Friday, September 25, 2009

Slow Schooling...A Day at the Beach

The blue sky and crisp breeze called to me today, coaxing Ryan and I outside and down to the beach. Math would have to wait. Science could be done on Monday. But today, we were going to take advantage of the beautiful fall day and go look for some sea glass.

Walking slowly, heads cast downward, scooping up sea glass along the way, we soon were distracted with the many other things the beach offered up. Hermit crabs scuttling out of our way in the mud flats. Snails and small fish in the tidal pools. Egrets, Cormorants, and Seagulls maneuvering through their habitats. With these discoveries came the questions. How do shells form? How do clams dig? How is sea glass formed?

I know if we had spent the day inside the house, heads inside Ryan's text books, we would not have made as many discoveries. Nor would Ryan have asked as many questions. The touching, seeing, feeling...experiencing is what made it all so memorable and hopefully will lead to future learning. I am thinking it would be fun to get some guide books about shore birds and shells. We even have some rocks we picked up that need identifying.

Taking it all in...slowly. Without an agenda for our day and not being in a hurry, allowed the day to unfold for us. By being present in the day, mindful of what we were experiencing, we were able to appreciate all that came our way.

These words were written on a plaque affixed on the huge rock Ryan was sitting on in the picture above. So very appropriate for this day and for every day...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Why do I blog?

My son asked me the other day why I blog. I thought about it a moment and told him that my blog acts kind of like a mission statement for my life. It allows me to think about and focus on those things that are most important to me. With so many choices and paths to choose from, life can become scattered and too busy if I try to do everything. But the act of putting into words, those things that are most important, prevents distractions and allows me to stay on my path. My path is not always straight. It usually circles around and back, bringing in new information and ideas, allowing for the constant evolution of my life's mission statement. Have you ever thought about why you blog?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Water Communion

Yesterday at church, small vials of water collected from special places near and far by every church member were added to a communal water basin during the annual water communion. Collected from various waterways or the taps of summer places visited, this water was brought together to symbolize unity amongst the many different backgrounds and views that make up the UU church. As we sang over and celebrated water that was carefully collected from the Hudson River, Appalachian Mountains, a local stream on the church property, and many other places, I thought about the filtered tap water I had added to the collection, hurriedly gathered as I raced out the door that morning. Unlike other church members whom had a connection to the water they brought and had obviously put great thought into where their water was collected from, my contribution felt lame.

During the service, I was reminded of water and how much a part of my life it had been while living in Illinois. Collecting it as a precious resource in a rain barrel, helping to clean up the Fox River near my home, hiking around ponds in natural areas, and walking along Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago. I had an appreciation for water there that seems to have somehow slipped away from me since moving here. Caught up in the museums of the city, the excitement of discovering New York City, I have somehow lost a part of myself that appreciated water and used it to help center me and make me feel calm.

Feeling this void, yesterday after church, my husband and I headed out to a park on Long Island Sound and walked along a path near the water. It was a beautiful day and I really tried to focus on the water of the Sound and the waves and the natural world around me. I have always wondered why being on the beach or near bodies of water soothe me. Today in church, the Reverend talked of water and its constancy. It is always there, waves coming in and out. She made me wonder if that is what appeals to me about water. As I thought about it though, I felt the constancy of water does play a part, but I also think it is something bigger than that but am not sure what. Maybe something about how large bodies of water make me feel small, and how water is much more powerful than me. That water is life giving and connects all living things. Maybe it is this connection and how it allows me to feel connected in an otherwise very disconnected world. Will have to think on it as I strive to spend more time near water.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Another beautiful day in the city. We arrived at the Met before most of the crowds and had the place almost to ourselves for the first few hours.
We made our way through most of the galleries and were amazed at how the descriptions of each artifact, painting, or sculpture was done in a very interesting way that made each piece come to life.

From the African art...

to the rooftop garden sculpture...
to a marble sarcophagus,
to the Starbucks logo...

Equestrian armor...and much, much more. Too much to mention. We will be sure to go back soon.
We ended our day with a stop at the Grand Central terminal.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Slow Schooling Algebra with Harold Jacobs

He sat and thought about it for a long time. What times x equals y? To be honest, I didn't even know the answer at first. But after a few minutes of thinking through the problem in my backward kind of way, I figured out the answer. Now the hard part. How to get my son to find the answer on his own and understand why the answer was what it was. I began by telling him what he already knew and using that process he slowly figured out the answer. So slowly in fact that I could almost see the gears in his head turning as he tried to determine why the answer was so.

As I sat next to my son who was sprawled out on our family room floor, Harold Jacobs Elementary Algebra book open in front on him, I thought about how things would be different if he were attempting to figure out this problem in a public school classroom. Granted, the teacher would explain how to determine the answer in much the same way I would, but the time needed to really let the full understanding of why the answer was what it was sink into my son's brain would not be there. With many other children needing the teacher's time and attention, and the constant push to get all of the material covered for that day, the teacher and my son would have been forced to move on.

I think my son thought about that problem for a full five minutes and during that entire time, all I could think about was how important it was to allow him the time needed to digest this important building block of Algebra before moving on to new concepts. I also thought about how how busy fast paced classrooms with their many distractions, work against real learning. Taking the time needed to connect with and understand material so that kids can fully understand their subject is what slow schooling is all about. Going at kid speed, not school speed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Church not Yoga on Sundays

Mike and I have been attending Lululemon's free yoga classes on Sunday mornings and it looks like I am going to have to give that up this week to attend the UU church instead. I hate to stop doing yoga, especially because I love how it makes me feel more in tune with my body.

Mike and I developed our Sunday morning coffee and yoga ritual soon after moving here. Rising early on Sunday mornings, we would dress in comfortable clothing and walk over to Starbucks to have coffee and read the New York Times. Just about the time the tables at Starbucks would begin to fill, we would head over to Lululemon's. Each week Lululemon's would feature a different local yoga instructor and each week Mike and I would try and keep pace with the class. Finding yoga and its various moves and positions difficult at first, we soon learned many of the poses and began to feel more comfortable.

It looks like the comfort I have begun to find in yoga will soon be replaced by the discomfort of beginning to attend a new church and being a newcomer. My motivation behind attending church is mostly for Ryan, so that he can meet some kids his age. But if I am honest with myself, I also am doing it for me. I have been away from the UU church for five years after many years of being an active member of a UU church in Georgia, and I miss many aspects of what it brought to my life.

Comfort and discomfort seem to be common themes when you move from state to state as much as I do. No sooner do you get comfortable with something and then you are off again to a place or activity that is initially uncomfortable. This sort of ebb and flow of my life brings lots of challenges that result in personal growth. The discomfort I feel in church this Sunday may not improve my body the way yoga will but I know the sermon will make me think. So that I don't have to sacrifice my body for my mind, I guess I will just have to find another time to get in my yoga.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Homeschooled Physical Education

We found a great indoor rock climbing facility not too far from our house and signed Ryan up for a class of 12-16 years old that meet once a week for a few hours. The place is massive with soaring walls containing lots of routes to navigate and boulders to climb.

I am always amazed at the P.E. options available to us as homeschoolers. In the past we have done everything from archery to snowboarding to mountain biking. Ryan doesn't tend to gravitate toward the typical sports of baseball or soccer, leaning instead toward these more off-beat options.

I used to cringe when people would ask Ryan what sports he played. He knew they expected to hear him say football or basketball or some other sort of organized sport and because he didn't play those sports, he tended to say he didn't play anything. It wasn't until I told him that many of the sports he plays qualify as Olympic sports, that he began to say otherwise.

I hope the rock climbing goes well for Ryan. I love how it challenges him to trust his body to tackle the physical requirement of scaling a wall. To use his mind to simultaneously figure out the best route up and conquer the fear he has of heights. To push himself out of his comfort zone and revel in the sense of accomplishment he receives when reaching the top of a wall.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum

As summer shifts into fall, the weather around here has been perfect for sightseeing. Nothing like a sunny, 75 degree day to get you out and walking around the city. The use of only my feet and public transportation to get me around makes me feel good that I am making less of an impact in my travels. Yesterday, Mike, Ryan and I headed over to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum to check out the sites. Obviously, many other people had the same idea because the place was packed. Luckily, we were able to use our Chicago Field Museum membership to go right to the head of the line and get in as though we were members.

Along with touring the aircraft carrier Intrepid, we also were able to tour the Concorde airplane, lots of other aircraft positioned on the flight deck of the Intrepid, and a submarine called the Growler. The Intrepid was used in WWII and many interactive exhibits are available on the hanger deck. We found the multi-media show called "Kamikaze: Day of Darkness" especially moving. While you are able to tour many parts of the ship, there is just too much to see in one day. We will have to come back at another time in order to cover it all.
The Concorde made the fastest Atlantic crossing by airplane ever, accomplishing the trip in just over 2 hours and at a cost of around $7,000 per trip, British Airways soon went out of business. It took a lot of fuel to travel at those speeds and for that reason, I am glad they are no longer flying.

Not liking tight confined spaces, especially those located under water, I decided to skip the tour of the submarine. Mike and Ryan did the tour and and enjoyed being able to check out the interior of the sub- something that the typical person doesn't ususally get to do.
Unfortunately we had to head back through Times Square to catch the subway to get home. Packed with tourists and difficult to navigate, I am always amazed at the sheer number of people visiting that gritty, neon infused area. Why do tourists seek out this place when there are much better sightseeing options available in the city?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

American Museum of Natural History and East Village

Ryan and I met my niece and brother-in-law at the American Museum of Natural History on Friday. What a great place- four floors of fantastic exhibits that you could spend hours and hours visiting! While I thought the permanent exhibits like the Origin of Man and the dinosaur displays were done extremely well, I was a little disappointed with the traveling exhibits such as Extreme Mammals and Chorus of Frogs. The quality seemed to be lacking compared to the Chicago Field Museum's current Pirate exhibit or the King Tut exhibit offered a few years ago.

We ended up skipping most of the 2nd and 3rd floor in order to head up to the 4th floor to see the dinosaurs. Not only was the exhibit fantastic, the docent on that floor offered up lots of his knowledge which made everything come to life for us.

With plans to meet my husband for dinner in the East Village, we all hopped on the subway and headed downtown. I am starting to get to know the subway system fairly well, but still get confused at times. I am amazed at the kindness offered up by all New Yorkers when they sense I am lost.

We ended up walking through Greenwich Village and the area around the NYU campus before coming to East Village. Some pretty cool areas with lots of great restaurants and shops.

Later, after dinner, while heading back to the subway, we passed lots of unusual shops that opened up onto the street. I took the picture above as I was strolling along the sidewalk and we passed many shops that sold their wares by putting their goods right out onto the street like this.
Here is our crew, along with our waiter, enjoying dinner outside on the patio at the Yaffa Cafe on St. Mark's street. I am so glad that Ryan is having an opportunity to experience NYC. It is just so different from Chicago. There is more diversity amongst people, a wider range of experiences to explore. Hope we can get it all done before we have to move again. I suspect that is an impossible wish...