Friday, September 20, 2013

Impromptu Art Tour

As we drove home from an appointment this morning, I was going over all the things we had to catch up on. We hadn't done our normal morning routine, so Sean had not read yet, and I hoped to go over a little more information on the Archean time and see if he wanted to dive deeper into cyanobacteria and do some research on that.

But I kept seeing signs along the road that said "Open Studio Art Tour." I abandoned my worrying about the "school" work and followed the signs. So glad we did it. Sean was able to look at some clay work, talk to the artist, and tour her studio. It was a small shed, but she was so great to take us around and show us where she threw clay, explain to us the type of clay she uses (paper clay) and show us her kilns. She shared loads of information with us, and we enjoyed looking at her art.
The big kiln. She was demonstrating the pins that
she places inside that indicate when the kiln is at
just the right temperature.

Once we were home Sean decided he wanted to do math. We've come up with a game using a deck of cards. I shuffle them, pull the top card, and then we do either addition, subtraction or multiplication with them. We've been doing it every day this week.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Just keepin' it real, folks

Yesterday was an off day. It was a Monday, first off, and secondly Sean was home from a weekend with his dad. That Monday after being at his dad's is always a little difficult. The schedule is different and he really doesn't do well transitioning back and forth with a different schedule, but he's doing better than he used to.

He woke up late. We ate breakfast late, and the chickens got fed late, and then he was slow to get started on any kind of school work. He wouldn't participate in Read to Self, and said he hates reading. I let it go, and encouraged him to come do some handwork while I read to him, but he didn't want to do that either.

I decided that instead of forcing something, I'd just let it be an off day. If I force it he isn't going to absorb it anyway. We all have off days, and I know that all kids have those in regular school as well. Some days we just can't focus on formal learning.

We had an appointment at 1 p.m., and the only thing we got accomplished was a timed math sheet. But that only served to create anxiety and frustration for him. I don't like timed tests either, and he seems to be very negatively affected by them.

So, I mentioned that to the math tutor and I loved his response. He said it's fine to just do it without timing it. Sean can choose whether he wants to do it timed during the week, or if he'd rather practice all week and then do it together with him on Monday. Ahh. Much better.

And really, when I looked back on the day we packed in a lot of educational stuff.

During our outing at 1 p.m. Sean found several spiders that he identified and observed in their webs. He engaged in friendly conversation with the ladies we were with, and explained to them how to construct a costume out of foam. That was an exercise in how to be sociable and use grace and courtesy. He said, "nice to meet you," and was very pleasant once he got acquainted with them.

He accomplished a lot with the math teacher when we were back from our event, doing algebra, fractions, place value and multiplication.
And later in the evening we watched a nature show about grizzly bears. (I gave in and said on Mondays, after he completes school, he can use electronics. He was stoked, because the new episode of his favorite cartoon show on Mondays.)

And after dinner he sat down in the living room and finished a book he had started last week. So he didn't get Read to Self done in the morning, so what. He did it without me saying a word. Much better than forcing it to happen and leaving a negative feeling about reading. He was quite proud that he finished the book. (He already started on a new one today.)

Much later in the evening we had an intense and very long discussion about religion. It was still going when I put him to bed, and we ended on a good note, but we were really late getting settled.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Not a homeschool day, wink, wink

Last week I received a notice from the Pacific Science Center with information on a program with visiting scientists. Local scientists were coming to set up booths and talk about various subjects on Saturday. There were sessions all day long, and we went for the afternoon sessions.

The Pacific Science Center is in Seattle. We have been visiting for many years, even before I lived here. Whenever we vacationed here we would take the kids to the PSC.

It's packed with amazing and fun information. Everything is hands-on, and interactive, and it's as interesting for adults as it is for kids.

I told Sean that we would be going to have a day of fun on Saturday. But in my mind I knew it was going to be something to spark his interest for learning, and to give him a jumping off point to get deep into homeschool this week.

It was beyond what I ever could have imagined.

This boy just needs access to professionals who know a lot about the subjects he is passionate about so he can interview them, ask hard questions, and get real expert answers.

I wanted him to have a good relaxed day of fun, so first we played a little in the touch tank, then went through the dinosaur exhibit and looked at some of the informational plaques there. I finally found out where the science sessions were, and we made our way over to that room.

Tables were set up with displays like you would see at a science fair, and each one was so great. You could go to a table and spend as little or as much time as you wanted. We got lucky, because it wasn't crowded at all while we were there.

Under sea sounds was the first station we visited. The woman there talked about how their fishing boat uses echolocation to find fish. She did a great job of allowing the kids to work with the display and get to the answers on their own.
Observing the ripples made by a drop of water at the
table that illustrated echolocation.
She had a plastic bin (very small kitchen sized) with water in it, and some kind of thick, hard plastic type pieces. One was long, and another was short. Sean took a dropper and dropped one drop of water from it into the plastic bin of water, and she asked him to observe it and tell her what he saw.
He described what he saw, and then she placed the small piece of plastic into the water and asked him to do it again and tell her what he saw.
He loved talking to her and he asked a few questions and made some observations, and also used what he learned there to talk about how it can be used in other ways.

Sean talks to the scientist from Fred Hutchison
about viruses.
We moved over to the bacteria table, and he talked to a lady who is a UW scientist and studies bacteria. She illustrated how bacteria change in order to go undetected by the body, and the way the immune system tries to figure out how to find them. He spent a fair amount of time there.

His final session was his favorite. He spent a FULL HOUR at this table. I couldn't believe it. I was getting really tired, but I didn't want to rush him or interrupt.
This booth was about viruses. The lady (for some reason there were a lot of women scientists, which was AWESOME!!) who was working this booth studies viruses at Fred Hutchison, and she had a color display of the worst viruses as they would look under a microscope.

She also had a diorama that was divided into little rooms, and some different colored styrofoam balls with tiny wood picks sticking out of them. He got to choose what color virus he wanted to be, and then she walked him through how that virus gets into the cell (the little house with the rooms) and what happens when it is inside.

He asked so many questions~questions I would never have thought of, and I have a science degree. He asked what is a vulnerability that a virus might have. He asked a million other questions, and engaged in conversation with her about what happens when the body responds to try to get rid of it. He asked which virus she believed was the worst, and she said HIV, and proceeded to tell us why. HIV makes a copy of your cells' DNA, and then your body cannot ever get rid of that virus.
He said, "So I asked you what made a virus vulnerable, now I'd like to ask what you think is the biggest strength of a virus." She said sneakiness, because they can do so many things to go undetected, and they can essentially go to sleep and just stay in your body and wake up many years later.
She answered his questions, and encouraged him to keep going with the questions. She was patient, and kind, and seemed to enjoy his enthusiasm.

Several times there was a  pause in the conversation, and she would ask if he had any other questions, and he would stand there and think for a long time and come up with another one that was just as good as the last.

I was in awe.

This child has been so shut down for almost a full year. I have my child back. This is the child I lost last year.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

First Day of Homeschool 2013-14

It was a drizzly, wet day. I realized that I am
missing an essential garment~
RAIN JACKET. Luckily Sean has one.

There were microscopes, but I never got the
411 on what was in the petri dish.

A little kayaking in the Puget Sound.

Our first official day of homeschool was today, Sept. 6. We've got a Montessori Upper El curriculum we are going to follow, but we are also doing extra activities and field trips. Chuck and I enrolled Sean in a homeschool program at a YMCA camp. He is signed up for the fall sessions, and today the kids were learning about the water system that recycles waste water on the YMCA site. It was really cool.

I was thinking I would just drop him off, but there was a bit of confusion about whether I could do that, and by the time I knew that I could, Sean was already used to the idea that I was going to be there with him. So I stayed. I'm glad I did for this first session. It was cool to see. It lets me know what he was learning, so now I can spark his interest in going deeper with the study of nitrogen, and water systems, etc.

We hiked a lot today, just getting from one area to the next. I was wet most of the day, but it wasn't cold, so that was a big plus for me. I know. I've lived here for how long now? And it rains how many days of the year here? And I don't have a rain jacket. It's on my shopping list for this week.

After the formal instruction on the basics of how the water system is set up, and how it uses nitrogen, we got up close with their compost pile, and then ventured out into the garden to see more of the water system and how it is used. We then went into the garden and were allowed to sample some raspberries, and to look at the pumpkin patch.

Lunch was next, and then some instruction on canoeing and rowing. Sean and a few of the older kids chose to kayak, and it was his first time. He did great, and quickly figured out how to turn and stop and get where he wanted to go. But he was more interested in being along the shore to investigate the sea life.

The instructor today was awesome. He was great at giving information at varying levels for the different ages in our group, and was funny and engaging. It felt like we had ample time to explore and engage with each activity. I was impressed with the program.

Once everyone had a good amount of time in the boats, we put all of the equipment away and headed over to the heated pool for swim time. It was a cloudy, rainy day, but the air was surprisingly warm and kind of humid.

Sean was able to learn alongside one of his classmates from his public Montessori school who is also homeschooling this year. He also made a new friend or two, and we hope to see them again. One lives very close to us.

I met a few moms there, and we've already got another educational outing planned for next week. I think it's going to be a great year for us!