Wednesday, September 29, 2010

LitWits Launched Today!

Hello All!
Just wanted to tell you that we held our first LitWits Workshop today, jumping into The Secret Garden with both feet and had such a fantastic time! Some of my favorite parts?
  • Hearing the kids express obvious delight over the book and it's characters; their enjoyment of Dickon's gregarious personality and love of animals, their empathy for sour, unhappy Mary Lennox when she first comes to England from India.
  • Seeing them make connections between the struggles and events of the author's life and those she created for her characters. So that's where stories come from!
  • Watching each one close their eyes tight to better imagine themselves cold, tired and lonely in a horsedrawn carriage as we listened to an mp3 of the wind howling over the Yorkshire moor.
  • All of us straining to understand the broad dialect of an elderly Yorkshire woman as she described how to make brown bread (thank you BBC sound files!)
  • Being caught up in the moment of discovery as collages were assembled from my sister's old English Home magazines and my mom's Better Homes and Gardens. Each child seemed to find just the right images to capture the essence of the book--so fun!
  • Watching the kids just try to keep their hands out of the bucket of dirt reserved for tomorrow's planting project. Why is a trowel in a big copper bin of earth so tempting? It even smells tempting!
  • English Breakfast tea and crumpets with orange marmelade? Are you kidding me?

Anyway, just wanted to share. I feel so grateful to be part of this!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Old School Monday--MONDAY! ; )

Hi Moms!

It's here: Our first Old School Monday of the new school year!  We are meeting this Monday, Sept. 27 at a new time: 12:30.  There were people who could not come last year when we had it in the morning, and then some people who could not come in the afternoon, so let's try this and see what we think. Here is the agenda for this Monday:

*Meet at 12:30 there at the usual classroom at Vintage.  You can choose to eat lunch before you come or bring a sack lunch for your family.

*At the beginning of the summer, I told you all that our first OSM we would do the "What I Did With My Summer Vacations" booths again--well, because of the timing of things this year, we are not going to do that after all. BUT if your child has something to share, esp. something he/she has written or made over the summer or here at the start of the school year, please bring it!  We will start off with a little Show and Tell for anyone who wants to participate. : )

*We will hang out and chat until 1:00, when we will head out on a little field trip/adventure to celebrate the start of our new school year.  We will be walking down to the little path that leads over to Harvey West, and on our way, we will stop for ice cream cones!  So bring $ for ice cream, if you want to partake, and if you don't want to, or if you come late, just meet us at Harvey West. 

*While the kids play, we moms will get to hang out!  In particular, be thinking about what you would love to see happen during our monthly OSM gatherings, and think about if there is any activity/lesson you and/or your kids would like to "host" anytime this fall.

*We'll hang out there at the park until about 2, and then we will walk back and end about 2:30 (perfect timing for those who are going on to Musical Mondays). 

So this Fall Old School Mondays will meet the 4th Monday of every month, at 12:30.  Go ahead and mark your calendars for Oct. 25 and Nov. 22.  In December, because of the holidays, we will meet on the 20th.

***If you have any curriculum or school/art supplies you no longer want hanging around your house, bring them on Monday!  We will have a homeschool stuff swap in the adjoining classroom and make sure all interested moms get to look through (without the kids hanging on you). 

****And please invite friends!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

cool space science websites

here is the link to an article that references several good sites for space studies:

free piano!

another one that came to my inbox today:
I am helping my friend, Ingrid, to find a home for their old piano. It is a Con console upright piano (I understand it is a lower height) that is in good condition but will probably need to be tuned. Her ideal situation is to find a good home to loan it to for a up to a year or longer, but if no one wants it as a loan, she is willing to give it away. She just needs to have it out of their old home soon. It is currently in Aptos but we might be able to move it to to be picked up in Santa Cruz.

Interested families should contact me: Nancy Winans at and I will let Ingrid know. Let me know if you have any other questions. If you want it, please tell me your name, phone number and when you would be able to pick it up or receive it.

Thanks! - Nancy

homeschool and technology

Just an article bit that was forwarded on to me today:

Hi all,

The NY Times Magazine has several nice articles and especially one by Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired, his article about home schooling his 8th grader has a list of tips about dealing with Technology.

Here’s the article.

Achieving Techno-Literacy

Published: September 16, 2010

This past year my wife and I home-schooled our eighth-grade son. One school day, he and I decided we would make fire the old way — out of nothing but plant materials and our own hustle. Our son watched a seemingly endless series of instructional survival videos onYouTube as part of his research. He chose the bow method based on our physics class about friction. He then constructed a bow from a branch in the woods, carved a stick for the spindle and added a fiber string. It was mighty tough going. We spent hours refining the apparatus. He was surprised by the enormous amount of bodily energy required to focus onto a very small spot, and how a minuscule, nearly invisible bit of fuel, once sparked, can quickly amplify into a flame and then a fire. Chemistry, physics, history and gym all in one lesson. And, man, when you are 13 years old and Prometheus, it’s exhilarating!

One day our student would dissect and diagram the inside organs of flowers; the next he’d write short stories or poems and then revise them; and the next day we’d solve logic problems with algebra, then he’d work on plans for a chicken coop and maybe we’d do a field trip to a car factory. He also went through eighth-grade textbooks in history, grammar, geometry and the like. This type of home-schooling is really nothing special. Our son was merely one of more than a million students home-schooled in the United States last year. Our reasons for home-schooling were not uncommon, either. We wanted to create an ideal learning environment. For the previous seven years, our son was enrolled in challenging schools. His grades were excellent, but the amount of homework was grinding him down. The intense high school he was planning to attend promised even more work. He asked if he could be home-schooled for his last year before high school, and by a quirk of life, this was a year our schedules would permit our role as home-school teachers.

Now that the year is done, I am struck that the fancy technology supposedly crucial to an up-to-the-minute education was not a major factor in its success. Of course, technology in the broadest sense was everywhere in our classroom. There was an inexpensive microscope on the kitchen table and an old digital camera to record experiments. There was a PC always on for research. Our son was also a big user of online tutorials. Of particular note is Kahn Academy, which offers nearly 1,600 short high-quality tutorials on algebra, chemistry, history, economics and other subjects — all created by one guy, and all free. The Internet was also essential for my wife and me as we researched the best textbooks, the best projects, the best approaches.

But the computer was only one tool of many. Technology helped us learn, but it was not the medium of learning. It was summoned when needed. Technology is strange that way. Education, at least in the K-12 range, is more about child rearing than knowledge acquisition. And since child rearing is primarily about forming character, instilling values and cultivating habits, it may be the last area to be directly augmented by technology.

Even so, as technology floods the rest of our lives, one of the chief habits a student needs to acquire is technological literacy — and we made sure it was part of our curriculum. By technological literacy, I mean the latest in a series of proficiencies children should accumulate in school. Students begin with mastering the alphabet and numbers, then transition into critical thinking, logic and absorption of the scientific method. Technological literacy is something different: proficiency with the larger system of our invented world. It is close to an intuitive sense of how you add up, or parse, the manufactured realm. We don’t need expertise with every invention; that is not only impossible, it’s not very useful. Rather, we need to be literate in the complexities of technology in general, as if it were a second nature.

Technology will change faster than we can teach it. My son studied the popular programming language C++ in his home-school year; that knowledge could be economically useless soon. The accelerating pace of technology means his eventual adult career does not exist yet. Of course it won’t be taught in school. But technological smartness can be. Here is the kind of literacy that we tried to impart:

• Every new technology will bite back. The more powerful its gifts, the more powerfully it can be abused. Look for its costs.

• Technologies improve so fast you should postpone getting anything you need until the last second. Get comfortable with the fact that anything you buy is already obsolete.

• Before you can master a device, program or invention, it will be superseded; you will always be a beginner. Get good at it.

• Be suspicious of any technology that requires walls. If you can fix it, modify it or hack it yourself, that is a good sign.

• The proper response to a stupid technology is to make a better one, just as the proper response to a stupid idea is not to outlaw it but to replace it with a better idea.

• Every technology is biased by its embedded defaults: what does it assume?

• Nobody has any idea of what a new invention will really be good for. The crucial question is, what happens when everyone has one?

• The older the technology, the more likely it will continue to be useful.

• Find the minimum amount of technology that will maximize your options.

I don’t think my son mastered all those principles in one year, but he got a start. For the most part, learning at home is more demanding than learning in a classroom because it requires more self-direction. On one particularly long day, with books piled up and papers spread out, my son was slumped in his chair.

“Is everything O.K.?” I asked.

“It’s hard,” he said. “I not only have to be the student, I also have to be the teacher.”

“Yes! So what have you learned about being a teacher?”

“You have to teach the student — that’s me — not only to learn stuff but to learn how to learn.”

“And have you?”

“I think I am doing better as the student than the teacher. I’m learning how to learn, but I can’t wait till next year when I have some real good teachers — better than me.”

He had learned the most critical thing: how to keep learning. A month ago he entered high school eager to be taught — not facts, or even skills, but a lifelong process that would keep pace with technology’s rapid, ceaseless teaching.

If we listen to technology, and learn to be proficient in its ways, then we’ll be able to harness this most powerful force in the world. If not, we’ll be stuck at the bottom of the class.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

our very own Becky is offering (amazing sounding) classes!

Hi local homeschool Moms--

Becky Kimball and her sister Jenny have started a new venture together: LitWits!  Please check out their beautiful website to see what I am SO excited about.  The fall semester workshops are on such great but often overlooked classics--we are really looking forward to seeing how Becky and Jenny bring them alive.  (Knowing Becky, it will be magical. ; )

And best of all, LitWits Workshops is an Ocean Grove vendor-whoo-hoo!!!! 

The workshops begin Sept 29, so don't wait to look at what they are offering--esp. because they are doing The Secret Garden first!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Must. Read.

If you have ever considered sponsoring a Compassion child, if you already do, or *if you are looking for a motivation for your child to practice writing*--please read this blog entry I stumbled upon this evening.  It is so, so, so good.  And important.

Maybe I should have titled this post Must. Write.



Friday, September 3, 2010

swagbucks--getting a little something for what you do all the time!

Hey Moms, I wrote something on my personal blog the other day that I realized most of you would not have seen, so I'll link it here so you can check it out if you want.  Basically, I just got $30 of books for free on by routinely using the Swagbucks search engine.  So little by little I am earning free stuff just for doing the kinds of searches us homeschool moms do all the time!  Just thought you all might like to know! : )

I am all about the free.

FREE teacher membership at the San Jse Tech Museum!

Lisa C. here!  I am still trying to figure out what this means, exacly--what the concrete benefits would be for our family and our homeschool studies--but look what I just came across on the Tech Museum of San Jose website:

Free Teacher Membership Program for California Educators!

Use us as your year-round 2nd Classroom!

Teacher memberships are available to all K-12 public, private, home school teachers, principals, district and county certificated employees, currently working in a California school district.

We invite you to become a member of our learning community and find a professional "home" here at The Tech Museum. Ultimately, we hope you join us in promoting learning through design and innovation as part of your professional practice.

Here is the page that gives the details.  Does anyone else already know about this?  Please comment if you have any insight or experience with this program!