Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Homeschooling Week

Here is how Ryan and I will spend this week as homeschoolers. I guess I feel a need to write it down to prove to myself that I am covering all of the bases given how busy I am with moving preparations.

Monday- Ryan attended science and math class in the morning, then we spent a couple of hours midday at a friend's house attending a Mexican cooking class and learning how to make Mole Verde. Late afternoon he went to his guitar lesson and worked on learning how to play some U2 tunes.

Tuesday- Math and science in the morning, then took a two hour nature class over at Fullersburg Woods, arriving home late afternoon.

Wednesday- Math and science in the morning again, then met up with our homeschool group over at Country Lakes Park. Talked with all of the moms about the different forms of curriculum we use for our kids. Library visit to pick up a book for Ryan's cartooning class he has on Saturdays.

Thursday- Math and science, then Ryan will work on his cartooning in preparation for his class. He will spend most of the rest of the day reading, writing, and practicing his guitar.

Friday- Math and science, then a trip over to Morton Arboretum for Arbor Day. We will work on some tree identifying and then free time in the kids area.

Saturday- Cartooning class at a local art studio. Oops...we will miss this week because we are going down to Indiana University to watch my older son ride in the Little 500 bike race. Will be back on Sunday afternoon.

Physical activity appears to be lacking in Ryan's activities this week, but he will cover that in the many hours he spends outdoors running around the neighborhood with his friends. He also gets lots of reading in when we travel from place to place in the car. I can see he is lacking most in some kind of history or social studies, for this week at least. Typically that is an easy one to get in given all of the field trips we take.

Granted, homeschooling looks a lot different than public school. It may appear that Ryan isn't getting enough seat time to do worksheets or receive instruction from me, but we can do that as needed. If I see that Ryan is struggling in spelling, I can add that to our schedule. Because Ryan is taking math and science at the public middle school this year and doing very well academically, I figure he is up to grade level in many areas and I don't have to push as hard. We can be more free to explore things that interest Ryan. This is a different kind of learning than what one gets in school-- not better-- just different and one that works for Ryan's learning style.

Friday, April 17, 2009

John O'Donohue

Over the last several weeks, as winter moves into spring, and I start to transition from Chicago to New York, I have been spending as much time as possible outdoors. I find nature cures the difficult feelings I have about leaving a place and friendships that mean a great deal to me. My outdoor exploits have taken me to Nelson Lake looking for the White Pelicans, fishing at Blackwell Forest Preserve, the Morton Arboretum to help the kids in my homeschool group identify conifers, and along the Fox River on long walks. On rainy days, I have found myself inside reading and listening to tapes from my new favorite author John O'Donohue.

I am currently working on John O'Donohue's book called "Eternal Echoes, Celtic Reflections on our Yearning to Belong" and stumbled upon a passage that sums up for me what nature brings to my world. Why it brings me peace and why I strive to spend as much time as I can surrounded by it. I have copied the passage below:

The Beauty of Wild Distance

Outside there is great distance. When you walk out into the landscape the fields stretch away towards the horizon. At dawn, the light unveils the vast spread of nature. Gnarled stones hold nests of fossils from a time so distant we cannot even imagine it. At night, the stars reflect light from the infinite distance of the cosmos. When you experience the distance stretching away from the shore of your body, it can make you feel minuscule. Pascal said, "The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me." There is a magnificent freedom in Nature; no frontier could ever frame her infinity. There is a natural wildness in the earth. You sense this particularly in wild places that have never been tamed by human domestication. There are places where the ocean praises the steady shore in a continual hymn of wave. There are fresh, cold streams pouring through mountain corners in a rhythm that never anticipated the gaze of a human eye. Animals never interfere with the wildness of the earth. They attune themselves to the longing of the earth and move within it as if it were a home rhythm. Animals have no distance from the earth. They have no plan or programme in relation to it. They live naturally in its landscapes, always present completely to where they are. There is an apt way in which the animal who always lives in the "now" of time can fit so perfectly into the "where" of landscape. The time and mind of the animal rest wherever it is. The poet Wendell Berry says, "I come into the peace of wild things.../...For a time/ I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."

If you get a chance to read anything from this fantastic author, you will find that his writing brings much to your life.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A tourist in my own city of Chicago

Yesterday my friend Jamie and I took our kids downtown to Chicago to check out some museums and exhibits we had not visited before. I am finding that before I leave Chicago, I want to experience as much of the city as possible, to essentially become a tourist in my own city. What we discovered, by just ambling along, stopping here and there was amazing. In the most unexpected place, we found the most beautiful building I had ever been in- the Chicago Cultural Center. Built originally to house the Chicago Public Library, this building contains the world's largest Tiffany dome along with other glass domes and many beautiful tile mosaics on the walls and floors. I borrowed the picture above from an article in Traditional Building Magazine which shows additional pictures and gives descriptions of many of the building's other features.

My homeschooling friends and I have several unique places we would like to visit over the next several months before I leave Chicago and I will be posting about them as we visit them. Being able to spend time with my friends while discovering Chicago makes it all especially nice.