Posts Tagged ‘Music’


I can’t believe summer is almost over already. And what have we done with our time?

Aengus and his cousin, protecting the campsite.


Aengus experimented with Mentos and Diet Coke; played Portal 2, Geometry Wars, Minecraft, GMod, and the new Nazi Zombies map; and got into watching Dr. Who, My Wife and Kids, George Lopez, Top Shot, and the BBC’s Sherlock. He got a few swimming lessons from his dad, had many sleepovers, jumped on our new (to us) trampoline, and put some time in on the treadmill. He went camping with his dad, his uncle, and his cousin. He helped Jason fix our lawnmower and build the playing field for his Lego team’s robot. Oh yeah, and he joined a FIRST Lego League team.

Mark (sound engineer), Garrett, Grant, and Noah intently listening to their recording.

Noah spent some time with his friends on the XBox with Portal 2, Catherine, and several other games. He also got in on the lawnmower lesson, which morphed into a car maintenance lesson. He and I continued working on learning Japanese, plus he started reviewing pre-algebra concepts and US history in the run-up to this fall’s studies. But much of his summer was spent at his friends’ house, practicing for several gigs . . . including the local Battle of the Bands, which they won! The hands-down highlight of his summer was their prize: six solid hours in a REALLY nice recording studio with a professional sound engineer. He was positively beaming the whole time. ❤

Shelby and Noah gettin’ their Amish on at Roots.

Together, we visited my family in Pennsylvania, which we always love. Shelby came with us again, and we always love that, too. We went to Roots, a big-ass farmers market, went swimming at their enormous community center, walked their gigantic mall, and checked out That Fish Place, a huge pet store.

Why is everything in PA so big?!?

The highlight of the week (for Noah and Shelby, and I think for Aengus, but definitely for me) was seeing the final Harry Potter movie. We were able to see it in the theater where Noah and I watched the very first movie on opening night. This time, though, they sold butterbeer slushies. With alcohol.

Shelby, Noah, Aengus, and myself at the Ephrata Main Theater for Harry Potter.
Jason and Aengus at the handgun range.

We recently went shooting in West Virginia, which was beautiful but WAY the fuck out there. I would die of isolation in West Virginia, but it might be nice to stay for a few days in a cabin in the woods.

Noah being goofy, as usual.

Going forward, I’m making a concerted effort to blog with real regularity. I HAVE to, for my own sake (I forget everything!) as much as for the boys (who might need such records one day) and their grandparents (who miss the closeness they had with the boys when we lived nearby).

We’ve spent the last few weeks establishing the new routine we need to accomplish all of our goals. Noah’s goals include finishing my requirements for graduation, furthering his Japanese studies, taking some web design classes, getting a job, getting a drivers license, and becoming truly capable of independence.

Aengus is working diligently toward reading independence, of course, because he desperately wants a laptop all his own. We are not above bribery. He will also continue working on his math skills, learn some world history, do lots of science experiments, and participate in his FIRST Lego League team. Oh, and he wants to learn to cook, as well.

None of which is all that ambitious for most families these days, of course. But we have been savoring the quiet life for a long time now; I’m not sure I’ll be able to sustain the energy required to do it all for nine months. Wish us luck!

Advertisements

I’ve not been blogging for a while — obviously. I attended the VAHomeschoolers Conference last week, though, and feel inspired to get my act together again. “Scared straight” would be another way to phrase it.

While I’ve been busy being negligent, the kids have continued with their lives, learning as they live and play. A few particularly educational events from the past six months stand out in my memory, though:

VGL'11
Having so much fun they even posed for a picture.

Jason and I surprised the kids with box seats at a Video Games Live concert. It. Was.

Fabulous!

Amazing!

Stupendous!

Brilliant!

Astounding!

And I’m not all that into gaming myself. Noah said he’d love to go again, and that’s high praise from him. I thought it was a fabulous way to introduce young people to the symphony orchestra. {music appreciation}

 

He CAN get up at 9am!

Noah recently took a two month Saturday Morning Physics class at the local college. I’m not sure how much he actually got out of the class; it was held at 9am, so he often used planetarium time for a nap. I think the material was a bit over his head as well. Still, he was exposed to a college-like situation, which is something.

 

Noah’s Japanese studies are going well for him, but I have completely let the ball drop there. He wanted me to teach him, but since I don’t already know Japanese I said we could learn together. Not only do I lack the consistency needed to teach him the he’d like, I also don’t have a curriculum that lays it out, lesson by lesson for him. The books we’ve bought are for a person who wants to visit Japan — which we do, but we want to actually learn the language, not just memorize key sentences.

I recently discovered a great app for my iPad, however, so my own studies are back on track. We’re not yet back to doing lessons together, though, which is what I’m striving for.

Also, Noah’s ability with computers and electronics surprises me. He’s dismantled our XBox and controllers and apparently does amazing things wih his computer. He’s asked to take a computer course at the Community College this summer, which I’m very excited for him to experience.

 

Studio time was bliss.

Music, of course, remains Noah’s primary activity, and all is going well. He and his band, ((The Evidence Of)), have been practicing a lot lately in preparation for their big gig later this month. Stay tuned. =D

 

 

Aengus has been busy discovering various YouTube personalities, reviewers, and comics. Though he’s discovered computers rather later than his brother, Aengus is finally learning to navigate his way through the internet. Only a little, though, as he can’t yet read what he’s clicking on.

And speaking of reading . . . Aengus’s frustration with being unable to read has reached an all-time high. I have absolute faith in unschoolers’ insistence that reading comes easily when children are not pushed. But Aengus views his inability to read when so many younger people can has him feeling really, really stupid. And I can’t just sit back and wait anymore.

So, we’ve instituted Operation: Reading. He and I are now working our way through Explode the Code, a little every day, until he feels comfortable with reading on his own. We’ve just started book four, by the end of which I suspect I can hand him some Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes books. Come to think of it, I’ll give him Garfield tonight!

Even better than now making a deliberate effort to learn how to read, Aengus has finally —finally!– started enjoying being read to. This child never liked storytime or lullabyes — only one of the ways in which he is unusual. =P I don’t know what finally clicked in his head, but he requested that I read Harry Potter to him.

~pause for happy dance~

While reading Harry, I was astounded once again by all the learning along the way: Latin, mythology, vocabulary, history, interpersonal relationships, politics, ethics, . . . . I really wish I’d been blogging then, because we paused all the time for mini lessons.

We just finished the series the other day (I was once again crying my eyes out), and he was concerned about what we’d read next. He now has a huge list of books he wants me to read to him! Noah requested A Series of Unfortunate Events, so that’s where we’ll start, then Artemis Fowl and The Hunger Games. Nothing beats Harry, though. ❤

Oh, and we adopted a puppy back in January and named him ‘Buster (as in Myth). This was him at 3  and 4.5 months old:

Just a wee lit’le pup!
Buster, Bear, and Vinnie

He is now, at six months old, nearly a hundred pounds! (pics coming soon)

Aengus, in particular, has been helping with the training and raising of ‘Buster. He and Jason love watching The Dog Whisperer together and implementing Cesar’s methods. {biology, life skills, leadership}

We scored a trampoline from Freecycle, and it’s been a big hit with both boys and their friends. {P.E., socialization} If  it continues to need repairs, we can add sewing to that list of  learning opportunities, LOL. And the debate about whether we actually needed the net became a lesson about safety. 😉

Just yesterday, Aengus and I started reading about the Egyptians. {world history} He says he wants to do some of the activities from Story of the World (which I LOVE), so I’m excited for us to start that. For now, though, we’re just reading a bit and discussing what we’ve read.

And that right there, folks, is the key to successfully home educating your children.

Aengus spent a lot of time there for a while watching Netflix, especially That 70’s Show, Mythbusters, Doctor Who and Torchwood. {modern U.S. history, science, critical thinking} The complexity of the ongoing and crossover plots is what really excited him about Doctorr Who and Torchwood, I think.

That, and who doesn’t want a Tardis?


This weekend was our homeschooling group’s Educational Freedom Party — what other groups refer to as their Not-Back-To-School picnics, parties, etc.  I hate that this lifestyle gets defined in relation to school, when school is so very far from what we do. So I flat-out refuse to call it a “Not-Back-To-School” anything. It’s the celebration of what we have — freedom to educate our own children however we choose to — not of what we are giving up, avoiding, or rejecting.

Anyway, our party was this weekend. We kind of got rained out; there were many families who bailed because the weather was iffy. But we forged ahead, partly because I’d already cleaned the house (dammit) and partly because any time the schedule gets changed all hell breaks loose. We had a good time even with the smaller crowd, and I really enjoyed chatting with new people and people I don’t get to see very often.

The teens seemed to have a good time playing their instruments (music) together (socialization). When it wound down to just Noah and one other teen, they played Call of Duty (dynamic thinking, cooperative problem solving) together for a while. Young men bond so easily over shooting and stabbing, don’t they?

Note to self: we need to encourage more teen girls to join Natural learners!

Aengus stayed inside for a long time playing video games (dynamic thinking, cooperative problem solving) with Tori and Ash (socialization). When he came out later in the evening, though, he really hit it off with yet another girl, a ten-year-old named Madison. Together, they chatted and played for several hours — and got a good workout when they discovered the treadmill.

The rain came full-force just when we were about to light the bonfire, which is always my favorite part of our parties. I guess that means we’ll just have to have another party this fall! Hot dogs and hot chocolate and teens with guitars. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect autumn party? ❤

Noah was in a talkative mood this weekend, too, which is rare. We talked a lot about religion, society, politics, and particularly other cultures. He and I went to the Harrisonburg International Festival for a bit, too, where he got to play in a drum circle. He was slow to join in but thoroughly enjoyed it when he did.

Both boys have asked for me to push them to work on some academics, so we’re starting with math and foreign languages today (and for Aengus, reading). I’m not happy about this; I don’t like telling people what to do any more than I like being told what to do. But they want me to be the bitch, so here goes. If it affects our relationships, though, we’ll have to change course. I have always —always– said that I don’t keep the kids home so that we can fight. If our days become constant battles, they can either go to school or take on the responsibility of pushing themselves. Learning information is easy; repairing relationships is not.

And now it’s time to wake Noah. Getting him up before 3pm is step one of the new whip-cracking policy around here. Wish me luck.


Our family has felt . . . disjointed for quite some time now. With Noah in the throes of puberty (and my instinctive reaction to negativity being withdrawal), it’s felt like he mentally moved out already. I’m not ready for that!!! Aengus has never, by nature, been as open and connected with me as Noah always used to be. Add the Xbox and we’ve felt separate for a very long time now.

But on Friday, Aengus and I had a day away from home, just the two of us. We ate at IHOP (computation: percents, life skills), visited friends (socialization), walked through a few malls (economics), and talkedtalkedtalked (about aliens, gods, and ghosts: cultural mythology, about illnesses: P.E., and about politics). He never opens up to me the way Noah used to, but it was still nice to connect with him a little bit. We also bought the next book in the Magic Tree House series, by his request (reading).

Noah was in a good mood when we came home and wanted to watch Casablanca with me. When Noah requests that I do something with him — anything at all — I drop my own plans and do it. He and I used to be extraordinarily close; and while I know that shouldn’t last forever, I do miss it. So we watched Casablanca, and he loved it. I loved watching it with him.

Fridays are Jason’s short days at work, so after dinner (together!), we decided to watch a movie — together. We don’t often do that anymore, since we each have our own interests and are often just doing our own thing. But we decided it was time Aengus started his Pop Culture Tour and Noah returned to his. And the movie to reboot the tour was . . . Conan the Destroyer.

Can someone please tell me why this movie was made?!

Saturday is a blur, since I spent it spring cleaning my kitchen. We have mice, and I’d had it with them. I took everything out of my cabinets and drawers, washed it all, and cleaned the cabinets. We set traps, which I am normally opposed to; I prefer to let the natural food chain take care of things. That’s why you’ll find spiders in my house. But no snakes have moved in and our cats are useless as mousers. So the traps ended up catching nine mice. I haven’t seen any, erm, evidence of mice since then.

On Sunday, Noah went to his bandmates’ house for a sleepover/practice session (music, socialization).

Good friends and a guitar.

Their family is wonderful and a really good influence on him. While he was away, Aengus had his bff over for a sleepover. They actually managed to sleep a little this time, after spending the evening running around outside (with guns, of course; P.E.), building lots of Bionicles (engineering), playing chess (strategic thinking), and of course playing video games (cooperative problem solving, dynamic thinking).

Monday evening, after Aengus’s friend left, he crashed while I ran out to get Noah back. We had our own little one-on-one time at the mall, checking out books and posters and DVDs and talking, talking, talking. It was wonderful to talk about stuff with him, real stuff like the “Ground Zero Mosque” and financial responsibility and the importance of interpersonal skills and whether it’s group psychology or biology that determines what we find attractive and why physical attributes are so prized when it’s intelligence that really matters.

I absolutely loved it.


Though Noah would claim that I spoil Aengus as the baby of the family (and he’d be partially right, I admit), I would say that my mothering style simply relaxed quite a bit from one child to the next.

Case in point: I scaled back on Noah’s academic work at the same time that I stopped giving Aengus time outs and worrying that the Legos be put away in the right (read: color-appropriate) bin. I relaxed across the board, not just toward Aengus.

Noah wouldn’t notice that, of course, given the self-centered nature of the stage of development he’s in. So I bite my tongue whenever he dishes the parenting advice, hoping that one day he’ll come asking for mine.

But this super-relaxed atmosphere we’ve got going in da Hood has its downside: the jolt of culture shock when the law is eventually laid down. And Aengus is starting to experience that now. I’ve always just let him be himself, with some gentle guidance whenever the shit hits the fan. Well, it hit the fan in a big way this week, so I’ve started being more proactive in guiding him.

PMS has nothing to do with it, I assure you. Maybe.

Aengus and his bff got into a huge fight during a game of Nazi Zombies earlier this week. Aengus took the game as seriously as any competition he ever becomes involved with, which is to say COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY TO-THE-DEATH SERIOUS. His bff . . . not so much.

When he felt abandoned and unarmed (and therefore left to die/LOSE) by his friend, Aengus went ballistic. This is a typical reaction that I always figured he’d eventually grow out of, but it has become clear that he’s going to lose friends before he figures it out on his own. Time for me to step in, big time.

So the next morning, he received a message from his friend that made it clear they had to actually talk this one out; they weren’t going to be able to just shake it off and move on this time.

So Aengus and I had a very long talk. We talked about the importance of keeping our cool or asking for a minute to collect ourselves, which led to a discussion about tone of voice and word choice when expressing ourselves.

We also talked about loved ones’ quirks that might get on our nerves, and loving our friends in spite of those eccentricities or helping them overcome them (such as extra encouragement for someone with low self-esteem). And taking responsibility for our own annoying quirks.

And how important it is not only to apologize when we’ve done wrong but  also to try to understand how we could have handled things differently. And how important it is to see things from our friend’s point of view, which is neither right nor wrong but simply different from our own.

I guided him through sending an apologetic reply to his bff, and they were friends again in no time. Luckily, his bff is a very good friend.

I’ve also been on Aengus more this week about taking care of his things and cleaning up after himself. He’s always been helpful around the house when I’ve asked it of him, but now I’m upping it a notch: he needs to start taking care of his own messes of his own accord, at least some of the time. My god, he’s nine years old; by the time Noah was his age, he was doing his own laundry and straightening up at the end of the day without being asked.

Needless to say (though I will anyway), Aengus thinks I’m a mean mom this week. He feels like he’s constantly being nitpicked or yelled at, and I feel bad about that. But once he’s gotten used to my new expectations, he’ll be fine.

Noah? I’ve hardly seen him this week. He’s had quite a few sleepovers, and on days he’s been home, he’s been catching up on sleep. Because one does anything BUT sleep on a sleepover.

But I hear him now, upstairs, playing his baby: the acoustic named Fender. Shelby‘s hanging out with him, so he must be a happy guy. I’m running on that assumption, since the only thing he’ll probably say to me for the next 24 hours is, “What do we have to eat?”