Friday, July 30, 2010

Night at the Grohmann Museum

After an eight year hiatus from the adult working world, I'm back. I'm feeling productive, and valued by the people I work with and it feels so good! Don't get me wrong. I love my kids, and I feel productive, valued, and very much loved by them. BUT, I am loving adult conversations, and being on a team that is creating something that will be useful to MANY home learners. This job is fun because of the team members I create with. Hard working, open minded, and truly dedicated to Project Based Learning. And who wouldn't love the opportunity to spend time with colleagues, friends and my husband, in a city unfamiliar to me, without children in tow? Tonight's entertainment was an evening on the rooftop of the Grohmann Museum. A beautiful atmosphere, and perfect weather. Thank you PBLS. Shane, you rock! It's been a wonderful conference.

Shane and Sarah on the town.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

"In My Shoes" at the Professional Leadership Institute (Milwaukee, WI)

Jamie and I are attending a conference "How To Better Leverage Project Foundry Summer Un-Conference" in Milwaukee at the Professional Leadership Institute. I just wanted to share this very cool project called "In My Shoes". Walking down the hallway you see these beautiful pictures/creative writing pieces blown up to poster size hanging in the windows. I was blow away by the beautiful faces, the honesty and courage. Here is an exerpt from a book created from this project:

"How am I supposed to tell my story, if I don't even know who I am yet?" This penetrating question, posed directly by one of the authors of this book, is the question each of the authors had to wrestle with in the project this book grew out of. The project, entitled In My Shoes, was a school studio project in the arts enrichment program offered by Artists Working in Education (AWE) and proposed and hosted by the MPS school, the Professional Learning Institute. The eleven courageous and talented students who chose to participate in the project worked with two resident artists, photographer Stephanie Bartz and writer Marya Bradley to create the photographic and written self-portraits in this book."

The portraits you see here are the original answers each student discovered and created in response to the primary question: who am I? And to the subsequent and necessarily and creatively linked question, how am I supposed to tell/show who I am, if I don't know who I am already?

In the relatively short, yet concentrated time they had to work with the artists, the students were introduced to and invited to explore various ways of seeing and thinking about themselves, drawing on the particular potentials and inherent differences of each of the two disciplines of photography and creative writing. In their explorations, they came up against the strange depths of how much can be "told" by the face, the body and its posture, by the fall of light and shadow and by setting. At the same time, they contended with the sense of all that does not "show", or come to the surface in a photographic portrait -the life or lives "inside" -- all the feelings, the images, the memories, voices, sounds and thoughts within us -- which words may or may not be able to hint at more richly.

The self-portraits that make up this book are the expression of each student's creative exploration over the course of the project. They are true achievements for they represent moments of real courage. It takes courage to explore a subject without knowing the way. And it takes courage to try out new mediums or new ways of using familiar mediums (in this project, photography and writing) to explore a subject. But it takes a lot more courage to realize that you yourself are the subject of your exploration and that you discover who you are, in whatever medium you work in, as you go - in the process of searching - in the way that only you can tell what it feels like to "get it right" and be true to how it feels to be you - "in your shoes".

I have taken photos of four of the eleven hanging up. What a coincidence that the keynote speaker at this conference was Peter Pappas who spoke about "The Importance of Reflection." I think I may post about Peter's talk next.


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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Road Trip Confessions

Shhhhh.... Don't tell... We broke the law. Just an itty bitty little law. You know, the one that says you are not supposed to bring wood from one place to another? Well, we brought a stick home with us. All the way From New York, into Canada, then back to the states.

Now, if you have been following our family's road trip, you can go back to the blog "Two Moose, A Ninja and The Destruction of the Death Star" to see this stick in action. It was found by Finn on our hike in the Adirondacks. He literally found like five sticks and he carried them all for the last mile of the hike. back in camp, I made him choose the one he like the best. Once he made his choice, well, he made it clear he did not want to part with it.

Oh, we told him about "The Stick Law". We kept reminding him that we would have to part with it at the next camp ground. "Play with that stick, cause it's your last day with it". The kids would use the stick at each campsite as a form of entertainment, to pass the time. Finn and Charlotte got pretty good at tossing it back and forth to each other. They would get farther and farther apart while tossing the stick. Then they started making up routines with the stick, mostly spinning it around and twirling it around their body. Where they learned this or even got the idea is beyond me. I'm thinking maybe "Mulan", "Kung Fu Panda" or "Zena: The Warrior Princess".
Not sure. They sure provided us with excellent evening entertainment though.

So, we were about to leave our site in Mississiagi, (Canada) and we had to make a decision. Should we take the stick or not? We told Finn he couldn't take the stick home. AND HE WAS OK WITH IT! "It's just a stick you guys!" Jamie and I looked at each other in amazement and disbelief. OK, well, let's get a picture of Finn and his stick.

Just look at how cute he is!!! Jamie said, "I think I'm gonna miss that stick more than he is". "Me too! We can get it home and varnish it so it doesn't spread 'stick germs'".

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write.: How I Learned to Read and Write

I just blogged last night about what inspires us to learn and how Charlotte learned to read. I just came across this blog post by a young Unschooled 19 year old. She wrote an article about how she learned to read naturally. Click on the red link below.

I'm Unschooled. Yes, I Can Write.: How I Learned to Read and Write

What Inspires Us To Learn?

Ask yourself this question. As an adult learner, what inspires YOU to learn something? Is it a desire to learn a new skill, or brush up on an old hobby? Always wanted to learn how to knit or quilt? How did you go about learning this new skill? Did you find a friend to show you how or did you enroll in a community education class? Did you learn a skill because you had to, like changing a flat tire? Our truck just recently died. We are doing everything in our power to not get it towed. This included me learning how to check the spark plugs, and replacing the distributor cap in the engine. It's still not working. Ugh. But we have narrowed it down to a possible fuel pump problem now. How did we learn these new car skills? We called our expert mechanic for advice, looked things up on the net, and had two different friends fiddle with it and scratch their heads with us.

Now, let's apply what we know about our own desire to learn... to children. Besides their age, are they any different from us? Children are so open and responsive to learning about the world around them when they are inspired, when there is a desire to learn. I'll give you an example.

In our house, we are trying our hardest to step back and let our children explore their interests and learn at their own pace. This includes reading and math skills. Charlotte is our oldest. She just turned 8 in June. She did not learn how to read until this past winter, when she was *gasp* seven and a half. Which would put her in second grade at the time. Yes, she knew her letters and the sounds they made, but she just didn't WANT to learn to do it. She would tell us over and over how hard it was to read, and she wished she was "born reading." That being said, if she was in school, she for sure would have been put in a remedial reading class. She would have been labeled a "reluctant reader."

Yes. Most definately a reluctant reader. I would pull my hair out arguing with her about how she wouldn't get better unless she practiced daily. So I looked high and low for easy readers that I thought would spark her interest. Here is where we met the problem head on. Charlotte was interested in books way beyond her reading level. She hated any kind of easy reader. They were stupid, silly, and boring. Henry and Mudge, too boyish. Frog and Toad, too babyish. Little House On The Prairie, My First Reader Series, still too babyish to my surprise. We discovered Fancy Nancy easy readers, as well as Eloise. A sparkly cover helps. A little girly. Now we were starting to get somewhere. Still, it just did not seem to inspire her. What did?

Jamie and I were on Facebook one day. She wanted to know what it was. She was intrigued by how we could talk to our friends and now, she wanted a Facebook account too. Jamie told her she could do Facebook when she could read a Harry Potter book. GAME ON. Now, she had a goal in mind. She began to practice more, and, I stopped telling her what to read. If she wanted to take a swing at The Box Car Children, I wouldn't say no. If she wanted to read a page from A Hole In The Sky, I'd say, "sure, I'll listen." Or not. Most of the time she does not want to read aloud to me. I think she thinks I'm testing her, or assessing her. Dang she is so perceptive. So recently, she has been reading to her brother and sister at bedtime. They fall asleep, and she stays up with flashlight in hand reading something of her choice. Currently, she has been reading her American Girl Doll catalog. She has now read it cover to cover several times.

Our children have been surrounded by books, and two parents who are avid readers. We have been reading stories like Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, and many others like these since they were three years old. I'll never forget the night I was reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Charlotte. She was maybe four years old at the time. She said, "Mom, I don't ever want you to stop reading this, cause it's like magic! I don't want it to end!" How can you NOT learn to read with an attitude like that!

So, whenever I get down in the dumps and start to doubt myself, I whip out my old John Holt book, Learning All The Time. He reminds me to just be patient, and to TRUST your child. TRUST their interests. TRUST the natural process of learning.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Firework Finale

The finale from the fireworks on Lake Huron, Mackinaw City. Enough said.

YouTube Video

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Friday, July 2, 2010

This Hike Introduced Some Cool Rocks and Signs of Moose

Today's hike on the Helenbar Trail was about four miles. It was nice and flat along the lake for about a mile.

Before we headed up, the trail stopped at the lake's edge where canoeists exit for the Portage between the lakes. It was a beautiful sandy beach. Unfortunately, we didn't stop, or the kids would have lost their steam. We pressed on.

Along the way, we stopped and observed many fascinating rocks. This was a cool one, with round pieces of quartz all stuck together, along with some other minerals.

I didn't think we would see any signs of Moose up this far North. The terrain was high and rocky, and I always assumed Moose preferred low and marshy areas, but we found several Moose tracks. This was the best example next to Finn's hand.

We think this may be a Moose scraping his antlers on the tree.

Definitely Moose Poop. It's bigger than the deer droppings we are so used to seeing around our house.

A very large tree that was begging to be hugged.

Happy to make it to the top!

Jamie took this picture. I love that the leaf's shadow is green.

A huge boulder left behind from the Glacial Melt down.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cairns, Fish -n- Chips and a Highway Carved From Stone

Trans-Canada Highway Ontario 17 follows the Northern shoreline of Lake Huron. When we first started out on this route, we started noticing piles of rocks way up on the tops of rock walls where the highway was carved out. They reminded me of the cairns (piles of rocks) we would see on backpacking routes to help hikers find their way. These were a little more interesting though. Some were shaped like people, and some even displayed red ribbons or the Canadian flag. In order to build one of these cairns, one would have to park along the side of the highway and climb to the top of a wall to build it. A daring feat.

I took a picture of this cairn while we stopped at one of the many "Fresh Cut Fries" stands, where we had two marvelous baskets of fresh Fish-n-Chips.

The Canadians are so polite, and like to remind drivers gently to take care of themselves while driving. This one gets right to the point: Fatigue Kills Take A Break.

A highway carved out of stone.

We made it to our destination. It was WAY off the beaten path. There were not many people staying there. It was secluded, untouched. It reminded us of a cross between the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, and the shores of Maine. here is Piper killing some time with a journal.