Monday, April 29, 2013

French Cooking

Ella and Sicily prepared a meal for HoneyFern on Friday, and the results are in: diners gave them an average rating of five stars on everything from food to service.

The girls focused on French food; they started with mini-quiches (spinach and simple cheese), then had tilapia in a beurre blanc (SO DELICIOUS. Seriously. I couldn't believe how subtle the flavor was, and how amazing. Perfect with the simple fish), a cheese course and chocolate mousse for dessert.

Diners were served in courses; here are the ladies, serving the fish:

This may be our last student cooking as we race towards the end of the year, and what a way to end. Delicious!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Overnight Field Trips: Wahsega 4H Center

The week before last, HoneyFern went on an overnight field trip to Wahsega 4H Center just north of  Dahlonega, Georgia.

It was striking to me, watching the students in this environment. They were so confident, capable and knowledgeable; they worked together, dove into the challenges and didn't back down when they got frustrated.

I took massive amounts of pictures but suffered an unfortnate technical error and don't have them all, but here are some of the highlights.

Quakers, the resident duck:

HoneyFern getting ready to start their challenge course:

The course included a challenge that had never been completed; students had to balance this platform, and then switch sides (all of them) without unbalancing the platform. HoneyFern did it.

They also aced another one of the challenges that no one had completed (crossing a hot lava river on shamrocks). I had to bite my tongue to not point out in a very teacher-y fashion that all of the skills they were using (collaborative, communication, planning, logic, problem-solving, design) they had learned this year through the design and development of their projects. I bit my tongue a lot this trip to just let them apply their skill and relax in the mountains, but I wanted to shout out, "See!! It works!! Here's proof!!"
We raced on these after a practice run; I won't say who won, but it was a very, very close race!

We also did a zipline; we climbed up a phone pole to a 43-foot platform that swayed in the breeze (!), then leapt off into the abyss. Some students loved it, some hated it, but everyone made it. The final day of the camp we participated in a survival challenge; students had to build a shelter of available materials. This we did, in the pouring rain. I don't have a picture of this, but it was a pretty solid shelter.

And finally, some of our amazing students. This is the picture they would want me to post, even though I took a great one of them smiling and looking relaxed and happy. So I will forgo the typical picture and post this one of them "acting natural."


Thursday, April 25, 2013

On Birthdays, and Sage Advice

May 4th is La Petite's 13th birthday. I have asked friends and family to take a moment in the next few days to write down two things: something they wish they had known when they were 13, and a wish for La's 13th year.

This morning, her Uncle Sock (Scott, my brother), sent an email with this letter to her. I am reposting it here in its entirety, whether he likes it or not, because I think it is excellent, loving advice to not only La but also people of all ages. Not sure when he got to be so smart, but I am glad he is my brother.

Dear Sicily –
It has been quite some time since I was 13 but I still have vivid memories of that age and the excitement I felt about becoming a teenager. It was about this age when I started to realize that as I got older, more was expected of me and but this was offset by more opportunities being available to me. One of the benefits of getting older is perspective. Things that were so crushingly important to me a certain stages of my life now seem unimportant if not trivial. Perspective is something that one gains through experience and time and it is something that we continue to gather as we go through life. Hindsight is said to be 20/20, but the truth is that the answers are always there if you know the right questions and have the right person to ask.
While no specific instances particularly stands out, I do recall being very concerned about appearing to know what I was doing or saying. As for that actually being the case, not so much. If you approach new situations with an open and inquisitive mind, you will broaden your world and gain the knowledge of other peoples perspectives. Gaining other perspectives, including those from people which you disagree, will prepare you for just about every life situation you will face.
Here are a few tips that might help you navigate through the next few years:
 Stay even – don’t let the highs get too high, or the lows too low

Make a friend with someone that you have nothing in common with

When you look at pictures of yourself 20 years from now, your haircut and clothes will make you laugh

Trust your mom and never be afraid to talk to her about anything; she has been there and done that and can help

Express your opinion, but in a way that is respectful and cognizant of differing opinions

Have fun – you might be teenager, but your are still a kid. Enjoy the silly kid stuff as long as you can.

Appreciate yourself and be confident

Accept failures, not as defeat, but as an opportunity and challenge to do better

Define your values and stick with them – be flexible enough to change as you gain perspective

You are not going to marry your first, second, third or even fourth boyfriend

Be compassionate

If you want to be trusted, be trustworthy

Set goals

Understand the sacrifices that your Mom makes for you and let her know you appreciate it

Clean up your room and make your bed; trust me, eventually you will feel good about it

Graciously accept your victories

Be tolerant of others

Occasionally, delay gratification

Earn some money and save it for something special

Stay awesome! (just an older version)
I am very proud to be your uncle. I love you. Happy Birthday!
Have a great day!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Will Not Let An Exam Result Decide My Fate - Suli Breaks

If you watch nothing else regarding education reform, if you don't read another sentence on what's wrong with schools and standardized testing, I hope before you give up all hope of change, or before you close your eyes to the problems that exist, I hope you will watch this spoken word performance by Suli Breaks. I posted his other video several months ago, and here is a follow up, just in time for testing season.

He speaks the truth. It is telling that so many of the comments ignore the message and focus on race, perceived socio-economic status, his accent and/or grammar. When it is too painful to acknowledge the verity of someone's statements, get personal and insult them.

Please share widely. It's time.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Many Good Things

First and foremost, we have our first completed project: Ella's chicken coop. Ella joined us in the 2nd quarter of this year, and in that time, she managed to design and build her chicken coop and build an incubator to hatch a chick (which may, unfortunately, be a rooster). Her small flock of five fancy chickens are growing happily in their new home.

Secondly, Will has made good progress on his go-kart and is getting  ready to order his clutch and mounting bolts for the engine. Witness going from here:

To here:

And finally, more progress on the tiny house.

We have nearly dried in the house, with the exception of two dormer triangles and a door, and I put out a call for help with the metal roof; I am pretty well scared of heights, and it is not safe for La Petite to be up on the roof, so I asked if anyone would be willing to help out by donating their labor and time to put the roofing on.

Not only did Kurt Waggoner of Dr. Roof step up to do the labor, but he also brought along Gulf Coast Supply and Manufacturing to donate the missing bits and pieces of roof (which were actually quite substantial) and is also working on a siding supplier to donate the siding.

This is excellent news, and we are so grateful to have been fortunate enough to hook up with these two people/companies. Apparently, Kurt is known for donating his time simply because he likes to help, and Gulf Coast Supply has helped quite a few people, as evidenced from their Facebook page. They support education, and they are involved in their community. Just what the world needs more of!

HoneyFern is off to the Wahsega 4H camp on Thursday and Friday this week to get our experiential, environmental education on; have a great week!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Chickens Are Home To Roost

She did it. Ella finished her chicken coop.

Here's where she started:

Or maybe more accurately, this is where she started:

And here is her lovely coop, completed, with little chickies running around and getting bigger every minute:

The peeps are now pullets, and Ella has about 8 inches less hair:

She also built a coop for my chickens as we moved them from one house to another; I threw together the chicken yard with recycled scraps and have fewer chickens, so it's not quite as shipshape as Ella's beautiful creation:

Busy girl! Ella could not have done it without her parents, Mandy and Kyle, both of whom have rallied around this project and helped her get it done in just under four months (including building her own incubator and hatching out a chick, which may turn out to be the only rooster in the flock, unfortunately).
What's next? Designing and remodeling the playhouse next to the chicken yard is the plan, but we will have to see what other ideas Ella comes up with. Maybe a little garden next to the chicken yard/playouse? Mandy would love that!

Ella is the first student this year to complete her project, and I couldn't be prouder of all that she has done!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Food For Thought: Altucher and Godin

Today I am simply posting two links for you to read.

The first is a rather strange blog post about unschooling yourself; it's not that I don't agree with much of what the author writes. It is strange because the tone of the piece is almost maniac and mildly aggressive in its assertions (the author is a hedge fund manager, so maybe that explains the tone), but the ideas behind the blog are solid. See what you think, and let me know.

The next is perhaps the longer piece from which afore-referenced blog (perhaps) sprung. Seth Godin's work has been making the rounds of the interwebs in the form of this longer e-book (Stop Stealing Dreams, linked above) and his pithy little sayings about marketing. I can't quite figure this guy out either. Maybe my Spidey sense is off. I like what he says, but his marketing and meeting tips throw me off and makes me think it is ALL marketing (even the smart stuff about stealing dreams and his newest book, Poke the Box, which costs money but has a free workbook online).

Food for thought this Wednesday.