Hump Day

September 3rd, 2009 § 2

Alli seems very content so far with how things are going, but it’s hard not to notice that she still refers to things that she used to do at school in the present tense (as in, “we do something like that in Mr. so-and-so’s class!”). Although I feel that things are going well for us at this early juncture, it’s hard for me not to feel some sense of loss and sadness about the things that she enjoyed about school, and the friends that I imagine she misses seeing every day. I have worked hard to let go of my anger and disappointment in a school that broke my heart, and at a public school system that I don’t think would do a whole lot better, but there are still moments where it trickles out and I feel sad for us, for her, and for all of the children who are not getting their sparks nurtured so that they grow up to become thoughtful, fulfilled adults.

Those feelings aside, yesterday was a good day. Wednesdays will normally be our ‘project’/’field trip’ days, but as Alli is still a bit under the weather and we’re still getting a rhythm going, we took it easy. We did some writing (Alli published a blog entry that she’d edited the previous day), watched a fabulous animated version of If the World Were a Village that led to some great thinking and discussion – mathematical and social — and also led towards us choosing a new recipient for some Kiva funds that had been paid back to us and were ready for re-lending. Spent a few hours in the afternoon at the library, where Alli got sucked in by a Guinness World Records book and did a little more reading in The Journey while I found some more great books to bring home (including the kids’ version of Three Cups of Tea, which I’m in the middle of presently – so cool to be working with both! And there’s a young reader’s edition too that we’ll have to explore next!). Then a short playdate to meet a new friend that we’ll be transporting to choir, followed by a short grocery trip (Alli is now going to be tracking the price of milk across stores and across the next few months as part of the little money/economics study we’re pursuing). The two giant wall maps I ordered from a sale at Rand McNally arrived – now I have to figure out which wall in our home gets sacrificed for the cause. We ended the day reading One Hen before bedtime, a wonderful tie-in to having re-lent some micro-loan funds earlier in the day.

It occurs to me that I’m learning as much as I’m teaching on this journey…

It begins with a sniffle…

September 1st, 2009 § 0

So, a bit of a slow start yesterday, as Alli came down with a full-on head cold and was pretty sacked out by head congestion and a constant battle with snot. She looked pretty darn pathetic for most of the morning – I was imagining how awful her first day of school would have been had I sent her (our local public schools started today). First cold for awhile for her, not sure where it came from – but made a mental note to myself to call the doc to arrange for the flu mist for her in the next month or so.

She made it to basketball class, though – a testament to how much she’s enjoying it. I wasn’t sure that she’d make it thru – and braced myself for a meltdown. Coach J noticed she was under the weather and offered her the choice to rest/sit out whenever she needed. This was such a great strategy for her; she sat out for a few moments, but very few – felt so secure about just having the choice. I reflected on the things that bothered me about the gym teacher she’s had at school (he was the ‘buck it up’ variety) – he would never have done such a simple, supportive thing.

No Spanish yesterday – hard for her to talk with a sore throat (part of it is speech-based), and I didn’t see a need to push it. She did do some handwriting, editing and response journaling. I read Harry Potter aloud for a little over an hour (we’re finally just about finished with the first book – lots of discussion breaks), then we ran some errands and had some great conversation and teachable moments along the way. One of the pieces I gave her to edit was something about space exploration that referenced a spacecraft from Earth that was due to be near Pluto by 2016. Her initial response was “why would we care about Pluto anymore if it’s not even a planet?” This led to a long discussion about what we could still learn, and an even longer discussion about the Pluto planetary debate. All while purchasing pet food and picking up a package from the post office.

Not a bad start, all things considered.

This morning, she woke up with more of a bounce, and by 9:00 has already completed a few problem-solving projects I gave her (from a cool e-book). One task was to choose the best geometric shape for designing a rabbit hutch, draw it out on paper and then construct it with cardboard, explain why it was a good choice for a rabbit hutch, then explain other things that shape is commonly used for. Alli’s cubical version is both constructed and already well-populated with bunny puffballs – she’s now wrestling with 12 popsicle sticks to see how many ways she can create 4 equally-sized animal pens with at least 1 connected fence. This one is frustrating her a little – which means it’s a good challenge, but one that I need to go provide some guidance for. On to day 2!

Off we go!

August 30th, 2009 § 0

It’s not lost on me that most of Alli’s peers are heading back to school this week. It’s a weird feeling, not having done the obligatory school supply list shopping, inventorying clothing and such. There is a small sense of being left behind a community which we used to be a part of, all of whom are heading down a familiar path. At the moment, though, the predominant sensation is one of relief. That we aren’t being thrust into a new schedule not of our own making, that we won’t have the daily morning “how to get the kid dressed and fed and out the door in far less time than she is really capable of without pressure and resulting meltdowns” routine, that we won’t be replacing dozens of reusable containers that never make it home in the lunchbox, …

And so it begins, but without the bang. We’re going to be easing into things a bit more this week. Alli’s “inbox” is already well-stocked with a variety of things for her to choose from for her early morning work, including some editing and handwriting practice, some higher-level thinking challenges, some math problems involving place value and inequalities, her regular journal and a response journal we exchange with each other. She’s already begun working with Rosetta Stone Spanish, and we should be jumping into math more heavily, both together and with the games/problem-solving group that I’m running that is set to start on Friday. So far we have 6-8 kids lined up for that. I’m hoping we can hit the Harry Potter exhibit at the science & industry museum either this week or next – now that the crowds should be lighter, and I think we’re going to set some field trips up too relating to money. I need to start combing thru some of the science and history books I have checked out from the library to come up with some good places to start – and see what seems to spark Alli’s interest.

I’m curious to see how the plan of having her do some work independently first thing in the morning goes. She is a reasonably early riser who likes to take on projects when she gets up (although not so into the promptly getting dressed and brushing hair and teeth part, which she can hopefully do at a little more leisurely pace now). I am very much not the early riser, and it takes me a bit to get going in the mornings, so I’m hoping that the structure we laid out of independent work first will function for us both.

More to come as we make our way…

Lofty goals…

August 26th, 2009 § 1

So I’ve been thinking a lot about how to approach this year of homeschooling, from style, curriculum and schedule standpoints. As the parent and teacher here, I’m faced with unlimited possibilities – a wonderfully freeing and yet slightly overwhelming thing. Going in, I knew there were a number of things I wanted to address, including giving Alli as much freedom and responsibility as I feel she is able to handle. » Read the rest of this entry «

A New Adventure…

August 18th, 2009 § 0

So much of our family’s life for the past 5 or 6 years has been intermingled with the world of education – and it’s as difficult for me to figure out where to begin this post as it is for me to isolate where the journey that we’re on with regards to education really began. The short version has to do with my life-long love of both learning and teaching, and having decided to do a complete 180 of my career path to embrace that love, intermingled with our daughter having come of school age a few years back… and having reached several personal points of frustration with the current state of education along those two paths (mine and hers).

» Read the rest of this entry «


March 20th, 2008 § 0

Alli’s benefit photo

This is not my photo, btw. It was taken for use in Alli’s school’s annual benefit (and they successfully made $45 by selling it to us… 🙂 )

Stay 6.

January 8th, 2008 § 0

Daddy’s infamous “lunch notes” have absorbed Alli’s perpetual requests for “homework” (something I’ll be sure to remind her of some day in the future) and mutated into a daily silly worksheet to humor her at lunch.I usually find one or two things to be touched or humored by in the results.  Today’s, in the wake of the oncoming 7th birthday, was the “Stay 6”:


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First Grade work

September 9th, 2007 § 0

Mr. Falker

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Alli B, 1st Grader at Last

September 4th, 2007 § 0

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Last day of Kindergarten

June 7th, 2007 § 0

Just sent Alli off to her last (1/2) day of Kindergarten. As she bounced down the stairs, I couldn’t help but have a whole deja-vu moment of the departure for the first day of Kindergarten in the fall.

First day of Kindergarten, September 2006

Alli, I am endlessly proud of you. You have an enthusiasm for life that I envy beyond words. You have grown so much this year, and I’m not just talking about the nearly two inches that required a whole new wardrobe of pants. You have made great strides in learning how to cope with a body that hears, sees and feels things more deeply than most. You are kind and sensitive and welcoming to others (if occasionally bossy), and have become this social butterfly that I am in awe of. You have made friends openly and easily, and wake up excited every single morning about what the day might hold for you. You even managed to collect a set of adoring fans from the 6th grade! You have asserted your independence in ways I wasn’t prepared for, but in ways that have warmed my heart as a parent who has worked so hard to foster in you a sense of security in yourself. Just don’t pay attention to me walking 3 steps behind you — I’ll be able to stand farther back with time.

You became a leader in your classroom for literacy. Fearless in your pursuit of reading and writing, you astound us every single day with your creativity in finding new outlets for writing, and in your seamless way of integrating reading strategies that you seem to have developed overnight and all on your own. Your creativity in designing projects seems endless, and your awareness about the world around you and continued thirst for knowledge is like a bright beaconing star. I sometimes find little bits of work that you have done around the house, like the little sheet yesterday where you decided to work on adding three-digit numbers, and I wonder how you continue to find the time, the energy, and the brainspace given all that you occupy yourself with on a daily basis.

Most of all, from this year, I think we will all never forget the monkey bars. Taking physical risks has been such a huge challenge for a little girl whose body is more sensitive than most. Still, it has been hard for you to see other kids pursuing feats with ease that terrified you to the core. I comforted you for many years sitting on the sidelines, watching others with a mixture of awe and anger and sadness. The monkey bars, which many of your closest friends at school spent much time crossing with speed and ease, became almost an albatross for you.

About halfway through the school year you mustered the courage to attempt them, and devised a little routine where you were able to reach the 2nd rung while still keeping your tippy toes safely on the top of the ladder, hang for about 2 seconds, and drop. You were so proud of yourself, and we celebrated with you (with only a little chuckle in the back of our throats). Then, suddenly, about a month ago you decided you were ready to give it a real shot, and you crossed the entire set of bars without turning back. I’m embarrassed to say that Daddy and I didn’t quite believe you when you told us you could do them, and we promptly took you to a park under the guise of letting you celebrate (but with the real intent of witnessing what new trick you’d cooked up to make it across without letting your feet dangle). You took off, and put us to shame by zipping across all 12 rungs, no tricks. This was followed by the discovery of a blister and some split skin, which resulted in an hour screaming festival of “I HATE the monkey bars and I’m never doing them again!”, after which you surprised us YET AGAIN and resumed your monkeyness with the bars only a day later, blister still raw.

I have learned never to underestimate you again.

You are my hero.

Love, Mommy

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