Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Liverpool--here we come!

Our home-exchangers from Liverpool arrived yesterday to settle into our house, meet the dogs and spend a little time with us over some good food and wine.  This morning they caught the 7:20 train to Naples and then will head onto one night in lovely, lemony Sorrento, with perhaps a few hours in Positano.  They'll return tomorrow night.  On Thursday morning...early!... we head to Ciampino, Rome's "low-cost airline" airport to fly to their home in Liverpool.

The weather in Liverpool appears to have been wet and cool lately, but we have our fingers crossed for some sunny days ahead.  On Saturday night we'll see the "Bootleg Beatles" in the Liverpool Philharmonic, and on Sunday/Monday there's the Mathew Street Festival.  On Wednesday September 1st we'll head to London (which is a 3hour trip each way) in order to see "Wicked" which everyone says is phenomenal.  In between, Pio hopes to at least see a few golf courses (Liverpool is on England's "Golf Coast") but he's afraid his game isn't good enough for the challenging courses he's seen on the internet.  It's been recommended we also see the Lakes District and perhaps even northern Wales which isn't that far away.  Of course, we first have to feel comfortable driving on the LEFT side of the road!!  Perhaps we'll stick to the trains?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Our upcoming Homeschool Adventure! Why...and How?

This September we'll start home schooling Dante (and home exchanging while we're at it--since we're both retired, why not?).   Despite the fact that I've got several teaching certifications from New York State and taught for years there, it's a somewhat scary leap into the unknown.

The decision to home school  took a while to evolve.  It wasn't a decision we took lightly.  There's little support out here in the Italian countryside where "scuola familiare" is almost unheard of (though legal--read http://homeschoolinitaly.blogspot.com for a British woman's experiences).  As we began to mention it here and there people shook their heads, didn't understand, encouraged us to look at other options--like other local  public and private schools.  To tell the truth, when we looked, they didn't look all that different from our village school, from which we desperately needed a change.

What I was looking for was something more creative, innovative, flexible--all things which don't come easily in public schools anywhere.  Also, five days a week (instead of the six we've been living with) and homework that makes sense and doesn't last all night would be nice.  Unfortunately, the most promising local school was no longer accepting Middle School students and the international schools in Rome cost a  fortune for tuition and on top of that we'd need a small apartment since Rome is just too far for a daily school run.

Slowly the idea of homeschooling came into focus.  It would be much cheaper than an international school, and as creative and flexible as designed.  So I started researching.

There is an overabundance of information and initially it was confusing.  The spectrum runs from unschooling to school-in-a-box, buy your own prepackaged materials or piece it together here and there,  spend a lot, buy on ebay, or join a charter school which will give you the online curriculum for free, but attach strings--like restricting traveling.

 There's  secular and Christian curricula--and even a site for pagan homeschooling families.   On Amazon you can find lots of homeschooling books and there are  State-wide association which offer support and field trips  for home schoolers (such as this support group in South Carolina  which we'll be using when we home-exchange there for three months this fall), blogs  and homeschool laws which differ from state to state (but what if you're not a resident of any state?).  For a while my head spun round and round!

After researching for several months, we decided to take the plunge and enroll in  Oak Meadow,  a long-distance private homeschool --with teacher support, grading and transcript (in case we decide to return to Italian public school next year ) and creative options when it comes to assignments.  By mixing 6th and 7th grade materials and adding in some library books, I can almost match what he would have been studying here in Italy. I'll supplement also with piano lessons, Spanish and keyboarding--and find a native Italian to tutor him once a week to keep him up with his Italian literature and grammar.   For socialization (the first thing that most people ask about) we've joined two homeschool groups near where we'll be exchanging and Dante has a wealth of options--to start he'll  be taking art and music classes with other kids.

If it works out I'd love to continue homeschooling at least through Middle School, mixing his education and family travel through home exchange....  OK, one step at a time!  Right now we're very excited and looking forward to beginning our grand adventure!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

You know you're an Italian woman from the countryside when you explain your less-than-spotless house and clothing by saying, "We did the tomatoes today!". And so that was yesterday's excuse for my home's "lived-in" look (breakfast dishes still around come lunchtime) and the very casual, red-splotched old shirt and shorts I was wearing.
We only did 27 jars (instead of our usual 100+) first, because we won't be here all of next year (they'll be another post on that), secondly because we used only our organic, home-grown tomatoes (usually we buy a couple of bushels--but the flavor and quality doesn't compare) and thirdly because doing 100+ jars all at once means it's A LOT of work for several people (washing, rewashing, cutting, putting some through the food mill, filling the jars, sealing them, boiling them--etc.). Every year we'd loose about 15% because they didn't seal properly. Probably because the huge container in which we boil them was overfull. 27 jars was almost ... easy! And a great excuse, even if it only explains one day's dust.
P.S. If you look very closely to the left of the tomato jars you can see a little "Buddha's hand" lemon tree. They are still green, but are the STRANGEST looking fruit I've ever seen! They look like five small, skinny lemons growing in a bunch, like bananas. Can't wait to see how they taste this winter!