Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gustafer Yellowgold

This imaginary creature from the Sun that landed in a lake in Minnesota, has a pet eel, a brother back on the Sun that invented rocket shoes and whose favorite hobby is to smash cakes is quite charming. He's actually quite a celebrity in the NYC children performance scene.

Two days ago, Jove, Miranda and I saw a free performance at a local library. It was so entertaining and Jove has been talking about it ever since and we have been spending a little too much time on the website. Miranda thinks Gustafer is a monkey and makes monkey noises every time we talk about him.

Check it out!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

the examined life

One of the things about teaching Jove that I love is that I am able to learn myself and with a recent topic we are exploring I definitely needed to be schooled.

I recently had a huge reality check about my own biases and presumptions. Jove mentioned that he was interested in learning more about Native Americans after seeing an exhibit at a nature center and going to a local Pow Wow. Our homeschooling group decided to do it as our next set of topics. I am thinking to myself, good timing with thanksgiving coming up and all (So wrong, I know).
I find this educator's website and it really forced to reexamine how I had envisioned Native Americans in the first place. Most of what is taught gives the perception that Native Americans are no longer alive or at least misrepresents their lifestyle as the way it was at the time of colonization. A common way to teach about Native Americans is to reenact Thanksgiving (as if it was a Native American celebration). After a lot of reading I have realized that there are going to be three guiding principles to my lessons: 1) Native Americans are alive today and discuss both history and current lifeways 2) focus on particular tribes and not generalize and 3) do not devalue or caricaturize Native Americans or their practices by having the kids make dream catchers, feather headresses or dress up as Native Americans. Can you imagine a Latino culture unit where the kids dress up as Latinos? What would that even mean? But, it still happens with Native Americans. I understand the point of teaching history, but by only presenting the past it doesn't leave children with the impression that Native Americans are still alive.

I feel both enlightened and humbled.

Side note: we have no pictures uploaded because of a computer memory issue. Hopefully we'll get it fixed soon.


I have never allowed myself to completely give into cynicism about American society, but I have also felt, especially in the past few years, that I live in a little bit of a bubble of tolerance, diversity and progressive beliefs. Everyone from my parents, to my close friends and most of my students share my core beliefs.

Well, Obama's victory makes me feel like my bubble has grown tremendously and it makes me feel hopeful. Good for the American people that they value intellect, thoughtfulness and hopefulness. I know that many people voted for McCain, but then I think of Maine, a state that is overwhelmingly poor, white and rural and that they voted with a huge margin for Obama. I can't help but get emotional and think that this is the beginning of a new era. I am feeling something bordering on patriotism for the first time in a long time.