had no idea.

We're In This Together
Having someone to share the experience with has been outstanding. It really helps that we live within one mile of each other. That the girls share some other friends in common. That Heidi and I share a common enemy based on our old school. But what really helps is that she's as interested in creating opportunities for the girls to learn as I am.

The Heart of the Matter
As it turns out, Jordan's dad does some amazing work. He works at a company, BioCardia, that is working on tools to deliver medicine and therapies directly to the heart. Holy cow. Heidi decided to pack up the girls and take them for a tour of the facility and Ron (Jordan's dad) was able to get them into the lab and talking to the researchers working there.

Katie truly enjoyed having such intimate access to research and development. She's very interested in science and she was very curious about the process and tools she saw there. What a fantastic opportunity Heidi (and Ron) cooked up!

Flying High
After visiting the lab, Heidi forged on and took the girls to Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos. The kids had a blast running around touching planes, jets and Katie got to sit in a Blue Angel fighter. (She knows her mom has a special love of the Blue Angels so she made sure Heidi took lots of pics of her in the cockpit.)

A Richer Experience
From the beginning, I knew I was going to need help to do this home school thing. Friends and family pitched in - sent good ideas, resources, shared their passions. I am so grateful for their involvement and I think Katie has really benefit from it all.

And now, with a peer to share things with, it's increased her engagement. I am so grateful to have a "cool mom" to share the experience and add fuel to their fire. Heidi and Jordan - thank you for sharing our home school adventure!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Good Grief: Does Anyone Home School During the Holidays?

Yep. Last blog was November 16, 2009. Feels like a lifetime ago.

Work got crazy, Thanksgiving was just around the corner and what happened on the home school front? Hapless grasping at learning opportunities that were often sacrificed to other commitments.

I can’t be the only one who has had this happen. I had the best of intentions: we had a plan, topics to work on, math to get done. Then it all: Just. Fell. Apart.

Katie got sick and we missed a couple field trips. I had to go in to see my client more often than usual. Even our tutor had to cancel because her life got away from her. [Pictured: we did manage to see one historical thing on a trip to SF - does that count!?]

So, here we are in January.

We are dusting off our brains and trying to get the gears grinding again. The good news is we have renewed our energy for learning. We have a few killer field trips planned and Katie has started reading a book that I loved, The Breadwinner, that might actually foster some interesting discussion. The tutor called and she’s fired up and “activity day” at the school starts again today!

With January, there is other good news. The rhythm of home school has become a routine. Mornings are easy; it continues to be a rather stress-free process. We have time to cook and make better meals. Katie’s play really reflects her creative process as she has time to create elaborate realities with a cast of characters (note to self – I have to get some of it on video).

So here’s to 2010. Who knows what the year will bring. But we are ready for it as our Home School Adventure continues!