Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Week of Sizzling Soccer

Why SIZZLING you might ask? Only because the HOTTEST week of the summer was the week we signed up for British Soccer Camp. No worries though. We concentrated on drinking plenty of water and taking breaks in the shade erected by a fellow soccer parent named Honor. (She provided three easy-up shelters, one for each field)

I must say, I was a bit skeptical at first about a two hour soccer camp for the young ones. It took Piper a little while on the first day to get involved. She was a bit shy and hesitant. I had to get out on the field with her to encourage her to play some of the games, but I didn't mind that. I was not into yelling and threatening her to get out there, and especially not when it was so hot. Her coach was very patient with her reluctance and welcomed her whenever she returned to the group. I was also impressed by the amount of silly games her coach knew to get the kids practicing skills they didn't realize they were acquiring. Here is Piper playing the game "Austin Powers". Imagine her yelling "Groovy Baby, Yeah!" and then dashing off to avoid being hit by Dr. Evil's lasers. (I might add that this game was also very popular with the older kids as well. Now Charlotte and Finn want to see the movie!)

Piper has become Dr. Evil and is now firing lasers...

Piper's coach was pretty smitten with her...

For the older kids, skill building happened the first two hours followed by scrimmage games the last hour. At the beginning of the week, the kids were divided into four person teams named after a country. All week, the teams would earn points for winning games, showing a good attitude and sportsmanship.

On the last day of camp, teams brought home-made flags of their country, painted their faces and competed for THE WORLD CUP. Here, Charlotte's team, Guam, plays against Finn's team, Germany. (Charlotte is in the bright green tank center and Finn is in the white t-shirt second to the right.)

Finn's team won THE WORLD CUP! Here, they raise the CUP in victory...

Finn and his coach...

Charlotte and her coach...

It was a good week despite the heat. The kids were tired, but ready for more the next day. They all want to do it again next year. One week off, and our regular soccer season starts up. We're rarin' to go!

Location:Ashland, Wisconsin

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sailing Graduation

This post is really overdue, but I thought I would bring this series to an end. It was a crazy week shuttling the three kids into Washburn every day. There were three overnights involved, but the kids had a heck of a good time. Of course, the last day ended with no wind. Here they are on the water, sails up, waiting to catch a gust...

That's Charlotte, second to the right with the multi colored sail. Here are three friends who had a great time sailing together...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wicked Windy: Day Three of Beginning Sailing

Today's lesson was about Jibe and Tack. It was pretty gusty so they only used five boats. They donned their wetsuits and fleece for extra warmth. People on shore were taking bets on how many kids would tip over. In the end, nobody went in.

There she is!!!

Casper and Charlotte sail together...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tying Knots: Day Two of Beginning Sailing

Today the class focused on learning to tie some essential knots. One that we use both in rock climbing and sailing is the Bowline, not to be confused with "bowling" which Piper likes to call it.

After knot tying, the kids got out on the water.

Charlotte is disassembling her boat.

At home, she worked at tying that Bowline over and over and over again.

Yeah! Practice makes perfect.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beginner Opti Sailing Class

Charlotte is taking her first sailing class, Beginner Opti with North Coast Community Sailing. It is such a superb deal, only $45.00 for a week of classes.

Today, Lake Superior offered up a wonderful gift on the first day; crystal clear water, and lovely breezes. The kids started out learning the parts of the sailboat, doing a swim test and then completing a capsize drill where they had to tip the boat, right it, re-enter and bail it. Here, the kids are finishing up class by emptying and storing the boats on shore.

More pictures later.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Corny 4th of July Weekend

For a slice of "Small Town American 4th of July" fun, I have posted pictures of our beach celebration that happens every year. Regardless of when the 4th actually ends up being, fireworks in Cornucopia are always on a Saturday. For those of you wondering where the heck Cornucopia is, we are located on the Northern most point of Wisconsin on Lake Superior. It is a slice of heaven here, with great beaches and really fun friends. The Fourth of July is one of my favorite celebrations here. It reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting.

Our group starts out with a Potluck Dinner before the fireworks.

Hide and seek in the tall beach grass...

Flying lessons...

People begin plotting out their spot on the beach and building fires...

The sun begins to set but that doesn't stop the kids from digging in the sand.

And that is a Corny 4th of July.

Location:Cornucopia, WI

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Karly Speaks About Rett Syndrome and the Importance of Hydration

My friend Karly who has Rett Syndrome has just posted on her blog about having Rett Syndrome and The Importance of Hydration. Most girls and women who have Rett Syndrome often have breathing issues and do a lot of hyperventilating. Karly also battles with seizures constantly. In this blog post, she talks about how she is including more fluids into her diet daily. The outcome has lifted her spirits and she is feeling great. Please visit her blog Inspired By Love.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Agate Treasures at Herbster Beach

Ah, June is here and we finally made it to the beach for playgroup. In the summertime, our group meets every Monday at either the Herbster or Cornucopia beach. Both have their perks. The Cornucopia Beach boasts of a wonderful Artesian Spring that continually flows into Lake Superior. The kids love to play here, attempting to dam up the flow with elaborate designs made of driftwood and sand. It is also a very shallow bay. The kids can wade out pretty far and still be in waist deep water, and because it is so shallow, it stays warm unless churned up by a storm.

Herbster beach is the perfect beach for those who love rock hounding. If you were to ask Charlotte which beach she prefers, she would reply Herbster in a heartbeat. When we arrive, Charlotte is usually headed straight for the beach with bag in hand, head down, crouched or squatting, scanning for Agates and Beach Glass. On our first day back, in less than five minutes, Charlotte and I each found our most treasured Agates to date. Here they are:

My Agate is on the left. It is sitting on a quarter and it is called Agate Eyes. Charlotte's Agate is on the right. It has very defined lines and prominent crystal formation. She was so thrilled when she found it because it is so much bigger than any she has found yet. Here is the book we use to identify our rocks and Agates:

Of course, beach glass is treasured, as well as any rock that is pretty and smooth. These usually come back to our herb garden by the front steps of our house. So friends and fellow rock hounds, if you are ever on the South Shore of Lake Superior, stop by Herbster Beach on a Monday and search for Agates with us!

Location:Herbster Beach on Lake Superior, Wisconsin

Thursday, June 2, 2011

OYATE: An Invaluable Resource for Non-Biased Native American Books

I have come across a wonderful website that I refer to whenever I am considering reading a book about Native Americans to the kids. It is called
OYATE. Here is their Mission Statement:
Our Mission
Oyate means “The People.” We are a Native American/American Indian advocacy and education organization that serves The People. We review children’s literature and advocate for Native Americans/American Indians to be portrayed with historical accuracy, cultural appropriateness and without anti-Indian bias and stereotypes. We teach others to do the same.

I don't want to perpetuate the typical stereotypes and myths about Native Americans. There are a lot of books out there that do this. Two invaluable resources to help you determine if a book is an authentic portrayal of Native Americans are Oyate's articles How To Tell The Difference - A Guide for Evaluating Children's Books for Anti-Indian Bias, and OYATE Criteria for Evaluating Books. If I am uncertain about a particular book, I enter the author's name or the title of the book under their catalog to see if they carry it. If it is listed on their website, then I can be pretty sure it is non-biased. If you are ever curious about the truth behind Thanksgiving, or want to know what this "Holiday" means from the Native American perspective, go to their resource section and read Deconstructing the Myths of the "First Thanksgiving".

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Disco Bomb, the Penokee Players, and Creativity

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of watching an original adaptation of the era I grew up in. Stevie Nicks, Jimmy Hendricks, Charlie’s Angels and the Love Boat all rolled into one. What is truly amazing about the production was it was written, produced and performed by young people ages 5-19 that attend the Penokee Mountain Cooperative School.

The Penokee Mountain School is a little gem tuck away in the rolling farmlands of Northern Wisconsin. Formed in the 80’s as a cooperative, parents and youth gather on Fridays in the fall and conduct classes for home school enrichment. One of the classes is the Play Writing. The older youth meet the first ten weeks and write an original work to be performed in the winter session. During the winter, the written word transforms into weekly play practice, set design, costume creation and healthy doses of fun.

Sitting through the production I was amazed at how the youth leading this effort hit upon many higher order thinking skills, that many innovative educators would drool to see happen in their classrooms. Yet I would cite with caution that trying to recreate this special night in a classroom may be its undoing. The youth that produced this show had some things that are very hard to recreate in a classroom. Daniel Pink talks about drive and motivation (See his RSA Video). In a nutshell, Pink talks about Autonomy, Purpose and Self-Mastery as the elements for motivation. It only took five minutes into the play to reveal that these performers had all three.

Too often the factory model of schooling tries to artificially create the magic that happens when kids are given the freedom to explore, resources from adults, and access to spaces without an overabundance of conditions, control or the dreaded rules. Often I have seen that this kind of learning is used as a reward for compliance, which at the start kills the magic.

In terms of assessment, the play was a prime example of authentic assessment. The audience was filled with community members, and their responses i.e. laughter, clapping came at the appropriate moments of a relevant 70’s flashback. It struck me with awe how kids born 20 years later were able to re-create the flavor of the 70’s sitcom era. They must have done a tremendous amount of research to nail their parts. Much better than a standardized test.

I was also struck by the cooperative nature of the performance. This was a multi-generational production. Every kid who wanted a part was written into the play. I saw validation and pride in the faces of them before, during and after the production. This multi-age project capitalized on the strengths of the members of the community. Adults were seen as facilitators and supporters of the journey not the leaders.

I want to thank visionaries of Penokee for keeping this organization alive and thriving for my own children to participate as members. This truly was a special night.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The future of big box schooling

This is a repost from Goran Kimovski, I thought he really captured the historical nature of schooling and the design flaws or intentional construction of our current school system. Enjoy!

I recently posted my thoughts on Schooling the World, an important film that takes a look at the value of bringing Western-style education to sustainable indigenous cultures and beyond. I personally -- and as I mentioned in my post, it seems Sir Ken Robinson too -- believe the film raises many important questions which are not limited to either communities of indigenous peoples or the developing countries, but have much wider implication on schoo … Read More

via Cooperative Catalyst

Monday, March 21, 2011

School Redesign vs School Reform

This is a repost from the Cooperative Catalyst

Reform: To return to a good state. Redesign: A plan for making changes to the structure and functions of a system so as to better serve the purpose of the original design, or to serve purposes different from those set forth in the original design. I look at the reform movement in education and see a form of insanity that boggles the mind. It is as if the past education structure was good and all we need to do is bring it back to its previous glo … Read More

via Cooperative Catalyst

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Budgets have two sides: Revenue and Expense

Background: For the past two years, parents from a homeschool group in Cornucopia, Wisconsin, have been working on getting our local school district to approve a charter school. It is a parent driven initiative and we have all volunteered our time with no desire ever to be compensated. Our sole purpose was to provide an alternative choice for parents and kids, but along the way we learned so much more. We learned that existing systems are resistant to change even if not changing may cause the system to collapse.

Tonight our concept of a charter school fell on deaf ears to a resounding vote of no by all board members of the South Shore School District. Instead they voted yes on the implementation of an online learning program because this year 13 of their own students decided to open enroll out of the district choosing online learning programs elsewhere.

The problem with this implementation of online learning in a small rural district is that they are trying to become the middle man in a field full of gigantic providers that already have a large portion of the market share. Online learning is not going to save this district from closing. They are too late in getting into game. Why would you re-create what already exists? Parents don't need the South Shore to enroll in online programs, there are plenty of other providers in WI who have much more experience delivering that kind of programming (See Wisconsin Virtual Learning).

Quaking Aspen Field School's concept was fresh and innovative unlike the delivery of content/worksheets through the Internet. Its concept incorporates the solid foundation in research based theories that promote 21st century learning and human development concepts in motivation. Added to the equation was the ability of Quaking Aspen Field School to thrive on 10K per kid. The current cost to educate a kid on the South Shore is 17K (See Blog Post http://bit.ly/fglNTS)

This brings us to the title of my post. Budgets have two sides. On one side of the equation is revenue, the other is expenses. Currently South School spent 200K more that it took in this year. If the levy doesn't pass I have been told that that amount will exceed 400k next year. Adding insult to injury, 13 more students decided to leave the school district next year for something different. Which means more revenue loss. If I was an ER doctor; diagnosis of South Shore: Volume shock through hemorrhaging and they can't stop the bleeding. When a patient goes into volume shock (loss of fluid) one answer is to pump more blood into the body. Raise money through a levy. This is a perfectly good solution if you stop any further blood loss i.e. plug the holes. Yet South Shore is unable to find the holes in their programming because they are so focused on the wrong side of the equation.

Instead of finding a permanent fix to their problems they are focussing all of their efforts on pumping more money (blood) into a damaged system. Remember Revenue is supposed to equal Expenses. This will only stabilize the situation temporarily.

Another way of fixing the problem is to attract new people to the school - which will in turn raises enrollment and increases revenue. Still focusing on Revenue. To do that the school needs to develop programs that attract new consumers or bring back old ones (they lost 50 kids last year to open enrollment). Their solution is online learning, which is an uncertain cure. Yet this procedure is very attractive. The cost for implementation is 30% for delivery, with the school district being able to use the other 70% generated to keep the other patient (the current model of school) on life support. Can you say online learning = organ transplants for the day school?

What the South Shore School district has failed to look at is the other side of the budget: Expenses. South Shore refuses to look at changing the way school is delivered to off set the rising cost of education combined with the decreases in enrollment. They have told us that the school runs on a skeleton crew, I know that this is not the case. They have too many specialist doctors, and nurses providing care for too few students. They need General Practitioners, providing holistic care.

Quaking Aspen Field School was a proposal that would allow a 1:15 student to staff ratio, provide high technology, and give students 21st century skills on a budget of 10K a kid. How do I know this can work, because I run a school for the same amount in MN: Northwest Passage High School (NWPHS). Disclaimer: I have no intention of leaving. We have been running this school for 12 years and have won the finance award numerous times from the Minnesota Department of Education.

I know that change is difficult. My purpose is to provide an outside perspective to the desperate situation. Whether the school district approves the charter is not the issue. I see a body in shock. South Shore needs a comprehensive redesign to continue to function. Online learning is a bandaid, and in my opinion will not stop the bleeding. The way I see it, they are placing all their hopes in a levy that is unlikely to pass, and online learning which they are too late to implement.

Sometimes the only way to save a body, is by cutting off a limb. To delay jeopardizes its very life. Just like rural clinics don't have every speciality, rural schools need to embrace the same concepts. Quaking Aspen Field School was that concept.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My ANNIE Experience at Stage North

My ANNIE Experience
By Charlotte Steckart, a Choral Orphan


It seems like a century ago that I was waiting for my turn in tryouts. The part that I really wanted was Pepper, but it turned out that I got a choral orphan part. But it was fun anyways. I was feeling very nervous. I think Annie was too (her real name is Emily). We had to do some choreography, we had to do some vocals, and then we had to do the acting for the parts we wanted to try out for.

Here I am at Stage North for tryouts.
I got called back a second time. I had to sing "Tomorrow" on the stage for the director, with some kids watching. On that day my vocals teacher made us sing very loud because it was a small theatre, because there isn't any echo. And then, I got the big news in an email. My part in the play was a choral orphan. At first, I was like, "A choral orphan?" and then thought, I can do that anyways, and I'm glad I did, because it turned out to be a blast!!!

At choreography, at first I thought this was boring and hard. Especially stretches. My dance teacher named Allison pushed my back down while doing kind of like the splits, only you sit with your legs spread out, but not fully spread out. Then we had to lay on our back with our legs up and spread out the same way, only in the air. She pushed our legs down. She said I would hurt the next day, and she was right!

Then we started with the dance for the "Hard Knock Life". If you saw the play, it was very hard for Allison to make up her mind. We changed it a couple of practices. For example, we were going to stand on the beds, but then the beds were too small and it was very hard to do that. She called us, the ones on the bed then, Beddies. Then there were some Broomies. I ended up standing on a bed and the principles were on the floor scrubbing in an arrow. For our other song, "Never Fully Dressed" actually got to do free dancing in the middle of it. I was in front for most of that song.

My teacher was Liz and she was there for tryouts. For warmups we would be at the piano at the bar. What we did for warmups, we would say, ma ma ma ma ma ma ma, or la la la la la la, or ze ze ze ze ze ze ze, or moo moo moo moo moo moo moo. We learned not to scoop, which is going up and down again with your voice and hitting the note hard. A high note is a C and it took a lot of practice to get to a C. I learned that when I sing a high note, that I have to sing from my forehead. I liked all the songs and dances I was in.

Blocking is when the director tells you where to stand and what to do while the acting is going on. Sometimes it took a really long time because there was a lot of stops and starts to make sure everything was perfect.

This was kinda the same thing like blocking. Stops and starts and starts and stops. They would say HOLD. And we would have to stay in character in our place on stage so they could fix the lighting and make sure everything is perfect.

The orchestra was in the pit in center stage. We could see Jamie's head sticking up out of the pit. He was the orchestra director. We had to make our dance go together with the music. At first we rehearsed to music on a CD but then we got the orchestra. It was hard at first because it was the same as the lighting. If the orchestra didn't get the tune right, they would say HOLD. The last show was the BEST show! We got our director Heather on stage, and the set crew and the orchestra. It was so much fun.

It was so busy that we had two Grammas to come over and watch my brother and sister when my mom took me to my performances. The schedule looked like this:
Tuesday 2-15 Dress Rehearsal 7:30, Wednesday 2-16 Preview 7:30, 2-17 7:30, 2-18 7:30, 2-19 2:00 & 7:30, 2-20 2:00, 2-24 7:30, 2-25 7:30, 2-26 2:00 & 7:30, 2-27 2:30. On the days I had two shows, I was at the theatre for 11 hours!

The dressing room was filled with a bunch of girls, the choral orphans and the understudies. One girl was named Ki-Lin and we had lots of fun. We would play on a DS, some would draw, and some would play "Honey, I Love You" and other fun games like that.

Once the big girls dropped a paper clip chain on some string with an envelope attached to it down to the bar tender and asked for some candy. He sent up a bag of popcorn and a couple candy bars. It was very funny.

Our costumes were very cool. We hung our costumes on a costume rack. Our shoes were lined up neatly (my mom did that) under our costumes. Terry made our costumes and the bags that we would put our stuff in.

Performing was the greatest thing of all, because you knew everyone was enjoying the play so much. You knew they loved it. When I was waiting for my turn back stage, I was so excited like "Let's do this thing!" and then also tired at the same time. I want to sing on stage again, a lot! I will always be open to any play there is.

Location:Stage North, Washburn, WI