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Entries in homeschool group (27)


Photo 206/365 (series: 4H Youth Show)

We are not what most people think of as a 4H family. I know growing up I was only vaguely aware of 4H as a thing, and to me it was a farm thing. It was for the kids who raised cows and pigs with slaughter as an end goal. In later years I realized it also included kids with other farm animals, like horses and chickens. But it wasn't until my adult, parenting life that I learned how much more 4H is. If you're like me, going through life with only a cursory understanding of 4H, here's the skinny: it's an umbrella organization that provides guidance, support, and insurance to clubs in exchange for dues paid and a pledge of complete tolerance, open acceptance, and dedication to helping children grow and learn in any area they choose. It's actually a perfect fit for organizations like our secular, inclusive homeschooling club even though none of us are raising animals (or at least not under the 4H eye).

The 4H year culminates in their annual youth show. Held in the last week of July just as crops are coming in and animals are fattening up, the show is an opportunity for kids to show off their projects from the year, be that cow, pig, horse, or a Lego Robotics kit. Our club submits a plethora of what are called stills projects, or projects that are not living and breathing. This year nine of our kids submitted a total of 58 projects, earning 55 A ratings, 18 Honors distinctions, and 9 Best in Shows. Calvin was responsible for 12 of those projects, 9 of the Honors distinctions, and 3 of the Best in Shows, and he's already planning his work for next year...


Performance Week, culminating in a spring piano recital, age 10

Spring isn't just about the birds and the bees. Spring, for parents of children everywhere, is also about year-end activities, and for parents of performers, that usually means a lot of activities. If we measure this as an eight-day week, running Saturday to Saturday, Calvin had six performances. That's one choir gala (Saturday), one tap assembly (Monday), one band concert (Thursday), one play (Friday), one talent show (Friday), and one piano recital (Saturday). 

The week kicked off with the Boychoir of Ann Arbor Gala 30th Anniversary and Farewell concert. It was a special one for our family because Jon was a part of that choir thirty years ago, and Calvin is the first performing child of an alumnus. The concert was a beautiful program, and because some numbers included alumni, both of my boys sang, and both of them had solos that they knocked out of the park. I can't quite describe how eagerly I awaited this concert, or how much I enjoyed it when it arrived. 

The tap performance was actually a dance demonstration assembly put on at a local elementary school (coincidentally the school Jon attended in his youth) by Calvin's dance studio. Since it was during the day not all of the kids in the class could participate, but the bare bones dance was a special treat for Jon and me because the studio's spring recital will take place during the Sunday matinee of Calvin's YPT show, meaning he'll miss it and we won't really have a chance to see him perform what he learned in either tap or ballet this year.

Thursday night was Calvin's first band concert on a stage. I realize I sound here like the Olympic announcers looking to hyperbolize everything, but his very first ever band concert ever was in the gym during school hours, his first major band concert ever was in the bigger high school gym along with all the other area bands, now this is his first band concert on a stage. It makes a difference. So did the year of learning and practicing.

Friday's performances, the play, then clarinet and piano in the talent show were with our homeschool group, so they were pretty low key. Nuff said.

And lastly, on Saturday was Calvin's second ever age 10 spring piano recital. Second ever because last year the spring recital took place after his birthday, more in the summer, really, so that makes this his second age 10 spring piano recital. And he just about nailed it. 

Sonatina (Op. 20, No. 1) - Friedrich Kuhlau


Never too old

We have never perpetuated the myth of Santa in our household. This wasn't a planned thing, really, and we pass absolutely no judgement on those families who do have santa in their homes. When Calvin was about three years old he figured out for himself that the man in red was naught but a mythical creature, and we could not reconcile telling him he was wrong. Not everyone agrees with that way of doing things, but I can tell you that in our case it has not taken anything out of the holiday for him. In fact, he has always joyfully gone along with the story in a sort of carefree way that does him even better credit for the power of his imagination and ability to make believe. 

So when our homeschooling field trip group organized a Christmas party this week for all Santa enthusiasts, bringing in one of the best known, kindest, most magical Santa in our area (the beard is real), we couldn't resisit the pull of such a magical party. Plus the cookies and picture taking opportunities that went along with it. And can't you just see the joy in his eyes? 


Detroit Parade Co. tour

The Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade is one of the traditions that has remained strong in the streets of that beleagured city. According to the Parade Company's website, it is a 90 year old event that takes 4,500 volunteers and reaches over 100,000 viewers in their homes every year while about a million spectators line the streets. It's a big deal, preluded by parties, music events, and a charity run, all over the city. 

To pull it all off, the parade relies on the Parade Company, which takes all the support, physical and monetary, and manages it until it produces a festivity for the ages! And they do it from the skeleton of an old auto plant building in an unsurprisingly barren part of the city. This warehouse is where they store old floats and build new ones, and they offer group tours of the facility year round, although I can't imagine wanting to go anytime other than November, when the space is crazy with creativity. 

We went last week with our homeschooling field trip group. The tour took the better part of the morning as we were ushered through the facility by a well informed guide. We spied the tracks on the ground from the old assembly line, and noticed the spots where the artsy but poorly planned roof windows tend to leak. We got to take pictures with iconic floats, like Santa's sleigh, and peaked at, but couldn't photograph, the up and coming new floats for this year's parade. The world's largest collection of paper mache heads will stick with me for some time (possibly in nightmares). When we left, nspired and excited for the parade just a couple of weeks away, we were sporting red clown nose parting gifts.



Field tripping

The response I hear most when I tell someone we're homeschooling is "what about socialization?". The question comes in many forms. In its most blatant it sounds like an accusation, but other times it comes disguised in curiosity "Do you get together with others much?", and I'll be honest, I'm always torn between giving them the rundown of our social interactions and responding that no, we are what's known as closet homeschoolers: we learn alone in a dark closet.

I know most of the queries are well-meaning or simply curious, but if the askers only knew. In fact, the social experiment of homeschooling might be what draws me most. Yes, connect every Friday with a group of like-minded homeschoolers (because there are many different kinds of us out there, you know), and when we do get together the lack of division between age and gender is truly heartwarming. And it's not the only place we see our fellow homeschoolers. A group of us, connected via facebook, band together to earn field trip privileges at various local places. There's more I want to say about the "socialization" aspect, mainly about how an education in how to be social should not come from someone equally as clueless, and about the value of learning the social aspects of community in the community at large, but right now my focus is really on the second homeschooling group and the amazing field trips we get to take together.

There are lots of good reasons homeschooling field trips are great. For one thing, again, there is no divide along age or gender lines. Then there's the high adult to child ratio. But possibly the most wonderful thing about a homeschool field trip is that pretty much everyone who's there wants to be there. This is no obligatory trip. When the leader posts field trip options in the group, everyone decides for themselves if they want to join up or not, and there's no shame in staying home if, for instance, you aren't interested in the art museum or robotics class. There's no limit to the range of options, the group leader is open to suggestions from anyone and everyone, and the list is there for kids to pick and choose.

This year so far we have taken science classes in the park, gone on guided hikes, and spent a night in the zoo sleeping next to the giant aquarium after feeding the nocturnal animals. Today it was a hands-on class about electricity. Next month it will be a tour of the Parade Company's warehouse.