Monday, June 20, 2022

Congratulations, Graduate!

K officially graduated high school! She opted not to have a ceremony, not to pose for official pictures, and not to send out announcements, which makes it feel a bit anti-climatic. However, it is a big deal, a milestone, and an opportunity to celebrate and honor her journey and her awesomeness.

Her official academic journey started 13 years ago with kindergarten and an examination of our state standards.  This began an annual pattern of ensuring a plan that met the standards for each progressive grade, building upon them to add topics she expressed interest in, then assessing her progress throughout the year and adding to and expanding upon those initial goals.  Her elementary school years consisted of private lessons, classes with friends, and classes/activities/field trips organized by other parents in our overlapping networks of homeschool families. Through that combination of approaches, she had a rich schedule of book clubs, country day presentations, nature study outings, science classes, etc.  She thrived, developing her passions for Shakespeare, baseball, literature, and more while learning and growing with a diverse community made up of both homeschool friends and kids that she knew through sports and other activities. She was busy and her education was rich in experiences:  living histories, Shakespeare productions, math circles, amazing science teachers, language classes, art and cultural experiences, and entrepreneurial endeavors.  We have always felt lucky to be part of a university community and to live in the San Francisco Bay Area with so many free and amazing educational, cultural, and natural experiences.

For high school, we combined state standards with the courses needed for college and aimed for a schedule of classes that would satisfy a variety of rigorous university requirements.  External assessment of her learning became more important, so she began taking courses at local community colleges.  Initially, my intent with those classes was to be able to prove her competence and readiness for a college curriculum, but I was impressed with almost all of the teachers and the course content and as she dove into her course experiences she found teachers who encouraged her to join the debate team, write for the college paper, and present at campus-wide science presentations.  This recognition of her work affirmed her learning experiences even beyond her grades.

As she graduates, I know that she's done more than achieve curricular expectations. She's truly a critical thinker. She just turned 17 and has finished nearly two years of college courses in all areas required for an associate's degree: English Communication, Arts and Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Physical and Biological Sciences, Ethnic Studies, and US History/the Constitution.  (She also has straight As.)  In addition, her high school curriculum has included classes taken through numerous providers and via other educators that include multiple AP courses, literature, math, science, history, and more, through which she also has straight As.

In addition to academics, work, and entrepreneurial endeavors, she's had a significant leadership experience through assistant coaching a 15U baseball team for the past two years. She also taught herself statistics and Excel so that she could prepare the baseball statistics for several local high school teams. She's had marketing accomplishments and some intense public speaking experience via a job at African American Shakespeare, as well as practical customer service experience in her restaurant job.

Next year she is planning to work, volunteer, take a few classes, and perhaps consider her options for transfer.  She has achieved guaranteed admission as a Junior to six different UC campuses and multiple CSUs and she's been recruited by lots of private schools, so she has lots of options. 

As I reflect on this milestone, it is important to me to celebrate the awesome person that she is - uniquely herself:  accomplished, confident, funny, passionate, interesting, capable, intelligent, responsible, loving, and happy. I have learned from her how to expand my understanding of the world as a place without boundaries or restrictions... and I have learned to listen to and learn from her, understanding that she is often right even when I am initially certain that I have the greater wisdom.  I am proud of her and I deeply love, admire, respect, and adore her.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Galapagos: Santa Cruz


A super-cool "grotto" formed by lava of brackish water, perfect for swimming!

They did try to remind this one that it was supposed to keep six feet away, but it seemed to have a crush on G!

Sea iguanas, which we did see swimming at sea

Pelicans were gorgeous, fearless, and everywhere

Another sea lion that seemed to want to make friends

Land iguana

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Visiting the Galapagos: "What is this wondrous place?!"

We flew to Balta, a small island close to Isla Santa Cruz, and then spent three nights in Puerto Ayora.  The animals at first seemed relatively unexotic - the same sea lions and brown pelicans we see at home.  But then, as G said, "What is this wondrous place?" for as we began to explore we noticed that the animals had no fear.  We also saw land iguanas, water iguanas (models for Godzilla and the same poor animals Darwin tossed into the surf again and again), and several varieties of tortoise as we explored parts of the 97% of the island that are protected via boat, surf, trail, preserve, and the Darwin Research Center.  We had guides throughout and they were good at identifying specific animals, though not as passionate about it as our guide at Napo, perhaps because part of their job seemed to be to keep the group happy, recommend restaurants, and other more mundane tasks.  I was glad to be reading a few books about islands, which covered the terrible damage that humans (including naturalists) did and also addressed Darwin's inexcusable racism and very limited exposure to the flora and fauna of the islands.

K is pointing to Isla Santa Cruz and G to Isla San Cristobol

Wednesday, June 8, 2022


 Back to Quito, back to the airport, then across Ecuador to the coast near the southern border at Guayaquil.  A humid and hot city in the river; we explored the cathedral, the iguanas in the park next to it, and a beautiful riverside promenade with memorials, museums, and more.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022


 Our last morning and we woke to incredible views of the volcano we had partially climbed the day before.  I couldn't stop staring - so gorgeous!

From the inside of our "hobbit house" room

Oh my gosh - I couldn't resist.  The view from the toilet.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Cotopaxi Climb

 No, we didn't summit.  We didn't actually hike terribly far at all.  But we did make it to about 16,000' and had some great views before the elevation got the better of us...

Before we headed off, we could see more of it... but not yet the summit

Part way up, overlooking so much...

Looking further up

And that's far enough!  Super high... and we felt it!

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Cotopaxi Hostel

We flew back to Quito, stayed again at the hostel, then took a shuttle the next day to the Cotopaxi hostel, which was super gorgeous.  We stayed in a "hobbit house," which was like a large pizza oven set into the side of the mountain!  All meals were included in our two-night stay and several free guided hikes, though I hadn't quite realized until we got there that there was nothing to do unless you had a guide.  All hikes started at 12,000'!  Met lots of interesting people, saw changing and always gorgeous landscapes, ate great food, and had fun feeding the llamas!