This newsletter includes the information shared by us, as well as ideas from the parents that were at the parent meeting last week.
* Family History/Presentations: It has been great to have so many presentations, with nearly everyone completing on time. We have had projects on Cloning, Quarter Horses, A Timeline of Fossil Fuels, Marvel Comic Heroes (as role models for the developing teenager), Gymnastics, Southern Italy, Tasmanian Tiger, Juggling, Water Polo… There are several students who will be sharing their projects this week, and some that will complete their work when we get back.
Writing: The presentations have limited the amount of time we have had to work on their writing in class. We have discussed the basic organization of an informational essay, and as a class we have talked about what each paragraph of a basic five paragraph essay should include. I have shared with the class writing traits that can be reflected upon and considered as a lens with which to re-read, edit and revise their work. Your student should have 5 handouts that explain each trait: Ideas, Organization, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, and Voice. Each handout has questions that can be used for your student to reflect on their paper as they reread it. This week is the last week before the break, so please have your students turn in their essay.
* Biodiversity: The kids have finished their invertebrate life cycle reports and presented them in front of the class. Now we’ve shifted focus to our local Sandhillls habitat. This week, Brian Ahlers from the Santa Cruz Natural History Museum came to class and gave a presentation on the sandhills which included key concepts such as: island biogeography, erosion, geologic history, fossil formation, and endemic species. The kids had fun working in groups to create skits related to these concepts. Next Wednesday we’ll spend the morning at the Randall Morgan Preserve in Scotts Valley for more Sandhills activities in the Sandhills.
* Daily Prompts: Marcy has continued to bring in prompts based on our areas of study (mostly Math & Science) for the kids to think about individually, then discuss their ideas with tablemates and with the whole class. In our process discussions we’ve not only talked about intra- vs. inter- personal learning, but also convergent vs. divergent thinking. Marcy has emphasized use of creativity and applying what you already know to break into problems that, at first, seem totally impossible to solve.
* Art: We’ve been focusing on mask-making. The kids built trust by plaster casting each other’s faces. Now that the masks are dry, the kids will be painting the insides in a design that reflects their inner world/personality traits that they don’t tend to show outside themselves or outside of close family and friends. They will be painting the outsides of the masks with designs that reflect their outer world/personality traits that they share publicly. The process of discerning the difference between the two has been challenging for most of the kids, so we started writing lists. Each child composed a list of inner and outer personality traits. Then they used paper and oil pastels to come up with designs to reflect those traits. We’ll be painting the masks soon.
Most of the kids attended the Shakespeare Santa Cruz performance of “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Rhonda has been discussing important themes from the play with the kids during the morning circle sharing time.
* Mindfulness: Before our art time, we’ve introduced a “bell meditation”, where the kids close their eyes or lower their gaze in an effort to isolate the sense of hearing. A little bell is rung with all focusing on the sound of the bell. When the kids can no longer hear the sound of the bell, then they raise a finger. It is interesting to see what a big variation there is in how long kids are able to “hear” the sound of the bell. A couple kids need to open their eyes and look at others before they are sure that they can’t hear the sound anymore. Most of the kids really enjoy this stress reduction break and look forward to the calm that it brings in the room. we’ve explained how mindfulness practice does three things: improves concentration, improves ability to differentiate strands of sensory experience (increases sensory clarity), and increases equanimity...all of which are important for any scientist moving toward a goal of greater objectivity. The more we practice the more the kids are beginning to see this for themselves.
* Collaboration: We have been continuing to do a lot of P.E. game analysis, often of games brought in by the kids. First we read the directions, then we play the game, then we negotiate any improvements that could be made, add them to the written directions, and play again.
* Snacks: Thanks to all the parents who have brought in snacks! The snack bars, bags of dried fruits, and graham crackers have worked particularly well. The kids LOVE the Goldfish, but, unfortunately many end up getting dropped and stepped on, leaving orange powder spots all over the floor. We’d like to request that (along with popcorn) that we not have Goldfish for snacks because of the mess. Thank you Dawn for the water!
* Improving Parent-Teacher Communication: The parents who attended the meeting on 12/11 were feeling good about parent-teacher communication with more timely and concise emails highlighting any homework sent out from the individual teachers. The kids have started filling in planner sheets for classroom days to take home and share with you. Please ask your child to see them to help write in your planner and as a jumping off point for discussions with you child.
* Parent-Teacher Meetings: If you’d like some support setting up a plan for the next month when there are no classes, please sign-up for a December meeting with your teacher of record. If you are feeling comfortable with your homeschooling plans over the winter break and the first two weeks of January, there is no need to sign up for a December meeting. Everyone needs to sign up for a January meeting. These meetings will take place the first two weeks of January and will be focused on writing second semester plans. Sign up sheets for meetings are above the teachers’ inboxes in the doorway area.
* Monthly Group Meetings: Other topics discussed at the meeting included how to continue to be both your child’s parent and their teacher when conflicts arise. Great wisdom was shared in the meeting, including understanding that homeschooling challenges move in cycles, reestablishing that homeschooling is a choice, creating space for the child to have some sort of privacy since they no longer have a separate school life, and sharing kids --inviting other kids over to homeschool with you and sending your child to someone else’s house periodically.
• Parent to Parent Communication: We didn’t check in on this at the meeting. How is it going?
• Parent help on non-Rhonda Wednesdays: If you signed up for a time to help out, would you sign up again? Marcy misplace the original sheet. The dates are: 12/11, 2/5, 2/19, 3/5, 3/19, 4/23 (may be a testing day), 4/30 (may be a testing day), 5/14, 5/21.
• Field Trips:
• Sandhills FIELD TRIP: 12/18, 9:15am-11:30am (leaving school at 9:10am, returning at 11:45am). Please arrive at school by 9am.
* Winter Celebration Potluck and Crafts; 12/18 12:00pm-1:30pm. AFTER THE SAND HILLS FIELD TRIP. Esther is going to pick up pizzas and we’re asking other families to bring/send side dishes for a potluck to celebrate the beginning of winter and the winter holidays. A sign-up is posted by the door where you can write what you plan to bring/send. We’d love to have you join us, but understand if you can’t make it. Dawn will be offering snowglobe making, while Rhonda will offer her traditional sock snow people, with a new fragrant twist. Rhonda will be in the classroom starting at 11:00 for those parents who want to come early and help set up.
• Star Wars FIELD TRIP: 1/29, 10am-2pm (leaving school at 8:15am, returning at 3pm). Please arrive at school by 8am.
o Movie Night: Monday, 1/27, 5:30pm-8:00pm: All the families gave a thumbs up to having a Star Wars movie night before our field trip. We’ll show the original Star Wars movie. Bring pillows to lay out on the floor here in our classroom, and we’ll watch the movie on our classroom “big screen”. There will be popcorn and pizza. We’ll bring a vacuum cleaner, too! P.S., if there are siblings that may want to come, please RSVP Marcy and Rhonda.
* February Field Trip, 2/29: It was decided to have a trampoline field trip in February. Marcy will work on scheduling that at a place in San Jose.
*End of the year Campout: It was decided that the best weekend to do the campout would be April 25-27. Marcy will call the Pinnacles campground to check on availability.
Thanks for being such great parents for your children!
See you soon,~Rhonda & Marcy