The Norton Simon Museum – Pasadena, Ca

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The kids and I spent the some time recently at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. This is a wonderful, smaller museum that has many great works of art to see. It is also incredibly affordable for families as all children under 18 get in free every day. Adults pay $12.00 each, seniors are $9.00 each, and parking is free.

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The permanent collection at the museum includes an impressive collection of Impressionist pieces by such artists as Degas, Monet, and Renoir works of art that younger children will most likely recognize and enjoy seeing. There is also art work by Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Picasso, and many others.

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When we visited there was two special exhibitions which we were excited to have the chance to see. The first was A Revolution of the Palette: The First Synthetic Blues and their Impact on French Artists and my youngest was especially taken with this exhibit because of his interest in color. Here is a short podcast on the exhibit for anyone interested in it.

The other temporary exhibit was Fragonard’s Enterprise: The Artist and the Literature of TravelJean-Honoré Fragonard  toured through Italy with his first patron and was tasked with making copies of the art work they visited. Fragonard did this through sketching, and these impressive sketches were on display. The twins were most interested in this exhibit and spent a good deal of time studying them all.

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Here is the podcast on this exhibit:

At the end of this exhibit the museum had a place where visitors could sit and sketch pieces of art. This was a great idea that my kids loved. The museum provided paper, pencils, and clipboards to work on. The kids spent a very long time working on their art. How nice it is to just sit, study a piece of work, and draw what you see. It was very calming and reminded me that we need to do this more often.

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When you finish sketching you can keep your work or hang it up for others to see. Autry decided to hang her’s up while the boys both wanted to keep theirs.

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After exploring inside the museum we went to the sculpture garden outside. Due to the heat we did not stay long. Hopefully we will get back soon to explore it some more as it was very beautiful. We also need to come back to view all the other art we missed including a very impressive asian art collection.

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So if you are in the Los Angeles area and you want to visit an affordable museum then I highly recommend the Norton Simon. It surpassed our expectations and was a nice way to spend an afternoon.

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High School Year 3

Amazingly these two great kids are juniors this year. I can hardly believe it.

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They have been back to school for a while now as they take classes online at Harari. Harari goes year round with their first quarter having started in June. In addition the twins are running an online book club this year over at SEA. They even made a video introducing the club for anyone who is interested.

Outside of Harari and book club the twins do not have a great deal of down time. When they do have free time they work on their own projects, mostly art, music, and making games. In addition they like to hang with friends (what teens don’t?) and are making plans, lots and lots of plans for their future. Basically they are just being teenagers which is great because honestly teens are so much fun!

Here are their school pictures for the year. They took a great deal of interest in their photos this year as opposed to all the other years we took school photos. The pictures came out great and really captured their personalities.

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I am looking forward to the future too. I can’t wait to see where it takes these two. At the same time I find myself feeling a little sad at how fast time passes, at how quickly the twins have grown up. It is a cliche but time really does pass by in the blink of the eye. These last two years will be gone before I know it. In the meantime I am going to sit back and enjoy watching these two make their final journey towards adulthood.

The Average Homeschooler

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Three average homeschoolers tackling a day of school at home.

I have had so many thoughts swirling around in my head lately and I have wanted to post about it for a while now,  though I needed some time to process what I was feeling and what I wanted to say. There is something going on in the homeschool world that is rubbing me the wrong way, and I know I am not the only one struggling with this. The problem is that there no longer seems to be a place in the homeschool community for the average homeschooler. Of course that shouldn’t really matter for we all homeschool alone, but what I am talking about is how homeschoolers portray themselves online.

When I first started homeschooling all those years ago I felt very welcomed and at home in the community. I was a young single mom with very limited funds, and I never felt like I would not be able to do this. Older, experienced moms encouraged me and helped me with homeschooling on a budget. It seemed very doable, and I felt I could meet all of my student’s academic needs very easily at home. If I was starting out today I am not sure I would feel the same.

There is a ton of pressure on all parents today, and this includes homeschooling parents. I believe that social media and the internet are partially to blame, but I also think some of the blame rests squarely on our shoulders. There is this strong drive today to be the best at what you do, to take things to a higher level, to provide your children with the most amazing experiences. It is hard as parents to filter out all of this, and it is hard to not compare ourselves with others. Unfortunately this is what happens, and because the majority of homeschoolers cannot do everything they see online, many are left feeling inadequate or they end up worrying about the fact that they, as parents, are not doing enough for their children.

I know how hard it is to resist these feelings as I have suffered from them too. In addition, I have heard from numerous homeschooling parents who have left various online support groups and in-person groups due to the enormous pressure they feel from the most vocal homeschooling parents. And it does seem that many of these vocal parents are the ones who have the ability to provide their children with wonderful opportunities that many other homeschooling parents cannot.

Of course there is nothing wrong with what these parents do. It is their prerogative to spend their time and money the way they want and to give their child and/or children the education they want. But there needs to be a balance on these forums and in these support groups. Instead of just being a place where a few voices are heard, we need it to be a place where everyone has a voice. Instead of always talking about what our own children are doing, we need to support all the children. I feel a responsibility to the new homeschooling parents, to the struggling homeschooling parents, to the isolated homeschooling parents to show them that it is possible to homeschool successfully with what you have.

I always felt like homeschooling evened the playing field in a way that schools couldn’t. It seemed when I first started that no matter your background, income, or race that you could homeschool your child and succeed. Today it feels like the homeschooling world is starting to pull away from that ideal and becoming more and more competitive. I suppose this was inevitable given the amazing growth that the homeschool world has seen, but I still hate to see it.

Take for example this article that was recently published in Boston Magazine. In it the author asked if homeschooling is “the new model for creating elite kids?” The article discusses one student who homeschooled and was accepted this year into Harvard. This is a great feat, and one that the parents can be proud of, but it also bothered me to no end. Maybe it was the fact that it seemed every homeschooler was sharing the article all over social media (as if to say “look my choice is valid, this kid got into Harvard!”) or maybe it was the fact that this look at homeschooling was a look at how wealthy parents homeschool, or maybe it was the fact that other articles that discuss homeschooling, such as this one, this one, or this one (just to name a few) are not shared or talked about nearly enough.

In hopes to balance out this phenomenon I am calling on all homeschool parents to share more, to support more, to ask questions more, to help more. I know I have sometimes struggled greatly over the years being a single mom on a very limited income with three children who all have some special needs. It has not been easy. I have to think over every decision I make long and hard before I make it due to these reasons. I have also had to make many sacrifices over the years. I would have loved to travel more with my children, I would have loved to have been able to have a tutor or mentor for each of them, I would have loved to have had more opportunities for them, and I would have loved to have had more individual time for them. But that has not always been possible and that is ok.

As my mom says, the children will all grow up. They will all find their way. In the meantime, for this short period that we can call them our own, could we be a little more kind to each other? Could we support each other and try not to be so competitive? Could we take some time each day to be thankful for what we do and have and remember not everyone has the same? Could we pause a moment before we post something online and think is this beneficial to anyone? Could we perhaps humble ourselves for the greater cause?

The Great Travel Plan

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Getting some inspiration from a Rick Steve guidebook.

When I first started homeschooling I had a rough plan of what the teenage years would look like. It’s funny to think about that because when you are a young parent, and you think about the teenage years, you really have no idea what it is going to be like. I did however have one goal for the late teen years that I still have today and that is to travel with the kids extensively. I wanted them to experience the world and to build up some memories with them before they leave home.

I have tried to implement this plan numerous times over the past few years, but I haven’t been successful. There are many reasons for this, but the primary reason was that we needed to stay where we were for health reasons. This is something I did not plan for when my kids were young, but it was something that we had to deal with. Today though we are finally in a place where we can leave our area, pack up everything, and start transitioning to a nomadic lifestyle.

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We have started the overwhelming process of packing up our belongings.

What does this transition look like? First we are boxing up all our belongings and putting much of it in storage. This is a huge job and sometimes, as I am filling box after box, I do question whether this is the right choice. At the end of the day I always feel that it is and so I awake the next day and carry on with the filling of boxes. We are hoping to be done with this stage around the end of August, and then we will be moving out of our apartment and the city we have lived in for most of my children’s childhood.

Where are we going? Well we definitely need a place to live while we save up money and plan our adventures. Luckily for us that the grandparents live in a big house with lots of extra room. It works out nicely because we will have our own space separate from everyone else which is a must for everyone’s sanity. Also they live up in the mountains in a wonderfully peaceful setting which is good for us.

So what comes next? First off we have to save some money. Being a single parent family means we live on a very tight budget. Moving out of our apartment frees up a large chunk of money that we will now be able to save. Our end goal is getting to Europe and that is costly, so it is necessary to save up for a while. The kids also have online classes they are tied to, so we can’t just immediately go trouncing around the world.

In the meantime we are doing two things. We are planning many little trips to take. California and America are great places to explore, so we are going to do just that. Also the kids and I are planning our European trip which is fun and exciting. My youngest is very involved in this process due to the fact that he has more free time than the twins and because he has some anxiety about traveling. By giving him some of the planning responsibility I am hoping to ease his anxiety. It is also a great long-term homeschooling project. He will be learning about finances and creating a budget, how to make an itinerary, and how to research along with a host of other skills.

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The boy reading Paris for Kids in hopes of getting some ideas.

Our Great Travel Plan, as I like to call it, will take time. Time to save up money and time to plan properly. It is not something we thought to do on the spur of the moment, nor is it a plan that we are naively entering.  I have been thinking about doing this since the twins were babies, waiting for the right moment in our lives to implement it. It is exciting and scary, but I am so thankful that we have the kind of lifestyle that allows this. The kids are not tied to any school because we homeschool, and I have an opportunity to provide them with one last adventure as a family before they go off and begin their lives. This is the time, this is the moment. The Great Travel Plan has begun.

Summer Reading

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The youngest boy has been reading and listening to many books this summer, and a few have turned out to be much-loved. The summer started out with him on a Brixton Brothers kick. He read all four books, and then together we listened to three of them on audiobooks. Unfortunately the fourth one was never made into an audiobook much to the annoyance of the boy. The boy was also bothered about the fact that there were no more sequels, so he contacted the author, and the author was very nice and replied back to him. The boy often contacts authors, and I am so surprised at how many respond to him. It is great for my author-to-be.

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After reading the Brixton Brothers he listened to The Wolfstonecraft Detective Agency. I picked this one out, and he wasn’t sure he would like it. Thankfully he is willing to give anything a try, and he did enjoy this book. I don’t think he was as crazy about it as some of our other choices this summer, but he is waiting for the sequel to come out. That’s always a good sign.

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The Island of Dr. Libris was a quick, fun read. He didn’t talk about it too much, but he did like it and got through it in one day. He was a fan of Escape from Mr. Limoncello’s Libraryso I was hoping he would like this one too. It didn’t disappoint, but I don’t think it was as much loved as some of the others.

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The boy loves to listen to a Doctor Who book every now and then. The Way Through the Woods is probably one of his favorites. He has actually listened to this twice which shows how much he liked it. Doctor Who books are probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but for my son they are a fun way to spend an afternoon.

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Both my son and I have been listening to The War That Saved My Life. This is a wonderful book that I would recommend to others especially for children 9 and up. It is about a young neglected girl with a clubfoot who is evacuated out of London during WW2. My son was a little reluctant to listen to it, but it has now become his favorite book of the summer. The audio version is especially wonderful because the narrator does such a great job.