A Souvenir of Stars

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This summer we’re exploring our Italian roots via an extended virtual tour. It’s such fun visiting all the places we would visit if we could really visit. Thanks to the wonder of technology, we can experience the landscape of Italy in the comfort of our home.

We’re beginning slow. On Sundays we eat Italian, risotto is a new family favorite that we are trying to perfect. Our touring is geographic and historical and with each click, we wander where our heels lead. Art, music, people, events, we never quite know where the trail will lead. And the great thing about a trip like this is that we can afford to stay as long as we want!

By mid-June we dove into year-one Rosetta Stone. On the 4th of July when we decided to explore the Venetian art of Millefiori, we were daring enough to venture the art of translation. “Millefiori” is Italian for “thousand flowers” by the way. Originally this art form was accomplished with glass and fire. Thankfully, nowadays a millefiori-esque process can be used to make designs with polymer clays. So we pulled out our tub of Fimo and experimented. Using the Millefiori cane technique, we made long tubes with the simple star shape and were delighted by the simple act of slicing star after star until the tube was a transformed to a mass of tiny beads—a souvenir of stars.

– Kim

Metamorphosis of a Baseball

It‘s true. I’m one of those people who do not get sports analogies. So last week, I was tickled when I noticed Søren unraveling a baseball.

The activity began when he found an old ball in the ivy. He tossed the treasure toward the lolling blue sky a few times then snuck into the work shed and emerged a few minutes later with a pocketknife. He deftly skinned the thing and was delighted to discover that its innards were a tightly wound mass of fine thread.

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He spent an hour or so unwinding without an ounce of boredom. When our backyard had been properly spider-webbed, he came to the end of the fine thread and hit a layer of wound cord. He kept at the business of unwinding and was delighted to discover that at the core of the baseball were two wooden hemispheres, “Mom, look…!”

“I never knew.”

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I suggested Søren make something out of the baseball components and went back to my gardening, assuming he would shrug off my suggestion. But soon after that he came to me with his summer baseball sculpture, a non-functional tropical smoothie tumbler.

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Now there’s a sports analogy I can chew on.

– Kim

To Hinder the Skill of Cramming

It’s the same every year. After the rush of December festivities there is that tiny six-day space to reflect upon the year passing and to anticipate the year ahead. In that small space there’s a certain stillness of mind, it’s brief, but wonderfully still and remarkably hopeful.

I’m sure you know the place, the place where we breathe life to resolution.

But here I am, well into January 2012 head spinning, wondering how I missed the respite of that space. Was it the ordinary bustle that craves my attention like the stomach flu? Was it four transitions looming—a daughter entering her final university undergraduate semester, a son preparing to graduate high school, another son preparing to enter high school, and my youngest son moving on to conquer middle school? Was it the back-to-school dash? Lesson Planning? Grocery shopping? Dust? Laundry?

Faster! Faster! Faster! Is this what life is to be?

So even though the six-day window has passed, here it is, for 2012, my resolution is distilled to a single word: Balance.

The potential of the dandelion is inherent to its essence. So it is with our children.

A quality elementary and secondary education provides abundant opportunities for each child to master skills—phonics, grammar, vocabulary, reading comprehension, math facts, grammar, historical and scientific facts, and so on­— that will allow for deeper exploration. But when foundational skills become the central objective of education, we sacrifice the promotion and development of curiosity.

Curiosity is the gateway to the labyrinth of learning.

Education that has no room for curiosity, is not only disheartening, it’s dangerous.

Curiosity and imagination are vital to the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual well being of the child. Stimulating the heart, mind, and soul is essential to a full academic experience.

I firmly believe that educating checklist style promotes the skill of cramming.

Let’s face it. The skill of cramming is central to most academic pursuit.

Continue reading To Hinder the Skill of Cramming

Globed Potential

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What did we do for New Year’s Eve? Movie night. Sure, we belong to Netfiix, but we also have an expansive old-school DVD collection.

I am happy to report that last night old school won, Between the Folds.

If we are being honest most of us hold pretty low expectations for a sheet of paper. Scribble, scribe, crumple, and toss. But this film hyperbolically demonstrates the magnitude of paper’s underutilization. Truth is folding paper taps into paper’s latent potential. Work a single fold and the sheet of paper, and voila, the sheet of paper will never be the same.

This film takes us to the intersection of math and science and art and invites us to linger.

When I shared this film with my science workshop last spring, I wrote a ridiculously complex equation for a hyperbolic paraboloid on the board.

Next I handed out large pre-cut squares of paper and told the students to do the math. They were to fold a single hyperbolic parabola. Well into the folding with the room quiet except for paper crinkling mathematically I reminded them to consider their own endowed potential, “Think about it, even paper has hidden potential that is realized with a bit of concentrated effort. Is your potential worth the work?”

This afternoon, on the very first day of 2012, my oldest son handed me a gift.

As you can see, it looks suspiciously like a Christmas ornament, but it’s not.

Honestly, I am quite sure this is more than art. This is language, inspiration, translation, transposition.

Taylor took everything he gleaned from this film and globed it to haiku.

This is visual poetry at its best.

Watch the film and I think you will see what I mean.

Here’s to more critical creative thinking in 2012!

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas

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“Mom, how many times have you seen A Charlie Brown Christmas?”

I was flooded with memories. Childhood had markers back then, and the Charlie Brown specials were on the top of the list.

“Um… thing is, when I was a little girl Charlie Brown was a treat regulated by television networks. There were no DVD players in the olden days.”

The little exchange triggered my husband to read this article to our family.

It all began 46 years ago, and they say Charlie Brown is here to stay.

Tidings of joy!

The Spider That Did Not Skip a Beat

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At the end of back-to-school week #3 I was exhausted and, frankly, a bit discouraged.

The tower of blocks was skewed and teetering: Three sons and a daughter on top of Laundry with a capital L on top of an empty refrigerator on top of a rat in my garden on top of dusting on top lesson plans on top of a sore throat and a stuffy nose.

So early Saturday morning, I made a cup of tea and called my friend Shirean who has three grown children, only one left in the nest. I was sure she would have an offering of remedy words.

You know the call…”I’m so tired… I can’t…!”

Shirean patiently nodded across the miles,” I have been there,” while gently prompting me to scoop myself out of wallowville.

All the while, sipping tea, breathing in a healthy dose of fall fresh air, I pondered a spider on her intricately woven web basking in ray of morning sunshine. Just as my telephone conversation was nearing the end, the tiniest breath of breeze destroyed the web. I still marvel at the spider’s response. Instantly she dropped on a long silky thread and began the climb to weft and warp anew.

What’s a spider to do?

Perspective.

– Kim

Our City Garden

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Tomatoes I’ve been watching our garden grow. The boys have learned so much about attention as they tend this living and growing thing. When little green tomatoes appeared they beamed with satisfaction. And when it was time for the first harvest (which was sizable for these city dwellers) I could not get them to stand still for the photo!

Since the garden was also abloom with basil and zucchini, we decided to make our first meal, Italian-esque. We can dream Tuscany, right?

We set a pot on the stove and waited for the water to boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, we chopped tomatoes and basil and sauteed them in olive oil and a pinch or two of salt. We let the harvest settle into flame just long enough to wilt the vegetables. Then we put the chunky goodness into our food mill and cranked until the base for our sauce emerged.

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Spinn We poured the tomato basil puree into a sauce pan, reduced it slightly, and added some cream. We served this over our pasta with grilled slices of homegrown zucchini on the side.

Trust me, this was a first for our family.

Seed. Earth. Water. Sun.

Galvanized trash containers and a front yard planter converted to a vegetable garden.

My boys are still amazed.

– Kim

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Da Vinci Summer II: Spontaneity

Sir Ken Robinson has all sorts of ideas about creativity:

“You can be imaginative all day long and never do anything.”

“To be creative you have to do something.”

He defines imagination as, “…the process of having original ideas that have value.”

Creativity is is the work of bringing an imagination to shape.

Perfectionism and procrastination have the power to silence an idea by simply stopping imagination in its tracks. I’ve seen it happen over and over and over again. So has Sir Ken:

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”

As a mom and educator, I design opportunities for creativity to occur on a daily basis. Other times—and I am thankful for these moments—spontaneity does the work for me.

Last week my two youngest sons, Liam and Søren, spent the day at the office with Uncle Brian who gave them a challenge: Make something.

He provided:
• Gaffer’s Tape
• Bubble Wrap
• Zip Ties

And they spent the next couple hours creating.

They marched into the house that evening beaming with pride in their accomplishment.

Thanks Uncle Brian.

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PS I couldn’t help but notice some whispering of you-know-who in their creations!

Grabbing at Weeds

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There simply is not enough time. I panic and move faster through another day, tackling the stacks set before me.

This time every year I get the itch to plant a garden, but, “…there are children to care for, grades to issue, dishes to wash and clothes to fold, dinner, emails, phone calls…”

This past weekend Sara taught me to dig for sunshine, to be warmed by dirt.

Just as my dear country mouse (I am admittedly jealous) was about to get into her little car and escape this city, she looked at me with that gleam in her eye and said, “Let’s do it…”

The next thing I knew I was in the garden furiously dumping ancient dirt from garden containers. Topsy turvey.

We moved on to tackle weeds that sprung up around the edges of the fence where we would be moving the containers so that afternoon sun will tempt vines to crawl up twine and drip with snap peas. But the problem was, fun as this moment was, as much as I wanted to be in the garden, especially with my friend, checklists were flashing in my mind.

I was grabbing at weeds hand over fist when I came to a plant that was flowering—yellow blossom—I paused, “Pretty.” I was mesmerized until I remembered it was a weed that would that would turn to thistle and stick to my socks. I yanked it out and noticed that the checklists haunting me disappeared.

So what’s up with that?

– Kim

Pinewood Derby

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Most people agree that pinewood derby cars fall into two classes: those obviously made by kids and those obviously made by parents. A few years ago two of my sons built winning cars that fell into the kid made category but were viewed suspiciously because they won. Liam, too young to be officially eligible for a ribbon, built The Stealth, a car that beat every officially participating car.

Their dad showed them what to do but made them do the work. He passed his expertise to his sons and showed them how to implement everything from axle polishing to weight placement to wheel alignment. He gave them the knowledge and skill but required them to do the work with their own hands. This is a dad who mentored his sons and believed they could succeed.

In the end, the pinewood derby reminds me that I’ve observed three classes of teachers: those who don’t bother because they do not think their students can succeed, those who do it themselves because they do not think their students can succeed, and those who truly mentor, passing on the knowledge and skill necessary because they believe their students can succeed.

Passing on knowledge is a noble purpose, believing in a child’s potential, well that is revolutionary.

– Kim