Thursday, September 8, 2022

Summer of Paleontology

Mikro was set to go to Fossil Prep camp with the Sternberg Science Camps in June of 2020, but COVID-19 had other ideas... He attended virtual camps in 2020 and 2021, but this year, as the world began opening back up again, in person camps were on, and he was off to Hays, Kansas, for the adventure of a lifetime!

In Field Paleontology, he did surface collecting in Cretaceous marine chalk formations. He learned to survey and set up a dig site, and excavate with pickaxe, shovels, etc. in a Miocene riverine deposit (Minium Quarry.)

He also got some comparative anatomy instruction at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History and the Fort Hays State University Biology Department. The last night of camp was a fun "Night at the Museum" experience.

In Fossil Preparation, he prepared a Green River Formation fish fossil, and learned to make molds and casts and "nature fake" them (what I call painting and detailing).

He and his fellow campers learned to pitch tents and set up their campsites, and handle other logistics of being in the field, including how to deal with working in the Kansas summer heat of up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. They later spent some nights in the college dorms at FHSU. My picky, anaphylactically food allergic kid was well taken care of both in the field and in the university dining halls. He had an amazing time and made what I hope will be lifelong friendships with peers who share his fascination with ancient life, and mentors who TA-ed the camps. I know he would love to go back as a TA some day, since he is now too old for the high school camps.

If anyone out there has kids who love paleontology, or any of the sciences, check out Sternberg Science Camps. They have programs for elementary, middle school and high school age groups, in everything from geology to herpetology to scientific illustration. I can not recommend them highly enough!

Mikro at 19

He is an amazing person, this young man of mine. He has known what he wanted to do since he was 4 years old. He's on his way. He has finished all the high school requirements to graduate, but is still taking a dual enrollment class that he couldn't finish before he went to Kansas to do fieldwork in paleontology and learn to prepare fossils. He's brilliant, funny, articulate, kind, always volunteering to help, a loyal friend, and a good leader.

He's back home now, and I am holding his diploma and an awesome graduation gift till he finishes this last class. He already got to walk with his homeschooled friends in a ceremony at Central Park down in NYC.

It has been my great honor to homeschool him from the start. He began kindergarten at age 6, because I wanted him to get a chance to enjoy being a kid. He has been a perennially curious sponge who soaked up everything I could offer. He loves science (especially biology, paleontology, anthropology,archaeology, entomology, anatomy, and marine biology), history, philosophy, and linguistics. He is not a huge fan of arithmetic, but enjoys higher math concepts. He is a skilled spinner of stories, a builder of fictional worlds, a fun DM, and an accomplished journalist. He has studied Latin and German and Akkadian Cuneiform.

He will finish high school with 34 college credits from Arizona State (with a 4.0 GPA), and is taking a gap year before college. He has a secure path to admission to ASU based on having earned 24 plus credits there, and he may enroll there, but he wants to apply to Yale. He fell head over heels in love with Yale on the many SPLASH weekends he spent there taking enrichment classes. And they have an a track for the geology major that is specifically paleontology related, as well as an awesome evolutionary biology program. It's kind of perfect, though a long shot. ASU is terrific, but the closest he can come to his field of interest is anthropology, which he also loves, but it's not his main focus. So, once we see whether he gets in to Yale, and if they are generous enough that we can afford it, he will decide.

If he does go to Yale, none of his credits are likely to transfer. So he will be a brand new freshman. If he continues with ASU, he's a sophomore. He may apply to a few more schools as well, where his credits will transfer, or where there's a paleontology friendly major. But the financial magic of ASU is they are partnered with Starbucks, and he could potentially get his Bachelors for free! So that is a major plus, as is studying anthropology under Donald Johanson, the guy who found Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis). (He has already taken his Human Origins class!)

This coming fall he is teaching Evolutionary Biology to homeschooled high schoolers, and his favorite professor is acting as his Teacher's Assistant! (She is an amazing history, classics and religion professor, who is one of Mikro's beloved mentors.) He loves to lecture, and can actually teach, so he wants to be an evolutionary biology professor as well as a paleontologist.

So proud of this kid, who has always marched to the beat of his own drum. Go, geek boy!

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

I Guess for Once, I'm Following the Trend... But That's Gonna Change!

Ever notice that most homeschooling blogs kind of fade away as the kids reach the teen years? Makes sense, since most people seem to decide that their kids need to experience "normal" high school, and send them back into the public education system. Among the diehards who continue, a lot of folks start feeling like the story they are telling is no longer theirs to tell, and they stop posting, or post very infrequently, out of respect for their now young adult students' privacy.

We are still going strong, but I have a bit of the latter going on. Mikro is a senior now, but he doesn't mind me chronicling his homeschool journey, so long as I pass anything that might be embarassing by him for approval before I publish it. So I'm not entirely sure why I have neglected this blog so badly. Maybe it is the bittersweet anticipation of my little bird fledging and leaving the nest. I confess, he has been a joy to raise and learn with, and I will miss him like crazy when he does go off on his own.

Through a combination of financial stress thanks to the unemployment fairy visiting us to make the plague years even less fun, and a desire on Mikro's part to make the best possible showing to the admissions office at his dream school by doing a serious independent research project, he will be taking a gap year before applying to colleges.

His departure isn't looming quite as large as it might, but I'm still feeling it. Truth be told, it has been hanging over my head like a dark cloud since his sophomore year, and while writing about our adventures was probably the smart thing to do, so I will always be able to look back on the details, I instead decided to avoid thinking about it much, and let this poor blog lie fallow. Starting to realize that was a mistake...

I may even go back and pop posts in where they chronologically belong, and share some of our crazy overscheduled but always interesting and usually fun adventures. Just waving hello at anyone who may still read this, and inviting anyone new to use the tags and explore past posts. The Mikro's Links tab on the purple bar at the top of the blog is useful, and a homeschooled student recently sent me some links to add, which I will try to get to soon. In fact, that is what reminded me that I have been way too absent here.

If you are new to this homeschool journey, there is a lot here, including tons of resources for curricula and DIY studies and the necessary evil of New York State homeschool paperwork. I hope you will enjoy this path every bit as much as we did. I think homeschooling is one of the best decisions I ever made, and I know it has brought our family closer than I even imagined was possible. I have an amazing son who actually likes to talk to me, and a strong foundation of mutual respect that I will treasure no matter where the future takes us.

I'll be back!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Matisse Paper Cuts Class

Mikro and I enjoyed an online class together, learning about Henri Matisse's paper cuts, and trying our hands at "drawing with scissors."

Monday, August 31, 2020

Free Scholar Exchange Online Sessions from the National Constitution Center

The National Constitution Center is offering online programs on a variety of topics that look amazing!  And they are free!  Great material if you are teaching civics!  Check out the full list of programs at the link above.  

Thursday, August 27, 2020

2020 Not Back to School Interview (The Pandemic Edition)

Q: What is your favorite subject?

A: Paleontology, evolutionary biology, geology and history. Also archaeology.

Q: What are you best at?

A: Making connections between things and synthesizing information; communicating clearly in writing and verbally; designing objects for 3d printing; generating hypotheses; imagination; procrastinating.

Q: I need to get better at __________.

A: SAT math; handwriting; being more organized. Not procrastinating and waiting for mom to nag me about stuff.

Q: What's the best thing about being a homeschooler?

A: For this year, not being that affected by the pandemic. We already were set up to do our own thing, and my outside classes were either already on the computer, or moved online. So the plague hasn't caused me as much trouble as schooled kids. But I do miss being able to see my friends and Professor Wendy in person.

Q: What's the worst thing?

A: People's weird assumptions about homeschooling, and not being as comfortable with standardized tests as schooled kids, because I don't take them as often, which is in general a good thing, but now I have to get ready for the PSAT/SAT/ACT...

Q: What kind of work do you want to do when you grow up?

A: I want to be a paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and a professor. I would also lke to do fossil preparator work, maybe as a way to help pay for grad school.

Q: This year I want to learn about ________.

A: Medieval India, Foundations of Eastern Civilization, Archaeology, Paleontology (dinosaur paleobiology, preparator skills); anatomy; comparative zoology; the age of revolutions; anthropology; German; and maybe forensics. Scientific illustration and cartography. Survival and camping skills; special effects and animation; paleoart.

Q: I want to do more _________.

A: Science. And writing.

Q: I want to do less _________.

A: Math.

Q: Who is your best friend?

A: Koby. And Julian is a really good friend. And James and Jack, too.

Q: Once COVID 19 is over, I want to go on a field trip to __________.

A: Yale Splash; MIT Splash; The Penn Museum, the Mutter Musem, The Bruce Museum.

Q: I want to go on vacation to __________.

A. Not so much a vacation, but I want to go to Sternberg Science Camp in Kansas and do the field paleontology and fossil preparation programs. I also want to go on a dig with Big Horn Basin Paleontological Institute.

Q. The most fun or best thing I did last school year was:

A. Sternberg Science Camps (online because of the plague). I got to study Evolution of Vertebrates, Mass Extinctions, and Dinosaur Science, and meet lots of kids who love paleontology as much as I do. (I run a Discord server so we can keep in touch and geek out together over ancient life.) Joining the After School Fencing Club and learning to fence with Coach Mark. (I wish the pandemic hadn't cut the season short, and delayed this year.) I also loved doing Yale Sprout and MIT Splash, and visiting the Yale musuems, the USS Constitution, all the sites on the Freedom Trail and Harvard Natural History Museum. Our trip to Washington DC and the newly redone fossil halls at the National Museum of Natural History was great, too.

Q. What is the most stressful thing you have dealt with because of the pandemic?

A: Worrying about my grandparents and not getting to go see them since March.

Q: What has helped you deal with the pandemic?

A: Keeping in touch with my friends online via Discord, playing D&D, making bad puns, watching the local wildlife, and my mom makes us get out of the house and into nature.

Q: What is your biggest disappointment because of the pandemic?

A: Missing out on competing in the Finals of the National History Bee, not getting to take the trips we had planned for this year, not being able to do fencing, and not seeing friends and family except on the phone or computer.

Q. What is your favorite book that you read last school year?

A. The Complete Dinosaur by Tom Holtz & others; The Decameron by Bocaccio.

Q: What is your favorite song?

A: Bohemian Rhapsody.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do for fun with your friends?

A: Play D&D and sword fight.

Q. What is your favorite online class that you took last year?

A: All of them, but especially Evolution of Vertebrates, Mass Extinctions, Dinosaur Science, Medieval Literature (which was in person before COVID), German and How to Defend Humane Ideals.

Q. Of all the field trips you took last year, which was the best?

A. NMNH new fossil halls, and the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Also, the Freedom trail in Boston.

Q. What are you looking forward to doing this year?

A. Classes with Wendy Raver and Crystal Ferreira. Fencing. Being able to get back to normal life eventually.

Q. What are some colleges you might want to apply to?

A. Yale, Cornell, University of Alberta, University of Toronto, University of Montana, Richard Gilder (AMNH, mom), Columbia, SUNY Stonybrook, Hunter College Macauley Honors, NYU, Columbia, University of Chicago, Fort Hayes State University.

Looking forward to another year of learning together!