10 Things I Miss About Home School: Part Two

Pat the real Hamster in a Littlest Pet Shop creation.
Oh, a quiet morning – just like the old days – and a few minutes to finish writing. I love it! Here’s the top five things I really miss about home school. You can see part one, with the other five things here.
5. No crowds.
Now that I am forced to do things “when school is over”, I envy those of you who  can go out with your kid when no one else is there. You know, daytime. No other kids, no lines, no crowds – the world is your oyster and you don’t have to wait in line to eat it! It made traveling, museums, shopping all such a breeze. Savor it because after 3pm or on the weekend, it’s ugly out there.
4. Having breakfast together.
We did this a lot – I’d pack up her stuff, we’d get a huge booth at one of our local diners and we’d eat, talk and do school work. One of our best lessons was at a Denny’s, with Littlest Pet Shop in tow and I talked about cooperatives – using different Pet Shop toys as creatives, manufacturers, distributors and buyers! Now we shove cereal in our mouths as I rush to make lunch and she packs her backpack!
3. Creating “learning”.
Okay, so it’s kind of an ego boost to come up with a good lesson. And I enjoyed being “clever” – figuring out cool ways to bring ideas to life so Katie could learn things in a new way. I felt so good about it, I even blogged some of the ideas. And I miss that feeling of accomplishment.
Sure I love what I do for work, but this was different. I got to tap my experiences, passions and current events and bring is all together in a way that I hoped would delight and teach my child. Now that she’s back at public school, I am seeing the rewards of my labor and I feel pretty darn good about it.
2. Self-reliance.
Katie is an only child. She’s also an extrovert. Which means she gets energized when there are people around. In fact, she finally started doing a good job cleaning her room when she could have the noise of Hannah Montana on (via iPad and Netflix streaming because she’s not allowed to have a TV in her room). So being home schooled meant she had a lot of time on her own; alone.
At first it was really hard. She was so lonely. But over time, she finally got in a groove and used the quiet time for some amazing creative play (this has always been her strong suit anyway). She created an elaborate cardboard car, including an ignition and a way to wear it around the house. I know it doesn’t sound like much but the scale and detail were spot-on!
I feel like she gained really great coping skills being on her own and they made the summer a dream. I can also see her tapping those skills now as a way to give herself a break from the chaos of middle school.
1. Watching her learn.
Many times during home school, I felt like a voyeur. When your child is “at school” you don’t get to see those “a ha!” moments. The teacher does. And if you are lucky, the will come home and tell you about it. But with home school, you are right there. Part of the mix. It was delicious.
So many times when we were doing a project or on a field trip, I could see Katie putting things together. She’d ask great questions and many times it was while we were driving or in-between things – clearly while her brain had the interstitial time to process. I worry a little that at middle school, with all the changing classes, books, teachers and more, her brain won’t have that kind of time. But I am sure it does, it just will happen later in the day (and I will have to make sure she has a little quiet time for things to actually bake).
I have a half written blog about what I am liking about middle school. There is a lot to like. But this month, I am also going to grieve a little for what we had last year. It was great. Really great. I will treasure it forever.

10 Things I Miss About Home School: Part One

Last year was great. I really did like home school. 
Sure it pushed me to my limits balancing work and teaching, but we had so many great adventures and experiences. With the start of this new school year, I couldn’t help but look back and think about those lovely home school days (top ten, countdown style):
10. Sleep.
Let’s face it. Anyone who home schools knows this is an immediate and enduring benefit. I believe home school kids must be taller because they can sleep to their natural clock and I did too! 
Turns out I have a night owl – which is great for doing things and sucks for getting to bed early for a new day a public school (8am is insane). I miss those days of getting up early, having the house to myself and letting Katie wake naturally and in a good mood.
9. Sick is sick; aka no deadlines.
Katie’s already missed two days of school. ALREADY! She got the crud from being packed like a sardine next to other germ-laden kids. In home school, she did get sick but she didn’t miss class as a result. We just moved things around. So there was no pressure to do make up work and “keep up” with the class. This weekend we are spending the whole “feel better” time catching up on school work.
Which brings me to the deadlines part. I knew life in public school meant deadlines. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I watched Katie learn a ton last year but it didn’t include timed tests, piling on the crap and doing everything at some break-neck pace. I have enough deadlines at work – add school to the mix and maybe this is how mom’s end up drinking their dinners!
8. Not going it alone.
I had a home school parent buddy. It was great. She kept me motivated, had ideas about things the kids could do together, we could bitch to each other when we had a bad school day. Now I don’t have that anymore. Public school doesn’t bring parents together (except for insane fundraisers which should not include the “fun” prefix). Family members also got in the act with home school. I loved the village that jumped in to help Katie learn about things I didn’t know!
7. Field trips.
My forte. Coming up with cool ways to bring social studies, history, even math to life. I loved looking for real world examples and integrating that into the curriculum. From Columbia State Park to the Big Trees to spending the night on the USS Hornet, it was all good. Sure, I can still do it, but now it has to fit into after 3pm on a Friday and home by bedtime on a Sunday night. And include time for homework just  in case! 
My wanderlust is dust.
6. Total flexibility.
Don’t want to do math today? No problem. We’ll get to it. Reading the wrong book. Let’s change it, I want you to read more than I worry about what you are reading (turns out magazines work great for Katie). Love science? Let’s do more of that, and I will throw in some related math and reading and you won’t even know I gotcha! And we can do it today (insert any freaking day)! 
As an entrepreneur, you can only imagine how much I love being creative and home school fed me along with Katie. If I could dream it, I could do it – just about all of it! Home school even tapped the spirits of those around us – my mom, my best friend, Katie’s donor and more – everyone got inspired and had something to share, add or do. And since there was no timetable, our flexibility allowed it to happen.
Come back to read part two. I should have it done shortly, if we can just get through this pile of “out sick” homework. Anyone know how to draw the term “scientific method”? Seriously. Draw it.

Am I Stretching Things too Far? Home School Lessons from Farmville!?!

If you haven’t played Farmville yet, you’ve been warned! Don’t start! It’s totally addicting. 
I initially started playing to learn more about how the folks at Zynga (the company behind the franchise) were so good at being “sticky.” That’s what we call it when an online application does a good job of bringing people back over and over again. Farmville is very sticky – from handing out Valentines to gold for St Patrick’s Day to the promise of dogs – they keep users coming back.
And now, they have sucked in the fifth graders in Santa Cruz County.
Since there’s money involved, I am thinking is a great home school opportunity to talk economics. In Farmville, you earn coins based on behaviors and  the choices you make. In fact, it costs money to make money. This was a hard concept for Katie to grasp.
Katie figured planting crops should be free, but that’s not the case. It cost money to till the soil and buy the seeds. You earn money if you let your crops grow and you can also earn money by helping your neighbors farm (like fertilizing their crops). And different crops earn more or less money based on the amount of time it takes for them to grow (thereby rewarding a little delayed gratification. Watermelons take forever in kid hours – four days – but boy do they pay!).
Experience points are coveted; they ultimately get you ahead.
You earn experience points by doing things like buying animals, building houses, and decorating your farm (all of which cost coins). Katie is all over this. In fact, she’s a very good shopper but was a little slow to learn the overall strategic value to keeping the farm planted, visiting her friend’s farms to work, or building up her bank account.
There is one kind of “money” available in Farmville it is based on cold hard cash. Farmville Cash is purchased with a parent’s credit card and therefore is VERY hard to get in our household. Sure, the people a Zynga games aren’t stupid; the best stuff needs FV Cash.
This makes my daughter crazy.
I agreed to give her a small allowance. I spent $20 on FV Cash and told her that was it. It had to last. Thankfully she understood the limit but I am still paying for the decision because every time she thinks she wants to spend the FV Cash, I have to listen to her weight the pros and cons, vacillating back and forth as she decides if it’s really, really worth it.
The best thing she’s purchased so far was a limited edition (yeah, another way to be sticky), a limited edition geyser that is actually quite impressive. It’s been a month and she still squeals with delight every time the darn thing erupts.
Unfortunately, she still hasn’t really grasped the idea of saving for the really big things. To expand her farm, which would ultimately make more money for her, she has to save a fairly sizeable amount of money. But so far, she just can’t do it. There are too many new things she has to have and so, her farm stays small. Her earning is limited. And I am left of wonder if she’ll ever get tired of Farmville.
Yet I hold out hope she’s learning some lessons…
When I get the chance, we talk about saving. We’ll also review the concept of delayed gratification – I can compare it to our saving for Hawaii slated for 2012. In the meantime, it’s fun to watch her budget, plant, think, and hopefully…strategize!
Now the Fun Part: Haven’t played yet? It’s easy, just a click away on Facebook.
You really, truly don’t have to spend a dime of real money to play. Also, beware the many Farmville offers that come through promising free stuff. They are all bogus aimed at getting your information to sell to marketers.
Important Tip: when you first start playing, post a Status Update warning your friends who don’t want to see Lonely Bulls posted to their FB wall. Anyone can block FV posts with a simple “Hide Farmville” on a FV post. It’s on the upper right of the post and they don’t have to hide you – just the application.
When you play, you  might gain some insight into your friends! Here are a few classic Farmville Archetypes…
The Grouser: They are playing often and tend to post requests for more stuff on their wall (as opposed to sharing things you might want).
The Socialite: Focused on rapid growth, this player will friend anyone to gain critical mass. One of the ways you get ahead is having a lot of friends and socialites are masters. They move up fast because they access to so many farms and so many posts for free things from those friends.
The Collector: There are a lot of transactions in Farmville and almost all of them revolve around “stuff.” Most game players keep some and sell the rest. But there are a few who keep every trinket. Having more stuff requires a large farm and can help you earn money faster.
The Control Freak: This seems to be a trend among the moms who feel relatively unable to control their “real” world so Farmville gives them a chance to act out their hidden desire to have everything in its place. You’ll notice tidy fences around their similarly grouped animals and structure, structure, structure among their crops. Did I mention I have one foot in this camp?
The Designer: The designer is focused on creating an “experience”. This is a farm you would actually want to visit in the real world. My girlfriend has done this so well I think she should charge money to visit her farm. It is a thing of pure beauty. I aspire to design as well as she does!
The Player: Bored quickly with the pace of Farmville, this gamer moves on to other Zynga games (like Yoville!, PetVille and Cafe World) – keeping as many irons in the fire as possible.

Undercover Boss as Homeschool Curriculum – This is good stuff! (Worksheet Included!)

We started watching Undercover Boss with the very first episode. I was intrigued that the CEO of Waste Management was willing to do a “reality’ show and I was interested in learning more about their business. I mean we see their trucks all around us – what made it tick?

Katie went along with me and we watched as he tried on different roles within his company and found both the achievers and the losers (don’t we all know who those people are) and had a chance to get back in touch with the many folks that help drive his stock price and generate all that revenue. I found it fascinating.

As usual, I paused the show frequently (to this day I don’t think Katie has EVER watched a whole show without me pausing it to add comment – poor kid) and pointed out things Katie might not notice – like salary, time clocks, working conditions, attitude, teamwork, etc. Things a young kid wouldn’t know to notice or appreciate. At the end of the damn show, I am in tears (it was so inspiring) and we could hardly wait for the next episode.*

So. How could I make this more of a “learning” opportunity?

And then it hit me. I have a friend who’s father stopped her brilliant plan to drop out of school and wait tables by making her do a spreadsheet. One of those “budgets” to see exactly what it takes to live on a waitress’ salary. She had been up in a comfortable home – didn’t really want for anything – so his plan worked. After learning it wasn’t so comfy living on the edge, she backed down and got focused (she’s eventually got to work with Clinton and Gore so that tells you his efforts weren’t misplaced!).

Let’s do a spreadsheet.

So I built an Excel file and we created five “profiles” that were single, 30 year olds who: had not finished high school; had a high school diploma; some college; graduated college;  and completed grad school.

Based on those profiles, Katie got to pick her job, her housing and what she wanted to spend money on. Some expenses were mandatory – groceries, utilities, rent, taxes and a car – but some were choices and we talked those through. Everything from choosing to buy health insurance to getting a pet to contributing to savings and retirement to donating to a charity. I have loaded a copy of the spreadsheet here if you want to play with it.

It was an eye-opening experience. The immediate effect was she no longer leaves the lights on. All my years of telling her to “get PG&E out of my pocket” never made sense until now. She didn’t realize we paid for a landline phone (in addition to a cell phone) or that the Internet cost money or that she had to pay for health insurance. She didn’t know pets were expensive, that you had to save for a rainy day, that apartment renting required deposits that you might not get back and that taxes were on income, not just sales. Holy cow.

So now, when we watch Undercover Boss, the show takes on an additional meaning. She really understands the opportunities and limitations of jobs. And while she’s always been sure she was going to college, now she really understands why. And the opportunity it creates.

Home School POV: to use the spreadsheet, download it and then clear out the cells starting with housing. Then put your kid to work. Katie used Craigslist to shop for a place to live. We used our existing bills to estimate utilities. We also used the web for car payments. A few I helped her guess. We had a good discussion about charity and when it’s appropriate to take care of yourself first and when to start sharing. Have fun! Tell us how it goes! (Want more? There’s even a blog about the MBA lessons learned from the show.)

Note to TV Producers: Don’t be afraid to create curriculum to go with your television shows! There’s so much more that could be attached to programs like this that would help kids understand more about working, rules, unions, management, education, etc.

*The next episode was on Hooters and I began to get worried. I don’t have a lot of respect for the chain based on their marketing angle. But low and behold, the show actually embraced the controversy and dealt with it. Fascinating and right on!

Henry Cowell State Park: Home School Scavenger Hunt

One year, I took Katie to Henry Cowell the first Sunday of every month and had her take pictures so she could see the seaons change month to month. It was a great exercise and helped her actually see how forests change based on daylight, rain, fog, and more.
This year, since we are officially “home schoolers”, I thought a romp through the park with some friends might be a good time for a nature-based scavenger hunt. I thought it would be easy – surely someone must have created a park-based scavenger hunt before and posted it somewhere. But darn if I could find one! So I had to do it myself.
Using pictures we had from past park visits, I can up with a set of items the kids had to find while we were on our nature walk. It’s funny, Katie is so used to me calling mushrooms fungus, but her friends weren’t used to the term. And I had no idea that finding a tree stump with 100 rings (minimum) would be so hard to find. We found stumps, but they wear in weather and the ability to see the actual rings is lost!
During our walk, we came up on a set of “burns” where inmates from not-sure-where were clearing brush and burning down the debris. It made the forest kind of mystical as the smoke lingered under the cloud cover. It also kind of warmed things up a bit.
The Visitor Center at the park is pretty good considering all the parks in California are completely broke (financially). We ended the hunt there where the kids could see examples of the flora and fauna found in the park and make “passports” with footprints of the local varmints.
We highly recommend Henry Cowell. It’s a great place to swim when it’s hot and explore when it’s cold and rainy. And if you are lucky, you’ll get to see some of their famous Banana Slugs during your visit!
You should be able to download our Scavenger Hunt form here if you want to have a place to start!
Home School POV: bring a camera. I made the kids take pictures of the items so they could look at them some more when we got home. They took all these except the one at the top. You know kids – they LOVE taking pictures!

The Home School Science Fair: The Results are In!

That’s right! We had us a Science Fair and it was great. Despite the hesitation and resistance expressed by the teachers about competition or, wait for it, setting expectations, the kids did great! In fact, it was probably the best event I have attended at our home school!

As you might have read in my last blog, I was pretty frustrated about the lack of preparation for this event. Turns out that attitude extended to the event and child after smiling child brought in their project and we quickly ran out of tables (did we not ask who was participating? seriously?).

All ages participated displaying a delightful range of projects.

Katie’s project was based on our hamster, Pat. She wanted to know if hamsters could learn. She decided to use a maze with a treat at the end and run PatHam through the maze four specific times per day, timing her performance. She did this over four days while making the maze slightly more complex each day.

At first, we thought Pat was a total failure. Her times were all over the place. Sometimes she would randomly find the treat, other times she would dally and get lost and finally find her reward. By the morning of day three, we figured it was going to be a fail.

And then we saw a shift!

On the evening of the third day, she finally seemed to get it! It appeared she knew where she was, she didn’t waste time and she ran to the end of the maze and scored her sunflower seed treats! Wahoo! We were so excited.

On day four, PatHam was a total stud. Even though Katie has made the maze more difficult, it was no barrier. She ran across that granite and hit the seeds in just seconds. All four times! Totally exciting. We found overall, she did better at 5pm and 9pm but kind of sucky at 9am and 7pm. Hamsters are nocturnal and that might have had something to do with it.

Putting the board together was fun and Katie said it reminded her of scrap booking (kind of did). I enjoyed asking her to think through the results and conclusions and getting her to think critically about what she had done. She also did a great job presenting her project to the audience (while holding Pat so everyone could see her research subject!).

There were so many great studies at the fair. Katie’s friends participated too (that’s Sophia – in the back – in the tie-dyed shirt and Jordan facing the camera):

  • Jordan used a test tube to pop corn and evaluate each type against a set of criteria.
  • Sophia tried making cheese with different ingredients (they all failed but made for great photos of the process).
  • Mira did an amazing experiment with different gasses and balloons (some still have not gone down and it’s been more than two weeks – something about compressed air and nitrogen).

With so much enthusiasm, I hope the teachers took notice. The kids were absolutely on it. And they could have easily absorbed some guidance on how to make their projects even better. In fact, kudos to the parents, because nearly every project met the basic criteria. It made the fair fun, interesting and led to lots of good discussion.

The Home School Science Fair: Are You Kidding Me?

I am not writing about the actual Science Fair – I will do that in an upcoming blog. Nope, tonight, this is my bully pulpit. My chance to be heard. Tomorrow, I will get back in line.

Our home school is a program organized by our local school district. While we do our own thing, we have a principal and teachers to whom we report on a regular basis. We have a site where the kids go twice a week for optional instruction – activities, art and generally cool enrichment stuff. I really like the team and it has generally met my expectations. But it is loose. Really loose.

Which brings us to the Science Fair.

Our regular public school never had a Science Fair. This totally bums me out. I have always wanted Katie to participate and if lucky enough, qualify to go to County. But it wasn’t an option. Except this year. Home school is doing a Science Fair! And, as I was told, she could also go on to County! Yippee. We got to work.

I am an idiot.

Turns out, that wasn’t really the case. To go to County, registration was required along with a teacher sponsor – due today. I learned all this during the four day weekend when, yep, you got it, no teachers were available. Not only that, but even the parameters for the school Science Fair were not available. Sure, they had published information – in four different places with different parts of the whole story. I started to boil.

Katie wasn’t going to be in the County Science Fair. It just couldn’t happen that fast. When I finally did get to talk to the teacher leading the effort, she said, “I asked the kids ‘who wanted to do it’ and Katie didn’t raise her hand.” “Nope,” I said, “She didn’t, because she didn’t know what it was and I want her to do it. Maybe you should have asked the parents.” Arg. Loose.

As I started to pursue this, the “loose” factor began to gain momentum. “We don’t really have any requirements for our Science Fair,” I was told. “Sorry you didn’t get the information you need to have Katie go to County, but she probably wouldn’t like it anyway, it’s very competitive.” Um, yeah. That’s exactly what I do want. I hope she goes to college with those kids some day.

It seems, apparently, our home school group is fierecly opposed to competition. Yeah, that which makes so many of us great – make us achieve, work hard, stay motivated – is bad. I can’t even imagine what these folks are thinking. But okay, let go of having a “winner.” What about simply meeting requirements? Parameters? Criteria for evaluation?

Wouldn’t a Science Fair be the first place one might look for rigor?

The answer is no. There is no criteria. No parameters. No essential ingredients to make sure what the kids prepared met some sort of standard. Loose. Loose. Loose.

I think this was a real missed opportunity on the part of the teachers. Katie kept asking what makes a good project. I think the teachers could have helped the kids prepare – conceptually – and looked for those components at the event.

I also regret that home school gets this rap for being a bunch of airy fairy people who are afraid to do the hard stuff. To take chances or risks. I know home school kids kick butt at the National Spelling Bee. And home school kids win a lot of awards at our local County Fair. So why is my group of home school folks so opposed to structure? I have no idea. But I got my ideology handed to me.

So, I let it go. Well, kind of. I managed to piss everyone off for questioning the process. But then I have done that since I was in third grade. The heart of a entreprenuer. One who is competitive.

I still look forward to the Science Fair. I hope Katie has a good time. As for me? I am trying to stay loose.

Do boys and girls play differently? Oh yeah they do!

Today began so simply. Up early, bugged out to breakfast so the housekeeper could kick some butt. Took home school work to do at the IHOP. All good.

Then it started raining. We got home to find the housekeeper freaking because the vacuum nearly caught on fire. And then Josh called: could he come over? Did anyone care that I actually had work to do?

I don’t care what anyone says, there is a difference between how boys play and how girls play. This day is living proof.

By 11:30, mom had stopped by to pronounce the vacuum officially “dead”. Oh yeah, she also needed ant killer. I am nothing if not the woman with everything.

By 12:30, the kids had completely dismantled the vacuum. CSI has nothing on what Josh managed to do to this thing. Plastic flying, wires akimbo; a total mess. The upside is Katie would never have gone after the vacuum in the way Josh did. I consider this dissection home school because they did get to see every stinking part in the machine including the mother board, wiring and the strange little thing that got caught in the motor – the “incapacitator”.

At 1:30 I sent them away to go get lunch. Thankfully the donut shop down the street sells sandwiches and there was a break in the weather so they needed to get out! Unlike some of Katie “girl” friends who aren’t allowed to go anywhere, Josh has more freedom. So off they went.

Apparently it was a great time at the donut shop as they met a veteran who has served as a Marine and they talked to him about the USS Hornet (both Josh and Katie have overnighted there) and they learned about his tour of duty on the USS Colorado. I just a little proud my two urchins were able to have such an informed conversation with the man.

By 2:15, the rain started again and Josh informed me he had powered down a whole Rockstar, “with 80 milligrams of caffeine!” I assured him under no conditions would he ever need an energy drink. Just giving him food was enough to wind him up. The action turned to Legos.

We have had Legos since Katie was tiny. They were deriguer in our house growing up. My mom was convinced Katie would love them. Nope. Never happened. But with Josh on board, they went nuts. Lots of building, fighting, arguing, creating, sorting, breaking, building and it all stayed in a relatively centralized location. Cool.

At 3pm, I could no longer take the noise. I had managed to get through a WebEx or two, pounded out a blog and worked on a presentation. Time to get them out of the house. Off to buy a vacuum (which I did – spent a fortune but it looks like a winner). Good outing – the ran like maniacs around the store and didn’t get in trouble. Whew.

At 4pm, Josh left to go walk his dog (the rain stopped) and Katie’s friend Rose came over. And the energy shifted. From the full-body contact sports of vacuum CSI and Legos to the quiet, contemplative, deliberate stuffy play of Build a Bear. Animals were everywhere with elaborate stories, lots of drama and giggles. Oh thank god, I could get just a little more writing done!

At 6:30pm, the day wound down with dinner – mac and cheese and apples – and lots of girly laughter.

I love Josh. He’s the son I never had. He reminds me so much of my brothers when I was growing up. He’s smart, high energy, a total pain in the butt. And he’s so good for Katie. At one point I was convinced they were going to end up in a big fight (as I also remember from growing up with brothers) but it never happened. I guess they had good talks as the day went on and I am grateful he’s around.

But man oh man, is the energy different!

Life Aboard the USS Hornet: We Lived Like Sailors – Awesome!

Katie and I slept on the USS Hornet!

Holy cow, talk about bringing history to life! It was a fantastic experience – from walking up the gang plank to choosing our bunk to eating in the mess. What a ship.

We arrived in Alameda on Saturday at 4pm. It was a little “Navy” from the start and I explained to Katie that a big part of how things work is the “hurry and wait” routine. We queued outside the ship while we rustled up all the Girl Scout troops that had come to the event. The ship loomed over us but seemed very welcoming – despite its reputation has a haunted ship.

We were assigned to a terrific team of rag-tag Scouts (Katie is a Juliette which is like a home school scout and so we are often freelance at these things). Our leader was funny and easy-going and eventually got us to our sleeping quarters to choose our bunks. We learned the rules quickly (no eating except in the mess, clean-up after yourself at all times, and never, ever run.

After a fire drill, we headed down to dinner. I think I know why they call it a “mess.” There’s a reason sailors are skinny – they work hard and eat really bad food. I can’t remember the last time I ate canned veggies. After dinner, we had free run of the place. Katie and I started exploring. We share rampant curiosity and as a result, we ended up exploring areas of the ship all by ourselves. It was incredible.

We were in the officers’ quarters and the Marine head. We found the room where the fly-boys got their orders and the post office. On the wall was a special picture of Snoopy on the USS Hornet – Charles had a soft spot for the ship! We eventually ended up in the torpedo room which is, ironically, really close to the sick bay.

We decided one of the best parts of the whole event was spending about a half hour on the bridge, alone with three wizened vets who told us stories of their time on board (in the 60s) and in Vietnam. Mostly they had stories about their hijinks, bad food and their buddies. The guys also told us to make sure and ask for a private tour of the captain’s quarters and the admiral’s quarters. We did the next morning and it was totally worth it!

I highly recommend making time to see this fascinating vessel. It’s very accessible and I had no idea the Hornet brought in the astronauts from Apollo 11 and 13. We left with profound respect for the men and women who serve and a better understanding of the sacrifices they have made for us (thank you Uncle Don, Bruce and Herb!).

[You can see all the photos here.]

Home School POV
Prior to the event, Katie and I spent some time researching World War II. Then, to help her understand how we got involved and the role of an aircraft carrier, we watched Carrier (an excellent, almost soap-opera like documentary) and Pearl Harbor. We also plan to watch Tora, Tora, Tora because the guys insisted it was one of the best, more realistic movies about Pearl Harbor they had seen.

Fostering Independence (While I Take a Pill and Try to Stay Calm)

I figure one of the big “themes” of home school is letting Katie try to do things on her own. Giving her the freedom to experiment, fail, succeed and having me stay out of it. But holy crap is that hard!

It started last weekend. She had a good friend over who she hadn’t seen in a long time. The weather was kind of cool and cloudy so they were spending a lot of time indoors. I was on a roll, cleaning house and really tried to leave them to their own devices.

I think that was my tactical error.

Around 3pm, the girls decided they wanted to “cook.” Oh my. Katie really hasn’t done that much cooking yet. She’s helped me a few times, but typically lost interest before the job was done.

Thankfully, we had an “Oreo Pie” box mix on the shelf that I had clearly bought in a Safeway stupor. Most likely it was something Katie had picked out and I didn’t have the wherewithal to fight. Who knew it would end up working in my favor?

The girls did a great job making the pie. They used every bowl in the house and had no idea what a pie pan was (even though they have both had pie in their lives – sheesh). I think they discovered the process was more fun than the finished product. And I learned that holding my tongue and staying out of it is MUCH harder than I could imagine. After two hours I was a wreck from holding it all in and we needed to take a walk that evening so I could get my wiggles out!

But Sunday’s training (and patience) paid off when Katie received a late Christmas present yesterday that was a cupcake decorating kit. She wanted to make “four” cupcakes. Imagine her surprise when I explained she had to make the whole box – which was nearly 24 cakes! I handed her the package and told her to read the directions and go for it.

Then I left the room.

I figured this was a home school experience. Following directions. Problem solving. Self-reliance.

It was going okay until she asked how long she had to pre-heat the oven (hmmm, interesting question, never thought about it in terms of time), what is oil and where do we keep them (oil, plural, another strange question), and what happens if she mixed the batter too long (she found out later, the cupcakes were slightly rubbery).

I learned she’s not great at reading directions – I sense a career in technology, none of my high tech friends ever read directions – and she’s really good at cleaning up after herself. She still has to learn to do only one thing when she’s cooking; that playing with the cat during food prep is gross (and dangerous, that’s a huge cat scratch on her nose!).

The cupcakes turned out great. Frosted very creatively and pretty tasty.