Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Way to Go, Idaho: Archaeological Dig at the Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga Boarding House

Okay, how cool is this? Boise, the biggest city for 300 miles around, just had it’s own archaeological dig at a former boarding house downtown. The house was built in 1864 and was owned by Cyrus and Mary Jacobs (who died in 1900 and 1907, respectively.)  By 1910, a Basque family by the name of Uberuaga had moved in and opened it as a boarding house.  The Uberuagas bought the house in 1928 from the Jacobs family, and ran the boarding house until 1969. jacobshouseIn May of this year, a well, three feet in diameter and about four feet deep, was discovered under the house.  No one in recent history had even known the well was there!  The staffers at the Basque Museum and Cultural Center put together an archaeological team in under two months, and in August, they began excavating.
I learned about this dig through an article in the Idaho Statesman and saw that it was open for public viewing, with a special, hands-on archaeology session for kids.  Archaeologists would be on hand to give a basic introduction to their work. 
Cool, right?  So, of course, we had to go.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when we got there—but our visit started with a lot of paperwork---safety waivers and whatnot.  I had to fill out forms for each kid before we did anything else.  While signing our lives away, I met a bubbly, enthusiastic woman by the name of Stacey Camp, who I learned later is a professor of anthropology at the U of I, and was one of the leaders of the work on the well.  Stacey was excited to have kids arrive, and told us all about her work there and at another dig north of Kooskia, Idaho in a former WWII Japanese Internment camp.  She told us how much she enjoyed having her own kids on site with her, and she invited us up to get involved in that dig as well, if we were interested in making the long trip up past Kooskia. (Um, YES!)
After the paperwork, we were given a brief history of the house, and taken to the dig site.  We got to watch the workers in action!
We got to see bits of dishes, pieces of mortar from the house, and a couple of ink pots that had been dug up.  We got to handle the inkpots (one of which was stoppered and still had ink residue in it!) and the broken crockery.  Calvin really wanted to get down in the well and really do some digging—but--- “authorized personnel only!” He was disappointed, but---
fortunately, they weren’t kidding when they said it was a “hands-on” activity. We moved on to these giant screens that are used as dirt sifters.  After a demonstration, the kids each got to put on gloves and give the sifters a few shakes.  The kids “found” buttons, mortar, and pieces of glass.  They were all pretty excited at what they found and wanted to know if they could keep it.  (No.)
After sifting, we were led to a table of artifacts and we learned about how the items are catalogued and cleaned. 
Look at the porcelain doll head in this gentleman’s right hand! The doll head was featured in the newspaper article about the dig.  I think that MADE the experience for me—seeing this cast-off part of a child’s toy—something a little girl had played with, and perhaps lost.  I wondered what the doll had looked like when it was new, and I wondered who had owned it. What was her name? How old was she when she received the doll—did she play with it? What was her childhood like?  It was fun to contemplate, and made me think about the toys I kept from my childhood for my kids to play with (an embarrassing number of them, actually) and what they might look like, dug up a hundred years from now!
We even got in on some of the cleaning action—with toothbrushes, and a bowls and buckets of water.  The kids actually spent a LOT of time at this station. Gloria was especially thorough---and I couldn’t help observing that each of the kids’ time and focus cleaning the artifacts correlated to their individual attention to their own oral hygiene! (Gloria’s my most dedicated brusher.)
When the kids had finished cleaning their “artifacts,” we were at the end of the session and it was time to go home. On our way out, Stacey Camp gave the kids some cookies and cups of water—a reward for all their hard work unearthing all that history!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

And So We Begin….Again!

I had originally planned to homeschool year round—it seemed more organic that way, or something.  Maybe I thought I would need to teach year round so my kids wouldn’t get “behind.”  But alas, I have taken to a pretty traditional school year schedule. 
Frankly, it’s hard to “do school” when all the neighbor kids are out for the summer and knocking on your door/peering in your window/laughing and squealing as they run through the sprinklers and play on the trampoline and eat popsicles.  My kids just cannot focus through that!  So---we bagged school for the summer.
What I love about starting up in the fall, is that because “everyone else” is also going back to school, there’s a thrum of energy in the air---a sense of new beginnings---and new school supplies!  I like to capitalize on that energy---we hit the school supply sales, replace back packs (yes, homeschoolers need them, too,) pick up dozens of packages of paper, crayons, colored pencils, etc.  We stock the school room (I have a school room this year!  Woohoo!) and I spend a couple of weeks in panic mode planning lessons and going through our curricula.
This year, I have four kids “in” school.  Last year, I was still trying to figure out how to do THREE, so I knew I’d have to be really on the ball this year.  We’ve just completed our first week and a half and I have to admit, it’s going pretty well.
The hardest part so far has been figuring out our dynamics. Gloria (7) and Blythe (5) are NOT keen on doing anything academic—they’d rather play with toys and bicker with each other.  I was totally stressed about how to get them to do anything remotely academic---but we discovered over the summer that reading together is FUN (it helps to have the prizes and treats from the library’s summer reading program to dangle in front of them!) so I thought when school-time came, I’d start there—with reading to the “middles.” 
So far, so good.  Even the baby gets in on the action.  After we’ve read, I take Blythe upstairs to work on handwriting, math, and grammar.  This takes about forty-five minutes—then he’s free to play with the math manipulatives or look at books. 
On to Gloria’s turn---  We do math, spelling, and grammar (which includes a lot of handwriting practice.)
While all this is going on, the baby is wandering around or I have one of the big kids tag-team keeping an eye on her while also working on their own projects---namely practicing the piano, or working on their assignments in math, Spanish, and writing. 
When Gloria is through, she’s free to go play and I bring the big kids up for grammar and spelling and to check their math and reading. 
We usually break for lunch between 12:30 and 1:00.  After lunch, we finish up anything that didn’t get done before lunch (including chores) and then head out for our extra-curricular activities (dance, karate, etc.)
This has worked out so far, but this week, we start back with our homeschool co-op. We meet with six other families twice a week for a “one room school house” approach to history (ancient history through the fall of Rome, this year,) geography, science, and math games.  And once a week at co-op, we’ll have an art class (I’m teaching that one.)
I’m excited about co-op.  Ours is really focused on academic subjects, and the moms take turns teaching the classes. (I’m helping with science this year.)  It’s nice to be able to “share the burden” of teaching with other moms—it adds some variety to the kids’ school experience, and co-op offers them a chance to spend time with their friends. 
But, since co-op will take up two days out of our week, I need to figure out how to fit the other stuff we need to get done (namely, piano, Spanish, and their regular math assignments, and for my little kids—handwriting and reading.)  That’s where the “how do I figure the dynamics?” comes into play.  Co-op will go from 11 AM to maybe 1:30, 2:00-ish—not including the once a week art class.  By the time we get home—it will be about 3:00—just enough time to grab a snack, change clothes, and head out to whatever activity is going on (dance, karate, choir, etc.)
I’m thinking we’ll have to get up earlier in the morning—and by “we,” I mean “me,” because my kids are all up by 7 AM in order to watch PBS until Mom gets up between 8:30 and 9.  I expect my kids to be dressed, combed, fed, and have their chores done by 9:30 AM, so we can start school.  I like this arrangement, because then I can be leisurely about getting up and getting ready.  Or, when I’m feeling ambitious, I can get a half-decent jog in before my shower. 
Getting up earlier does not thrill me—but neither does allowing the kids to stay up later to get their work done.  I love my kids and I love homeschooling, but by 9:30 PM my brain shuts down and the only noise it can tolerate is whatever TV show my husband and I have decided to watch.
I’m also trying to figure out how to deal with the inordinate amount of time we’ll spend on the road in the afternoons and evenings.  We live on the outskirts of a tiny town in the boonies now, and while I LOVE my house and my neighborhood, we are at least 30 minutes away from civilization.  I realize that some readers may be playing the world’s tiniest violins at that statement, but when you consider I moved from town, where everything was literally within ten minutes—that extra 20 on either end of a drive adds up.  I need to find a way to occupy that time—besides mindlessly listening to the radio and making threats to the kids about “If you don’t stop fighting back there…!”
Also—food.  Mealtimes and snacks---hmmm.  On co-op days, we’ll need to bring lunch—the idea of packing a lunch for six people twice a week makes me shudder.  It’s not so much the packing of the lunches, but trying to decide what to put IN the lunches.  My kids have this crazy notion that they CAN’T eat PBJs every. single. day.  Life would be so much easier if they did.  Of course, I would hate to eat PBJs every day, too—but I’m not very original or creative, so I will have to do some research to find easily packable, varied items for lunches.  I'm sure this is probably the great dilemma for anyone in school.
Another dilemma is what to do for dinner each night.  Except for Monday nights and weekends, we are on the go from about 4:00 to 8:00.  I don’t love this—but I think it’s just the stage we’re in.  I need to figure out how to feed everyone---either on the road, or at home (but if we eat at home, which is preferable, it needs to food that is already cooked and ready to go---so the house can be tidied and kids in bed before my brain turns to mush at 9:30.)  I suppose I’ll have to look into crockpot stuff and freezer meals. And I’ll have to do it quick, because those run-around evenings are HERE!
Okay—so this was more rambly than I thought—but whatever—I think better when I write stuff down.  I’ll update as we go along.  My goal is to function with more structure and purpose this school year—and I think so far, so good.  (But does anyone want to be my personal chef?)