Monday, April 30, 2012

Homeschooling Update/Thoughts

I get a lot of questions about how homeschooling is going. Tough question to answer. I've really only had 2 solid weeks of homeschooling experience which was the first 2 weeks in March. We did do work the week before we left for Europe, but it was intermixed with trip preparations. I had intended to do more "sit down" homeschooling in Europe, but that didn't happen more than twice. (Why, oh why, did I think I would review math on a transatlantic flight?!? But I do still think the kids learned A LOT just in our sightseeing... they know the rivers that flow through Paris and London, they can tell you about the lives and painting styles of Monet, Degas and Van Gogh, and they know how to get their mother to buy pan au chocolate any time of day.) And last week after we got back? Nada.

So today we start back into homeschooling full swing. Starting off with breakfast out followed by a trip to the library where I already have a pile of books already on hold (mostly on flamingos - our animal of the week!). I've done a little brainstorming on what I want to accomplish in the next month. I believe that our homeschooling year will extend into the summer. Partially as catch-up time and partially because I like the idea of a little bit of schooling all year long.

What has really been on my mind lately is what to do about school for next year. Do we continue to homeschool or do the kids go back to public school? I want to make it clear that we have a great public elementary school (although some would say that's delusional), but after all I've read and researched and observed, I do think that homeschooling is best option. Then why is this even an issue? Because my kids miss school. I think they mostly miss their friends. What I can't figure out is would this continue to be an issue when we aren't traveling as much, when they make better friends with kids in the homeschool program, and if I make a more concerted effort to schedule play dates.

I realize that I am the parent, and I make decisions for my kids that are in their best interest. My kids would eat McDonald's 3x a day if they were calling the shots, and, of course, I have no problem telling my children that fast food for every meal is not in their best interest. But school somehow seems/feels different.

And if I'm being completely honest, there are times when I miss school. The ability to drop my kids off in the morning and not worry about them until mid-afternoon. To run, play tennis, shop, sew, organize as I please. But that is only sometimes. Mostly I like having my children with me.

Right now they are registered to be back in the homeschool program for next year, but there is a lot to think about between now and then.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Finally

Got 6 little chicks today!


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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Day Book 4.24.12


I've missed doing these DayBooks! Usually I do them on Mondays, and today feels like Monday to me. So I'm doing it.

Outside my window... still dark! But I know my lilac bushes are blooming! I could smell them as soon as I opened the car door last night.

I am thinking... nothing. Really. I'm trying my best not to let my brain go into hyperactive mode now that I'm home.

I am thankful for... travel and homecoming.

From the kitchen... no idea yet. Fortunately my wonderful husband stocked the kitchen for me, so no need to go to the grocery store. We are having English muffins, kiwi and chai tea right now (the kids were up at 3am, I made it to 4:30am), but I'll make a better breakfast a little later.

I am wearing... PJs and slippers. My favorite outfit.

I am creating... can't wait to get into my sewing room later today. It will be my reward for unpacking! Don't even know where to start!


I am going... to have a stay-at-home week.

I am reading... Suite Francais. I didn't get as much reading done in Europe as I had planned. Either too busy talking or too tired! I did finish Lost in the Forest (always enjoy Sue Miller - if I was an author, I would want to write like she does) and Skippy Dies. My goodness. Don't know what to think of  the latter. All in all I liked the story, but it felt so LONG at times. Many characters bugged me, and even if it was accurate, the thoughts of the adolescent male brain were not at all interesting to me.


I am hoping... that jetlag is short lived but that waking up early becomes a habit.

I am hearing... my office space heater and cartoons from the TV

Around the house... my house looks so good! And so clean! Not sure what project I am going to tackle first, or even IF I am going to do anything soon.


One of my favorite things... smooth plane landings.

A few plans for the rest of the week: I thought I had nothing planned, but then I checked the calendar... tennis match this morning, hair appointment tomorrow, well visits for the kids on Thursday, Triathlon clinic Thursday evening, girl's night out Friday evening, baby shower this weekend... plus all the phone calls, visits, catching up, mail sorting, etc.

Here is a picture I am sharing: "stolen" from my sister's Facebook page531228_10150705233696492_606751491_9406668_200201721_n.jpg

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Heading Home

We are back in Geneva. Flew in this morning from London (how nice does that sound?!?). Our flight home to Colorado is tomorrow morning. It has been a fabulous trip, but I'm ready. Here are some things I've missed (in no particular order and not including people):

- My sewing machine
- My tennis racket
- My running route
- My pets. All of them. Even the fish.
- My own bed.
- My milk frother for making chai tea

But there will also be so many things I'll miss about Europe, and so many ideas that I will take home and incorporate into life at home.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

London

I think I've discovered that 3 1/2 weeks is the limit on semi-constant travel for me & the kids. I could stay much longer if we could be in one place for an extended period, but we are all tired from this trip and ready to head home.
Yesterday (Wednesday) we left Paris, traveled under the English Channel, and arrived in London. We are staying in a flat in the Notting Hill/Kensington area. We enjoyed the rainy afternoon by drinking tea, eating biscuits, and watching movies. Lovely.
Today we ventured out in the rain to see some sites. The photos are becoming fewer and farther between as we are all a little pictured out...
















Tomorrow we are hoping to see the changing of the guard (Kate's request) and tour the Tower of London.
But the best part of London is tomorrow evening... Kate's exchange teacher from last fall is coming down to meet us! Kate is beyond excited!
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Paris Day #3

Lovely today despite the rain!
Luxembourg Gardens




Zip Line at Luxembourg playground




Warm Crepes are extra good in the rain!




Line at the Musee d'Orsay
(with every other tourist in Paris!!)




Sneaky shot inside the museum




Treats from late afternoon wanderings




Dinner in the flat - rotisserie chicken et pommes




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Paris Day #2

Most photos are on my good camera, but here are some highlights from my iPhone.



































PS Our feet are still sore this morning... taking it easy today... sorta...

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Our "Hut" in Paris

I don't want to forget that Jack keeps confusing "hut" for "flat!" We will be out and about, and he'll ask about when we can go back to our hut. It's REALLY funny after a couple glasses of wine...

We are staying in a very cute, yet very European flat in Paris that I've rented through AirBnB. We are across from the Odeon Theatre, just a block from Luxembourg Gardens and just a couple blocks from Boulevard St. Germaine (with Starbucks - I'm such an American!).

I'll post more about our flat later (I can't get my iPad to connect to the wifi... Grrr... So only short posts on my phone), but here is my view waking up in an authentic shabby chic Parisian flat.


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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Paris!

Arrived this afternoon. A few scenes from our first evening...























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Last Night

Swiss Raclette! Yum!








(& this is my sister, not me)

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

French Flamingos

Back in Geneva after "holiday" in southern France. I haven't had internet access for almost a week. Not really complaining about that. Kinda nice. But it does make updating the blog impossible.
It's been a wonderful week. Have lots to tell, but that must all wait.
Maybe my favorite part of the last week (and possibly the whole trip!) is seeing flamingos in the wild. Most of my photos are on my good camera, but here are a couple I snapped with the iphone.


My budding wildlife photographer.


My sister arrives in several hours. We are off to Paris on Sunday for a few days then on to London after that.

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Annoying and The Flattering

I should be posting some photos of our outing today. Too tired. Maybe tomorrow? Of course, tomorrow for me is really middle-of-the-night for most of you.

ANNOYING
When we started planning this trip, I was originally thinking it would be two weeks long. Seemed like a nice, worth-the-jet-lag period of time. Then we were invited on "holiday" (I joke about using European phrases but the kids are totally picking it up - Kate is even using an accent occasionally) with our friends, and the trip was extended another week. Then my sister decided to join us for a week. A month! An entire month in Europe! It seemed like an unthinkable amount of time to be here. A trip of a lifetime! Who has the ability to make trips like this? I sorta expected swooning when I told people. Then we get here and start meeting others taking trips that are at least a month... or 2... or 3. Or a year. Or they moved here for an undetermined amount of time. Kinda takes the wind out of my sails. So I sorta need someone to swoon for me...

FLATTERING
On the train today, there were two Americans sitting across the aisle from us. Since I can't eavesdrop on anyone speaking French, I was listening to their conversation (What can I say? It was interesting what their friends post on Facebook! Plus they were speaking so loud. Annoying Americans!). When we got close to our stop, I told the kids to turn off their ipods (I'm letting them listen to books on tape on the longer train rides) and chatted about a few other things. I then heard one American remark to the other (quietly this time!) that "those kids speak English!" The other responded, "yes, you have to be careful because you never know." Made me giggle inside, but I was also completely flattered - they thought we were locals! I don't look like a tourist! Nor do my kids. Wondering if it was my cute rain trench, the scarf I bought in Italy, or the casual, unimpressed look I had on my face...

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Little Homeschooling Abroad

We have been back in Geneva since last Friday. Matt left to go back to Colorado on Sunday (someone must work to support this little adventure!). I'll get back to blog our first few days here. Eventually.

Yesterday was a quiet day. A mostly stay at home day. Did some laundry. And some schoolwork.

I had intended for the kids to write daily in their writing journals, but we have failed horribly in that endeavor. We have mostly stayed busy touring during the day and are thus exhausted in the evening. Me more than them.

Finally we found the time to use our writing journals as I had envisioned. First I had both of them write about their experience visiting the Chateau de Chillon the previous day. To work on the concept of "Show Not Tell" in writing, I then had each write a page of words and phrases that could be used to describe the castle. Our lists included: big, cold, skinny windows, has a dungeon, surrounded by water, made of stone and wood, filled with weapons, used to have a drawbridge, among others. I read excerpts from Lord Byron's poem "The Prisoner of Chillon" (wish I could figure out how to add links!!) to hear how a famous writer showed us the same castle. Finally we played a riddle exercise where we each wrote out a description of an animal, read the description to the others and let everyone guess. Jack and I wrote almost identical descriptions of the cheetah!

We also found time to work on math, specifically memorizing addition and subtraction facts, and some reading comprehension. Meant to do a little geography, but we'll get to that tomorrow.

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Chateau de Chillon

My blog posts won't be in sequential order of our trip, but wanted to get these photos posted while I have a chance. Yesterday the kids and I took a short train trip to the Chateau de Chillon. To be inside a "real" castle was quite an experience for the kids. I think that Jack may have enjoyed it the most, especially all the weapons! He loved pretending to be shooting arrows through the narrow windows and pouring hot liquids on invading troops!

The amazing setting


In the dungeon





Small doorways


Castle windows with beautiful views of the lake and mountains


Even medieval people had to go the bathroom
(this actually disgusted Kate quite a bit!)


Shooting arrows out the windows





So excited about the swords and lances!
(Jack took photos of EVERY weapon we saw)





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Souvenirs

There is an infamous story in my family about our trip the the San Diego Zoo when we were young (I don't remember how young... I was probably 7 or 8? My sister 4 or 5?). My grandparents had given each of us a sum of money to purchase a stuffed animal at the zoo. I chose an elephant, and my brother chose a monkey. My sister was adamant that she wanted a little, stuffed wiener dog. My dad was just as adamant that she get an animal that we actually saw at the zoo. There was a stand off and tears, and eventually my sister got the wiener dog. And we still love to give my dad a hard time about the incident.

But the thing about it? I get it. I completely sympathize with my dad's point of view. Especially now that I'm the parent, and my kids want souvenirs that have NOTHING to do with our trip.

I have told the kids that I will buy them two, and only two*, souvenirs on our little adventure. I have warned them that they must choose wisely. If they use up their purchases early and then find something they want later, they won't get it.

On our sojourn to Italy, Jack came across a stuffed stingray. And he HAD to have it. There was much conjoling on my part to wait to see what else he might come across. We were only in the first week of our trip. But Jack would not be moved. And so we are now the proud owners of an Italian, stuffed stingray. Appropriately named Stingy. Please tell me that at least there are stingrays in the Mediterranean Sea?!?


*If I am completely honest, I would probably buy them more than two things if it is something I deem appropriate. The rule is really to avoid having to argue with the "I want's" from the kids. I also have veto power which I wielded on a "Wild West Cowboy Gun Set" from Italy that Jack wanted.

Kate has pointed out to me that I am already over MY two souvenir limit...

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Sunday, April 01, 2012

Italy Day #3

I have so many photos from this day, but most are on my good camera. Tried to also snap iPhone pics as we went but I'm missing quite a bit.

Our last day we hit all 5 towns along the Cinque Terre.

Visiting the stone Neptune in Monterosso while waiting for the train
(must remember to read up on Neptune with the kids!)


Took the train back to Riomaggiore and hiked on the "Via dell'Amore" (Way of Love) to the next town of Manarola.

Beginning of Via Dell'Amore


Hike along the sea


In Manarola we had a panini lunch at a quaint little restaurant overlooking the sea.

Kids looking for Matt from a balcony in Manarola.


We then took the train to Corniglia (normally you can hike between all the towns but most of the paths were closed due to a storm/flooding last October). We hiked up the 382 steps to Corniglia (although you would have thought the kids were climbing Mt. Everest!) which was my favorite of the towns. Quaint streets, cute store and a beautiful view. Most of those photos are on my good camera.

Gelato in Corniglia


Gelato makes the walk down the steps much happier!


We were tired at this point, so we went back to our hotel for a nap and some time at the beach.

Kate climbing the giant rock


Not realizing that Vernazza had been hit harder than the other towns (we expected the damage to be like Monterosso), we went there looking for dinner. Unfortunately, the damage to Vernazza was quite extensive. It seemed that the first floor of every building was filled with mud in the flooding. No shops or restaurants were open. Still it was good for us to see how affected the town was.

We went back to Monterosso and had dinner in the same restaurant we ate in the first night.


The pesto on my ravioli was the BEST pesto I've ever had. Best, by far! Jack was also excited to show me that he like fried smelt fish - ate the whole thing - "even the bones!" he boasted!


Watching the kids play in the streets after dinner


The next morning we headed back to Switzerland after breakfast (I think I've failed to mention the amazing croissants our hotel had for breakfast. Um... yum!).

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