Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Soccer Joy

What a memorable summer of soccer it was. It was a turning point for both Charlotte and Finn, as they both moved up in their age divisions, which means growth all around. This is Finn's second year. Because of his birthday, he had to wait until last year to play when he turned 5, whereas most of his teammates were starting at age 4. Fast forward to this year. His teammates are as young as 4 and he is now turning 6 during this soccer season. Finn was at least a whole head taller than almost all of his teammates. He was dominating the field which is not really what the game of soccer is about. So, we asked to move him up to the next age category during the last three weeks of soccer. The coaches on both teams were agreeable to this and really wanted the best for Finn. WOW. What a difference that made! Some solid skills were being taught and he was picking them up fast. He had an opportunity to put his skills to the test and played a game against Bayfield which he was thrilled about. Here he is in action...

Charlotte was really apprehensive about joining soccer again this year. Part of the reason is that she is homeschooled, and all the other kids (with the exception of one other teammate) go to school together in Washburn. Also, it was getting a little, well, boring for her. I could tell she needed a challenge. Last year, she was on U-8, and the kids learned a little bit of skill, but they were still playing games like "Sharks and Minows." Nothing wrong with that game. Really. But she was ready to learn some hard skills, and we knew this. We knew she would get some really good coaching, as she would be preparing to play games against neighboring teams. So, we had that talk. "Just give it one more try. Come on... we think you'll really like it this year. Please?" So, she dragged her feet a little... until she got to the first practice... and her coach was totally cool... and two girls from the high school were the assistant coaches... Oh, and she got a new red jersey that is hers now ~ number 21. Yeah, she was convinced. She was ready. So, throughout the season, the coach did a great job of teaching the girls about all the different positions on the field. He rotated them during all of the games. Charlotte discovered that she was not afraid to get out in front of the net to stop a ball. She really enjoyed being the goalie. She was pretty good at it.

Tonight was Charlotte's last night of practice. Their team ended the season with their only win being against the parents tonight, 3-2. I gotta say, that was just a total blast to play the girls. I found out I am way out of shape and was completely winded during the first two minutes of play. Oh, and I took one in the gut. Charlotte was so proud of her new nickname. The coach dubbed her Charlotte "The Wall" Steckart. She was also awarded Most Improved Player along with her friend Sophia.

~Sigh~ I'm one proud mama. I can't wait for next year when I'll have three kids playing at one time. Yes, Piper will finally get her turn to play too.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Belated Birthday Wishes

Ugh. I feel like a bad mommy. I really should have posted this one sooner, but better late than never, right? My middle child turned six years old on September 10th which was like two weeks ago. So, here is the birthday post.

Every year, I decorate a birthday cake. I do my best to fill all requests. Some time I'll do a cake post just to show you all the cakes I have done in the past. This year, Finn wanted a cake with our dog, Strider on it. Not being so confident in being able to pull off a convincing dog body, I asked him if I could do Strider swimming in Lake Superior. That way, the cake would have some color on it. Dog head, I thought I could pull that one off. He was delighted with that. So, here he is with his sixth birthday cake. He is wearing the Big Feather Hat that Jamie normally wears for our birthday parties.

Gramma and Grampa Steckart came for the day. We had a wonderful lunch with them, some cake and of course, gifts!!! Finn has had his eye on a big horse to play with, ever since Charlotte got one from Gramma for her birthday. Gramma bought his months ago. Already, Charlotte and Finn have spent hours together playing with their horses.

Of course, having a Star Wars Geek for a dad has it's perks when you are a six year old Star Wars lover yourself. Hmmm. now how did that happen? And who will have more fun with all the Star Wars stuff here?

Finn assembled this one all by himself. Just look at that "Starry Eyed" grin.

Happy Birthday big boy!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The View From Down Here

Hands on learning. That's how we do it around here. Even when it's with mom's camera at soccer practice. The minute I take it out, just to get a quick shot of Finn or Charlotte, Piper is all over it. "I take picta mom?" Reluctantly, I hand it over. As long as she stays right next to me, I don't have much of a problem with it. The overwhelming number of unfocused-point-and-shoot-at-anything photos taken? Not a problem either. Really bad ones can easily be erased. The problem is that I have a techno savvy three year old on my hands. "I do it myself." It's the battle of getting the camera back. "Just one mo mom, pease?"

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

She's Addicted... To Reading

It is official. My daughter is a reading addict. Can you tell from the picture? Isn't she just so adorable? That is Charlotte at age two. My oldest baby is eight now, and she is a reading fanatic. And it's fantastic!!! I just want to shout it from the rooftops! She is reading! She is reading!! She is reading!!!

Why am I so ecstatic about this? Because she did most of her learning to read on her own. Yes, as I'm sure many veteran home educators know, learning to read just happens. The proof is in the pudding here folks. When a young person puts their mind to something, when they really want to learn it, it happens. Naturally. Charlotte did not want to read last Christmas. Why? Because easy readers were just too, well, boring. Silly. Stupid. Not interesting. She did not want to practice really, at all. She kept saying to me, "Mom, why can't I just be born reading?" We explained over and over that you can't get better unless you practice. We tried the "30 minutes a day" thing. We tried flash cards with the easy readers. We tried the leveled readers. It was a battle of wits. One day, she saw Jamie on Facebook. This interested her because she is a very social girl and is dying to do anything remotely grown-up. Jamie told her she has to be able to read and write at a certain level. "What level dad?" "Well, you have to be able to read Harry Potter. When you can do that, you can have a Facebook page." Game on.

At this point, no cajoling necessary. Charlotte started to read stories to Finn and Piper in bed at night. I didn't care. Flashlights on, till I don't know what time. She was reading. And they were loving it. And she was excited about it. And PROUD. She also started to read her favorite thing: her American Girl Doll catalog. Yes folks. A catalog. She read it cover to cover. Many times over. She also pulled pages out of the catalog and hung them on the wall next to her bed. She tells me that she used to read the pages on the wall at night with her flashlight. Now, her current favorite is an American Girl Doll Book, Good Luck Ivy. As a matter of fact, she is up with me right now. It is 10:00pm and she is reading to herself and giggling. She keeps reading me the passages she finds funny. "Mom, you have to hear this part, listen..."

Here she is. She wants to tell you all her thoughts about reading.
"I'm so glad I can read now. Cause if you read a book that's really good you can flip the page and find something really cool or exciting. It can be about wizards, dragons, magical fairies, fairy land, and mermaids. I'm reading a book about this chinese girl and she goes to chinese school and her name is Ivy Ling. And it's about how she goes to school and it's really boring and they don't give you a choice. Think outside of the box. In school if I wanna learn about stars and planets surrounding ours, they wouldn't let you do that would they? They'd say you're too young. Anyone can understand anything if they just put their mind to it. And I'm so glad I can read now. I think I'm gonna finish this book. I just can't put it down! Did you ever find a book that you just can't put down because you love it so much?"

How did you learn to read?
"I was seven. It was last Christmas. I thought, 'I don't have to read baby books.' I learned a lot by my partents and they encouraged me really well and everyone kept asking me to read. And sometimes I didn't want to read and sometimes I didn't even feel like I was old enough to read. But then I got past that feeling and I started thinking outside the box. I can read whenenver I feel like it whenever I want and whatever I want 'cause I can write and read and really, that's all you really need. My name is Charlotte and I'm a homeschooler."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Welcome to NWPHS Fieldnotes

Remember how I said in the last post that our family walks in two worlds: school and unschool? Here is a welcome message to readers and followers of his school's blog, Fieldnotes. Northwest Passage High School is an innovative, Project Based Learning Charter School in Minnesota. Jamie and I always joke around about it being "The Homeschool School" because students and teachers direct their own learning. Students are also fortunate enough to belong to a community where learning in the real world can occur. This includes expeditions and explorations of far away places. Put this on your BLOGS TO FOLLOW list.

Intentional Beginnings

Summer is pretty much over. The day after Labor Day marks the official start of school in the state of Minnesota, (which by no coincidence is the last day of the Minnesota State Fair) where Jamie is the director of a Charter School. In the past, when dad went back to work at school, it's just been the start of another school year. In the past, we never really did anything to mark the beginning of our school year, because we were not going to school. Even though we homeschool, we don't like to call it school. We are just living our lives, doing one day at a time, learning things as we go along.

So we wondered, how can a family that walks in two worlds: school and unschool, celebrate this unusual dichotomy? With a simple family ritual. We wanted to bring closure to the end of a fun summer together as a family, and create a way to look forward to the beginning of our family's "Learning Year."

We have a favorite hike that we like to do as a family. It is a logging /ATV trail that takes us to the top of a ridge, overlooking Lake Superior. Though we have hiked this numerous times in the past, on this day, the hike was more intentional. It will become a family ritual because it will be a repeated and coordinated activity that has significance for our family. First, we intend to do this hike on Labor Day each year. Secondly, we will use this hike as the moment to capture a self-portrait of our family. In the past, we've always said, "Darn it, we forgot the tripod again!" This time, we brought the tri-pod.

And thirdly, we used this as an opportunity to take a photo of the kids on the first day of their "Learning Year." No first school bus ride, no backpacks or book bags on the front steps of the house. Just kids in the woods...

In a field of ferns...

Of course, there was so much beauty on this walk. The Asters were in full bloom...

and we discovered many mushrooms along the way. They were begging us to take their pictures too.

That evening, we had a fancy meal of Chicken with Cranberry Stuffing, Sweet Potatoes and Summer Squash. Everyone took a turn talking about the things they want to learn this year, the questions they want to find the answers to, and some of the goals they want to accomplish (with some guidance of course.) It was a lovely way to look forward to our Learning Year.

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