Sunday, October 25, 2015

Girl Scout Opportunities

When I was a kid, girl scouts (or at least the troop I was in) was kind of a drag.  We had a few fun trips and sleepovers, but mostly we sat around inside doing crafts and homemaking skills.  So I was pretty skeptical when a friend invited us to help start a troop when Sedona was in Kindergarten.  We're now on our fourth year with that troop and Girl Scouts can be so much more than what I experienced!  The girls have been learning valuable skills all along--everything from outdoor skills to financial literacy to coding and online collaboration to the importance of service.  They are excited about everything Girl Scouts offers them as they get older and Sierra already has her sights set on earning her Gold Award when she's in high school.

They've had some particularly fun opportunities this semester.  A little while ago, the CEO of Girl Scouts USA, Anna Maria Chávez, came to visit our council and the girls were able to meet her.  They might as well have been meeting the president, they were so excited.

After a brief reception where they got to check out some new programs in the area, the guests of honor arrived.  They talked with the CEO of our council, Lynelle McKay first.  They had met her a couple of years ago and I'm not sure if she really remembered them or faked it well, but they chatted for a bit about that other event they first met at and what the girls have been up to since then:
Then it was time for the main presentation.  Secora and I stood in the back since it was a full house:
Anna Maria Chávez gave a brief talk where she told everyone a little bit about her history and how she got her nickname (Eagle 1) and explained what a CEO is.
The girls ended up sitting in the front row and Sedona, being a brownie (the most common age of girl scouts), was directly addressed or asked questions several times during the talk.  It all started with, "tell me Sedona, who is your principal at school?" "I'm homeschooled."  "I KNEW you were gonna say that".  There were several instances though where she would say something about brownies and add in something along the lines of, "Just like you, Sedona."   During the Q&A at the end, Sierra was able to ask a question too ("Have you ever met the president?" The answer is yes...several of them).

Afterwards, there was time for short meet and greets.  She (and each council CEO) has a patch any girls who meet her get, so the girls were very excited to talk to her personally and get her patch.
I was very impressed because I was standing off to the side and overheard one of her "handlers" (local Girl Scout people, nothing fancy) telling someone else, "I know she's scheduled to leave now, but she says she wants to talk to the girls, she doesn't want to go yet."
The girls were very excited and star-struck.  A few days later, Sedona brought me an envelope and asked me to mail it to Anna Maria Chávez.  Well, I just couldn't do that without seeing what was inside, so I opened it up and found this letter:
There are a few things about this.  First, writing in general is quite difficult for Sedona.  It took A LOT of effort for her to write this as neatly as she did and to get the spelling right and she did it without any help from an adult.  Second, she also included $1 of her own money.  Anna Maria Chávez told a short anecdote (it wasn't even a main part of her talk, more of an "in passing" thing) about how there are no pictures of her as a kid in a Girl Scout uniform because her family couldn't afford one and so now she'll sometimes use her own money to get girls uniforms if she meets some who don't have one.  There were so many other things talked about, but that little part is what stuck with Sedona and she wanted to help.  Because she's awesome like that.

In other activities, the older girls in our troop had a chance to go work at a local Dairy Queen one night.  Sierra absolutely loved this activity.  Dairy Queen had planned it well and each girl was paired up with a different employee, then they rotated around the restaurant periodically.  Sierra got to work the drive thru:
And prepare ice cream orders:
And work the cash register/take orders.

In regular meetings, the older girls have been working on their first Cadette Journey, exploring media and learning about ways media is helpful and harmful and brainstorming ways to improve media.  For this particular activity, they had a minute to rip out all the misleading beauty ads in a maganize, then they ripped them up and made art of out them

I usually work with the older girls, so I don't spend a whole lot of time with Sedona at meetings, but she spent a recent Sunday afternoon working with the local DAR to clean up a local park

There are plenty more fun activities coming up before the end of the year.  An overnight at an aquarium, and Sierra is starting to think about what she wants to do for her Silver Award project.  She seems to be showing the most interest in something to help people with special needs, but she hasn't zeroed in on a specific idea yet.

Friday, October 9, 2015


A certain amazing kiddo turned 11 today! She decided to go to the Houston Children's Museum for her birthday, so we did that earlier this week.

The night before we went, she had lots of fun with presents and cake:

She is a huge fan of the Rick Riordan books and has really been looking forward to his new book, which was released the day we were opening presents.  She was totally shocked that she had spent the entire day with me, but I'd still somehow come up with the book. (thank you amazon pre-orders)
The really big shock of the night though was that she got Josh's old phone.  She had no clue this was coming since she's never been told anything but, "no way" when she's asked about getting a phone.  This sweet, appreciative girl was actually moved to tears and has been following the rules she was given to a T.

After presents, we moved on to cookie cake.  Cookie Company did a good job.  She wanted a Hunger Games cake, but they aren't allowed to write the name on the cake.  Instead, they did a bow and arrow and also fire behind it.  She was very happy.  Her candles were quite persistent.  One in particular would NOT go out.  It was the source of many laughs and an exhausted birthday girl.
The next morning, there was a brief bout of drama when I threw my back out right before we left, but after copious amounts of anti-inflammatories and some car seat rearranging so that I could lay down on the drive, we were on our way.  And it was so worth it, the girls all had a blast and played until they were exhausted.

This wonderful young lady is mature beyond her years.  The last year has brought plenty of challenges and she's learned from them and grown.  She's a hard worker and a leader and I can't wait to see what the future brings!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

When Homeschooling Works

Two years ago, we started having a regular poetry tea time as part of a writing program we were trying out.  The writing program didn't work out for us, so we ditched it for something more structured.  Tea time is a favorite, though, and it's here to stay.

We've hit what passes for fall weather here in Texas, so some of us chose hot chocolate (mostly as a vehicle for marshmallows) and some of us stuck with lemonade.  We had been busy and ended up doing this at lunchtime, so we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut into tiny triangles in addition to our cookies:

Sierra read a lot of limericks this time around:

Secora mostly stuck to a Jeff Foxworthy book of kids' poems. No, she can't read, but she picks a poem based on the pictures and I whisper the words to her so she can say them out loud:

But the real point of this particular post is Sedona's selection.  Sedona has struggled mightily with reading and writing in the past.  It seemed to all suddenly "click" for her around 6 months ago and her reading took off.  Writing was still mostly a chore.

Lately, she's been writing stories.  This is not a school assignment.  In fact, I often still let her orally dictate long assignments.  Anything longer than a paragraph, I will offer to write for her because I get a better idea of what's actually in her head when she's not using up her brain power with the physical act of writing (she still has to think about how to form some letters).  In her free time though, she's been writing.  And writing, and writing, and writing.  She was bringing me 5-10 stories every day.  Each one was one page long with an illustration at the end.  The writing doesn't stay on the lines and a large chunk of the spelling is still phonetic, but she's writing, by choice.  She accumulated so many stories, I got her a folder to keep them all in.

Tea time is supposed to be a time to relax and enjoy reading.  There's no pressure to get every word perfect or analyze anything and definitely no pressure to read your own writing.  I've never even suggested it.  But Sedona very proudly showed up at the table with her folder and took absolute delight in reading her own original stories.

And that, my friends, is what homeschooling is all about.  Having the freedom to support a child through their learning in the way and on the timeline that works for them, watching them hold on to their natural love of learning and being able to witness their joy when they've figured out something new.

It's not always rainbows and unicorns, but some days it is.


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