Thursday, January 28, 2016

Zeroing in on a Life Path

JT has always been a creative kid. When he received his first set of Crayola markers at age four, he probably felled a small forest with the volume of paper he used. He has taken lessons for four different instruments, he writes stories, designs card games, creates animation on the computer, and writes music on both the drums and piano. I guess to most people it would be obvious that his path should follow the arts. But as Mom, I spent too long being blind to that fact, hoping he would stick with science because I was afraid he could not afford to feed himself with an art career. This week, I finally saw something that made me know this was going to be his path and I should get behind it to support him.

From time to time, JT will get totally absorbed composing a song on the piano. He will spend hours finding just the right sound, avoiding all of his 'official' school work to do so. I try to resist the urge to push him back to what he's 'supposed to be doing' because I know he enjoys the music, is good at it, and won't focus on the work even if he is doing it if a song is in his head. After he spent something like two hours at the keyboard one day, I pointed out that he is really good at composing songs and if he would take the time to learn to write them down and record them, he could probably publish them. The music he writes is always instrumental and sounds like it could be great video game or movie music. He told me that he has thought he would like to write music for movies and that it would be awesome to write music like John Williams. After a long discussion about what kinds of things he would need to do to make that happen he told me he was more than willing to get the instruction necessary to pursue that path. I pointed out that it would be hard work. He wasn't bothered by that saying it wouldn't matter because it would be fun and worth it in the end.

So I went to work helping him to find ways to learn. I found a few links about careers in music for movies and video games and had him read the stories of successful musicians in those fields. Then I contacted my friend who teaches music classes at a local university. JT will start private classes with her next week. She told me she will go through the material in the first year college theory courses, but with a focus on approaches to composition. 

I believe on a whole we think of art and music careers as hobbies instead of serious work. But when I look at how much of American culture is focused on entertainment, how can we not see that as a good choice for a career path? Maybe he wouldn't have the typical 9-5 work day and a guaranteed weekly pay check, but he also might have the opportunity to do something he loves every day and get paid to do it. Ultimately, I think he would thrive on a non-traditional work schedule, in exactly the same way he has thrived on a non-traditional school setting.

Friday, January 8, 2016

What's in Store for 2016?

The boys will start back to full-time school work on Monday. Today I finally sat down to dig in and get things organized. I knew I'd need the extra week of vacation because I am really bad at using time wisely. I had a great holiday, but that didn't get much done in the classroom.

We have 76 days remaining of our required 180. I did the math today to figure out how many days each week JT needs to spend on each of his subjects. Literature, composition, German, and math will continue to be five days. He's starting chapter 9 of Harold Jacob's Geometry on Monday. For his credit for math this year, he needs to complete 2/3 of that textbook. As long as he finishes chapter 11, we'll be good. At that point, I'm not sure if he will continue through the rest of the text or start using Khan Academy's SAT prep course for the remaining school days. Science and computer programming each need to be three days a week. I am outlining the rest of his ecology course tomorrow and Saturday using the Envirothon materials provided by our local school district. I want to have that out of the way so I can just work from a list and not have to do so much planning each weekend. He will begin his 1/2 credit health course on Monday. That will be a five day a week subject using a Hewitt Homeschooling text and syllabus. I am also adding home practice for fencing twice a week because he got an épée sword for his birthday. Before now, he could only practice at his weekly lessons where the equipment was available to use for free. Now he can do the exercises at home and work on his technique.

EM will continue with all of his regular courses with only one change. For the first half of the year, his science was taken from the Anatomy Academy books. Now he will move back to his study of electronics with his dad using a new book, Make: Electronics: Learning Through Discovery. I know he's looking forward to getting back to the science he enjoys the most. For his current reading assignment in Lightning Literature, he will be continuing Helen Keller's auto-biography and doing the activities that go along with the text. He's also going to be taking two pottery classes, a wheel class in February and a hand-building class in April.

Another change coming to our lives this year is that my daughter and her husband are having their first child. So now I will be a grandmother and the boys get to be uncles. JT claims he doesn't want to be around any babies because 'they drool'. EM seems to be more excited about the idea. I am looking at this as a great learning experience for them. Their sister was 11 when JT was born so she was able to change diapers and help with child care. I told them this would be a great chance for them to learn to take care of a baby so they would have great skills when looking for a wife in the future. I don't think I've quite sold them on that idea yet.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Time for a Break

For our third day in Gatlinburg, we decided to take one of the auto touring trails through the park. These trails have guide books that describe the stops on the route. You can take as much time as you like making your way along the trail, stopping and checking out things like this grist mill along the road. The boys spent a lot of time exploring areas near streams that criss-crossed the road all along the Roaring Fork Trail that we followed.

The weather was perfect that day, so we took our time and got out of the car at most of the parking areas. Later, we made our way back to the park office, did a little souvenir shopping, and followed the easy nature trail hike that started at the visitor's center. We bought one of the National Park Passport books so we could start recording our trips. Each time you visit a national park, you take the book to the visitor center and get the special stamp for that park with the date you visited. We were able to pick up two stamps on this vacation.

Our school days are wrapping up for 2015. Today was our last official day until January 12, 2016. There will be some school work during our Christmas break though. JT needs to keep making progress on his Rosetta Stone German 2 since we didn't take it with us on our vacation. He also needs to log some days for his introduction to computer programming class he is doing. We want to count it as a half credit for this year so he will need to log 60 days by the beginning of May. He only has about 20 days at this point, so extra days during the holiday break will be good. EM is in the middle of a chapter in his Thinkwell pre-algebra, so I thought he should probably finish it instead of stopping for three weeks and coming back mid-chapter. Other than those few things, our days should be pretty relaxed. That is a good thing since the wind up to Christmas has really worn me down. I need a few weeks with no planning necessary. Have a Merry Christmas and I'll be back in 2016!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Gloomy Days

Our second day of the Tennessee trip was spent in downtown Gatlinburg. We went to the aquarium and did some shopping and eating. The aquarium was more pricey than other nicer aquariums we have visited in the past. As part of our package for our rental we got one free admission. If it wasn't for that, we probably would have skipped it.

The town itself is interesting. My husband described it as a boardwalk minus the beach. There were stores selling just about anything you could think of, lots of places to get food, and even a Sky Lift that runs from the main street up the mountain. We spent a few hours walking and shopping, then had dinner at Calhoun's, a great BBQ place. Later we went to the Gatlinburg Church of Christ to see a couple that had moved from our area congregation nearly 20 years ago. It was fun to walk in and visit after not seeing them in so many years. My next post will be our final day in Gatlinburg before we traveled further west in Tennessee.

As far as things going on in life right now, this whole week we have been dealing with very thick fog in our area. I'm not sure what has caused it, but I know I am tired of not seeing the sun. JT was complaining tonight about feeling exhausted for the last few days. I think we are all experiencing some gloomy feelings because of the lack of sun. This picture is right before sunset when the fog starting thickening up for the night. We went to game night at the library; driving home I didn't get above 15 mph on our road because I just couldn't see anything. This morning the sky is still hazy, but I did see a little sun peeking through the clouds. I plan to drag the kids outside for a walk if it lasts. I guess I shouldn't complain, last year on this day we had about nine inches of snow on the ground!

For the last few months I have been trying to find an Envirothon team for JT to join this year. It looks like that is not going to work out. No local homeschoolers seem to have a team and our school district is not participating due to budget issues. I did connect with the science teacher who has coached the team in the past; she loaned me a lot of good material from a previous year. I will use those to round out JT's ecology course for the remainder of the year. The last two weeks have been focused on the environmental movement. He watched a PBS American Experience film, Earth Days. I downloaded the teacher's guide from the site and he's been doing the activities. We just ordered the documentary Silent Spring through our inter-library loan system to finish the remaining activities from the guide. In the meantime he's reading the book, Last Child in the Woods by Robert Louv.

I just looked out the window and the gloom is gone! I think it's time to act on some of the ideas in that book and get these kids outside.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Getting Back on Track

I had very good intentions to get back to weekly posting after we came home from our trip to Tennessee. Seven weeks later... here I am! My plan for the next few weeks is to include a picture with a short description of a part of our trip at the beginning of each post in order to give a summary of our adventure. The picture here is from the top of Clingman's Dome, one of our many stops in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To get there we left the park visitor center and followed the Newfound Gap Road up the mountain, turning on to the Clingman's Dome Road. The drive took us to an elevation of about 6,340 feet. After arriving in the parking area we needed to hike about half a mile up a rather steep, paved trail, to get to the observation tower. The dome is at an elevation of 6,643 feet. The view is incredible and well worth the short, strenuous hike.

Since we've been home, the boys have been doing quite a bit of school work. Both of them wrote a short composition about our trip. It was interesting to see what each considered to be the important details and best parts of the vacation. EM expressed that he was ready to come home a few days before we did, but JT was happy to be traveling. A week after we came home, I saw a great deal for a weekend trip to the shore, but when I mentioned it to the boys, EM said, "We just got home! I don't want to go on any more trips." The plans wouldn't have worked out anyway, but if they had, I think I may have had to do a lot of persuading to get him interested in the trip.

We are working our way through the Lightning Lit materials I bought this year. EM is using the Seventh Grade books and JT is using the American Lit. EM recently read Alice's Adventure in Wonderland, thoroughly enjoyed the book, and did the activities from the guide. He is still very resistant to any writing assignments so I limited the work to just a few things. JT did not enjoy reading The Scarlet Letter for his most recent novel. The study guide had a long discussion about kinds of conflict in literature. We realized that JT's least favorite literature all has a large quantity of internal conflict which would explain why The Scarlet Letter was not an especially gripping read for him.

Since we have been home JT has also been working on reading and researching the Civil Rights Movement for his American history paper. He has read quite a few books, watched a PBS American Experience movie called Freedom Riders, and watched the movie Selma. The topic for his paper will be why the non-violent protests were effective. This week he has been putting his outline together and started writing his introduction. This paper will be his 10 page paper required for the PHAA diploma program. I would like to see him get it out of the way before Christmas break. Last year, the paper was the last thing he did for the year and I felt like it was hanging over our heads at the end. I'm glad he is making the progress that he is so we won't have to experience that again.

As of this Friday, we will have 82 days of our required 180 days completed. Even if we take a two week break for Christmas, our school year should end at the beginning of May. I feel like things are on target with their work and going smoothly even with our extended vacation in October. That's a good feeling to have!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Travel Adventure 2015

Who says homeschoolers stay at home? Monday morning we started our long awaited fall vacation. We left Pennsylvania around 9am and arrived in Gatlinburg, Tennessee around 7pm. It was a mostly uneventful drive with only one nasty bit of traffic in southern Virginia. I have never been to Tennessee before but I have always thought it would be awesome to see the Smoky Mountains. So when the boys and I talked about places we would like to visit, I convinced them that we should travel to Tennessee this year. The trip gradually evolved into a twelve day trip, later cut to ten days. We spent the first 4 days in Gatlinburg at a Stony Brook Chalet. Tonight I only have time to throw a few pictures up here because we leave in the morning to continue to Kentucky. I hope to really go into detail about the first half of our trip in my next post.

This is the living room of the rental home where we stayed. The whole house was absolutely gorgeous and had everything we needed. I loved this room. The bright sunlight made it the perfect place to hang out. The boys spent more of their time in the family room downstairs playing air hockey and pool.

But with a view like this from the deck, I really just spent most of my time looking at the mountains.

I could sit at the kitchen table and have coffee while watching the cloud shadows on the mountains.

Or sit in the hot tub and look at the mountains.

The last night we were there, we had a fire when it got a little cooler.

Which of course meant S'mores!

I had a very hard time leaving this house. I think we may have found the best place for us to retire when we are ready. In fact, it could even turn me into a morning person if I could see a sunrise like this living there.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

On the Road Again

I know... I've been really slacking off here. I have been working hard to get the boys ahead of the game for the year because we are about to head out on a travel adventure. The bags are nearly packed, the school work is wrapped up, the maps are printed. We will be traveling nearly 2,000 miles over the next ten days with stops in Gatlinburg, TN to hang out at the Smoky Mountain National Park, Henderson, TN to see friends, Mammoth Cave National Park, KY, and The Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY. We have never taken such a long trip with our boys before so it has taken a lot of planning on my part. I will try to blog while we are on the road, but I hope you'll excuse me if I don't find time to do it. When we get home, I'll be sure to share all the details of our trip.