Monday, April 28, 2014

More and More Mysterious

N. has been utterly absorbed for the past week in the Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.  I bought the book at our local used book store a couple years ago after hearing good things about it but decided it would be more fun for N. to read it himself than to listen to it read aloud.  He was hooked from the first page and spent as much of the past week as he could reading.  He even sent a friend a letter all in Morse Code (puzzles to be decoded figure prominently in The Mysterious Benedict Society).  He finished the book this morning, marveled that he had read more than 400 densely printed pages in a week, and immediately began reading the sequel.  I love that homeschooling gives him the freedom and the time to dive deep into whatever he's excited about.  And obviously I need to rescind my previous hand-wringing about his reading books through to the end!

Friday, April 18, 2014

"I'm so glad it's wick!"

A few years ago an acquaintance mentioned that she reads The Secret Garden every spring with her daughters.  I was inspired to copy this lovely tradition and this is my third spring reading it aloud to N. We are loving it as much as ever.

Yesterday Tim had N. write an essay on the topic of the blossoms in our neighborhood.  Here is my transcription of what N. produced in his neat little printing:

"The Blossoms of XXX XXX" An essay by N.
Springtime comes.  The leafless trees burst into bloom.  The daffodils flower, showing their pretty yellow faces.  The dogwoods, white and pink, are bringing the old mansions of XXX Avenue to life, same as the cherries on XXX Avenue, both puffball and regular, light up the sidewalks.  The trees in the park itself are getting leaves now, making the park have the air of shade, letting you feel a sense of comfort, instead of the feeling of not being protected.  Everything is showing off it's beauty.  A light breeze blows some blossoms off, but does it matter?  No.  The trees are just as beautiful as before.
A "puffball" cherry tree in bloom. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Music Theory

I mentioned earlier that N. is taking music theory lessons every other week this semester.  He loves music theory and understands it in a thorough and holistic way that is quite beyond me.  Tim is trying to keep up with him but doesn't really get it to the extent that N. does.  I've given up the pretense.

Here's a picture of the homework he completed for a lesson last month: 

And this is the textbook his teacher uses to reinforce the material she covers in her lessons with N.:

I'm so glad Tim found this lively and engaging theory teacher to work with N.  Now I wish I knew a way to use N.'s facility with music theory in his math studies.  I've heard that the two subjects can be quite complementary but haven't seen N. make that connection yet.  Suggestions and recommendations are welcome! 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Exploring the Pluto Debate

Tim ran across "The Case for Pluto" by Alan Boyle at a rummage sale recently and started reading it aloud to N. today.  N. was very excited about it, telling me all about it when I came home from work.  Written by a journalist, it seems quite accessible and engaging, at least for this child listener.  Maybe after this they should take a look at Neil DeGrasse Tyson's "The Pluto Files," which I believe also accounts for the controversy surrounding Pluto's reclassification but (unlike Boyle) defends its  demotion.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


N. is reading a funny kids' novel from 1982 called A Word to the Wise by Alison Cragin Herzig and Jane Lawrence Mali.  It's about a bunch of kids stuck in the "bad" reading group at school.  They discover a thesaurus that their teacher says they aren't ready to use yet.  One by one each kid sneaks the thesaurus home...  I haven't read it but N. says it's a really good book.

I realized today that N. had never seen an actual thesaurus, so I brought an ancient one home from my office. I've had this one since junior high.  I think I bought it at a rummage sale.  (Someone wrote on the edge of the pages "I HATE DOING PAPERS!! JAMES T. O'GRADY" and someone else wrote "moron - writing on your thesaurus.")

N. was absolutely thrilled to see what a thesaurus is like and immediately began reading out words and synonyms.  He thought it was the coolest thing, which made my word-loving heart glow, shine, gleam, flush, burn, blaze, flame.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Field Trip: Colonial Williamsburg

recently attended a conference at Colonial Williamsburg and Tim and N. spent a day there with me.  N. enjoyed seeing the buildings and listening to the patter of the costumed interpreters.  He suddenly wished he had a tri-cornered hat and colonial outfit!  He found the "history" presented in the house tours somewhat hokey but he loved the craftsmen and women and the militiamen.  He saw a shoemaker, tailor, and bookbinder.  Since he's interested in knitting and weaving, he lingered for a long time watching demonstrations of spinning, dyeing, and shuttle-winding.  The day concluded with a regimental march and test-firing of cannons.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"O Fortuna!"

N. joined a local children's chorus in January and he has really enjoyed it.  He loves the singing and he also likes the socializing.  In March the chorus participated in an all-day chorus festival that included 6 regional children's choruses.  It was a powerful experience to sing with more than 200 other kids.

Later in March his chorus sang the children's parts of Carmina Burana with a symphony in the region.  N. -- and all the kids -- were thrilled by the big booming sounds of this piece.  The conductor had to continually remind the children to watch him and not the percussionists banging the bass drum and tinkling the triangle next to them.  And who can blame them?  It was pretty wild to suddenly find themselves right in the middle of a huge piece of music as it was being brought to life.

Since that performance, N. has been working out a piano accompaniment to the children's parts, banging those big chords and belting out "O Fortuna," recreating a bit of the experience of the concert every couple days in our living room.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"I gazed and gazed..."

On Sunday N. was inspired by the springy, sunny weather to take out the nature journal one of his sisters made for him a couple years ago and which he has used intermittently.   The nature journal pages include boxes for drawings, descriptions, and identifications of specimens.  We sat out on our patio while N. drew clover, violets, and a daffodil.  (I drank tea, read fluff articles in the Sunday Styles section, and then read aloud from The Return of The Great Brain)  He commented on how the sustained attention required by drawing made him notice features of the plants he'd previously missed.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
             --William Wordsworth (1804)