Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Homeland Security

I can't say enough good things about the field trip W and our homeschool group went on the other day.  It was to Federal Plaza in downtown Manhattan to learn all about the Dept. of Homeland Security.  They created a beautiful outreach program for us - as we were their first "school" group visiting ever.  First we got to hear about a couple of agents' "day in the life".  A PowerPoint presentation on the department's history and current goings on was next.  Each slide was so incredibly fascinating.  We learned about terrorism, border patrol, drug smuggling, human trafficking, customs and immigration, TSA, cyber crimes, counterfeiting and property rights, and so much more.

Two federal agents from JFK Airport came in with their German Shepherds to talk about the K9 unit there.  The dogs sniff out drugs and currency.   They did a demonstration for us, too.  The dogs are very well cared for and loved and will only work for that one agent - who gets the dog while the dog is still in training school.  Various dogs are used and they are found at all the international airports.

Then a FEMA agent came in to discuss what they do and he brought a whole team of FEMA Corps volunteers in with him.  FEMA Corps is a group of 18-24 year-olds who spend 10 months traveling around the country together to help with emergency preparedness.  Some kids were taking a year off between high school and college and this earns them some credits and scholarship money.  Other kids already graduated college and were in FEMA Corps to gain work skills and figure out what they want to do.  One guy was an EMT, a few deal with the social media part, all have CPR training, all do some office work, etc.  These 10 kids comprised one team, but there are dozens of teams around the country.

Every topic was so interesting.  The kids asked so many intelligent, mature questions that the presentation started to head into its 5th hour.  I've never seen 13 & 14 y/os so enthralled by anything like this.  The agents seemed very impressed by how smart and well-behaved these kids were.  Our group of 6 teens and parents (so happy we could sit in!) are so grateful to the Department for having us and teaching us so many things we never realized.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

It's All About Simplicity

What I'm coming to realize about homeschooling a teenager (well, mine, anyway) is that a lot of their education and learning and academics has to be very "organic".  It has to encompass the whole child through a more natural, environmental approach.  We can have all these seemingly wonderful varying pieces of curriculum that promise to be the best laid out or the one kids like most, but if there's no true understanding, then it's a waste of money and time.  There has to be an interest or at least some sort of meaningful context for anything to be understood, absorbed, and applied.  And learning, like almost everything else in the world, usually turns out better the simpler we make it.

W has led his education since the beginning.  I have always followed along, providing him with the resources he needs and coming up with various experiences, opportunities, and suggestions for him to foster his interests and learning.  It's so fun this way - and effective.  I research and suggest a lot and he's actually happy to try anything.  Some things stick and some things suck and we toss it.  We both still learn from things we toss - even if it's just not to use something like that again, lol.

The outside experiences and free time are what's really filling out W's education.  It's been getting better and better the older he gets.  Exploring Manhattan, getting together with the other homeschooled teens a few times a week for parkour and other activities, traveling, fundraising for animal shelters with his friends, building his computer, our restaurant adventure, and getting ready for several things in the works are what's making him who he is.  And every year will have more and more things for him to be a part of.

As far as formal academics are concerned, math, science, poetry, and computer coding have been the favorites for the last few weeks.  The other night W spent 3 hours creating a ton of computer code to create a really cool tic-tac-toe game.  He taught himself.  It has a lot of detail and was really fun to play.  Math and science he's just really good at, so it makes him enjoy it more.  History, literature, and writing are subjects that are slightly more informal.  The rest of this year will be spent on basic US History, U.S. geography, and U.S. government.  Lit has been a mix of poetry and modern and classic short stories.  Writing is usually done every day, in context to what's W's into or doing at the moment.  The funny thing is that we're getting more of these subjects done this way than when I had them scheduled.  Go figure.

I just did a huge book purge getting rid of everything I know we won't use at all.  My china cabinet now just has a row of reading books, a row of high school and reference books, and a row of notebooks, paper, & art supplies.  It's calming to be more organized.  Also, December is a big clutter clean-out month for me.  I want it beautiful for the holidays, so I minimize as much as I can.  Once January comes, I get back on track with my usual week, including resuming our Restaurant Adventure.

K is loving her job at the SoHo salon.  It's better than she could imagine.  She turned 21 a couple of weeks ago and we're going to see Aladdin on Broadway together next week (B and I got her 2 tickets for her birthday and she said she wanted to go with me - Yay!).  J so far enjoys her new part-time job.  She's working 3 days a week, which I think is perfect for her.  She was just on TV last night in the background of this new reality show on TruTV.  I kept pausing the show and taking a picture whenever she was shown, lol.  I'm back with my old company and happier than ever!  It's in a different location and the job is very similar to what I was doing for 7 years.  It's closer to my house, too.  My old supervisor and manager are there, along with about a dozen of my old coworkers.  I'm working evenings, 25 hours a week.

My blog is 10 years old this month.  Crazy.