Feb 12, 2015

Project Based Learning

2/12/2015 — cori
Chloe's school is a new, charter school in our area that believes kids learn best in a project-based environment.  I agree that many children do learn best in this way but it's not for everyone.  You have to be a very self-motivated student with lots of self-discipline and most of all possess a strong sense of curiosity and desire to learn.

The students have done many projects already this year.  Currently, Chloe is working on making a brochure inviting people to come visit the Palace of Versailles.  She was recently interviewed by the local newspaper and explained her latest project, which at the time was the "Hero Project".  She chose a relatively unknown person in the Women's Suffrage Movement, Lydia Taft.

However, it was her first project, "Endangered Animals of Minnesota" that taught her the most as well as challenged her the most.  She learned a lot about how to research, make an bibliography, how not to plagiarize,  and how to make a website.  That last one was hard but worth it.

Luckily, she has a rock star web-designer Dad.  He was able to help teach her the basics about page layout, user friendly designs, fonts, colors and text.  It took many hours to make and many more hours to edit.  But even after all the tears and huffy breaths, she was super proud of what she turned out.  And so was I!

I'm so amazed what kids are able to do with technology these days.  In college I was still using poster board to make presentations.  The World Wide Web was just being introduced to us in 1995.  And here we are 20 years later and my daughter is creating her very own website thanks to Weebly.  What a positive use of technology.

National History Day

2/12/2015 — cori
Every year the 7th graders compete in a National History Day project.   The requirements are to think outside the box and present the information they learn through research in the form of a website, documentary or research paper.  This year's theme was Leadership and Legacy.

At first Bennett wanted to research Benjamin Franklin but his teacher nixed that idea saying he was too common, to think outside the box a little more.  Next he came up with MLK, Jr., but again, another prominent figure, worthy of studying, but too well known.  The idea was to learn about someone lesser known but that still made an historical impact.  Thinking along those lines, Bennett decided on Malcolm X. 

He created this website using Weebly.  I was super impressed!  So was his teacher.  He made a 97% on this project that he spent 2 months working on.  I learned a lot about Malcolm X that I never knew.  I'm glad he did this project.

The teacher picks out the top 15 projects in the school and those students go on to Regionals, then State, then Nationals in Washington D.C.  I look forward to seeing how far Bennett's hard work takes him.

The Banquet

2/12/2015 — cori

This High School sophomore has finally found his niche.  Not only do these kids think like him, have similar interests and enjoy learning, they also love to dress up as much as he does.  Mock Trial is the place to be - at least for Gavin.  He feels comfortable with these kids.  They enjoy the brain stimulation, the challenge and the verbal back and forth that comes with the territory.  You must love what you're doing if you write and memorize a 5 minute closing argument and pull it off like a real lawyer - all for fun.  They are all highly intellectual, articulate, conscientious students.

My "Mocklete" (a term his group coined and call themselves), I'm so proud of him.  During this time of adolescence your friends carry a high degree of importance in your life.  You are gaining more and more independence and finding out where you fit in this world (albeit the small world of high school).  I'm so happy for Gavin that he found these kids.  If you know Gavin, you know this is huge. He has always been a loyal, one-on-one friend.  He doesn't need a group of people around him to feel good about himself.  But he has just blossomed since joining this Mock Trial Club.  It certainly makes a difference when you find like-minded friends.  He was even nominated and voted for Junior Team Captain next year.   

But all that isn't the purpose of this story, that was just the background.  The purpose is the re-telling of the Mock Trial Banquet.  A couple of weeks ago Gavin came home and announced that there would be a banquet and I was to write it in my calendar.  But alas, it was not for families - just Mockletes.  And it wasn't going to be at the school, but at somebody's house.

So I said, "Oh.  So it's a party."

And he said, "No. It's a Banquet."

So I said, "Will there be food?"

And he said, "Yes."

So I said, "Then it's a party."

And he said, "No. It's a Banquet."

I'm going to cut our conversation short due to space and boredom, but it did go on for a while longer with just as much enthusiasm and short answers as above.  And since I was arguing with a Mocklete, he won.  My objections weren't strong enough.

So, he's invited to his first ever high school party at someone's house and he is calling it a banquet.  In my book - that's funny!  Then he realizes he's supposed to bring something to this banquet and he begins to panic.

"Mom, what should I bring to the banquet?"

"What do you know how to make?"

"Um.  Nothing."

"Ok then....how about some pop?" (Minnesotan for soda)

Unfortunately for him, the hostess of the banquet was providing the pop so he had to work extra hard to come up with a passable banquet food item he could make and bring.  We finally came up with homemade chocolate chip cookies.  You know, the kind from the back of the Nestle Toll House bag.  

He rocked the cookies.  Everyone at the banquet loved them.  The hostess even asked for the recipe. He asked me if he could bring her a mimeographed copy.  

I asked him what he did at the banquet.  Apparently they stood around and talked.  Then they played a Wii Dance Off game.  I would have loved to be a fly on the wall for that!  Then they passed out homemade awards (and as in homemade I mean a piece of ripped construction paper with quickly written words scribbled across the page).  Gavin won the award for "Most Likely To Say I Love You Back".  It must hold some weight because he even taped it to his door when he got home.

I think next year I'm going to hold a banquet at my house for my birthday.  They sound so much more fun than regular old parties.

Feb 9, 2015

Dinner Duress

2/09/2015 — cori

My typical dinner-time prep look.

I typically start making dinner around 4pm every evening.  Around this same time Bennett decides it's time to 'relax' after getting all his homework done.  In order for him to relax he and Chloe go down to the family room, crank up the Grooveshark (as high as it will go) with their favorite songs and start 'messing around'.  I'm not exactly sure what 'messing around' entails but whenever I peek in on them I gather it has something to do with wrestling, throwing pillows, doing karate kicks in the air and dancing like monkeys.  I can't be 100% sure but that's my best guess.  And all of this is being done to the ambient background music of their individual playlists.  Songs such as these accost me during my mealtime preparation:

I don't even know what this song means.  What is a bullseye in relation to this song?  What is this genre of music?  Why would you make a song with only a synthesizer?  Are the 80's music trends coming back?  How should I interpret this?  I don't even know what 'dubstep' means.  My ramp-up with this new fangled music is very slow.

If people don't think Christian music is cool, then they haven't heard Toby Mac.  

If anyone knows me even slightly, they know three things about me...I operate best under perfect conditions, I love classical music and I get confused easily (especially around loud music).  This could be a recipe for disaster.  How am I supposed to put all of my concentration into making dinner when I would rather dance?  Or when I can't remember my name because some type of foreign, new, music is invading my sound waves thus messing with my brain waves?  But I must stay cool, above all else, my coolness factor is associated with 'liking' their music.  Thus, I am cool.

Let's just say dinner is always interesting.  I might forget a component here or there.  I might have to push through and do some hard thinking and concentrating in order to get a meal on the table with all the right ingredients.  I might forget a whole part of the meal that was on the menu.  But hey, at least the kids got to 'relax' after school.

Who knows, maybe one day in the future when all the kids have grown and left the house, I might put on these songs and cook dinner just for the fun of it to bring back my old friend 'confusion' that I had to deal with on a nightly basis.  It will remind me of unabashed joy and relaxation - something my children taught me.

Feb 5, 2015

The Funnest Date Ever

2/05/2015 — cori

The other night Chuck and I went on The Funnest Date Ever.  Actually, it was the birthday present he gave me - a cooking class.   And I knew it wasn't that he didn't think I could cook.  He just knows how much I love to learn things hands-on.  He found that The Cooks of Crocus Hill offers the most delectable classes taught by the most amazing local chefs.  We were in heaven.  

The class we attended was all about making sauces.  Our chef, Manfred Krug demonstrated how to make the most delicious Vinaigrette and Caesar Dressings.  We then got to indulge by eating a salad smothered in this deliciousness.  Then the chef broke us into groups and assigned us different sauces to make that he provided the recipes for.  The chefs held our hands through the whole process.  I could use this type of help every night at dinner time.   We made a b├ęchamel sauce, a caramel rum sauce, pan gravy, a red sauce and a pesto.  

And best of all, we got to taste the fruit of our labors at the end of class.  I have not had this much fun in a long time.  Too bad these classes aren't free or I would be there every week.  Let's hope this cooking class brings my home fare up a notch.  At least I know how to make homemade mac-n-cheese sauce now (without using velveeta).  And you know we're going to be having Caesar salad with homemade dressing every night now.

Feb 4, 2015

Date Day

2/04/2015 — cori
I only used to think I was busy when the kids were little.  That was before they hit adolescence and I was schooled in what busy truly means.  I had no idea life could get any more hectic than what we were already experiencing.  Boy, was I wrong.

The crazy thing is, we make a concerted effort to keep our lives free of too much clutter - too much stuff.  We avoid overbooking our schedule.  We only allow the kids 1 after school activity each.  We are purposeful about our time together.  We consciously and considerately check the calendar before we commit to anything.  And even after all this....we still end up busy almost every night of the week running a mini taxi service to and from activities.

I am super thankful we have the means and the kids have the opportunities they do.  I wouldn't want to deny them these activities that enrich their lives.  But I also want the kids to know that even though we are bound by all these activity commitments, they don't rule our lives.  We actually plan for 'down time'.  We allot time for rest, reading, hanging out, contemplation.  When you don't take time to recharge you can't enjoy the benefits of the things you enjoy doing.

In steps Gavin and Mom's Date Day.  We have been going on dates for years.  But lately, I needed to go on a date with Gavin.  I just never see him.  He's always at school or Mock Trial events or in his room studying for all his AP courses.  I had to make a concerted effort to show him that even though he's 16 now, I still love hanging out with him, talking with him, doing things he enjoys and listening to his thoughts and dreams.

We started this lovely day out by rock climbing.  If that doesn't say I love you, then I don't know what else will. Our local REI has a special rock climbing area called: The Pinnacle.  

This is Gavin starting out...he's a natural rock climber. He has no fear.  It comes very easy to him.  He shimmies up face of the out-cropping like all he's doing is climbing a ladder. If I sound jealous, I'm not.  I don't like climbing ladders.

And here's Spiderman near the pinnacle much higher off the ground than I will ever be when not in an airplane or an elevator.

And here I am after receiving sound climbing advice from the stranger who has committed to keeping me alive with these tiny ropes should I slip and fall on my endeavor.  Confidence is written all over my face.  All I have to do is follow the rules.  Easy enough.

At this point I begin wondering how soon is too soon to come down.  You can't tell that of course because of my expert form, but I'm freaking out and I'm not yet 3 feet off the ground.

At this point I'm thinking I'm high enough to look like I'm having fun and call it quits without looking like a scardy cat. The problem lies in the fact that both of my feet are cramped - unusable.  And so are my hands.  They are stuck in a permanent "hold the wall for dear life" position.  So, I'm trying to velcro myself to the side, unsuccessfully.

I made it half-way up and managed to not embarrass Gavin.  Success!  He even said he was proud of me.  That's because I didn't cry, whine or scream.  I do what I can to impress my son.

From this place of limitless exhilaration we found ourselves headed to the movies.  Gavin was our chauffeur for the day, even driving the highways.  We chose to see The Imitation Game which was superbly done and gave us plenty of conversation fodder for our late lunch.

Here we are, the only people in the theater, taking selfies over and over and over again.  I know teenagers.  This is cool.  This is what you do no matter how much you hate taking your own picture. On half of the pictures, I was the only one in the frame, on the other half, he was.  Some of them were so bad we could see up our noses, other's our faces looked way too large.  The angles and lighting might have been all wrong - but our laughing and time together was all right.

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