September marks the end of summer and beginning of a new school year. As kids were trundling back to the brick & mortar schools, we brought our "school" to New York - one of the many bonuses of homeschooling!
We covered many grounds in our 7-day field trip to the Big Apple. Serena by now is quite a seasoned traveler and had no trouble keeping up with all the walking and exploring.
The famous Times Square was one of our first stops. The bombardment of flashing billboards was overwhelming and we mused about the intensity of consumerism. "Sell-sell-sell!!! Buy-buy-buy!!!"
Serena is no stranger to live theatre but to experience an authentic Broadway performance was quite something else. She was completely enthralled by "The Phantom of the Opera" and we couldn't get the beautiful music out of our heads for days.
The American Museum of National History was on our must-do list, especially because Serena wanted to see the Easter Island head Dum-dum and the capuchin monkey from the movie "Night at the Museum". When we entered the Mammal Halls, all the fantastic dioramas immediately triggered the memory of Brian Selznick's book Wonderstruck which we read last year. And our hands touched likely the oldest thing we'd ever touch: a 140-million-year-old Stegosaurus plate! We knew the museum is huge but didn't expect that 4 hours later, we still hadn't seen everything.
To be in the very presence of Vincent Van Gogh's "De sterrennacht" was the highlight of this trip. Serena painted the Starry Night last year and it was such a privilege to see the real thing at the Museum of Modern Art. Our eyes also feasted on Cezanne's still life, Seurat's pointillism, O'keeffe's flowers, Warhol's soup cans...
As much as we love MoMA, we discovered a hidden gem in New York which just blew us away: The Frick Collection. It was the former residence of Henry Clay Frick who amassed a collection of distinguished Old Masters paintings and sculpture in his opulent home. As an example, there're less than 3 dozens Vermeer's paintings in the world and Mr. Frick got 3 of them in his house! We weren't allowed to take any pictures there but I could tell Serena was the most absorbed by this collection as she wandered around following the audio tour intently.
Central Park, Chelsea market, Brooklyn bridge, Eataly, Vivoli, Laduree, FAO Schwarz, the subway... The sights, the food, the fashion, the architecture of New York - we saw so much in a week but there's still so much more to discover. Not at all a bad way to start our school year!
Book Club has begun again and Mrs. Cowley has selected a wonderful book to kick off this new school year: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien. (Apparently there really is a NIMH - the National Institute of Mental Health!)
The group's discussion included identifying the protagonists, antagonists, setting, central action, and climax of the story. The most interesting dialogue happened around the question of science and its role in developing the rats' conscience and civilization.
What did science do to the rats? Serena: Science gave them their civilization really. It made them intelligent, it gave them the conscience to tell right from wrong. It separated them from the rest of their kind. It made their lives harder b/c the regular rats didn't understand them and they now had the conscience to make difficult choices. It also made things easier for them because they could read and invent things and they could solve problems.
Jenner says to Nicodemus: "You've got this idea stuck in your head. We've got to start from nothing and work hard and build a rat civilization. I say, why start from nothing if you can start with everything? We've already got a civilization." Jenner opposes the "Plan" while Nicodemus believes that the rats will never be civilized until they stop stealing. Who do you side with, Jenner or Nicodemus? Why? Serena: I side with Nicodemus because he has realized that if they get too lazy their civilization would disappear like many others they read in the books, and if they want to survive they need to work hard. And if they keep stealing they're just like the regular rats, and they would eventually lose their conscience to tell right from wrong.