Month: February 2015

The Bristol Musem ~ Fantasy Field Trip

The best part about traveling to another country is that for weeks afterward {and probably longer} you can begin nearly every story with ‘when I was in the amazon rain forest‘, or wherever it was that you traveled.BMAG_exterior

When I was in England, {ha!} The Bristol Museum just happened to be on the way back up a very long hill, so we stepped inside for a break. I was instantly sorry that all the kids weren’t with us, especially Elvis, who is a that perfect age where everything is new and exciting. The building was amazing, and next door to the massive Wills Memorial Building, which was really beautiful.
BMAG_front_hallThe ceiling of the Bristol museum was cool, but even the hanging plane had nothing on the Wills Tower ceilings. I didn’t get to see more than just the main entrance hall, but the pictures of the library I found online made me wish I could have explored more! {unfortunately, since I am not a student at Bristol University, I wasn’t allowed}


Look at that! Amazing. It’s pretty much a tower, just for the sake of being a tower. Not a hotel, or a mall, or a business empire, just a gothic landmark in honor of Henry Overton Wills III. All this is beside the point…back to the museum.


Only first, the library.


Look at that ceiling! Those little lights!


The Bristol Museum had a large exhibit on Egypt, full of wonderful art and artifacts. Elvis is particularly interested in Egypt, Archeology, and Paleontology right now, so I totally wished he could have been with me to see all the displays in person.

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We spent quite a while trying our hand at decoding the hieroglyphics in this picture, and even though we still have no idea what it says, it was very interesting and fun to work on.


One floor of the museum had a massive amount of taxidermy and animal specimens. Some of the creatures there I had only ever seen on Wild Kratts before this, like the Tasmanian Tiger.  I say taxidermy, but there were also skeletons, insects and models in this exhibit. It was fascinating. Some of the animals were super creepy, and others were just beautiful and a little sad.


Some of the display cases were like huge pieces of furniture, featuring gold lettering and polished wood.

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Across the hall from where all the taxidermy was, there was a large geology and paleontology exhibit, including skeletons of Pliosaurus, which immediately made me think of Emma Tupper’s Diary, which I had purchased for Elvis just before we left. I ordered it for him, simply because I remember loving it as a kid, and it is set in Scotland, one of our destinations. When I saw this whole exhibit, I sort of freaked out and took way too many pictures, {and in my haste, most of them are improperly focused} wanting to show him as soon as possible. Of course, he was busy reading Calvin and Hobbes, so it didn’t have quite the impact I was hoping for….but I know it will be exciting once he gets into Emma Tupper a bit.



The geology was beautiful, and these giant garnets were so cool. I loved that so many displays were clearly long-standing fixtures in the museum.

IMG_1086If money were no object, {and there was a direct portal to Bristol} I would whisk my kids to this museum over and over, just to work our way through each hall, and take our time looking through each exhibit. I would also want to travel back to 2009, to see Banksy vs. the Bristol Museum.

Listening to Schubert, Shelley


A Forced Vacation {& an Unplanned Rant}

imageI work hard to avoid the stigma of being a ‘homeschooler’. Unwilling to readily admit it,  if you asked me where my kids go to school, the answer might resemble something along the lines of ‘they stay home…’ or, ‘they attend the Harmon Academy’; I don’t want to give the wrong impression.image

Maybe it is generational. The sort of reputation that a homeschooled family had twenty years ago was undesirable, from my uninformed high-school perspective. When the only thing to do online was hang out in AOL chatrooms, and mobile communication was limited, community and support networks must have been hard to find. Homeschool seemed reserved for the hillbillies, the weirdos, the rednecks building underground bunkers. There was literally nothing a kid could do to outrun the disapproving looks of peers and parents alike.


But looking back, those opinions were largely a result of my own insecurities, and my own pride. As an adult, my school years in review, it is obvious now that pretty much none of the things I criticized about ‘homeschoolers’ matters at all. Not even a little bit. Those kids were smart, and talented, they had parents who put aside all sorts of self-interest to care for, and aid in the education of their children. They are currently successful adults, whose greatest wound was probably the rude behavior of kids in ‘normal’ schools. The problem was not the home based education of kids that ‘didn’t fit in’, but the general bad form displayed by the rest of us.

imageI recently read an interesting blog post that stated ‘creators live on the fringe’.  The author wrote about numerous successful musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers, designers, and programmers. The thing that tied them together was not a formula, but freedom to learn, and make, and do. Having my kids stay home for school gives them the flexibility to search out and follow passion, faith, and intellect, and as a result, have confidence to interact with the world.

Of course, avoiding jumpers and bad hair won’t hurt anything along the way.image

The Harmon Academy has been on an extended winter break. We usually break for December, but this year we went on a family vacation to California in January, and two weeks later my husband and I left for the UK, where we have been for the last week and a half. In between those trips, and coming up as soon as we get home, our oldest has had, {and will have} debate tournaments that last 4-5 days each. There is no way we can formally hold to a schedule in this mess, so I haven’t tried. We read every day, do math almost every day, go to music classes, but we don’t use the bells. I am waiting until the travel frenzy dies down. It seems like each year we hit a slump after Christmas, but this winter it wasn’t for lack of planning or uninteresting subjects, it was because we simply haven’t been home.image

Who remembers day in and day out what elementary school was like? No one. Who remembers family vacations? Most of us. Keeping in mind that learning has no location, and that memories last longer than busy work, I am happy we have had this time away from our usual routine. At the same time, I am very much looking forward to being home, and settling back into a schedule.  We can’t expect good form to happen on its own, can we?

Drinking fantastic instant coffee in England, Shelley