Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fun at Best Family Academy - Poetry Returns

We really enjoy poetry, literature, theater arts and music around here. (Some of you have taken part in our joy of words through your participation in blog entries like this one.) So it's probably no big surprise that we're greatly enjoying a semester-long jaunt through poetry.

We don't typically use "boxed curriculum" or unit studies which are laid out for us. Sure, they'd be easier, but they're not very flexible if you actually follow them. But last year at the Central Coast Home Education Conference I came across a poetry curriculum which piqued my interest. It involved lots of encouragement, exploration, examples both fun and serious, classic and contemporary. On an impulse, I shelled out for it. Now, deep into it, we're having a blast. The Blackbird & Company Exploring Poetry program covers a variety of poetic styles, and allows for lots of creativity, balancing examples and words of wisdom from poets, guiding students of any age with the assistance of "How to eat a poem," a collection from the Academy of American Poets; "A Kick in the Head," a collection of poetry selected by Paul Janeczko;" and "Seeing the Blue Between," compiled by Janeczo. While we could have run out and picked up the books, I like the way the curriculum interweaves the usage of these three resources as well as art cards (postcards on which various works of art in differing styles are displayed).

So what happens when we sit down at the table (or couch, bed, floor or trampoline) to pick up our poetry studies? Typically, quiet times, but always some laughter, sharing and easy acceptance of each other's creations. It's fun. I find myself giggling along as I compose my own works, too. Nothing Earth shattering, but certainly worth my time if it brings back a light heart.

Remember the cinquain? Today, I introduced the girls to this style which involves five lines (cinc- ) with a succession of syllables. Two syllables in the first line, four in the next, six in the third, eight in the fourth and back to two in the fifth. When I write with the girls, I let whatever comes to mind flow to the paper. Today....

My Cat
by J. Best
my old lady,
the fur ball of my heart,
why do you vomit on my bed?
So gross!

Come play with us. Give us a cinquain of your own creation - serious, funny, contemplative. Whatever strikes your fancy.

Share this post with:

Role Models and Children

A friendly reminder from Common Sense Media. CSM is an independent body of reviewers of modern movies, books and music. They rate media for its age appropriateness taking into account not only violence, sexual portrayal, and obscene language, but also advertising placements (consumerism) , messages, educational value, role models, drinking, drugs and smoking.

It's a decent place to visit before taking our kids out to the latest, greatest movies. Even so, parents should probably preview the media they plan to share with their children. Opinions differ, and while the reviewing board may believe the film is appropriate for a given age, only parents and regular caretakers know each individual child's preparedness for a given film or book.

Share this post with:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Inspired by Happenstance

Sometimes I do doubt whether homeschooling is the way to go. I do. It's true. My wherewithal tends to head south as the doubtful comments, the probing questions, the discouragement mount from those who have never even given home schooling a try. And as fellow area homeschooling families with whom we began this journey give in to the pressure to conform and head either to public, private or any of a number of charter school options, their time is no longer theirs. We see them in fits and spurts between their classes or when obligations of the mainstream allow them a peek at freedom. We miss them.

I feel so fortunate, then, when I have an opportunity to discuss our process with an open-minded individual. Talking about what we're doing, why and even how inspires me. I see that we are doing amazing things and that staying true to this path is more important to abiding by the doubters.

Such an occasion arose this weekend. I had the day to myself Saturday to attend an all-day, fund-raising scrapbooking day. It's very seldom that I have an entire day to myself, and even LESS often that I work on the family scrapbooks. I woke early, packed the car and decided to further treat myself with a stop at a local bakery for breakfast. I read, enjoyed a breakfast bagel and coffee, tried not to eavesdrop on a group of men who had settled at a neighboring table to discuss their relationships and feelings. I should have known then that this would be no ordinary day.

As I packed in my dishes and headed for the door, I noticed a man reading a map on his laptop. I figured he was just passing through the area, perhaps looking for something I could help him find. It turns out Samuel, previously of Cameroon, lives in Santa Maria where he makes a living as an abstract artist. He also travels to Cameroon to teach children there about art and hopes someday to open a school there. We got to talking about the importance of art and art history itself, particularly African art history. The discussion was particularly interesting to me because this year I've opted to use art as the focus of our history studies. (It felt so much better than focusing on conquering and wars, which seems to be too much the focus of mainstream history studies.)

Talking to Samuel about what we're doing and discussing what he does with his students helped me understand more clearly just how significant my decision to use art as our focus may be. Together, we view works by great artists as we move chronologically forward in time. Then we read about events of the period, the countries and cultures of the artists, and while the girls try their hand at creating their own works in the selected artist's style, I read aloud to them. We may also play music of the era or from the artist's native land. Sometimes I read literature, other times it's further information about the period. Through art we are able to talk about historical events that may have helped shape the artists' lives, religion, science of the era, mathematics of art and, sure, conquest and warfare.

I don't really need studies to tell me that art is good for my child's development. Neither does Samuel. We see it our kids, those we teach, those we love. Our exploration of the arts gives us another avenue down which to explore, more paths of thought, windows into issues and events over which we may otherwise gloss or miss altogether. But it turns out there are plenty of people studying the effects of arts education on the brain. (And physical fitness, as well.) If you'd like to read more about those, here are some links:

Arts with the Brain in Mind (Harvard Review): "For Jensen, the arts 'are about life, growth, and expanding who we can become as human beings' (p. 110). Further, linking this chapter to the research studies that he cites earlier, Jensen claims that the arts defy conventional notions of assessment because what he considers to be the primary benefits of participating in artistic activities — the development of complex neurobiological systems — are difficult to measure and unfold over long periods of time."

Art and How it Benefits the Brain (Self-help Healing Arts Journal) "When individuals create art and reflect on it, the processes, increase self-awareness, initiate awareness of others and help people cope with stress, and traumatic experiences. Art enhances cognitive abilities and provides individuals with the ability to enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art."

Arts Appear To Play Role In Brain Development: Classes Can Change Brain And The Way People Think (Baltimore Sun)

The Effects of Art on the Brain of an Underprivileged Child
(Bryn Mawr College) "Not only does art provide insight to external figures beyond their own bodies, but it can serve as a link for communication which is crucial in relating to society."

Photo courtesy Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration under Creative Commons License.

Share this post with:

Monday, September 20, 2010

If I Won the Lotto (or, Dreaming of Santa)

Dear Santa -
Please send me a winning lottery ticket this year. I still have my two front teeth, have maintained my vehicles so they still operate (at 10 and 20 years old), make the grocery budget and set aside for family vacations, but a big move would take some big help. We still haven't heard a peep from the I Need A Vacation contest people, so I figure we didn't rise to the top.

To be quite honest, Dear Santa, I've delayed too long in getting the girls a home that can provide them the outdoor adventures upon which they most thrive, and it's really starting to depress me. V is in need of animals (her pet snails, caterpillars and pill bugs just aren't the same). E still isn't too old to enjoy climbing trees and exploring the woods. And I could sure use a bit more space, particularly outside. I don't want to keep waiting. They'll be off to college before we know it, and I'd like them to help us make our "retirement home" so they'll feel at home when they return, perhaps with children of their own.

I've found a few likely candidates that meet all sorts of our needs. Most aren't on the Central Coast due to the poison oak situation, arid conditions and ridiculous prices of homes here. My current reasonable favorite is right here, though the girls and I had a laugh over this one, and this one.

So, Santa, if you can work it out, please bring the winning ticket. We promise not to go over the top, and to save for the girls college education and other needs while also providing for some of their desires today.


Share this post with:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Marcel the Shell - the funniest thing EVER!

Today while checking up on my college-aged cousin, I was directed to this video. She's always good for a laugh, but I wasn't really expecting anything quite like this. Truly the funniest thing I've seen from a screen in a very long time.

Marcel the Shell is the creation of Jenny Slate, a member of the Saturday Night Live cast. According to this article, she came up with him pretty much on the fly. A friend recorded her talking in this voice in a first-person Marcel perspective very late one night, then edited it down to this bit, created the video and VOILA! One of the best parts: it's also child friendly! :)

Share this post with:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Asian American Neighborhood Festival – SBIPG | Moshi Moshi Kenji

Aw! My V made it onto someone else's blog, all because she decided to don her pioneer garb during our trek to Santa Barbara last weekend for the Asian American Neighborhood Festival at the Presidio. Thanks, Kenji! I'm glad you liked it, too.

Share this post with:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Another fun way to practice math

On my early morning wakeup e-mail reading session, I waded my way through to this link. What a great way to introduce these math lessons to V, and practice them with both girls. Guess what WE'LL have on our fridge next time you visit.

Sept-Oct 2010 Math Calendars « Let's Play Math!

Share this post with:

Blog featured with: