posts tagged with 'harvey'

our school is music and outdoor education

Years ago, as I looked forward towards a time when I had older children—children who could read and divide and make responsible choices for themselves at least some of the time—I imagined that managing this project of home education would get easier. Wasn't that stupid! As it turns out, even though Harvey and Zion can do all those things, it's actually kind of a challenge to manage learning plans for boys who, were they in school, would be in 7th and 5th grade. It takes up a fair amount of my time. Not that I mean to complain: it's all pretty good fun. I like coming up with word problems and art projects and trying to get the boys to care about writing (well, that last one is a little stressful). But when it comes down to it, what has seemed the most important this winter has been music and spending time outside.

You've heard plenty about the outside part, so here's a music update. Zion has started trumpet; he's in the early stages of his study, so he's making noises that only a brass player trained in early education could enjoy (hey, that's me!). I wrote out a few exercises for him, then remembered I hated writing music and bought an elementary method book. Since the fall he's been doing great at learning to read music on recorder, so he was able to jump right into learning fingerings and building up his face muscles and breath control. He's having fun with it, too; long may it last.

Harvey, for his part, is a multi-instrumentalist. He hasn't picked up reading music as quickly as Zion (or maybe he's working on it at a higher level), but he's great at playing by ear and remembering the songs he's figured out. He's using the recorder as his melody instrument, and has advanced to being able to play in both octaves in several keys. He plays banjo with my guitar for fun, and is reading chord sheets and expanding the range of chords he can play. And on bass he's moving beyond memorizing songs to reading chords and tabs. Up next, learning to read bass clef! (well, maybe in a couple months). All that and he also composes tunes electronically on Garage Band! While he still gets frustrated sometimes when things are hard—because that's his personality—he's starting to reach the point where, instead of just learning his instruments, he can actually play music. That's where the fun is! And it's super fun for me too, so I wholeheartedly approve.

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winning life

The boys played The Game of Life today with their grandparents. At bedtime Harvey was telling me that he almost won... he was just $10,000 behind Zion.

"You win life by finishing with the most money?" I asked him, like the good hippy I am. "I think it's more like, you win if everyone who knows you loves you!"

That sounded good to him. "Then I already win!" he said. "I'm speedrunning life!"

But no: you need to have everyone love you at the end. That's harder, I think. But I agree, he's off to a great start!

puzzling

For whatever reason, I consider real-life puzzle projects more valuable that computer-game ones, so I was proud and delighted a couple weeks ago when Harvey learned how to solve a Rubiks Cube. He picked it up super quickly too, motivated by the popularity of cubing among his age-peers in the homeschool set and helped a great deal by his good friend who's a couple years older. He watched videos and things too, but having someone to show him what to do—and point out where he's going wrong—really accelerated the learning process.

I asked the friend's mom if she was interested in learning the ways of the cube, and she told me she absolutely was not. But I confess I'm kind of drawn to trying to figure it out, and this evening, after asking Harvey for some tips, I spent a solid hour working on the first steps. I'm not sure my brain is built for it, any more than it is for the all the other little handheld puzzles that have somehow become an essential part of our Hanukkah observations at Leah's parent's house. But that didn't stop me from throwing myself at them, either—and I even solved a couple! I don't know if I'll ever get the Rubiks Cube, but I've still got energy for working on it. Hey, it's at least as useful as learning how to beat the computer at Reversi, something else I accomplished this past week!

Harvey's boat

I've shown the picture, I suppose I ought to tell the story. Harvey's been wanting his own boat for a while, and even thinking about trying to buy one for himself. But to be honest, he doesn't have a great deal of access to shopping. Then as his birthday got closer, he started to wonder about getting one for a present. He didn't feel like it was particularly likely, but really all he needed to do was let the grandparents know his desire... they make things happen!

Harvey paddling in his own kayak

complete freedom

We took the two boats to the pond last week for their first outing together. It was a bit of a challenge getting them on the car, but we managed; it was also challenging getting into Walden Pond on a hot day, but we did that too. Then once we were there the boats made it easy to find a spot where we could swim away from the crowds.

Mama and Lijah resting on the steep rocky shore above the two boats

private lake access

Of course, Harvey isn't the only one who wants time in a boat by himself! It'll be a while before Zion or Elijah get one of their own—if for no other reason than we have no way to carry them!—but Zion at least can certainly do some practicing. Harvey wouldn't let him take out his brand new craft, but the Green Gecko is always available for solo runs.

Zion paddling the canoe by himself, Harvey and Elijah swimming

he needs independence too

Even Elijah got in on the action, though only briefly: it was so breezy it was even challenging for Zion (he had to get out and swim once to pull the boat back upwind). I was worried Lijah was going to get blown all the way down to the main beach, so I didn't let him get far from shore. But he'll have lots more chances to try this summer!

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Harvey's parties

Harvey turned 12 yesterday on Fathers Day. How appropriate for the boy who made me a father! We had a full weekend of celebrating, with the centerpiece being an in-person party with his friends on Sunday.

Harvey and friends eating cake and ice cream on the lawn

it's been a long time!

Folks came over before lunch with their bikes, and we rode the oft-traveled route down to Fawn Lake for a picnic (we've done it before; everybody is much quicker now!). Everybody brought their own lunches, but we provided a variety pack of little bags of chips. Very festive! Then I made everybody ride around the pond, forgetting that normal people find bikes a hindrance on twisty, rooted trails. Oh well, their riding on the bike path was so easy it totally made up for it. In fact, they're so good I don't think they even noticed the ride: their bodies were on their bikes, but their minds were in Minecraft. At lunch too.

Harvey's friends picnicing on the lawn at Fawn Lake

a beautiful spot to talk about virtual worlds

When we got home we had cake and ice cream on the lawn; it was too hot to be on the deck. Harvey conceptualized the cake and helped me construct it, and we were both quite pleased with how it came out.

a three-layer chocolate cake decorated with oreos on a table in the lawn

chocolate with oreos

Of course, that wasn't the only party! Celebrations kicked off Saturday at lunch time with a cookout with my parents, who graciously shifted from from our previously planned dinner cookout to let the boys attend a movie night in a friend's garage. Lunch was hotter than it would have been in the evening, and I may have sweated onto the burgers, but that didn't bother anybody. We did head inside for dessert, which wasn't a cake but a strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Harvey opening a big card from Grandpa

Grandpa's birthday card

On Sunday we celebrated Harvey at breakfast time with a candle in french toast. Then in the evening, after he had a little bit of time to rest after the excitement of the early afternoon, it was time for a party with the other grandparents and another chocolate cake. I skipped that one: after a full weekend of party prep, my Fathers Day present was to get some rest!

Happy Birthday Harvey! I trust he feels well celebrated.

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other teachers

Our homeschooling is ticking along fine, pretty much on the model of previous years: we start the day with a morning meeting, then the boys have an hour or two of work time, then it's on to adventures and playing and all the other important things. One thing new this year, though, is that Harvey is involved in a couple of fun learning opportunities led by people who aren't me!

The first is an Ancient History class organized by one of our good homeschooling friends. He was invited to participate at the last minute, but with 24 hours notice he was able to read the required chapter via phone photos of the book and join in the initial meeting in fine form. Since then we've got him his own copy, and he's been able to join in the age-old middle school history practice of reading chapters and outlining them. How else do you learn history?! Then he gets to take part in a Zoom meeting on Thursday afternoon with three other super cool middle school boys and talk about saber-tooth acorns and Old Norse runes and also, I assume, a little bit about Egyptians and Sumerians.

Harvey's grandpas are also doing their part to contribute to his education this fall. Also on Tuesdays my dad is running a class for Harvey and Harvey's cousin Nisia, who's in fifth grade. They're doing a multidisciplinary study incorporating music, science, and literature, all based around a pop tune from 1948 that he arranged. And on Wednesday morning Harvey and Zion are getting tennis lessons from their other grandpa—not just playing tennis, but doing footwork drills and everything. Both grandpas are retired now, so they have plenty of time for projects—and we get the benefit!

It's awesome watching Harvey working hard on all these things, without any organization from me needed. I'm going to have to offer something for other kids I know to return the karmic favor. What can I teach about? Maybe Vikings: I certainly have plenty of knowledge to share about runes!

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quantifying our slowness

I got Strava on my phone a couple weeks ago. With all the trail riding and hiking we're doing, I'm kind of curious about how far we're actually going... and I'm also interested after the fact in finding our where, exactly, we went. Of course, for any of that to happen I have to remember to actually turn on the thing, which I had not managed until my ride with Harvey this afternoon. Even then, we'd been going for a good before I was reminded of its existence when we came upon an unmapped trail and I wondered how I might more precisely add it to OpenStreetMaps. If only I had some way to record my GPS track... Oh, yeah! So from that point on we have detailed stats on the ride. Remember how, last month, I wrote about riding slowly for a long time? That's still what we're doing.

In linking Russell Mill Pond with the Billerica State Forest I can conclusively tell you that we traveled 6.54 miles in one hour and twenty-seven minutes of moving time, for an average speed of 4.5 mph. We gained 391 feet of elevation over the ride and topped out at 312 feet above sea level, at the top of Gilson Hill. True, I did reach the exhilarating speed of 20.4 mph on the fire road descending the hill, but going by the numbers our rate overall could certainly be described as plodding. As we experienced it, though, it was no such thing! Most of the miles were on trails that were new to us, and almost all of those trails were fun and interesting.

But I do kind of wonder what my times would have been like if I hadn't been waiting up for Harvey. Obviously, he's both a confident rider and a trooper when it comes to endurance; some of that terrain is challenging, and there was so much of it! But he is only eleven. Someday soon I'm going to head out by myself, and see what kind of numbers I can put up for a loop linking as many different town forests as I can. The results should be interesting... assuming I remember to start Strava, that is.

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little signs of growing up

Last night I would have loved to have have gone to bed at 7:30—I was in bed, in fact, just finishing up reading to the boys. But I couldn't, because there were still things going on in my household. In school terms Harvey is a sixth grader now; that doesn't mean much for most things, but on Sunday he does go to Kids Church. Yesterday was his last day as a member of Elementary Kids Church, and while he won't be officially starting Youth Group until September all the sixth graders were invited to join the gathering yesterday evening for some get-to-know-you games... beginning at 8:00. Before too long, I'm sure that when Harvey chooses to stay up I don't need to play any part in his late-night plans. But for now he still appreciates having someone available to put him to bed. So I stayed up. At least I didn't have to drive him anywhere!

Elijah also showed signs of surprising maturity yesterday, at least in one small area. Apropos of nothing he told me, "sixty plus sixty is one hundred twenty," and then asked what 120 + 120 would be.

"Well," I said, "What's a hundred plus a hundred?"

"Oh," he said. "It's... two hundred and forty. And two hundred and forty plus two hundred and forty is four hundred and eighty. Four hundred and eighty plus four hundred and eighty is eight hundred and... no, it's nine hundred something."

Well! I'd included a lot about place value and adding tens and ones in my plans for his math work this school year, but I guess we won't need to work too hard on that! I can tell you that we didn't do anything more than add one-digit number last year, and not too much of that (I did work to build the foundation for understanding place value... but I didn't know how well he was listening). We'll just add it to the folder labeled "unschooling works." And maybe think about introducing some algebra this fall?

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our backyard farm bike park

As I mentioned, we built a mountain bike park in our yard a couple days ago. We were watching some videos, and we wanted a chance to practice some skills without having to go all the way out to the woods, so it seemed like the thing to do. And it was super fun! The only sad part is we couldn't leave it up because it would kill the grass, and we want grass for other things. But before we took it down this morning, Harvey and me shot a video.

You can see that it's made out of a bunch of takes, but I assure you that he cleared the whole course a couple of time during the filming—all but the ramp over the table you see him pass by at around the forty second mark. That thing is terrifying! He fell pretty hard on his one attempt at it, and so did Zion's friend's dad who I encouraged to try the course (I felt a little guilty).

We really wish we owned some woods, or at least a hill. If we had a hill I think we'd have already decided to sacrifice the lawn in the name of better rides. Oh well. At leas the real trails are only a couple minutes away.

[By the way, Harvey has come a little ways since his last solo biking video... to say nothing of his first!]

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our midsummer boy

a present on the picnic table next to french toast

birthday breakfast

Birthday celebrations are tricky in pandemic days, but Harvey had a pretty good one regardless. His birthday this year falls on a Saturday and the Summer Solstice, which seems pretty auspicious for fun, and we made the best of it. The celebrations actually started yesterday after lunch, when my parents came over with ice cream (and cones!) and a present for Harvey. We had a pleasant relaxing time hanging out with them outside in the shade.

Harvey opening a present outside by the hammock

what is it?

Then this morning the birthday proper kicked off with a birthday breakfast of french toast with candles stuck in. After breakfast I frosted the cake (chocolate chocolate) while the boys relaxed—Harvey free for the day from his job of clearing the table. His party was at 11:00 (appropriate for his new age!) and consisted of three hours of screensharing Minecraft with his friends over Zoom. I wouldn't have thought that was fun, but he reports that everyone had a great time.

Harvey playing minecraft over zoom

what the kids do these days

They probably would have gone even longer, but at 2:00 Harvey and his brothers needed to head out to an ice-cream-and-shoe-shopping date with the other set of grandparents before coming back home for the birthday cookout. They didn't really need more ice cream—it was the fourth serving in three days!—but they definitely needed new sandals. It's hot here! Just right to celebrate our midsummer boy.

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