Wednesday, May 25, 2011

NMAI Children's Festival

This weekend was the annual Children's Festival at the National Museum of the American Indian. The focus this time was on nations of the northwest coast. There were lots of crafts for the kids to try, and wonderful dancing and singing. We all had a great time.

Here's a video I shot of the amazing Git-Hoan Singers and Dancers:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NYPL Centennial Celebration

NYPL's famous Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Bryant Park, which is flanked by the statuesque lions Patience and Fortitude, and which inspired "Between the Lions", celebrated its 100th anniversary this weekend. Among the special events were free tours of the stacks (which are generally closed to the public), and a display featuring LEGO recreations of the library's leonine mascots. Mikro loves books, and LEGOs, so we had to check it out.

I wish we had been able to take part in this game, and I'm hoping they will make the book that was written available to the public:

We really enjoyed the LEGO lions:

And the stack tour. The musty old book smell brought back memories of my undergrad days, working in Butler Library at Columbia University. Same stacks smell! Mikro took a deep breath and exclaimed: "Ah, the smell of learning!" I almost died laughing...

The city is getting ready to cut the library's funding. Please add your voice to the chorus of people urging them not to do this!

Couple of Clowns...

This is what happens when I ask my family to let me have *one good photo* for the blog...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Woz on Homeschooling (and Comment Soup)

I'm reading an article about remarks on education made by Steve Wozniak, one of the founders of Apple Computers. Woz decries the standardized testing craze and the discouragement of creative thinking in public education. He also mentions homeschooling as "very, very good as an alternative."

Then, I read the comments. For the most part, they agree that public education is broken, but can't muster the creativity to consider homeschooling a true alternative. It gets characterized as "a luxury", while in the same comment, those who are unhappy with their local public school are urged to consider private school. Huh? Homeschooling can be done *exceptionally well* for a fraction of the cost. A friend of a friend paid over $30,000 for private Kindergarten! Families can homeschool for orders of magnitude less. Money for private school necessitates a second income, and need for a second income makes homeschooling a luxury? Um, circular thinking much?

And of course there is the chestnut that "Home Schooling is the ultimate in segregated schools." I can't tell you how sick I am of being tacitly accused of racism because I made a different educational choice for my kid. My local school district is 99.9999 percent caucasian and affluent. My homeschool community is wonderfully diverse. Way to generalize!

Public schools are acknowledged to be bad at outside the box thinking, but anyone who thinks outside the box is apparently suspect, even among purported educational reformers. Well, suspect away, but like Captain Kirk, I don't believe in the no win scenario. Sometimes you have to creatively engineer your own solution, and I have a feeling that, eventually, those still too busy applying outmoded stereotypes to the homeschooling movement will one day have no choice but to sit back and take notice that, yes, there is a better way, if you are willing to prioritize your child's education, make some sacrifices and do the work.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dinosaurs ROC

Our NYC homeschool community is blessed to have a wonderful resource center run by a homeschool mom, and this week, they offered an amazing day of learning and fun (for free!) The American Museum of Natural History parked its traveling dinosaur bus museum out front and the kids (by age group) first had a session with the AMNH educator, then boarded the bus and enjoyed the very hands on exhibits, and chose a dinosaur to draw and answer questions about. Mikro picked Coelophysis.

Afer the bus, there were other activities to do at the ROC-- a simulated dinosaur dig (which Mikro absolutely loved and spent a huge amount of time at); a moving diorama (with a cardboard camshaft system) to build, and other stations (fossils from dough and pasta, for example, though Mikro gave a pass to anything involving his allergens). And there was a huge resource sale. I got some great math and science things for very little cost, but had to ask Kev to meet us to help me carry them home!

We had a great time, and will definitely be checking out classes at the ROC when our finances stabilize.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Friday Science at SMLI

Mikro's penultimate spring science class was about botany. The kids took a plant walk, gathered specimens, and made a leaf press out of popsicle sticks. Mikro says one interesting plant was skunk cabbage. He also liked bedstraw, which has "sticky prickles", and is good for chasing your friends with... And he was ecstatic to have caught another wall lizard, and released it safely. This one kept its tail.

The World's Largest Dinosaurs at AMNH

The American Museum of Natural History recently opened a new special exhibit on Sauropods. Mikro loves dinosaurs, and has a soft spot in his heart for these lumbering plant eaters in particular. We avoided going the first couple of weeks, and were proved right in our decision making by the insanely long lines stretching far down the block which we confronted on Wednesdays on our way to Belvedere Castle. But I figured that after 3 pm, most school groups would be gone, and only the diehards would still be around. So we elected to take a chance, cautioning the boy that if it was crowded, we were not going in. It was practically deserted at that hour, and we were able to enjoy the exhibit in peace. Mikro relished the attention of the docents, who demonstrated the comparative weights of dinosaur and giraffe vertebrae and explained the dinosaurs' bird-like light, hollow bones to him. And the dinosaur dig was a huge hit with him (and his Dad!)

Urban Park Rangers Geology

Wednesday was Geology with Central Park's Urban Park Rangers. The kids learned about Manhattan Schist, marble, sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rock, and glaciers and how they transform the landscape. And they went rock climbing.

This was not a good day for us, and Mikro took a fall on a huge rock 40 feet over my head and screamed like he was being killed. I physically can't climb. I had no idea what was happening and freaked out completely. (Visions of compound fractures danced in her head...) Luckily, Kev was with us, and he was able to climb up to him and attend to him. It was nothing serious, just some scrapes and a pretty bruised up hand. (And I think my son has now learned that climbing without having both hands free is a very bad move...) But my nerves were shot for the day. (Other stuff happening right now has us pretty much stretched thin in the resilience to stress department.)

And as my kid was screaming in pain and fear, a bird watcher approached me and groused "What are these kids doing in here?!? This is a quiet area!" Um, yeah, sorry he scared the birds with his howling, but let me find out if my kid needs life flight before you complain about the noise. I managed to not snark, and just said "It's a class. Ask the ranger..." while waiting to hear if my kid was really hurt...

We sat on a bench, gave a long lecture about safety, and took our time just sitting and calming down after the adrenaline rush. Once everyone was feeling better, we took a little walk, saw some birds, watched the Red Eared Sliders engaging in courtship behavior, and said hello to a Polish king. And then I decided that we really needed to end the day on a better note, so we went to Mikro's favorite place on earth... about which, I'll do a separate post.