Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Beachy Bliss

This is pretty much how we'll be spending the next month:

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Trip to Governor's Island National Monument

The National Museum of the American Indian held a "Making Our Presence Known" festival this weekend on Governor's Island in NY Harbor. None of us had ever been there, so we decided this was a good reason for a visit. We took the (free) ferry over, and set about exploring. Mikro wanted to do the Junior Ranger program, so he read the instructions, and then we started wandering.

First we stopped at NMAI's area, where we went inside a tipi, saw a gustoweh, a plains style war bonnet, and dolls from any different nations. Then we watched the Thunderbird Native American Dancers performing social dances and enjoyed some storytelling, comedy, and flute playing-- both the ordinary flute, and nose flute.

Then we visited Castle Williams and Fort Jay. These fortifications were used to protect New York during the War of 1812. We learned a bit about the history, and enjoyed the spectacular views of the Harbor, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan.

Fort Jay was built in 1794. (Prior to that, in April 1776, Continental troops were stationed on the island.) It is an four bastioned (spear shaped corners) earthen fort, partially lined with brick , surrounded by a dry moat, and containing 51 embrasures (cannon openings). There is a really nice eagle statue atop the gate house.

Castle Williams is closed for rennovations. It is a teardrop shaped structure very near the shoreline. We walked around it, and read about it. It was designed and built between 1807 and 1811 by Col. Jonathan Williams, Chief Engineer of the US Army Corps of Engineers, to strengthen the harbor's defense system. It later served as a prison for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War (officers were held at Fort Jay), and then as a community center.

We also toured Governor's House (which never housed a governor, but did serve as a gate house, and as the Commanding Officer's quarters.)

Along the way, Kevin helped reunite a frantic mother mallard with her ducklings, and I got eaten alive sitting in the grass, perhaps by the pretty polkadotted insect below.

Mikro finished his Junior Ranger activities and received a Junior Ranger Badge. It was his first one, and he was quite proud of himself. We took the ferry into the city, and headed uptown to visit Mikro's aunt and youngest cousin.

Back Early from the Beach

Today was the start of 4 weeks of Monday through Thursday swim lessons for Mikro, but we got rained out. (Actually, the beach got closed for thunderstorms.) We arrived quite early, so at least we had over an hour together in the water, but the lesson had just begun when the skies opened up. I had just come out of the water, and as strange as it sounds, I got wetter in the 5 minutes it took to pack up and hike back up the hill to the car than I did swimming! It was like having bucket after bucket of water dumped on your head. A real downpour. Didn't help matters that I had left the car windows down... We were soaked to the skin, and Blue Beast is now a soggy mess. Still, I am thrilled to be back at Silver Lake. It's a place that is peace for me.

Clean Your Own (School) House First...

The New York Times reports that New York is in a quandary about what to do about tougher Regents Exam requirements for obtaining a high school diploma, which are soon to take effect. You can read the full article here.

Here's a quote:

If the new standards had been in place for the class of 2009, the city’s graduation rate would have been roughly 45 percent, instead of the nearly 60 percent that city officials boasted of, according to city statistics. Among black and Latino students, barely more than one-third would have qualified for diplomas.

A Regents diploma is supposed to signify that a student is prepared for college. Today, most New York City graduates who enroll in an associate degree program at a City University of New York college need to take remedial courses there.

“This is the question that everyone is asking everywhere, not just in New York but nationally: Should high school graduation mean that a student is successful in first-year college courses?” John B. King Jr., senior deputy state education commissioner, said. “There isn’t a state answer at the moment, and that’s what we have to grapple with.”

There isn't an answer?!? Since when has there been *doubt*? When did high school graduation cease to mean prepared to take on adult responsibility, whether that is entering the working world or being college ready?

That the educrats seemingly accept this state of affairs is appalling! And these are the people who presume to regulate Homeschooling??? They are only graduating 60 percent of kids who attend, and "most" of them need remedial help to be able to hack a 2 year college program at a city college? The system is a failure. It is nothing short of hypocrisy for it to presume to tell homeschoolers how to educate!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Last night, we were flipping channels and paused on True Lies, at a scene where Tia Carera is busting open a statue to retrieve a nuclear warhead. She tells Schwartzenegger that it comes from "ancient Persia."

Mikro : (in an offended tone) That's not right! That's Assyrian!

Tonight, as dinner is served: I wish there was some way to read and eat dinner at the same time so I wouldn't have to put my book down.


He's on page 147 in the second Dragon book...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Clearwater Festival, Part 3: Sunday

We start our second day of musical and environmental adventure at the crafts fair, buying gluten and casein free banana bread, coffee cake and chocolate chip cookies, an ocarina and wooden bendy dinosaurs for Mikro to paint and play with. Listen to African drums at the World Dance Stage. Tour the Green Living Expo and learn about solar power. One of the exhibitors gives Mikro a small solar panel and motor with a propeller attached. He loves it. We walk through the activists area and find some cool recycled materials for projects at the Hudson Valley Materials Exchange.

Then we settle into spots for Arm of the Sea Theater's puppet show, Henry Hudson and the River That Discovered Him. The big surprise is Pete Seeger pulling up in his golf cart right next to us and staying to enjoy most of the show. Mikro and I loved it, and it fits in so well with all the Quadricentennial studies we've done this school year.

Next, we wander to the other side of the park for a sing a long with the Clearwater Educators at the Circle of Song. And then we revisit the Tideline Tent, where Mikro hogs the microscope and looks at all sorts of aquatic life.

It starts to rain, and we get drenched and very nearly leave, but Mama wants to see Pete Seeger sing with the children, and manages to convince the guys to stay. Fifteen minutes later, it is bright and sunny. We head back across the park to the Discovery Tent in the Children's Area, where Mikro is in heaven looking at aquatic macroinvertebrates (like caddis fly and dobson's fly larvae) under the microscope and checking out sea stars, striped bass, flounders, sticklebacks, silversides, barnacles, blue crabs and hermit crabs in a large tank. You know you're a homeschooler when you leave the Clearwater Festival with the name of a cool book on aquatic insects to add to your Amazon wishlist...

It's time to look for a seat at the Family Stage, where Pete Seeger and Tomorrow's Children (aka The Kids From Room 12) will be singing soon. We get there just in time to watch the hysterical antics of Roger the Jester, who pulls Mikro out of the audience several times to participate. Mikro was a total ham and very funny.

And next up are the children, who were simply awesome, and Pete Seeger, who was, as ever, inspiring beyond belief. What an experience!

Afterwards, we cross the park again for the Hudson River Sloop Singers Reunion at Circle of Song. Pete Seeger accompanies them on guitar. Mikro and I wind up standing right behind him, singing our hearts out. The session ends with Rick Nestler's "River That Flows Both Ways", which is sort of an anthem to Mikro and me. Mr. Seeger is approached by someone for an autograph, and Mikro decides he wants one too. I hand him our copy of the brand new "Tomorrow's Children" CD, and he goes up and asks Mr. Seeger to sign it, which he did.

The Circle of Song closes, and we sit watching Clearwater and the Mystic Whaler sail in, and discover a tree swallow feeding her babies in a nest in a woodpecker hole. Again, a peaceful ending to a near perfect day, sitting and enjoying nature by the river that Pete Seeger help to rescue from disaster.

Thank you, sir.