Thursday, October 31, 2013

Homeschooling Kids Through Summer Work Projects

Living in Asia all these years, my kids miss out on usual stuff most American take for granted... like picking berries in the field or carving Jack-O-Lanterns or diving in a pile of crisp yellow leaves.... or riding in a wheel barrow.
Sure, they learn stuff here... how to fold paper cranes and their piano playing is becoming quite adept... but there's no substitute for tape measuring wood, cutting with a saw, and hammering with nails.
Things like... digging a hole and laying support beams and pouring concrete so you can etch your name... all at the base of a swing set that should be standing long after their cousins graduate and leave home.
But there's other things too... My brother Grant and his wife keep a couple of black cats around the house.  They don't feed them... ever!  So that cats have reverted back into their savage killer instincts.  Once while we were visiting, the cats chased a rabbit into the grass and broke it's leg with one swipe of the paw...  then they dragged it off into the Christmas trees for dinner. The following morning, a pile of rabbit brains and intestines and heart and liver was stacked perfectly on the front door Welcome Mat.
Those are things my daughters (and most city kids living back in Asia) could never comprehend.
Xian's American Journal- "We had Uncle Grant's birthday today and went to eat pizza. Then to their house.  We played "Duck, Duck, Goose" and "Marco Polo" and "Starfish" and others and even went swimming.  At home, we ate tuna melted grilled cheese sandwiches..."
I mean... how awesome is that journal entry?
While vacationing back home in Oregon, I found my kids so eager to work.  They wanted projects... to take up shovels and rakes and carry stones and build anything I could throw at them.
They understood there was a purpose to the hard work.... that labor had a payoff.
And that's also something about America I miss so much... that work can have significance and meaning in its accomplishment.  After a full day watching my kids toil away in the sun... I don't know who has learned more.
Sitting around the fire pit that night roasting marshmallows... I marveled at that... and didn't want it end.  Not even for a game of backyard catch.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fun Things Done First Week in America

 Rebekah's American Journal-  Got eggs form a chicken, Drove a car, Saw and IMAX movie, Picked Flowers, Built rock fort by river, Looked at stars, Played in a Sprinkler..."

There were so many awesome and fun things we did that first week in America... here are just a few:  Show bows and arrows in the back yard.
 Did a Noah's Arc puzzle on a rainy day.
 Camped out under the stars.
 Played serious guitar!
 Did Scavenger Hunts and Adventures!
 Went Scuba Diving with Vacuum Hoses...
 Had Serious Duck, Duck, Goose Games with Cousins.
 Rode Ferris Wheels!
 Took on the Pony Express...

Dug Earth Words up for Secret Fishing Holes.
Made NEW Stomping Grounds Out of Old Ones!

 Achieved Zen...
 Zen was so good we took Zen Naps!
 Then ended the day chilling on the porch swing.  Wow!  What an fun first week.
Then we sat down... and wrote it all out.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Oregon Parent's Guide to Raising Awesome Kids!

 If you're a parent in Oregon, you're in luck.  It's basically a kid paradise!  Here are a couple of awesome ideas for raining or sunny Northwest days here in the Beaver State.
 Does it look like we're hiding?  Hit OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and check out Saber Tooth Tiger skeletons then go drink some organic milk shakes at Burgerville up the street on MLK.
 Practice routing river water then explore real beaver damns in Tigard along Southwest 121st and Merestone Court.  Take your boots!
 OMSI not only has cool exhibits like the static electricity machine, but also the submarine outside... which is kind of overrated actually.  Instead, walk east and cruise the Hawthorne Bridge by foot into downtown and take in a free concert at PSU.  Now that's hair raising.
 Rebekah's American Journal.  June 12, 2013-  "We went to OMSI and learned about recycling and supply and demand and energy and science.  We also went to an IMAX movie and watched polar bears eat baby seals."

Check online for times and prices, but the OMSI IMAX is always a great experience... even for young viewers like my youngest, who is six.
Don't forget the Northwest Uniform:  Shorts and Fleece Sweater.  Here are some intrepid Oregon Parents... coffee mugs in hand!
 Give your kids a day they will never forget.  Pull them out of school and walk through the Portland Zoo.  Sublet a yearly pass with another couple of families... it's like having a free ticket inside.
 Portland has so many options for indoor activities... the Portland Rock Climbing Company or Silver Creek Falls or ice skating at Lloyd Center or flying kites at the Arboretum.  (Psst!  Homemade kites from fallen tree branches and taped newspaper are the best)  Oh... the Portland Zoo's oldest resident... this sweet Orangutan totally agrees.
Of course, you could check out the new baby elephants...
 Or these sweet new lions... what's up Queens of the Jungle?
 You can check out these bats up close or just hit the Ape Cave Lave Tubes up north near Mt. St. Helens.  Don't forget your headlamps and rugged shoes...
Rebekah's American Journal.  June 14, 2013-  "Today we spent all day at the zoo.  We saw lions, otters, bats, and others.  It was so much fun.  We even had elefant ears..."

Of course, for most Oregonians, the roads and paths to these gem spots are well worn... but for others, I hope this helped.  Here's to raising awesome kids.  Get out and explore.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wes Anderson Futura

(Girls hiding under Aunt Christi's table before an epic game of Duck Duck Goose) 

I am not a fantastic Mr. Fox.  Indie film crews are not at my beck and call.
 (Rebekah's American Journal-  "We drove to Oak's park and ate swirl ice cream.  Then we played in the fountains of Hammerlee Park.  At home, we prepared to sleep in the tent outside.")

My suicidal brother has never heard of Bjorn Borg, and there are no boy geniuses in raspberry berets at my Rushmore.
 (Rebekah's American Journal-  "This morning we woke up and the field behind the home was covered in mist and we walked out into the tall grass, picked flowers, took pictures and saw a hawk swoop down to catch a mouse.")

Eli Cash never crashed my birthday party high on coke, and I have no German masochist Klaus at my disposal to “Break” the comedic tension. And if I did… he wasn’t wearing a red stocking cap and old school Adidas.  
 (Rebekah's American Journal-  "Today we were busy.  We went to church and cleaned the house, vacuumed the car and pitched the tent and climbed on the roof and threw the baseball and skyped mommy.")

Speaking of which, no one ever fitted me for an aquatic Speedo nor do I own a red track suit.  My Chief Steward aboard the Darjeeling Limited refuses to rock the Nehru too.
 (Rebekah's American Journal-  "We went to a movie theater to see 'The Croods.'  It was a funny, scary, sad movie and I really liked it.")

Charlie Brown is demanding I stop playing his Christmas song,  and Gwyneth Paltrow is apparently disregarding my “suggested notes” on eye liner.
 (Rebekah's American Journal-  "We went to Aunt Lisa's house for dinner.  She has a goat, chickens, sheep, a goose, turkeys, and a black lab named Lokie who loves to lick me.")

Pagoda is not cooking my eggs the way I like and my Portuguese guitarist is only covering Peter Frampton.  

 (Xian's American Journal-  "This morning we woke up and decided to go out and explore the field and forest in the mist.  While we were in the field, we picked flowers and took pictures int he tall grass.  While I was taking a picture of a flower, I saw a hawk swoosh down to catch a mouse.  Luckily, it wasn't Kiny (Kinu) and it was a really fun day.")

Bill Murray is not returning my Trans-Atlantic phone calls.
(Rebekah's American Journal-  "We played in the Colton House and made a patch to give to the birds.")

Despite this… I feel alright.  I’ve got Cowboys and Indians in war paint under the wood deck and drum parades with empty Cola bottles and oatmeal tins in the front gravel yard.  I’ve got a magnifying glass tied around my neck to checkout butterfly species at a moment’s notice and a map of Antarctica taped to my bedroom wall just in case.  I’ve read the Bible, the Qur’an, the Kabbalah, the I-Ching, The Tao, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead and my head didn’t explode.  When I wake up, I’m hungry.   When I go to sleep, I dream in very vivid color.  Big solid words flashing in my head.  They Say… EVERYTHING!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Lit Term Stones

One afternoon in Colton I packed up the girls and the art supplies, a bunch of colored Sharpies and paints and little shovels, and headed down to the Molalla River to draw up some Lit Term Stones.

My girls and I have a long-standing love affair with books.  Tom Sawyer and Lemuel Gulliver and Mary Lennox and Winnie the Pooh... just to name a few!  I can't help myself, being the wise old owl that I am... pausing to check for literary term comprehension... a Protagonist here, an Exposition there... sometimes a little,  dare I say...  Foreshadowing? And there's always a Denouement!
Learning and living this way oft reminds me of that line from Frost's Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening..."My little horse must think it queer..."  because I know they think it's natural... that's just our Dad.
 Xian's Journal, June 10, 2013-  "We went to the Molalla River, explored, and built castles.  Then we went to a Mexican Restaurant and ordered some tacos and burritos and went to Aunt Lisa's house.  Gillian and I kept playing KIRBY.  It was fun."
I mean... just listen to that fun day... Mexican Food?  Aunt Lisa's for KIRBY?  That's some serious summer time fun.
But yes... we waded down to the banks of the Molalla River and drew the names of Literary Terms on flat stones, then slugged them into the water.

Said the names out loud like prayers as we watched them sink.
Rebekah's Journal, June 10, 2013-  "Daddy said I could write on the eggs but I can't throw them.  That's okay."  If I read books to the chickens, maybe they will lay eggs with the words already on them."
You should have seen those girls throw.  I'm telling you, man.
High above, a hawk saw.
Looking for the perfect stone is half the fun.  (You've got to build up an appetite for tacos later!)

There are a lot of things you can do in this world on a lazy summer afternoon.  Hanging with your girls down by the river with a copy of Robert Frost in your back pocket is at the top of my list.