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Month: February 2010 (page 1 of 3)

city, culture, and chinese food

Yesterday we ventured into our great city to pay a visit to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This was Aidan’s second visit to Orchestra Hall. We came for a school program on the work of Mozart, an outing organized by CAHFT (Chicago Area Homeschool Field Trips). It was good fun. [singlepic=570,300,300] The Chicago Symphony OrchestraThe conductor did a wonderful job of talking with the kids, and the whole show was made very kid friendly–complete with mimes, humor, and a fun dose of theatrical interest–without in anyway diluting the power of the music. Members of the CSO entertained us with their world-class musicianship but showed us that classical music need not be stuffy, pretentious, or high-brow. Everyone got in on the fun. The conductor explained how Mozart himself was fun-loving man, even though he took his music very seriously. He loved to dance and joke and entertain. He was also a bit of a rebel and made a few enemies along the way. Wolgang Amadeus Mozart began playing music at three years of age, was composing music at five, and was touring Europe at six. Among other pieces during the show, we heard the light and cheerful melody of Serenade in G Major (A Little Night Music), the dark and mysterious sounds of Don Giovanni, and the final movement of Mozart’s “Jupiter” Symphony 41.

After the concert, we decided to take advantage of being in the city and hopped over to Chinatown. Aidan’s been studying about China lately. We’ve be using a “learning box” approach–or, as Aidan likes to call it, a “fun box.” He decided he wanted to learn more about China, so each day he finds inside a little box we designated as his “fun box” a range of activities, projects, learning challenges, and other tidbits on China. One of the cards in his box read “Take a field trip to Chinatown,” and so, while in the neighborhood, this is what we did. We had lunch, popped into a few of the shops, and just explored the area. I think Aidan was having a good time, but it was getting to be a long day. I’m sure we’ll return again soon. In the meantime, we did snap a few pictures. Take a look.

around the world in four hours

Several months back Aidan started as a Cloverbud with a local homeschool 4H group. And last Sunday was our first fair–the International Fair. The fair consisted of a number of South Suburban 4H groups all presenting their work for the past year on a particular country of each group’s choice. Aidan’s group had chosen Egypt and had completed a great deal of work studying ancient and modern-day life–building pyramids, making sacred scarab pendents, visiting the Field Museum, cooking (and tasting) Egyptian food, etc. Here’s some photos from the day.

a community writing center

As a writing teacher and a college writing center director, this project by Dave Eggers really caught my eye. He set up a storefront in his neighborhood in SF to help kids with writing. I saw Eggers last March at a conference in SF. He’s a smart and motivated guy (and a helluva good writer). This project of his is awesome. I can see myself doing something like this one day. Sometimes I feel like my life as a teacher can be a little bigger. I teach college writing, direct a college writing center, and help my son with his learning (some call that homeschooling), but expanding that to an even larger community might be really nice. I’ve been thinking a lot about community lately, and service, and a distinct lack of it in many places. Anyway, this project got me thinking. Check it out.

I’m a homeschooling parent. (Lately I’ve taken to calling that life learning, not homeschooling, but that’s another conversation.) When you say you home school (and the like), people take that as kind of criticism of mainstream schooling because, well, at least in my case, it is. There are many problems with the mainstream system, I think. The idea that it is a system in the true sense of the word is part of the problem. But I don’t think that means one should completely separate themselves from those within that system. Sometimes we life learners catch ourselves perpetuating a kind of homeschooling snobbery–most likely as a kind of defense mechanism against the prejudices we sometimes face. Of course, that is not the answer.

One thing that has attracted me to what Eggers is doing is that he’s bringing to public school kids what many life learners and homeschoolers strive for everyday–a real sense community, purpose, and authentic voice. The kids at 826 Valencia Street are really there–doing real and rewarding work, letting their voices be heard, enjoying the respect of adults who are really interested in what they have to say. These kids are participating in what Egger’s refers to as cultivating democracy and enlightened lives through the participation in community (and in the case of 826 Valencia via the primacy of the written word). These values are closely aligned with those of my family as we negotiate this thing called homeschooling and learning with others.

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