Sunday, May 30, 2010

farming smiles and strife

Our sheep, knee deep in grass on our front yard/pasture.

Farming is a delicate balance of hard work, joy, and occasional tragedy. We've had both this week.

First the good stuff:

Our 4 week old ducklings enjoying roomier quarters and their first taste of the great outdoors.

Our 3 week old turkeys checking out their new digs.

And there are 41 fertile duck eggs cooking away in the incubator. They'll be hatching in about 2 weeks.

And now the bad stuff.

Thursday afternoon, while we were out having a grand time weaving at co-op and watching J enjoy a drop-in Modern Dance class at the school he wants to dance at next fall, something (probably a fox) staged a mass slaughter at our place. We came home to find that our entire adult duck flock had been wiped out, along with half of our chickens. Our remaining chickens are furious at having to be kept locked in for a couple of weeks to make sure they stay safe -- they are trying to escape every time the coop door is opened, and they are smashing the eggs they lay in protest to the confinement.

Here's Joy, one of our collies, on patrol in the pasture. She's spending her days down there for awhile, to intimidate any predators from coming back in.

We're all sad at the animal loss (especially a really special pet duck we lovingly referred to as "Blind Duck," because she was), but this unfortunately is the price that is occasionally paid for caring for and loving animals. I guess the joy we experience on a daily basis from being surrounded by these little living, breathing marvels is worth having to deal with the occasional heartache.

I'm off to buy a few more adult ducks, who will be kept locked in like the chickens to keep them safe while that fox is still raising it's young. Honestly, I don't mind donating the occassional bird in order for baby foxes to grow, but it really stinks to have them kill more than they can possibly use.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Malidoma Some, part 4

The sticky heat made for a s-l-o-w school week for us, with the temperatures on Wednesday and Thursday making the thought of anything even resembling schoolwork impossible. (A lot of public school kids were out of school those days, too, due to the heat.) Perfect timing, as we were wrapping up our Malidoma Some story, and with just one chapter left, it worked well with a 3-day school week!

Our final chapter found Malidoma undergoing the "baor" (learning) of his people, the first task being to 'see' a tree. It was a struggle for Malidoma, but eventually he saw "his" tree as a beautiful green woman, and he was able to progress with his education. J drew this momentous occasion (as did I, below).

Zoo Boy chose to draw the plane that Malidoma saw in the sky one day soon after finishing his learning tasks. He knew that he would be leaving his village on one of those planes to take his learning to the west soon and live up to his name, which means "Befriends the Stranger".

J's chapter summary. The summary we wrote together was actually longer than this, but he's been struggling a bit with writing out the longer summaries, so I shortened it for him so that he could feel more successful with it. It seemed to work, he didn't tire and didn't need a break in the middle, as he has for the past few chapters.

Zoo Boy's abbreviated, as always, summary. Look, he's finally using capitalization correctly! And without me ever saying a word about it. I tell you, the learning process is JUST amazing!

My drawing. J says my tree lady isn't beautiful enough. Ah, well, it's tough to please the critics! I told him that I happen to be very happy with how she came out, and that's all that's important. Zoo Boy, ever to my aid, said that he thinks she's just lovely.

cooling off

We've had a wave of atypically hot and humid weather (for this time of year, anyway) this week, with temps on Wednesday hitting 99 degrees. So while J was in a nature class, Zoo Boy and I hit the brook with some friends to keep cool.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

first pitch

J lived every boy's dream last night, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a professional baseball game. It was "Homeschoolers Night" at the New Britain Rockcats' game (they are a AA farm team for the Minnesota Twins), and J won the opportunity when his name was drawn from a pool of all the homeschooled kids who wanted to do it. There were somewhere in the neighborhood of 450 homeschoolers there to cheer him on.

It was a wonderful experience, and he got to keep the ball he threw out. Unfortunately the team went on to lose the first game of their double-header, but they had an exciting rally during the last inning, just not enough to pull out the win. We left after the first game -- it was beastly hot sitting in the sun in those stands!

Monday, May 24, 2010


I'm officially giving up on trying to catch up on all the stuff I missed blogging about over the last several weeks -- I hit on the highlight already, and if I don't just move forward, I'm going to be bogged down by history forever and feel perpetually behind. So, onward! Here's what's going on with us now:

Here's J's journal entry for this week, about the dance recital, I'm sure to no one's surprise!

Zoo Boy also blogged about something personal, I think for the first time. It's a pretty simple effort, but still, I'll take this over pages and pages about Pokemon!

We swapped our West African dance this week -- we're now learning the Kpasta (which is pronounced like "pacha"). We had gotten really good at the Gahu over the past two weeks, and this new dance is much more physically demanding (although it's a shorter dance overall). We're having an easier time learning it though, now that we're used to the unique chest-pumping and arm rhythms. I think the dancing is my favorite part of this cultural unit, and I can't recommend this DVD strongly enough for it's instructional value (and appeal of the dance instructor!! Hubba, hubba!!). It's Traditional Dances of Ghana with Nana Yaw Koranteng and Aziza Music and Dance Ensemble, produced by VR Productions. We bought it off

I've also introduced commercial math worksheets to our daily practice time. I have just run out of ideas for word problems that link into our story curriculum, and the boys were getting bored with the whole thing. So I picked up a couple of Kumon workbooks for Word Problems -- Grade I for Zoo Boy and Grade II for J -- both start a bit below their levels of understanding, but I wanted them to get the hang of working with them before they are challenged. Good choices, the boys love them and Zoo Boy says it's "very exciting" to be doing "real" math sheets instead of just what I make up for them. Each day they each do 10 word problems after their handwriting practice time.

For independent projects, J has picked up his crocheting again, after having abandoned it in favor of Keva Plank building for awhile. The Keva building is still going on, but the novelty has worn off a bit, so he's starting to pursue his other interests again. He's also back to folding paper airplanes (with an instructional booklet he got during the winter holidays), and is working on his baseball and bike riding skills in the yard as well.

Meanwhile, Zoo Boy is working with his magnetic mosaics a bit, and with the smaller lego mosaics:

In addition, he's finished his Kumon book of cutting and is on to the next workbook in the series which involves both more complicated cutting and some pasting, working not only on his fine-motor skills, but also his motor planning. This is all independent work for him, he asked me to buy the pasting workbook after finishing up the cutting, so he's working at whatever pace he sees fit, usually one project per day. He tells me that he intends to go through the entire small motor skills series. Fine by me!!

He's also been playing a lot of chess with The Map Man, and actually has a much better grasp of the game than J does at the moment, although both boys love playing chess. We found this cool hand-carved games table made from a huge plank of wood at a local antiques store. It has a chess/checkers board carved into one end, and a cribbage board carved into the other end (once they make some pegs for the cribbage board, we'll be teaching them that game, GREAT for math skills!), with owls carved into the middle of the board. The kids ADORE this table!

Now that our sports classes have wrapped up (one more mixed sports class this Friday, then we're done for the summer), our Monday Homeschool Classes are done for the year, and dance is finished, it's time to look towards our next set of activities! We're going to an open house at a dance studio on Wednesday to see about dance camp, and discuss changing dance schools (we're following J's ballet teacher....). And next week is auditions for a production of Oliver! through the local YMCA, which will keep us busy 3 evenings a week for the next couple of months.

Meanwhile, I'm reading the 3rd grade Enki materials for future planning, and am trying to find a teacher and put together a Spanish class for the fall.

And that's what we're up to now!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

recital clips

The Map Man was the big hero, getting great video of all 4 of J's recital dances yesterday. So here you go, courtesy of a proud Pop! (Who is as mystified as I am about where this kid came from -- you wouldn't think that combining his genetics and mine would result in a dancer....)

Friday, May 21, 2010

ballet preview

I am entirely unsure what sort of seating we'll get tomorrow and what type of video clips might be possible, so I thought I'd give a little preview of J practicing his "wolf dance". Of course, this is bound to look different on a huge (and I mean HUGE!) stage with them in costume, but here is our budding ballet star and his partner, M, doing the Little Red Riding Hood and The Big Bad Wolf dance from the Sleeping Beauty Ballet:

If I do say so, that's not bad for only one semester of ballet.... (J, I mean. M has been dancing for years.)

On to the real thing tomorrow!

Malidoma Some, part 3

This week we combined chapters 3 and 4 of the Enki Malidoma Some sage story, during which little Malidoma is kidnapped and taken from his village to grow up amongst strangers. (This was a Jesuit community, but the story didn't detail that.) Once he is grown, he rebels and escapes and finds his way home. J chose to draw Malidoma in a dark room, when he first was taken to the new place.

Zoo Boy draw Malidoma being taken by the strange man. I left the details of the kidnapping intact, but modified the more intense details of the abuse he suffered at the hands of the Jesuits. Basically I removed the physical abuse, but left the psychological stuff, as I felt that it still made it clear that this was a great struggle for Malidoma as he grew up, without scaring them with the physical violence (which for my kids would have been an issue).

J's written summary of these chapters (I just called it all chapter 3). I combined the two chapters because the actual chapter 3 leaves us hanging too much, and I felt would be disturbing for my guys. I left them instead with his arrival back home (which is really the end of chapter 4).

A detail from J's summary -- he drew Malidoma being taken by the man inside the first letter of that part of the summary. His being taken clearly was of important to the boys. Neither of them has expressed upset about it, but it clearly came during our recall and in their artwork.

Zoo Boy's shortened summary.

My drawing, a rather violent image of Malidoma pushing one of his captors out the window, which instigated his escape. I had originally drawn it less detailed with violence, but the boys insisted that I add broken glass and an alarmed facial expression on the captor. Since I was adding emotion to the man, I also added a frown to Malidoma's face. The boys were very pleased with my drawing.

end of keva class

A little more catching up. Two Mondays ago was our final Keva class of the session (and the year!). Here's J's last class project:

And here's the class all standing on top of a Keva structure they made together to hold all of their weight!:

Then we had our "share day" activities this past Monday, which included an opportunity for us to share the joys of Keva building with others in our Monday Homeschool community. Here's Zoo Boy's final project of the semester:

And J's final project, the US Capitol:

Of course, the building still continues at home:

This one deserves special note -- J copied a maze from a Let's Find Pokemon book, then Zoo Boy added lots and lots of Pokemon throughout the maze:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

end of the dance semester

J's first semester of dance classes wrapped up last week. Here he is during his last ballet class, rehearsing their dance for the Sleeping Beauty ballet they are performing during their Spring Show this coming Saturday:

Here is his final jazz/hip hop class, practicing their dance to "Hit the Road Jack" for the show (you can guess who "Jack" is!):

And here he is during his final Musical Theater Class, working on a dance to the song "Seasons of Love" from the musical Rent:

All in all, this was quite a learning experience for us. He originally started out wanting to do Broadway and hip-hop, signing up for ballet just because he felt he should have a foundation in it to help with the rest of his dancing. While he had a lot of fun in the Musical Theater class, and really enjoyed jazz/hip-hop, he surprised himself by falling madly in love with ballet. And turns out he's got a real talent for it. He was asked to perform a role in the Sleeping Beauty Ballet, sort of big deal for a 1st semester student. Here he is rehearsing his part, dancing the role of the Big Bad Wolf during his dance with Little Red Riding Hood:

Stage rehearsal was last night, and was QUITE an experience, I assure you. He was totally wowed and loved every minute of it. I was pretty close to completely overwhelmed and wondered how the heck we ever got involved with this. But it's what he wants to do, so I'll just suck it up and roll with it. Who am I to stand in the way of budding talent?

Hopefully The Map Man can get some video footage at the recital so I can post some clips. I'll be backstage helping J with his costume changes and making sure the boys use the right dressing room. (Ahem.)

Malidoma Some, part 2

I'm running a bit behind with my posting, but will just catch up when I can. We have a lot of our school year extra-curricular type activities wrapping up this week, so it's a little overwhelming to try to sort through all of the photos and get them posted!

In any case, I'll start with the end of last week, and our 2nd part of the Malidoma Some story. In this chapter, Malidoma's grandfather passes away, but not before conferring the wisdom of the ancestors upon little Malidoma. J chose to draw Malidoma's attempts to listen to animals like Grandfather.

Zoo Boy drew a scene where Malidoma accidentally left the gate to the family compound open and allowed the livestock in to ransack the place. In his drawing, Malidoma is herding the chickens back out of the compound. (You can see a basket of millet that they upset in the lower left corner.) This is definitely a case of him drawing from his own experience to match the story -- he regularly herds our ducks out to their daytime pasture! A pretty cool moment for me to see him make that connection!

Our summary of this part of our story, written out here by J.

Zoo Boy's simplified summary. Note how many lower case letters he used! He capitalized all of the first letters of each word, but still, this is SUCH an improvement! And it was entirely his own idea. Patience certainly does pay off eventually when it comes to these things!

My drawing of Grandfather just before passing away and becoming a spirit, discussing the meaning of Malidoma's name with him inside Grandfather's quarters.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

morning walks

Since we're in such an intensely time-consuming period for both our homeschooling and our outside activities (I feel like I live at that dance studio....), and our cultural dancing is filling our exercise needs nicely (and then some!), we've been taking shorter walks in our neighborhood rather than spending as much time in the state forest. We'll move back to the forest once things settle down a bit, but in the meantime we're finding plenty to keep us feeling connected to Spring right on our own street.

This little vernal pool has both salamander eggs and frog eggs, as well as a bevy of adult frogs. No fish and plenty of spring rains assure that those eggs are going to hatch just fine. We're keeping an eye on them: