Friday, June 29, 2012

Competing with Aidyn's Friends

As you've probably noticed, all two of my readers, I haven't been posting anything about our current unit: California. I've wanted very badly to post pictures and type a fabulous report of All Things Learned.

The truth is, we've done very little learnin' about our home state because...

I'm competing with Aidyn's friends for his time and attention. I never win.

Come 10am, a high-pitched call comes from upstairs, like some strange Juliet from the window sill. And Aidyn, no matter his intrigue in a story or conversation, dashes off, his eyes big as quarters, to swoop upon our back fence and answer the call.

They then proceed to play from 10am until we drag him in at 8pm.

Sometimes he doesn't even wake up until 9:55am, and this happens as he's got his mouth full of toothpaste over the sink.

Yesterday I was victorious for sneaking in a reading of Nine For California by Sonia Levitin,

an adorable and rambunctious story about a mother and her five kids traveling from Missouri to California over the course of 21 days. He loved it, so long as I provided wacky voices and those...delayed.....moments....of ......(gasp!) anticipation at-oh-my-god-what's-going-to-happen!

I also managed to kick his friends out of the house (lovingly) to take Aidyn to see a clown at the library. When I told him to get his shoes on, one of his friends looked me square in the eye and said "Aidyn actually doesn't even laugh at clowns."

Oh, really, girl-that-Aidyn-just-met-two-months-ago?

See what I mean. Competition.

I also lucked out once when Aidyn came squinting out of bed at five in the morning. We cuddled and watched The Crocodile Hunter and eventually an episode of Reading Rainbow in which they read Humphrey the Lost Whale
I am glad that Aidyn has these pals and this summertime freedom with them.

He's learning a lot about getting along with multi-aged children, sharing, not being such a bossy pants, and gauging whether something should be reported to an adult or handled independently.

He's learned that sometimes friends aren't careful with your stuff and things get broken, sometimes stolen. He's learned that other kids ride bikes sans training wheels, and he's determined to fit in. He's learning to socialize (pffft, outside of school, aka "the real world." How is that possible?).


Thursday, June 28, 2012

10 Things To Do in the Central Valley for under 10 Bucks

1. Visit a California State Park.

It's only a fistful of dollar bills to get in (around $8) and you can spend the whole day exploring, wading in a river, making mud pies, feeling the cool forest breeze, having a picnic, playing Pooh Sticks, and enjoying family time. There are some quaint ones, like Caswell in Ripon, or more adventurous ones like the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, where we once were within a few feet of majestic deer and does.

2. Attend a library program. Today there will be a clown in Lathrop, a magician in Stockton and Ripon and even Cake Pop Decorating class in Tracy! Plus, it's all free, free, free.

3. Splash around in a fountain.
Stockton has a nice interactive water feature with picnic tables nearby. Manteca also has a lovely one near the library (also with picnic tables) that we splashed around in yesterday.

4. Visit the Haggin Museum in Stockton. It's cheap, educational, and there's a huge park to play in afterwards.

5. Escape to Pixie Woods in Stockton and ride a vintage merry-go-round or locomotive.

6. Go to FairyTale Town in Sacramento and step inside the world of nursery rhymes and fairy tales, visit Pooh Corner or King Arthur's Castle, or

meet Clifford! I hear there's a puppet show today for only $2.

7. Take the kids to the movies FOR A DOLLAR. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, certain theatres will show kid-friendly films for a one-dollar-ticket-price! That's pretty killer.

8. Have a picnic at your local park. Bring a basket of goodies, find some shade, and watch your kids play. Better yet, get out there, play with them and run with them when the ice cream truck comes calling.

9. Host a water balloon fight.

Supplies are cheap. You can get 200 water balloons from Rite Aid for a couple bucks. Fill a bucket or two full of water balloons, and let the kids go crazy. It's a simple joy of summer.

10. Boldly go to Baskin-Robbins and have ice cream for dinner. Enjoy a banana split or a hot fudge sundae, or some random assortment of ice cream flavors scooped into a waffle cone.

2. Grand openings

Most people hate spending more than two minutes in line at the grocery store, even with the cover of National Enquirer alerting you to the birth of a vampire-bat-man, for your reading pleasure.

But, most people will sacrifice hours upon hours of time and buckets of endorphins at a grand opening.

Whether it's the new Harry Potter movie or a shot to purchase the new Apple iPad, crowds will form and people are more than willing to standing THAT CLOSE to random people for the next few hours.

Why is that?

Is it the rush of excitement,

the anticipation that built up over the course of waiting for whatever-it-is to open or come out,

the joy of seeing something brand new,

the reunion to that which you love,

or something else entirely?

I once stood in the hot, June sun for four hours to ride the new Star Tours ride at Disneyland. At the end of waiting, I felt like I really knew the people I stood behind for hours. Like we should exchange numbers or something.

But I did it, and would do it all over again, because the excitement and anticipation of experiencing this new, amazing thing felt so wonderful. Ah, this is what life is all about.

How spectacular it is that we have these things to look forward to, to brighten our lives, to give us that titilating glee over something so simple.

What have you waited for? What was worth hours in line to experience? Why on earth do you wait for a grand opening?

image above from

Sunday, June 24, 2012

How to Make a Trip to Disneyland a Learning Opportunity

It's true: children learn when they are having fun. Memories crystallize where excitement pervades.

Taking a trip to Disneyland is a good opportunity to learn about out-of-the-box subjects that might not be covered in school or everyday life. With a trip of our own planned in October, we have been gently learning about a wide array of Disneyland-related studies. This is our second go-around with Disneyland-themed unit studies so below you will find suggestions and resources for preschoolers and young children.

Aidyn, at 3, with his 'mars cake' for Tomorrowland

The easy way:

Say your trip is coming up in, oh, five months. Start by making a list of all the "lands" and major attractions of the park (or, heck, just use mine).

Main Street U.S.A
Critter Country
New Orleans Square
California Adventure
Hollywood Pictures Backlot
A Bug's Land
Paradise Pier
Car's Land
Golden State

Then, pick the ones you want to "cover," maybe one per month or one per week. Some seem "boring" like New Orleans Square, but that unit could cover pirates, pirate life, ghosts, and haunted mansions!

Once you have your lands picked out, it's time to Round Up.

image from

Search your personal and local library for books related to the land. Balance your selection between fun stories, non-fiction reads, films, and music. Jot down ideas for crafts and snack items related to your subject. Search online for any field trips that would enhance your learning adventure.

Here's what I do:

image from

Say I pick New Orleans Square. I make a list of topics I can cover in that land:

Creole culture
Jazz music

Then I might head over to Homeschool Share, which has a ton of resources for all sorts of books. Just type "pirates" and you could be led to:

a suggestion to read Tough Boris [Hardcover] by Mem Fox
worksheets about pirate garb
go-along book suggestions
pirate craft ideas

Essentially, your time spent "in New Orleans" could consist of hearing a few pirate stories and exchanging "Arrrrr!"s, cuddling up with some ghost stories at night, learning about pirate garb and maybe making some of your own, hearing jazz music filter through your home, sampling some Louisiana-style gumbo, and drawing elaborate pirate ships.

Not only are those activities fun, but they engage us in learning. Maybe it's during a reading of Tough Boris that your child learns that even "tough" guys cry sometimes; perhaps it's while hearing jazz music blaring that your child becomes fascinated with a trumpet, demanding their own to play.

Another bonus: when you actually get to Disneyland and stroll past the Jambalaya Jazz Band, it's familiar. When pirates are singing Yo-Ho-Yo-Ho, a pirate's life fer me!, your child understands that spirit. When you sit down for lunch at the French Market, your child begs for a try of that jambalaya.

Also, it's fun.

Creating unit studies like this works for families with children of all ages. Younger children enjoy the stories, crafts, and music. Older children (who still do enjoy the stories, even if they won't readily admit it) can go one step further. They could create costumes to fit the unit: pirate garb for NOS, armor or a dress for Fantasyland, a space suit for Tomorrowland, etc. They could read chapter books related to the subject, learn to cook a special meal, and draw elaborate pictures.

What's nice is that all you need is a subject, a "land," and you can find practically anything to help bring it to life. You can take your child's lead and let them develop ideas:

You: "We are going to learn about Fantasyland. What do you want to learn  about that is in Fantasyland?"
Child: "...castles! and fairies! are fairies real? are castles real? can we go in the castle?"

For more ideas on building a unit study on a particular land, send me a message, and I'd be happy to hand out ideas.

Friday, June 22, 2012

1 of 100 Amazing Things

This is the first post of 100 which will feature blips about 100 amazing things in life. Little moments, tiny sparks, and passing flights of pleasure in ordinary life. Things we might not see, see but not appreciate, appreciate but forget to share.

1. A forgotten blast from the past

You go on about your life, day in and day out. Nothing exists but the present, the ever-moving pull toward the unknown future. Bits and pieces of childhood memory cloak themselves in the dark recesses of your mind, forgotten and buried.


Something sparks your memory. You might see an old commercial or hear a song or stumble upon some clip from Youtube, and bam! A little light in some forgotten  memory bank blinks off.

That feeling where your present self reunites with some faded memory is magical. I can't describe it any other way.

Yesterday I found an unopened Chutes and Ladders game from 1979. Playing it with my son, I reeled back in time to a seven-year-old version of me who played that game with delight. I suddenly remembered the little video that accompanied the game and searched YouTube to find it.

This cartoon probably means nothing to you, but seeing it again was like opening this tiny, drawer in the dusty corner of my brain and extracting a beloved artifact.

The first time I found YouTube with a friend, we searched old cartoons and 80s commercials with a flurry. So many cartoons, clips, songs, and ordinary commercials just propelled  me back to my childhood. Like yesterday's find, I still happen upon some items (toys, cartoons, and such) that jolt me back to some of the most pleasant memories I have.

Now, after having spent many random nights up late searching YouTube and plucking old VHS tapes from thrift stores, I feel like there's nothing left for me to rediscover.

But then it happens.

I found an old Manx Mouse video at a thrift store, only it was the wrong video inside. That's still out there.

I know I've found the MAJOR ones, but the little ones are still out there. I might run into an old doll I used to own, or I might find a forgotten book or rare cartoon (like that time I found The Dragon That Wasn't (or Was He?) ). When those moments happen, it's pure bliss.

What have you found or rediscovered?

What is still out there (a random toy? I had a superhero banana-man that I've never tracked down) for you to find? What does it feel like to find it?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hunts and Ventriloquists and Zombies, oh my!

Happy Summer Solstice!

Man, yesterday felt like the longest day of the year!

For some reason, Aidyn was up bright and early at 6am (the kid usually snoozes until 9 or 10), sweetly demanding some "cuddles and reading." We got comfy on the couch and read about three chapters of Calling All Creeps.

image from

Afterward, we watched an episode of Reading Rainbow, in which they tour a bowling alley, read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, show a bowling ball factory, and interview a domino-enthusiast.

And since it was summer solstice, I figured I had to do something summery.

First, I showed him the position of the earth and sun, using our globe and handy dandy lamp. We even looked at some pictures of an analemma.

image from

Once the neighborhood kids burst through my door, I printed out some Summer Scavenger Hunt Lists that I found through The Handbook of Nature Study blog and had the kids ask their mother if they could join us. We searched for all sorts of summery things: a ladybug, butterfly, bee, something red, something pink, a weed taller than them and listened for a chirping bird, a buzzing bee, and wind rustling the grass.

We found and sniffed wildflowers, pointed out the distant peaks of Mt. Diablo, and happily checked items off our lists.

After the scavenger hunt, they piled back in my home and drew something they saw/found outside. Aidyn drew a "baby pine cone" while his friends drew butterflies.

Then they played a game of memory, watched Beauty and the Beast,  and played indoor tag (Ooo, my favorite!).

Later in the day, Aidyn and I headed over to the library to pick up his Duffy bear, who participated in the Great Stuffed Animal Sleepover at the library. Pictures were posted all around of Duffy and his new stuffed friends having a blast on the bookshelves, at the computers, and lounging in the teen center. After he read six books, it was also time for Aidyn to pick up his halfway prize, which was a book bag, a little stuffed bear, and a coupon for a free sandwich.

THEN, we watched the Steve Chaney and Cornelius Crow Ventriloquist show, and the man was HILARIOUS. Loved it.

image from

At this point, it felt like two days had passed by, but Aidyn found enough energy to play outdoors with all the neighborhood kids and put on a play about zombies.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

California, Here We Come!

Disneyland in October is approaching quickly as we hop, skip, and jump through these Disneyland-related unit studies. Our next stop is to  focus on the California Adventure Park as a whole.

Lucky for us, we live in California so hands-on experiences abound!

The goal for this unit is:

  1.  to hear California-related stories like Nine for California and Humphrey the Lost Whale ( I STILL remember when the author, Richard Hall, visited our dinky little school in French Camp).
  2.  to learn a little bit about the Gold Rush, the landscape, the agriculture, and the earthquake-prone geography.
  3. to learn the state facts-- bird, flag, flower, etc.
  4. to understand the spirit of our home state
Also I have these wild dreams hopes of possibly:

  • driving on Highway 1
  • crossing the Golden Gate Bridge
  • taking some California history-related field trips
  • do a bunch of activities that SCREAM "California" like dance to Beach Boy music and see a celebrity (pfff!)

Goodbye, Adventureland!

Exiting Adventureland always makes me just a little sad. I mean, the area is filled with the sounds and sights of exotic landscapes: the squawking tropical birds, the African drums, the tiki posts, and viney trees.

For the last three weeks, we've swung through the spirit of Adventureland. Some experiences we had:

  • Aidyn and his dad watched The Lion King and identified what animals live in the savanna, using a self-made scavenger hunt list. (If you'd like a copy, let me know, and I can email it)

  • We read So You Want to Be an Explorer? while cuddled in Aidyn's tent.
  • We hosted an alphabet scavenger hunt for Aidyn and the neighborhood kids, in which they searched for items outside that began with each letter of the alphabet.

  • Aidyn and I cuddled up and watched An American Tail and Googled the answers to his questions about why they were leaving Russia and why the the Statue of Liberty has since turned green.

  • Not long after, we watched Fievel Goes West and talked about the western frontier and why people chose to move west.

  • We saw a magic show.

  • We read a handful of rainforest books like Way Up High in a Tall Green Tree, My Brother Needs a Boa, and The Great Kapok Tree. Afterward, we watched an episode of Reading Rainbow, in which they read The Salamander Room and explore the rainforest habitat.

  • We played with animal cards, separating the jungle animals from the savanna animals. We also hung up some pictures of a tapir, a toucan, a tree frog, and other rainforest creatures.

  • To better appreciate the resources of the rainforest, I whipped up a Rainforest Fruit Salad consisting of pineapple, mango, oranges, and red bananas. I scooped out a pineapple and served the salad inside. We also nibbled on some 86% cacao chocolate squares.

  • We attended Uncle Jer's Bee Show and learned all about bees, honey, worker bees and their jobs, and the health benefits of honey. We also peeked at two hives and identified the queen bee.

  • We watched Fern Gully, gently talking about the destruction of rainforests, and Disney's  Jungle Book, pointing out where the jungles of India are on the globe.

  • We went on our own little adventure, hiking up Mt. Diablo, exploring the flora and fauna of our own region of the world.
Other Things We Did These Past Few Weeks That Has Nothing (?) to Do with Adventureland:

  • had a major water balloon war fight
  • had a fingerpainting session at the kitchen table with the neighbors
  • read from Calling All Creeps  by R.L. Stine
  • played M&M Math
  • danced to kids' songs with his friends
  • watched a Reading Rainbow episode in which they read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and learned about chain reactions, the production of bowling balls, and dominoes
And now....

we are moving OUT of this Adventureland and into California Adventures.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Trekking up Mt. Diablo

I have this vivid memory...

I'm 15. Riding my bike on some back country road, and the sun is setting. To my right is a field, an expansive field with bunches and bunches of wild bushes lining the next quarter-mile home. On the horizon are the purple peaks of Mt. Diablo, and as I ride back, dozens of butterflies startle out of the bushes and fly all around me.

Every time I spy the western horizon, I catch a glimpse of Mt. Diablo and remember that quiet little memory. Sometimes when I look at it, I remember how we took Aidyn "hiking" when he was only four months old. Now I can look at it with even more memories.

For Father's Day, we trekked to Mt. Diablo with a now 6- (and a half, I might add!) year-old. Before heading out, we filled our tummies at Red Robin's.


I took a few "before" photos. You know, just in case we turned up missing and all they found was our camera.

Then, we were ready to rock 'n' roll. We immediately took the Summit Trail, wanting to get a good view of the state surrounding us.

Up, up, up...

Stopping to take in the view (and a good breath or two!)

When we reached the summit, we climbed up to an observation deck with all around views of the area.

Aidyn, getting a peak at the Central Valley.

Checking out the much-more-interesting Bay Area.

After our view from the top, we decided to slink along some more trails. We quickly found the Mary Bowerman Trail, dedicated to the botanist as an educational trail to "discover how nature has created and altered this peak that is part of our landscape," so says the trail map.

The Mary Bowerman Trail was essentially a loop trail crowning the southern peak of Mt. Diablo. Along the trail were 14 stop points, and the trail map enlightened us to a particular geologic feature, flora, and/or fauna.

Here's Aidyn on the northern side of the southern peak. Yeah. Basically we were standing "in between" the two peaks facing the northern one. On our left was the Bay Area, with its waterways, and cities speckled everywhere. To the right was the Central Valley (where we live), with its flat, flat terrain that goes on for miles and miles and miles and offers next to nothing exciting to look at.

Kidding. It was pretty neat telling Aidyn that we live in that direction and that anyone over there can clearly see these mountain peaks.

  Along the trail, we learned to identify:

  • poison oak (right after we found that Aidyn was standing in it. The thrill of ohmygodyou'restandinginpoisonoak! helps education to sink in, right?)
  • greenstone
  • graywacke (and the accompanying quartz)
  • chert
  • oak trees
  • chapparal
  • a monolith
  • wild oats
  • foxtails (Pffft, like those aren't common where we live)
  • a sagebrush lizard
  • juniper
  • yerba santa, and
  • chamise

Aidyn and I amongst a sea of chert. That's right, we learned what chert is. Before yesterday, I wasn't even aware that it was a word.

Then we came across a monolith made completely of chert, and Aidyn couldn't resist climbing it. It's such a fine line between protecting your children and encouraging them to embrace risks and challenge them to face fears.

I did the in-between tactic. Encouraged him to (carefully!) climb the rock whilst biting my lip, cringing, and telling David to "Ohmygod, make sure he doesn't fall, but don't let him know you're a guard rail."


It still makes me cringe.

Aidyn taught me later how to better climb these rugged peaks. By this time, he had confidently accepted my goading (heh) that he was typical mountain-climbing Capricorn-goat.

At the end of our hike, we met a small group of straggling hikers who said that had been on the trails since 6am. The four we met were exhausted and had another ten-hour hike back down the entire mountain. The other half of their team had lagged behind and were still out there. We eventually drove them out and to their cars so that they could pick up the rest of their party.

On the way, Aidyn decided to chum it up and tell these two guys his whole. life. story. The poor guys had been through enough, but they politely listened to Aidyn and his tales.

Overall, it was both a fun and educational hike so double score for us.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

But Don't Take MY Word for It

Butterfly in the sky...I can go twice as high...

Take a look. It's in a book. It's Reading Rainbooow.

Okay, sorry.

I took a trip down Nostalgia Lane, feeling like LeVar Burton was an old-time pal o' mine. Watching Reading Rainbow is a first for Aidyn though, and I found a fitting one for our current unit study.

image from

LeVar taught us all about the rainforest biome and the specialized habitat that rainforest animals and plants need. We then listened to The Salamander Room, a FIAR classic. Aidyn squeed with delight when one of the book reviewers at the end recommended The Great Kapok Tree, one of our favorite RF books.

If you're feeling particularly nostalgic or want to learn more about the rainforest, watch this episode.

Afterwards, we played rainforest games here. We learned about the layers of the forest: emergent, canopy, understory, and forest floor. The task was to assign different plants and animals in the correct layer.

Then we tracked the process of banana and chocolate manufacturing, respectively. Purty neat.

And THEN, even though it has nothing to do with Adventureland...

we went and saw a bee show at our local library. But it was so fun and informational! Made me want to raid a honey hive and suck honey through their hexagonal cells, but that would be impolite. We did, however, leave with some yummy blackberry honey samples, some honey sticks, and an activity book to color.

image from

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Call of the Wild Rainforest

Apparently, the internet is teeming with resources about the rainforest. There are so many directions to go, vines on which to swing, and giant Amazon lily pads to jump off that we're just going to dive right in and see what happens.

I've plucked a number of rainforesty books from our local library including:

image from

Search "The Great Kapok Tree" itself and you'll find tons of go-along lesson plans, like the one at Homeschool Share.

We also picked up a fun video about rainforest animals, plus I have some cartoon movie back-ups in case I get desperate:

  1. Fern Gully
  2. Rio
My mind is going blank. Can anyone think of any more?

My plan for today is to go grocery shopping in the rainforest (insert dramatic music).

Okay, not really. But we are going to take a list of foods (mostly fruits) naturally found in the rainforests and make a Rainforest Fruit Salad when we get back home. I constructed my list with the help of this site.

I've also read other blogs where daring parents replicate the rainforest biome using moist foods like buttered bread, celery, along with ground-up Oreos. Yum indeed.

We'll swing from that vine when we get to it, I suppose.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Feed Your Face

So I cannot afford the high-end wrinkle-reducing comes-in-the-tiniest-container-ever-made face cream or the cancer that might possibly go with it. I must improvise.

By improvise, I mean using stuff from my kitchen that will go to waste if I don't find some use for it now!

Whenever that happens, I make an avocado conconction. Basically, I mash up one whole avocado until it is a bowlful of creamy goodness. Depending on my mood (or the availability of resources), I add one or more of the following:

  • a drizzle of honey
  • a spoonful of olive oil
  • a pinch of sugar (for exfoliation)
  • warm water
  • a squirt of lemon juice
  • egg yolk, or
  • half a banana that is quickly ripening to the point of no return
After opening my pores with a couple splashes of warm water, I slather the gunk all over my face.

Education, then, comes in at least two forms:

  1. Chasing Aidyn around the house as a zombie, thereby teaching him about special effects make-up and acting.
     2. Answering his question, "why are you doing that?" as he's covering his mouth in absolute disgust, with "avocadoes have vitamins in them, which are good for your skin. Vitamins like E, A, K...Ya know, you don't only get yer vitamins from eating them."

I apologize that no picture with accompany this post. Use your imagination (or try it yourself!).

How Do Ya Bubble in Riding Bikes and Scaling Fences on This Here Standardized Test?

Anyone who has decided to homeschool has, as a result, tormented themselves with weighing the pros and cons, scouring books upon books on the subject, confessing to  friends and family, and bashing themselves over the head just wishing they could prognosticate the outcome.

It wasn't an overnight whim, in other words.

After prechool-homeschooling Aidyn, we sent him to public school kindergarten (mostly because I was full-time at my uni and working), but we kept a running dialogue about returning to homeschooling.

Ever since deciding (as in not signing him up for first grade at his previous school and instead enlisting at a home-based charter school), I've let some outside concerns trickle in.

The most common is what about socialization?

He did build a good circle of six-year-old pals there, and I worried about whether he'd be exposed to as many social situations.

But, as I've been worrying, he has spent his time (on most days from about noon  until we force him inside  to 8 o'clock) playing with the neighborhood kids, riding bikes and scooters, winding toy trains through self-paved dirt paths, "playing school" with the two little girls that frequent the area, having dance-offs, and bursting in the house every other hour for help solving a social gaffe.

And I feel silly.

Even the other day at work, someone asked about the ins and outs of this here charter school and the field trips they organize.

This coworker offered, "Well, at least he can socialize with other kids once in a while."


I think I've taught more social ettiquette in these few weeks of summer break than ever before, but it's a slippery slope. I don't want to be the orge of social reform. I want Aidyn to learn to handle squabbles and cooperative play on his own.

Around 4pm on many days, I see the abandoned chapter books on our coffee table and debate whether or not to call Aidyn in to read.

(As an aside, no one ever says, but what about ed-u-CA-tion?)

But I realize that, through play, he is learning so many things that I cannot quantify, measure, or bubble in on a standardized test. Through the course of these summer days, I see him learning about friendship, building common bonds, the development of physical skills (like scaling the fence and giving his mother a heart attach. I'm better now), negotiation, and delving into a land of make-believe.

I've also learned that, most importantly, I need to just chill out.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Magic Dan and Dreaming Big

Yesterday, Aidyn and I visited our local library to see Magic Dan. As he does every year, Magic Dan wowed the crowd with his magic tricks and fast-paced punchlines. I saw delight in Aidyn's eyes as Magic Dan pulled a six-foot wand from his tiny, tiny hat. But what I most loved about Magic Dan's performance was his ability to encourage every child to wave their little magic wand-fingers and say, "I am special."

The theme of his show and the library's reading program this summer is Dream Big.

The freedom of summer and the theme of dreaming big is pervasive in homeschooling. In the summer, children spend much of their time outdoors, playing with the neighborhood children (who are all ages and come from many backgrounds), discovering ladybugs and other fauna, cracking open random books they found on a shelf, walking through the library aisles, and coming up with inventive ways to spend their time. Homeschoolers gravitate toward this same attitude all year round. We use the world to school our children because we have big dreams for them. We want more than imprisonment in a brick-and-mortar building, seated at desks, and learning what will be most useful for passing a state standardized test.


We want them to trust their curiosities and follow them. Experiment with the world. Notice the intricacies of the planet with awe and wonderment. Go ahead and squish your hands into the mud so long as you share what it feels like. Follow a single question through books, an internet search, interviews of family members and experts, documentaries, and personal reasoning until you quench that query. We want them to think of learning as all-around-us, hidden in books on our shelves and waiting wide open in the big wide world.


That's why when I hear a naysayer quipping, "but then they're stuck in the house all day with no socialization," I try very hard not to laugh.