Thursday, May 26, 2005

Sleeping on a rock under a hankie

Between the appliance guy and the foreman on the Painted Teenagers gas line project, it's 1:43 PM and I still haven't gotten down to writing about our kayak lesson from this past weekend. As many ideas as I have to describe and share this story, I just can't get to it and it will probably have to wait until next week or until the wee hours one of these days. Living in a Painted Teenager and homeschooling teenager who doesn't like to write just doesn't leave any time for me to write! Perhaps things will slow down tomorrow and I can tell you the tale of sleeping on a rock under a hankie!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Traveling Feet and No Curb for the Garbage

When you homeschool, it’s pretty easy to get moved into a new house. Or is it? My mother just can’t understand why I haven’t got all the boxes unpacked yet being at home all day. Allow me to explain.

My student is a visual spatial learner, so that involves a high level of discussion on most topics. I would imagine that by the time I die or my student goes off to college (which ever comes first) I will have uttered trillions of words. This year we started Latin, Philosophy, Algebra and for fun, Sacred Geometry. Sure I use books, videos, other people and travel, but the fact remains that my student feeds his brain verbally and through pictures. Reading is a godsend. My student is a sponge when fed appropriately. This learning style however puts quite the damper on honing writing skills. I remind my middle school age student constantly that the SAT now requires a written essay. We painfully work on writing. We immensely enjoy the Jim Borgman cartoon named “Just Shoot Me Now” that hangs in our “classroom”, and use it as our inspiration imagery. We work on Grammar.

This morning in the New York Times was an article that leads one to believe that the essay portion of the SAT is not going to be considered seriously by some of the top Universities because critical thinking cannot be measured in a brief essay. Can critical thinking be measured in the interview instead? We would happily skip writing and go back to reading and unpacking boxes. Perhaps I’ll put the “Times” out on the curb before my teenager comes down for breakfast. Wait, there is no curb today.

I told my student that when we got our house all settled, we’d go see Niagara Falls. Little did I know that the City had other plans for us. The day we moved into our house there was a sign on the street that said “No Parking between 8 AM and 5 PM”. This range didn’t leave much of a window to unload a moving truck. The Historic District is having the original gas lines replaced, I was informed. The Painted Teenagers were moving into the 21st Century. Needless to say I got to know the foreman on the project very well. He allowed the moving truck access to my door for the two days it took us to move in. Logistically our move could have been a nightmare. I was moving stuff from an apartment and from a storage bin to this house without a driveway in the city, in the Historic District. The nightmare started when it was our turn to have our curb, sidewalk and front lawn removed. Where does one put 2 moving trucks worth of packing material and today’s New York Times when the City decides to remove your curb?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Painted lady or painted teenager?

Well, I’ve taken a few days off. I recently bought a house that was built in 1880 and we’re in the process of moving in. If you’re an “old house person” I probably don’t need to say anything more, but for those who live in the ‘burbs allow me.

A house that was built in 1880 definitely has “character”, one all it’s own. This house is one of “the painted ladies” in the historic district of our city so we have a lot of “tourists” so we keep the houses looking nice. The color palette I see out my window is better than a Caribbean rainbow. Now typically when you hear “painted lady” you think of the huge Victorians with lots of gingerbread and colors. Many of the houses in our neighborhood are “Folk Victorian” (painted teenagers?). When you look at the color on the houses you can’t help but wonder how much fun the people who live in them must be. There’s a lot of whimsy in the color palette here. The houses are tucked into the hillside and have a view of the river. Many sit on stone foundations, but that’s a story for another day.

A house that is over 100 years old always offers you a project or two and that’s what I have been doing. What does this have to do with our kayak trip? Before I can go , I have to restore the bathroom. It has a bear claw tub and an older pedestal sink and a stained glass window, painted or rusted shut. Need I say more? I did get a break to make our reservations. We’re going to go to Daniel Boone National Forrest The kayak lesson I hope will be on Cave Run Lake. We decided that camping was in order as it is Spring and our camping gear is one of the boxes we have managed to unpack. We’ll be dining on camp food, pondering the sequential paddling instructions we’ll receive and one of us might be playing tiddly winks, or reading Watership Down

Friday, May 06, 2005

Poison Ivy (continued)

A JOURNAL ENTRY: Day 3 - Cabbage Key
At Cabbage Key we leased the Tarpon Research station. The original buildings on Cabbage Key were built in 1929, by Alan Rinehart and Grace Houghton Rinehart as their winter estate. The Rineharts financed the research lab in 1940. It’s a rustic place and a good place to study Botany. Even though it was clear the effect of hurricane Charley remained, the island was managing to recover...

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Well I am pretty sure it isn’t poison ivy

The whole point of Cabbage Key was to study Botany and do nothing. That’s what we did for seven days. Cabbage Key is directly across from marker 60 on the Florida Intercoastal Waterway. That’s due west form Pine Island, Florida, USA. . Sanibel and Captiva islands are 8 miles to the south. The high point of this morning so far was watching Chip the dockmaster at Cabbage Key replace the Channel Mark signs stolen away by hurricane Charley. This high point however was soon replaced by our sighting a lone dolphin scoot by the dock.

We debated if reading "A Farewell to Arms" by Ernest Hemingway is considered doing nothing. But we decided reading was an activity, especially when it’s Hemingway, so we went back to watching the dolphins and the Osprey. My student was learning that it was very difficult to do nothing.....

Our “school days” on Cabbage key begin on our dock reading. Along with studying Botany, we’re finishing "A Farewell to Arms" and “Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder. When you travel to an Island that you can only get to by boat you choose your school materials carefully. We thought Botany, Philosophy and Hemingway made an interesting accompaniment to learning the art of doing nothing.

Monday, May 02, 2005

News Flash - Homeschooler plays tiddlywinks

So I asked my student today if he was going to participate in our kayak lesson. He wants to stay on the dock and watch. He apparently has the whole kayak thing worked out. I asked him if he was going to read or play tiddlywinks. After the giggle, he asked what tiddlywinks were. I told him we would go to the toy store to get a set so he would be prepared for his wait while I enjoyed my kayak lesson.

Unfortunately the toy store did not have a set of tiddlywinks, so I did the next best thing. I googled “tiddlywinks”. You can get a set at a place called and there is an entire website dedicated to the sport: We read about the sport, we read the strategies and the history. I think my student will giggle too much to actually get down to a real game of tiddlywinks on the boat dock.

One of the things I have found that is very important to an education is how to fine tune your skills at doing absolutely nothing. In our busy, schedule driven world, the art of doing nothing has disappeared. A while ago, I told my student that doing nothing really is a lost art. We spend so much time fussing over our Math lessons, our Science projects running here and there and planning our next trip that doing nothing never happens. So, this past February I decided it was time for my student to learn how to do nothing, but not just to learn how to do nothing, get good at doing nothing - in style! And that's what we did.

I wrote earlier about Cabbage Key and this was the place where my student perfected his art of doing nothing. To refresh your geography, Cabbage Key is accessible only by boat, helicopter or seaplane and is located 20 miles northwest of Ft. Myers and 5 miles south of Boca Grande. (For sailors, Cabbage Key is directly across from marker 60 on the Florida Intercoastal Waterway. Sanibel and Captiva islands are 8 miles to the south.) There are no cars on the island, not even a paved road. You find winding nature trails, picturesque views and relaxation.

On Cabbage Key, I have to admit we did nothing - most of the time and there were no tiddlywinks involved - really. As homeschoolers it really is hard not to turn events into teaching moments. One good thing I have found with homeschooling is that your student eventually turns his own events into teaching moments without you and that's one of the fringe benefits you get with homeschooling. Your student learns how to educate himself. When we weren't doing nothing, we were studying the plants on the island because apparently there are mangroves (and other plants) there that aren't many other places in Florida. Unfortunately, the hurricane did a pretty good number on the island and much of the nature was disturbed, but not destroyed. Mother nature truely is amazing in how she repairs herself.