Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sitting Still Training Redux

My kids are now ages 18, 16, 13, and 11. During our last few weeks of lessons, we became  rather retrospective, at least my oldest son and I were. He graduated two weeks ago, so he is now done homeschooling!

Pause with me while I catch my breath. (I know some of you can't imagine being done with homeschooling. But it seems like it went by so fast!)

Anyway, my younger two were having a hard time sitting still. These two always have a hard time sitting still. They never really have liked sitting and listening, especially my 13yo son.

My older two blame this on the lack of Sitting Still Training for the younger two. We focused on this quite thoroughly about seven years ago (when my oldest was the age of my youngest). This made me think that perhaps we should work on it again.

What is "Sitting Still Training?" you may wonder. Well, just what it sounds like. They practice sitting still.

For some ideas and thoughts on how it works out, check out my blog post from 2006 (linked above). We will be working on it just the same during the summer. And maybe by fall, my two younger kids will be proficient sitters!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Attending the Con

Have you ever been to a homeschool convention? Since this is a homeschool blog, chances are good that you have! I've been to quite a few.

Well, this past weekend, our family visited our first Comic Con - Motor City Comic Con near Detroit. "Con" stands for 'convention' and this event is a comic book/pop culture mecca. Attending a comic book convention has been David's dream for a while and he asked if we could go together as a family. So, we made it his "senior trip".

Imagine a huge vendor hall (a la the homeschool convention) filled with booths selling comic books (instead of workbooks), action figures (instead of manipulatives), art prints (instead of maps), and t-shirts (instead of.... oh wait....). Instead of the homeschool "celebrities" like Steve Demme, Andrew Pudewa, and Susan Wise Bauer, you can meet actors and comic book artists.

Unlike the homeschool convention, many attendees choose to dress up as a favorite character. My son worked for months on a suit of Halo 4 armor (Master Chief) and my daughter dressed up as Hermione Granger (from Harry Potter). The rest of us just wore our geeky tee-shirts. (Mine were Iron Man, Loki, and Firefly.) We saw all kinds of cool costumes - Doctor Who, Darth Vader, Transformers, Star Trek, Batnan, Ghostbusters, Chewbacca, Black Widow, Jack Sparrow, Thor, Loki, and Iron Man. We asked quite a few of them for pictures. (Click the link for an album of the best photos.) David met several other Halo warriors like himself, but I liked David's costume the most.

Speaking of the Master Chief costume, this was a huge hit at the con. We had barely walked in the door when people started requesting photos. "Master Chief! Master Chief!" was a common refrain. Once someone stopped him for photos, then others would continue to ask and sometimes we'd be stopped for as long as 10-15 minutes in one spot waiting until everyone got their photos. He was especially sweet with the kids, encouraging any who were shy or scared, high-fiving the excited ones and posing for as many pictures as they wanted. Everyone was very polite and deferential when asking for pictures.

My favorite moment watching David pose happened when we were near one of the vendors who was selling Halo 4 toys. A blond boy of about six was looking at the action figures with his dad. Dad looked up and saw David dressed as Master Chief and nudged his son. The boy looked over and when he saw Master Chief standing there, his eyes grew round with excitement and his mouth dropped open. David beckoned him over and they took a picture together.

 Most of the costumes were in good taste, but there were a few rather risque outfits, including a very large bearded man dressed as a sexy Alice in Wonderland. As long as we are discussing the inappropriate, I will take a moment to mention that there were several booths featuring former nude models. The banners at their booths had suggestive sexy photos, though there was no nudity. Elsewhere in the convention, many artists featured art either sexy or violent or both, but convention organizers consider this a family convention and require all exhibitors and attendees to keep things at a PG-13 level.

Our tickets were for all three days, and we did attend all three, though only for a few hours each day. Friday was comparatively empty and we walked the entire vendor hall in under an hour, just seeing what there was to see. I wished later that I had taken THAT opportunity to meet more people - actors, cosplayers (those dressed in costume), and artists - because Saturday and Sunday were MUCH MUCH busier. David didn't wear his costume on Friday; he used that opportunity to look around. He did dress up on both Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday, in particular, was so busy that traffic was backed up for miles and the line to get in was a couple hours long. Thankfully a friend texted me and warned me about this situation just as we were about to leave. So we chilled out at the hotel for a couple more hours and waited until it calmed down a bit. Once we got there, we were blessed to find a parking spot that was close (someone was leaving as we were coming in) and were able to use our advance tickets to walk right in. Earlier in the day, advance ticket-holders waited in line. It's unclear whether they were told to do so or whether they just didn't know they could go right in. The volunteer workers must have had their signals crossed about that because I have heard that some didn't give the correct information.

30,000+ people visited the con over the 3 days; 18,000 of those attended on Saturday (which is evidently as many as attend the ENTIRE event in a normal year. So, even when we got there, it was VERY crowded. David was in costume and attracted attention right away as I described above. We followed him around and snapped a lot of photos.

Some other highlights:
I met Alex Winter and shook his hand. He starred along with Keanu Reeves in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and he has a documentary coming out about Napster. No pic of him because all the celebrities charge for autographs and photos. The only other actor I really wanted to meet was Cary Elwes, but I didn't have the opportunity. (Norman Reedus was there, but I wasn't interested in meeting him. Stan Lee was also there, but I knew that was impossible.)

Met Captain Jonny Sparrow, quite a good Jack Sparrow impersonator.

The boys did shop for comic books and got some great deals they were pleased with. I bought Suzy some My Little Pony earrings for her birthday. I saw TONS of things I would have loved to buy for myself, but that will have to wait for another year. David bought an Iron Man print that he is thrilled with and he plans to have it framed.

Suzy's birthday fell during the convention, which she was less than thrilled about. However, I think she had fun - the hotel stay, the pool, eating out, dressing up, etc...

Someone asked for David's email address and is interested in having him create a commission for him. We are also now exploring the possibility of Master Chief doing birthday parties. I had NO idea how many little kids would know the character. Actually, people of all races, genders, and ages were interested in high-fiving Master Chief and having their photo taken with him. Rather amazing actually.

EDITED TO ADD another pic of Suzy as Hermione. One day she wore her Gryffindor sweater (pic above in this post) and the next day she wore the cloak (this pic). She didn't want to wear them together - too hot, she said. Her brothers helped her make the wand. I crimped her hair. I was really pleased with her costume overall (although someone did call her Ginny Weasley, I think because she has a red streak in her hair).

Thursday, May 16, 2013


My oldest child graduated from our home school today! David has always been educated at home. He has worked hard through the years, especially on his math and writing.

David was awarded an academic scholarship to attend college where he plans to study Mechanical Engineering. He would like to work in the robotics field. David also will continue studying Tang Soo Do karate and plans to earn his black belt in in 2015.

David wrote this to be read aloud at the commencement ceremony. (They required it to be written in the 3rd person.)

David thanks his father and mother for devoting their time and energy to teaching him and for standing beside him and guiding him even when it was difficult. David thanks his Karate instructors for working with him and building his confidence, patience, and strength, both mental and physical. David also thanks his family and friends for supporting him throughout his life and and giving him their most valuable resource of all; their time.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

My Teenage Son Likes Opera

Last fall, I received an email about some dress rehearsal performances coming up at the Detroit Opera House. We were offered the opportunity to get tickets for these performances for $10 each. I asked my kids about them and my then-17-year-old son said he was interested in attending some of the operas.

"Really?" I questioned. "You want to go to the opera?"

He reiterated his interest and so I ordered tickets for just him and me to the first opera, which happened to be The Barber of Seville (Rossini). (You're probably imagining THIS scene from Bugs Bunny now, aren't you?)

We LOVED The Barber of Seville. Since it is a comic opera, we found much humor and laughed a great deal. The music was wonderful and we were much impressed by the sets. If you are wondering about our comprehension, yes, the music is sung in Italian, but there are English subtitles above the stage so we could understand the storyline. We had great seats on the main floor that I later realized would cost over $100 each in a regular performance.

I asked David if he wanted me to order tickets for any of the remaining shows, which had to be ordered in the fall for the rest of the year. We chose Fidelio (Beethoven) and Aida (Verdi) and then settled into the rest of his senior year.

Now, lest you imagine David as a musician or a classical music snob, I do need to tell you that he loves many kinds of music. (Just about everything except country or hipster music, he will tell you.) He likes my 80's rock, his dad's hard rock, dub-step (which I cannot define, so please google), and so many other kinds of music (even some that I don't really approve of). So, opera is just one more genre he appreciates, but not the ONLY thing he likes.

In April, the tickets arrived for Fidelio and we once again headed to Detroit. (I even let him drive!) The music of Fidelio is amazing; we both enjoy Beethoven. Since these are dress rehearsal performances, the audience is warned that the performance may stop if necessary. During the Fidelio performance, the conductor did stop the orchestra in several places to rehearse. The plotline was not as interesting to me; I found it rather predictable, but we enjoyed the staging of the play as well as the amazing performances.

So, when our tickets arrived for Aida, we were excited. Even though this performance is just days before David's graduation and we have MUCH to accomplish, we took the time to drive once more to Detroit and spend the day enjoying opera. SO glad we did. What a wonderful time we spent together. The sets were just  WONDERFUL. David, as a potential mechanical engineer, can appreciate the set design more than many observers. Since the opera is set in Ancient Egypt, one of my favorite eras, I enjoyed that very much. The portions of the show with all the cast onstage were spectacular and breathtaking.

I look forward to discovering more great operas next year and I will likely drag my other three children along. Hopefully, David will be able to continue to enjoy opera as he moves into his adult life.