Friday, April 14, 2017

A Homeschool Room to Call Our Own

 I have been homeschooling since 2001, but we did not get a homeschool room to call our own until 2011.  Before then, everything we used and did was stored throughout the house, in the hallway, on the walls and doors, and even in my bedroom.  So, while it is not necessary to have a room dedicated to homeschooling, it is a blessing - at least as a place to keep your homeschooling life together, in one place.

Our room changes constantly - in fact, every year it changes.  By spring, I am antsy to start planning my next year, and the second the current school year is over, I take down everything from the old year and put it away.  Then we downsize and change the room around.

However, this year we got started early.  The kids went through their belongings and gave away a lot of toys they no longer wanted, and we were able to move out some furniture.  I would still like to get rid of more stuff, but I had to compromise.

Meet our homeschool room.  : )

The murals were done by homeschool friends from our Antiquity Year.  I couldn't part with those b/c they are beautiful, and they block out the sun during the summer.

This is the other mural of the Roman Colosseum.  The kids keep miscellaneous reading books that we have collected over the years on that corner bookcase, and they store their current school books and papers on the smaller bookcase.  Please excuse my college kid's messy desk area.

All of our paper and art supplies and school books are in these tall cabinets.  My only regret about our room is that it lacks useable wall space, and I must be creative about hanging maps and posters.

My favorite place is this corner.  Because books!  And I am already (mentally and emotionally) preparing for our next school year : Colonial America.

My husband and I argue about what will become of this room when I am done homeschooling.  I love to make it a library~sun room ; but he wants to make it into his man cave.  (Frankly, I thought that's what the garage was for.)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve California Hiking

Our homeschool group hiked the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve in Lancaster, California.  It was not as easy as we had expected.  The dirt trails go up and down and all around.  And the wind is treacherous, at times.  But it was worth the hour and a half drive from our city.  

It is kind of silly when you think about people driving to Lancaster to see poppies.  The little orange flowers grow like weeds in my neighborhood - except on my property, of course.  The line of cars to get into the park on a Tuesday at 2 PM, when we were leaving, was still ridiculously long.   You would think people were coming to see a celebrity.

We found this injured painted lady.  Poor little guy couldn't fly anymore.

The boys waiting for us the catch up.

Walking toward the orange.

My kids.

Some purple weeds that also do not grow on my property.

One yellow poppy in the bunch.

Some yellow weeds.

Up the incline we go.


Friday, March 24, 2017

Art Study: Winslow Homer

This month we studied Winslow Homer, one of my favorite American painters.  He lived by the sea, and he painted many beautiful seascapes, which goes well with our sea and exploration year.  Today we attempted a watercolor project based on Homer.  Well, it was tedious, and there were a lot of complaints; but, as always, it was fun to see the end results.  

This first one is my youngest, age 8:

This glittery one is my 12 year old:

This one is mine.  I tried to do the tissue paper clouds in watercolor, but we ended up with cotton ball clouds.  It goes with the 3-D effect.

And this is my 9-year old.  He asked me if he could make it a pirate ship, with aliens and sharks.  So you have to know that we have been reading about pirates and sharks.  But the aliens are purely my son's wild imagination.  I am sure Homer would be beside himself to see aliens beaming up sharks and pirates in a watercolor inspired by him.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Art Study: Joseph M W Turner

For the last few weeks, we've been studying the beautiful paintings of English Romanticist artist, Joseph M. W. Turner.  I watched the 2014 film, Mr. Turner (without my kids).  Yeah, don't watch that with your kids.  Too many adult themes.  But it would have been wonderful to share it with them so they could see his character and his works.  It makes the artist come alive, if done well, to see a film. version.

Joseph M W Turner painted for the emotion and experience of the landscape or seascape; it was not necessarily the details he captured.  You can feel the radiance of the sun and the warmth of the humidity and the mist from the fog.  

Turner painted a lot of paintings, which he left most to his country.  But gratefully we got to see a few at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.  

Today we attempted to paint (using watercolor) several Turner paintings.  It was not as easy as expected.  

First we started with a light sketch.

And then we painted as best we could.  

Go ahead and laugh.  We did.

The girls painted this one:

Windsor Castle from the Thames

Sophia, age 12

Eva, age 8
My son chose this one: 

Ullswater, Cumberland

Vin, age 9
And I chose this one.  I love, love, love this one:

Rain Steam and Speed The Great Western Railway


 After this exercise, I declared that we all need watercolor painting lessons.  Especially me.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Book Review: Captains Courageous

Captains Courageous
Rudyard Kipling
Published 1897

I have not read any Rudyard Kipling until now.  This month the kids and I are studying poetry by Kipling, and to accompany our theme, I chose Captains Courageous, for literature.  Ugh!  It left my tongue in knots.  The dialogue is spoken in different voices, not only with seamen lingo, but also using accents from different parts of the country and world.  I never warmed up to it.

Aside from that, the plot involves a 15-year old spoiled brat, Harvey, who is babied by his mother and neglected by his father, a wealthy railroad man.  Harvey falls from a steamship into the ocean on his way to Europe and is rescued by fishermen off the New England coast.  He demands, in typical fashion, to be immediately returned to shore; but this is only where his adventures and life lessons begin.

After a season aboard the fishing schooner with the fishermen who rescued him, Harvey does acquire a different view of the world and learns how to maintain respectful relationships with others. He now understands the benefits of hard work and earning his keep.  It was a quick way to turn a feeble boy into a courageous young man. 

When finally the schooner returns to land, Harvey contacts his parents, and they are soon by his side. They hardly recognize this mature, self-controlled, compassionate young man.  In addition, his father learns a lesson as well: he was all wrong in his parenting, or lack thereof; from now on things are going to be different between Father and son, for good.  


In addition to Captains Courageous, we have been reading out of Poetry for Young People Rudyard Kipling.  We do enjoy his poetry very much.  Father and son relationships were obviously very important to the poet.  

Monday, December 5, 2016

Book Review: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Treasure Island
Robert Louis Stevenson

For enrichment last month, we read Robert Louis Stevenson for poetry.  Wow!  I loved his children's poems because they were so innocent and sweet and true.  The author must have retained his youthful imagination his whole life.  We read numerous poems from A Child's Garden of Verses.

Then for literature - and sticking with our nautical/explorer theme - the obvious choice was Treasure Island.  This was my first introduction to the children's classic.  (Now I know where Long John Silver comes from!) This was not as exciting for me as it was for my kids.  I appreciated the rich vocabulary, and the plot reminded me of Charles Dickens' style of twists and knots, which was acceptable to a degree; but I was confused at times.  (My kids had to explain it to me.)  Nonetheless, the content was agreeable to my kids, and they were interested in the plight and condition of the characters and the direction of the plot.  

Most people already know the story of Treasure Island; hence I am more interested in proclaiming that reading it to my children was an absolute success.  They loved it.  This story is perfect for young imaginative minds, drawn to adventure and danger.  It was truly exciting for them.    

Long John Silver leading the hostage Jim Hawkins,
N.C.Wyeth, 1911

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Review: I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Treviño

I, Juan de Pareja
Elizabeth Borton de Treviño

Part of enrichment this year, we are reading about artists.  This month we studied Diego Velásquez.  This children's novel, I, Juan de Pareja, is about life with the painter, told through the narration of his African slave/assistant, Juan de Pareja.  The author took the liberty of improvising details of Velásquez's personal and private life, creating a warm and tender story.  

It begins shortly before Velásquez acquired Juan as his slave and ends after Juan gained his freedom some time before Velásquez died.  While many details are unknown, it is true that Velásquez gave Juan his freedom.  It is also believable that Velásquez was a good-hearted man and that he had a genuine and amiable relationship with Juan, who later worked as Diego's assistant by choice.  

Velásquez painted de Pareja in 1650, the same year he painted Pope Innocent X.

Juan de Pareja
After the death of Velásquez, a red cross of the Order of Santiago was added to his chest in the painting Las Meninas.  Some say it was painted there by King Philip IV, who had retained Velásquez as his court painter and curator for many years; but the author considered that Juan de Pareja may have had something to do with the red cross, by request of the King; we just do not know.  

What we do know is that Velasquez was a humble, gentle man, and one of Europe's greatest masters of art.  This is definitely a worthy read, peeking into the life of the artist and covering the issues, such as slavery, facing Europe during this time period. 

Detail of Velásquez self-portrait, Las Meninas

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hiking Ice House Canyon Trail on Election Day. Caution: Liberal Triggering Ahead

I am grateful we did this strenuous hike on Election Day.  Every four years I am sick to my stomach, and this election was no different.  Four years ago I cried my eyes out because Obama was reelected (except I forgot to throw a temper tantrum, destroy private and public property, block traffic, and protest the democratic outcome).  Instead, my family lost our health plan and were forced to pay more for a plan we did not want.  I lost my favorite primary doctor, and my kids lost their pediatrician, whom we loved.  But our federal government always knows what is best for us, right?  It is somewhere in the U.S. Constitution . . . I think.

Because I naturally anticipated another four years of a Democrat - a criminal one, at that - and since America loves government telling them what is best for them, I preferred the idea of getting away from reality and taking this taxing hike up Ice House Canyon Trail in the Cucamonga Wilderness.  

This trail is a rocky incline.  

We found water in California.

And tiny pinecones.

And gnarly trees.

But is was soooo PEACEFUL and serene.

Tall trees

More water

And abandoned structures.

We would love to go further; maybe next time.

This is how we California desert dwellers experience autumn.

And this is where ladybugs are born: in the Cucamonga Wilderness.  : )

On the way down; cannot wait to get to the car, and the restroom.

I did watch the election returns later that night, after we returned from our hike, and they were surreal.  By 11:30 PM I went to bed, leaving it in God's hands.  I did not know the outcome, but it appeared that Trump would win.  How America managed that one, I was surprised.

For years, my husband and children have nagged to get a puppy.  Why would I want a dog in addition to five children and a husband?  "No," I always replied.

However, about a month before the election, I said: "If Trump wins, we'll get a puppy."  It was my way of saying: "When pigs fly . . . "  I was feeling rather cynical, and rebellious.

At 4:30 the next morning, I received a text from a friend: "So, what kind of puppy are you getting?"  

I am eating my words.

Trump was not my Republican candidate.  I did not vote for him in the primary either.  He did not appear serious to me, he had Democrat roots, and he had socially liberal ideas.  However, the more he became the lone Republican candidate, the more he evolved conservatively.  

A few weeks before the election,  I found myself defending my husband's candidate, Donald Trump, against family members who referred to Trump supporters as "stupid and dumb."  (My husband is NOT stupid or dumb.  He does not hate Muslims or Mexicans, he is not racist, and he is not afraid of homosexuals.)  He just has a different political and social worldview than you - a worldview that has been demonized and demoralized for so long that some believe anything other than their own view is absolutely wrong.  (BTW, my husband is Mexican-American, if I have to use the hyphenated word.)  

The more American flags burned, the more Mexican flags waved, the more Trump supporters were violently attacked for attending Trump rallies, the more people called Trump supporters racists, homophobes, and Islamophobes, the more I was pushed to support Trump, too. These are absolute lies about people who support Trump; and the Left knows exactly how to push emotions, even untruthfully.  It worked.

Yeah, Hillary Clinton does not represent us.  She is a bigger, overreaching federal government official than Trump could ever prove to be.  She has been in government forever and out of touch with most Americans.  She actually looks like an evil, big corporate, anti-environmental Republican on paper, in her private business dealings - and if her supporters honestly cared, more would have supported Bernie Sanders than her.  And there is more, but I'll stop.  

The Democrats' way of dividing Americans has reached a boiling point.  More Americans are done taking a back seat to people who are either not American citizens, with no intention of assimilating into our culture or society, or ungrateful, spoiled brats who hate America, burn our flag, or wastefully take government assistance; and yet their voices are heard and their personal demands are taking precedence over our God-given rights in the U.S. Constitution.

Some Americans have been forgotten or pushed aside in order for government to pander to smaller groups of people based on their race, place of origin, so-called religion, or their sexual orientation. They have rejected the rule of law intended to protect what is right and good for all citizens, in favor of giving attention to smaller personal, private issues, and they have put those issues above the rights of Americans in general.  This is the liberal way of life, and it is utterly disastrous.  

Let's not forget the dismantling of and burdens on our livelihoods based on some fake environmental science about how the sky is falling, and we're all going to die because humans suck.  I'm talking to you, California voters!  But, I digress.

Will Trump change this?  I do not know because he must work with Congress.  Will they work with him?  Not if they are full of greedy, arrogant pride.  Let us hope that he does not act like a king, as some presidents have, using executive order to lay his will down.  Meanwhile, some Americans and non-American citizens alike may have to be spoon fed the rule of law because for too long many have been accustomed to having all of their selfish demands handed to them on silver platters.  I pray that era is over, at least for awhile.

It was well worth the agony of the feet.