Innovention on the Horizon

After my revolutionary decision to home school my son through kindergarten, my life has gotten somewhat more hectic. I have spent hours reading books, searching through curriculum and looking at worksheets and workbooks. I have completely moved two rooms around in my home and changed the fundamental use of those rooms. My onetime idea that my son’s room would be a place of quiet reflection, having only small, quiet-play toys and books has been replaced with all of the toys that lack educational use. The once overcrowded and loud playroom has been replaced with a quiet area of books, educational movies, blocks, musical instruments and globes. I have one entire unit planned and ready to go, lots of notebooks, pens, paper and art supplies on standby and new lamps, bins and baskets.

Also in the same timeframe, we have finally made our third annual Walt Disney World Resort reservations for the fall. Our party of 8 will be traveling in style at the Caribbean Beach Resort and having wonderful dinners at Cinderella’s Castle, the Tusker House, the Garden Grille, Narcoossee’s, the Coral Reef, the Liberty Inn and the brand new Be Our Guest Restaurant. My family will be spending 9 lovely days at the resort and 7 days park hopping through the worlds. Extended family will be spending 7 days at the resort and 4 days park hopping as well as one day at universal Studios. It is sure to be a wonderful trip! I can’t wait for new experiences such as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and the Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot. I honestly wish that we were leaving right away!

Since the trip will take place after homeschooling has begun, the trip will be prefaced by animal and cultural studies that will coincide with animals and countries we will come into contact with at Disney’s Epcot and Animal Kingdom. We will also be reading some of the classic literature (not just the Disney version) that is associated with some of the rides at Magic Kingdom. This way, the learning will help build excitement for the trip and the trip will help reinforce the learning. Win-Win! With stories like Tom Sawyer, Swiss Family Robinson, Through the Looking glass (the real version of Alice), Beauty and the Beast, Song of the South (the tale of Briar Rabbit [splash mountain]) and many other fairy tales, we should have plenty of literature to keep us busy. Not to mention Epcot’s many country representations, complete with cultural foods, videos, architecture, language and entertainment. Epcot also has the living seas and the land pavilions which teach about the environment and the animals and plants that live there. Innoventions East and West teach about weather, technology, engineering and other scientific topics in a fun way. Let’s not forget Spaceship earth which gives a great overview of the evolution of man. Animal Kingdom goes without saying. Life science is an easy find here. I can’t wait!

I have also managed to score tickets to an upcoming Heart concert complete with VIP package which includes a meet and greet with Ann and Nancy prior to the show. I will be giving one ticket to my partner in crime who really wanted to go but thought it was too expensive for her birthday. *shhhh*

With all this excitement, it is hard not to get started right away! But first, I have to finish building the bookshelves….

Advertisements

Full time Mom, Full time employee, Full time student, Full time teacher?

One of the hardest choices we have to make as parents is where to send our kids to school. That time is upon me. My first hope was to get my son into the local charter school. Unfortunately, when the lottery was drawn, we were not lucky enough to get selected. Sure, we are on the wait list and miracles can happen, but it is unlikely at best. My state is not eager or particularly willing to allow children to go to a school out of their zone, so that really isn’t on the table.

So I am in a bit of a predicament. Should I send my son to his zoned school or homesechool? Some background information, the school my son is zoned for is not a great school. It isn’t failing, but it does have a D-. 75% of the kids have free or reduced lunch (statistically proven to increase the chances of behavior problems) and all of the test scores are WAYYYY below average. But it’s just kindergarten. How bad can it really be, right? Well, it could be pretty bad if my son starts with bad classroom management and thinks that is the standard. Plus, my son already has accomplished half of the kindergarten goals for the year.

So, would it be better to homeschool him and keep him moving forward? I worry that he would miss out on that “school” experience. But he does play T-ball 3 days a week, we go to the library on a regular basis and attend storytime, he does gymnastics once a week, we go to the park regularly and other social experiences. He is very outgoing, very social. I am not sure he will be missing out on much.

On top of everything else I do, am I ready to be a full-time teacher too?

Disney Diva

For those of you who don’t know, I am a Disney freak. We go to Walt Disney World every year for our family vacation and we stay for a while. My son has a few shirts with Mickey on them, we have at least two Disney themed dishes, a pair of ears and at least one biggish Mickey stuffed animal. Okay, okay maybe we aren’t quite to the level of Disney freak just yet.

Disney is our favorite vacation spot though and I am a freak about planning vacation. To me, the planning stage of any vacation is the most fun. I enjoy spending hours reading reviews, scoping out the perfect place to stay, eat and play. And of course, I love finding ways to have a five star vacation at a three star price (or better).

For Walt Disney World, I have found that information is both bountiful and of good quality. There are a few websites that I must point out. First and most obvious, the Walt Disney Official Site . This site gives quite a bit of information about the various parks, hotels, and restaurants available on Disney property.

One thing I should say upfront, is that I am a purist. Meaning, when I go to Disney, I stay onsite, I eat onsite and I don’t stray from WDW until I am homeward bound. No, it isn’t because I don’t know that there are many other wonderful things outside the Magical world of Disney. It’s because I’m lazy. It’s a 15 hour drive from home, I have a preschooler in tow and I get one good vacation a year. I like to relax once I arrive and not have to drive anywhere or work too hard for anything. Thankfully, Disney makes it easy for me to do all of the above. The experiences at Disney are amazing and (if planned well) not that expensive, so there really is little incentive for me to stray.

So, after checking out the information available on the official site, I venture to Touring Plans to check out the crowd calendar. This site is amazing for quit a few things, not the least of which is the crowd calendar. The crowd calendar is important for picking a good time to visit Disney. I for one, hate the large crowds which pack in like sardines to every corner of the park at peak season. It is more important for me to avoid high crowds than high prices, so I start by looking at dates. The calendar provides a rating (1 to 10, 1 being the lowest crowds 10 the highest) for each park, each day of the year. For instance, a friend I know is going to WDW on March 23 and, based on her toddler, I’d say Magic Kingdom. A quick look at the calendar tells me that MK’s anticipated crowd level for that day is a 7.8. Ouch! I couldn’t do it.

Touring Plans has a few extra features I’d like to point out. My favorite, the lines app. Lines works on Android or Apple devices and provides up to the minute accurate wait times for every attraction, show and even restaurants in the park. This is especially helpful for those last ride of the day situations where your hopeful is on the other side of the park. There is nothing worse than running clear across the park only to find that the wait is too long for you and you wasted your time and energy. Another helpful feature for those who travel at busier times of the year (which I won’t), are the touring plans. If you use them religiously, they will take you to each ride on your list in the order necessary to spend the least time waiting in long lines. A definite plus when its 100+ degrees and 500 million people have joined you on vacation. Touring also has a blog where they review all of the new features available in Disney, as well as follow up on the old ones. Great for understanding how new things, like NextGen will change how my family does Disney. If you don’t know about NextGen, check it out Here or Here. These are two more amazing sites for all things Disney.

Next, it’s All Ears for the really fun part. All Ears has a lot, and I mean a lot, of pictures. This is especially helpful if you want to try a new resort or restaurant and you just aren’t sure if it is a good fit for your family. This site is very detailed and has a review on anything you can think of. For me, the pictures are great, since Disney can make anything look amazing on their site. I like the more balanced review I get from Touring and Ears.

After all of this time spent reading, researching and reviewing, its time to make reservations. Many people like Mousesavers because of the many reviews on how to get the best value and what discounts are available. Its a great place to look, but I prefer All Ears and they push much less for a travel agent which I believe is just absurdly unnecessary for a Disney vacation unless you are coming from overseas or just simply can’t work a computer. I typically make my reservations through Disney directly as I book room, tickets and a dining package. You can see above about my preference for ease of use vacations. As such, I like the comfort of the dining plan and since I usually get it for free (thanks to my travel dates), its a win-win. After booking my package, I go straight to ADRs (advanced dining reservations). This for me is the most fun as my family always does some type of character meal, and usually more than a couple. Thanks to the dining plan, it doesn’t cost anything extra and my son loves them. I usually plan for a sit down lunch as it gives a respite from the heat and walking at the hottest part of the day. With a young child such as mine, that rest gives us just what we need to party late into the night at Stitches 626 dance party (a favorite of my 5 year old). Be prepared however, reservations book quickly (even in the off season) so I make my reservations right at the 180 day mark (the earliest possible).

While all of this may seem really intense for a vacation and way too structured for many, I find that it provides the exact opposite for me. I get excited about the trip very early thanks to all the blog following and review reading. And once my family arrives, all the hard work pays off and we can relax and really enjoy our trip. Food, paid for and arranged. Bed, check. Fun, let’s do it! My vacations are stress and worry free and my five year old sees nothing but the Magic!

20130315-070813.jpg

While you were out

This last week has been very eventful for our little family. Namely, we got ourselves a puppy. No, not a dog that I am calling a puppy, but an actual 12 week old puppy. He is full of energy, loud and not at all housebroken. We’ve now had said puppy for 3 days. That’s three long sleepless nights and three very busy days. My son named him Lasko. No, I have no idea where the name came from and as far as I know, the name holds no special meaning for my son. He literally just made it up. But I kinda like it.

Having such a young puppy is like starting all over again with a two year old. Potty training, chasing chickens and putting everything in his mouth. If you were standing at my front door, you’d hear a lot of “NO! DOWN! LEAVE IT! DROP IT!” and of course “LASKO!” For the moment, he is spending the night in his crate. Why? Well, because he pees on everything, he chews on everything and I haven’t quite got him trained not to get on the furniture.

But it isn’t all bad. My son has spent hours outside having adventures with his new pup. He is being trained to fight zombies. My son is learning the value of hard work and responsibility. It’s good for him. That doesn’t mean that I like getting up at 5am to let the dog out.

German Shepard Border Collie Mix

German Shepard Border Collie Mix

Boys

Because sometimes, the only thing you can do is take your kids out and let them play.

Today, we went to our local Naval Aviation museum. My son loves checking out the airplanes. He is able to get up close and personal with them. He can touch, feel, climb in (some) and really learn to love the airplanes.

 

20130301-164448.jpg

I think these moments are important. We of course go to the park, we go to the beach and we play in the backyard. But I love to see the look on my son’s face when he gets to slide into the cockpit of a jet airplane and grab the stick. Sure, he isn’t going anywhere, but I can see those wheels turning.

20130301-165156.jpg

Of course, those trips to the park are not to be taken lightly. The ability to run, scream, jump and climb without tearing down Mom’s drapes are important.

20130301-165148.jpg

Oh spring. I can’t wait for you to come. Who else loves to take their kids and get them out of the house? Any place that your little one loves especially?

How much?

I need to understand something. I read a news story today here about a couple of Navy sailors who raped a woman in Japan. Their defense argued that the 12 year sentence handed down was too long and excessive.

Let me catch my breath.

Excuse me? You have just given that woman a life sentence. She will spend the rest of her life trying to put the pieces back together. She will be lucky if it only takes her a few years to get back to some semblance of normalcy.

But 12 years is all they get? We really don’t take it seriously, what rape does to a person. We dismiss it as no big deal. Sure, you will have some physical damage to overcome, but after that it’s nothing, right? Dead wrong. People fail to see the years and years worth of psychological damage, the years of self doubt, the absolute havoc that this wreaks on someone’s life.

I don’t know how to explain to someone who has never been through it what it does. Never mind if that girl already has other issues.

So, exactly how bad does it have to be before 12 years is not excessive? You can get that much time for a drug charge. How much is a person’s life worth? How much is too much before we decide that the “boys will be boys” excuse no longer flies? When exactly is it okay for a woman to feel safe? Or will we keep sacrificing our women so that our “boys” can be “boys?”