TADTown How I Have Missed You

So I  have been on break from my blog for summer vacation, but just like summer vacation, I feel that I have had enough. In the beginning it was liberating to have a break, to not feel the pressure to write, but now I am just bored (much as my children are on their break), so I have decided to start blogging again.

The twins coming home from the hospital for the first time. How did twelve years past so fast?

Now that I am sitting here I am not sure what to write about today. Hmm…The twins turn 12 in a few days. We are going to Vegas for their birthday, and I am taking them to see Phantom of the Opera. They have been wanting to see  the Phantom again for so long, so I thought it would be a perfect birthday gift. It worked out great because we got free Phantom tickets with our room. In anticipation of seeing the Phantom, Decca has been walking around in his phantom outfit.

What else has been going on? The kids and I went up to the mountains for a week and stayed at my parents house. We had so much fun up there enjoying all the beautiful outdoors. We were hoping to see a bear, but we didn’t this time.

Up in the mounains.

Decca turned eight a few weeks ago. We had a nice party, and he received some great gifts. I got him a spark scooter, which is a scooter that sparks when you press the brake. Some people (I won’t mention names) thought it was a dangerous gift, but I knew he would love it. What kid would not love a scooter that sparks?

I made this for Decca with the blocks.

He also received a huge set of CitiBlocs. I wasn’t sure about this gift, I thought maybe it would be too young for him, but he and the twins have been enjoying them all summer. It has spurred on their creativity, and they have been building some great creations. Autry made an opera house and several towers, and Tru made a great base for some Lego figures he also made.

Autry and her tower

Tru and his base

Tru has been making several short films this summer. He taught himself to edit in iMovie, and he has been having a good time with that.

Grandma assisting Truffaut on making his film.

Autry has been working hard on her singing. She is very excited about starting OCHSA in the fall. She also misses her singing class from the spring. She took a class at Orange Coast College and enjoyed it so much. Here is  her final performance from the class (sorry for the spotlight).

Decca has been keeping himself busy writing songs on the piano, shooting nature videos, and writing a new series of book. They are called the Kingsley Kelley Mysteries, inspired by the Scooby Doo books.

So this is what we have been up to lately. We are off to Vegas tomorrow morning, and then we go to New Orleans on the 4th, then up to Chicago (via Amtrak) on the 12th. I am sure I will have many pics and stories to share from our trips. Until then…

Art-Based Education

I am often asked, as most homeschoolers are, what educational model do I follow. Are we classical homeschoolers? Do we follow a Charlotte Mason approach? Are we unschoolers? I usually reply that we are eclectic homeschoolers, as I have my children use a variety of educational materials, and we seem to take the best from different approaches.

Decca working on a picture.

However, as I think about my philosophy, which I have been doing lately, I realize that I do have my own beliefs about education. As I look back on our homeschool journey I am able to see that two main forces have driven it. These forces are a very strong belief in the need to expose children to the arts and to have them grow up in nature. It is the first focus that I want to talk about today.

At their first Jeff Soto art show, age 7

Tru at an art show of his hero, Jeff Soto, age 10











I have tried to immerse and expose my children to a variety of arts in hoping that it will have a profound impact on them as they grow up. I have accomplished this in three ways.

The twins at an art show. They love their grandmother's work.

1. Exposure – From the time my children where toddlers I have made a conscious effort to expose them to as much art as possible. This includes art shows, museums, plays, films and music concerts.

Decca, age 3, at one of the many concerts he attended at a young age

2. Experience – Classes, private lessons, and workshops. Any experience they could get, in a variety of arts, I was open to. The kids have worked on many projects with my mom, who is an artist, along with a host of other classes. They all play an instrument.

Decca rehearsing for a recital.

The twins working on a found object sculpture at 5.

3. Appreciation & History – The history of music, film, and art is studied often. I try to expose the children to not only classical music but music of all sorts. They watch the typical Disney films and also foreign and classic films. They study the typical artists and modern artists as well. I want them exposed to as many different forms, styles, and movements as possible. My ultimate goal with all of this is for them to know that artists can express themselves in many different ways.

Taking time to watch the early Disney shorts at Disneyland.

All of this leads to self-expression, which my children are great at (as all children are). When they were younger this would bother me quite a bit as the amount of crafts, projects, and drawings they would do was quite overwhelming.  I have come to realize though that self-expression is a good thing, and I try to nurture it as much as possible.

A recent drawing of Autry's

What that means is that my kids go through paper and art supplies at an alarming rate. They are always filming a movie of one kind or another, and  they are always listening to music of all sorts. In addition we spend a good deal of our day driving from one activity to another. It can be quite exhausting, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Setting up equipment for a film shoot

Film Studies

My son Truffaut wants to study film next year, so I am trying to put together a course of study for him. I am excited about this as I majored in film in college. I am thinking I will divide a year study into three main areas. We will study film history, film as literature, and film making.

I have been searching amazon for a book or two to help with our study. I have found two that seem promising. They are Filmmaking for Teens: Pulling Off Your Shorts and Screenwriting for Teens: The 100 Principles of Screenwriting Every Budding Writer Must Know. These two books are going to form the basis for his film making study.

For film history I am going to use The Young Oxford Book of the Movies (Young Oxford Books). I have had this book for years, waiting patiently for my children to show interest in learning the history of film. Now that one has expressed interest, I cannot wait to begin working our way through it.

The book covers film history from the earliest beginnings (the magic lantern, zoetrope, etc.), silent films, the Hollywood system, European films, and National Cinemas. In addition it goes over the major genres in film, such as westerns, musicals, comedy, etc. I am hopping to watch two films per each section in the book. I think that would be a nice overview for him, and I hope to have this list put together soon, for anybody that is interested.

After film history, we will concentrate on two genres of films in our study of film as literature. My first film class in college was a film literature class, and I can’t wait to study this with Tru. In college we studied Hitchcock, the French New Wave, and screwball comedies. I am not sure Tru would be as interested in the last two categories, but I think he would enjoy a study on Hitchcock films. Along with our Hitchcock study, I am toying with the idea of studying either Westerns or films that have been adapted from classic literature.

All in all I am happy with the plan so far. I am confident we will be able to get it all in over the year, but if Truffaut is really enjoying it, I may stretch it out over two years. If we get it all done in one year, we will concentrate on animation (the making of animated films and the history) for the next year. I can’t wait to get started!

Student Teaching, the CSET, and Film School

Our holiday break ended and school started up immediately(the kids and mine), and I have been busy ever since. I am trying to get in as much homeschooling as I can before I start my student teaching, and I am working hard at getting everything done with my school work, so that I can indeed due my student teaching.

There are so many hoops to jump through to become a teacher in California, and to be honest, I am suprised anyone does it at all. There is the CBEST, CSET, and the RICA. Then there are the TPA tasks. In addition there is all the classes you have to take, the four and a half months of student teaching, and the seminars. Then there is the Constitution class, the CPR class, and the electronic portfolio you have to create. It is so much, but I am happy to say that I am pretty far through that list. I still have to take the RICA, do some of my TPA’s, and do my student teaching, but I feel that at least I am fairly close to my goal. I should have my credential by July, and I will have my masters in January of next year.

Thinking back on everything I have done already I would have to say the CSET was the hardest test I ever had to take. A year ago I was debating going to law school, so I took the LSATs, and I can honestly say this test was harder. Here is a sample question from a CSET practice test I had:

Cell membranes will allow small molecules such as oxygen, water, carbon dioxide, ammonia, glucose,etc. to pass through. But they will not allow larger molecules such as sucrose, starch, protein, etc. to pass through. If an animal or plant cell is placed into a liquid containing water, one of three things will happen. What are they?

That was one of the essay questions in the science area. Here is a math essay question:

The diagram above is a triangular prism. The triangular faces are 10″ at their base and have sides of 13″. Of the three rectangles, two are congruent and have dimensions of 9″ by 13″, while the incongruent rectangle has a dimension of 9″ by 10″. Using your knowledge of algebra and geometry, calculate the volume and surface area of this polyhedron. Explain how you got your answers.

Anyway when I first saw these sample questions I freaked a little, actually a lot. There are three sections to the CSET. There is math and science section, a language arts and history section, and a physical education, human development, and arts section. I actually passed all three sections the first time I took it, and that was because I studied day and night for a month. My results were interesting to me though because they showed that my knowledge is strongest in math, science, and history. The area I performed the weakest? The arts.

For those of you who do not know this, I majored in film in college. Film is a visual art. I found it  interesting that I did  poorly in this area. I always knew that my strengths lie in math and science, but I thought I possessed some artistic knowledge. I find myself questioning that now.

But if I could go back and change my major, would I? Not a chance. In what other major does a twenty year old kid get to intern at Disney and Sony studios. In what other major would I have been able to take classes on the back lot of Universal for a whole summer? What other major would have given me the opportunity to make an animated film and a wonderful murder mystery film. I loved film school from my first class, Film as Language Arts, to my last, which was Film Theory. I may not have an aptitude for the arts, but I do have a passion for it, and I am glad I majored in it.