My inner artist

Like most other children, I really liked to draw when I was young.

At the age of nine, my mom enrolled me in a YMCA art class, where I learned about various artistic styles and did the requisite imitations. For example, here’s my Mondrian,

The Seurat,

and the Kandinsky.

Later, as a teenager, I traded piano lessons for art lessons from a friend, and along with drawing and painting, I tried my hand at such varied artistic activities as Ukranian Easter eggs (several of which still hang on our tree each Christmas), wood-burning, and printing.

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The King of Cats

One of the best things about homeschooling is that you get to teach your kids the things you feel are really important. For me, that definitely includes Shakespeare, and not just in high school English class, either. I start exposing them to Shakespeare from the time they’re little. To start off with, we have this prettily illustrated book:

It’s a retelling of six plays, which Axa used to often request as a bedtime story when she was three and four. I was initially put off by the fact that it’s written entirely in present tense, but I suppose the author may have done it on purpose, to convey something of the immediacy of seeing a play. She does include frequent quotes taken straight from the text of the plays, which gives a nice feel to the story. And the illustrations really are nice.

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Israel, Birds, Math Mysteries, and The British Museum

As usual, I’ve been reading books. Unfortunately, Tintin: The Complete Companion got taken back to the library before I could finish it (horror of horrors!), so that will have to wait for another day. But in the meantime, here’s some history, math, poetry, and political science to brighten up your day.

The Unmaking of Israel by Gershom Gorenberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a valuable book for anyone seeking deeper insight into what makes Israel tick. The author, an Israeli by choice who immigrated there from the U.S. at the age of thirty, gives us a well-researched and cogent explanation of how Israeli policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians and Occupied Territories has developed. Even more valuable, he helps the reader understand how this crucial and contentious issue overshadows and shapes internal policy, leading to unintended and disastrous consequences in many areas of Israeli civil life.

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Having “The Sex Talk” With Our Daughter

You know you’re getting old when . . . your daughter asks you about sex. Fortunately, Tony and I have discussed at length how to talk about it with our children (even though I wasn’t really expecting these questions yet from my seven-year-old). In fact, in a way, we’ve been having “the talk” with them in various ways ever since they were tiny. How? Well, let’s see.

We chose to have 2 1/2 year-old Axa present in the room when Raj was born. To help prepare her for the birth, we read this sweet picture book together:

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Hiking Lyonia Preserve

I’ve been practicing my nature photography, so get ready for a lot of pictures. Right next to our library (about ten minutes from our house) is the lovely Lyonia Preserve. In the short time we’ve been here, we’ve visited the Preserve several times. Every time we go we see something new.

Florida foliage is pretty interesting to me. It reminds me of a cross between San Diego and Washington State, in that you feel like you’re walking in a desert one moment, and the next moment you’ve stepped into a dense jungle. The Lyonia Preserve has more of the desert, or “scrub” side.

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Welcome Home, Part 3: The Homeschool Room

This is the room we’ve all been waiting for. Well I have, at least. For years. One of my many favorite things about our house in Florida is that we have a completely dedicated homeschool room. That of course doesn’t mean that nothing happens in the room outside of our couple of formal homeschool hours each day (after all, homeschool=life, right?). But it does mean that I don’t have to go running around the house looking for supplies and books before we start, or have to contend with dozens of distracting toys sitting right next to us as we try to concentrate.

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Car-schooling

Since we are at present a one-car family (as opposed to being a zer0-car family during a good portion of the last couple of years abroad), sometimes we have to get creative about getting all our transportation worked out. Today the children and I took Tony in to work so we could grocery shop.  He works from home in the afternoons, so we picked him up after spending some time lunching in the park.

It worked perfectly. Our only problem was how to fit in the homeschooling we normally do between 10:00 and 11:30. Fortunately, most of our schoolbooks are available as audiobooks on librivox, so we can take them along in the car. If I had a working mp3 player, I would use that, but at least our car cd player does play mp3’s, so I was able to burn all of the books (and our music by Hildegard of Bingen, our term composer) onto two cd’s. We also brushed up on our Italian with a half-hour of Pimsleur that the children would never have sat still for had they not been buckled in carseats.All we have left to do for today is math, copywork, and picture study, which should take a combined total of perhaps 25 minutes. So I’d say our first day of car-schooling was a great success.

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Our First Brush With Florida Reptiles

Nope, it wasn’t alligators; just snakes. And they weren’t in our backyard. We actually had to go looking for them. The Lyonia Environmental Center next to the library sponsored a 1  1/2 hour talk on local reptiles. Axa and Raj sat raptly through the whole presentation, which was very well done, I thought, by the seventeen-year-old daughter of the president of the Lake Region Audobon Society.

At the end of the presentation, they let everyone (everyone who wanted to, that is) come up and hold the snakes. Raj consented to touch a snake with one finger only, but Axa was in poikilothermic heaven.

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Casteluzzo Academy 2012, Term 1

So far, every homeschooling term seems to be more interesting than the last (at least to me; my kids might think differently). I wonder if this can continue indefinitely. This term we started Ambleside Online Year 2, which focuses on the Middle Ages.

We did get interrupted halfway through the second week with the job offer that brought us to Florida. Between finding housing, flying out here, packing and unpacking, and everything else, zero formal school happened for a good three weeks. Of course, that doesn’t at all mean that no learning happened. The process of moving to a new place is always a rich opportunity for learning and growing. And one of the beauties of homeschooling is that when life happens, unscheduled breaks for rabbit trails are no problem.

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Live Poets Society

I can’t really say that I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love to write. Because I do remember that time, quite vividly in fact. I must have been seven or eight, and my mom tried everything to get me to write. Finally, she gave me an assignment to write a letter to the Tooth Fairy. I was supposed to explain how I had accidentally swallowed my loose tooth, and request the customary remuneration despite the absence of the actual article. I can still visualize the kiddie-lined paper with my cop-out missive written in large awkward letters and callously denying the very existence of that benevolent fairy:

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