Introducing Black Widow

We're in Montreal right now taking care of family business on a couple fronts - finding an apartment for July and getting Celine to C2E2.

I am extremely relieved to report that, after a hectic schedule of appointments and applications, we secured an apartment in the first three days of our trip. It's a wonderful place and I'll tell you more about it later.

In Montreal the majority of rental leases are signed for July 1st and tenants must give notice by the end March if they are not renewing their lease. This means April and May are the best times to find an apartment. So we needed to come to Montreal to do that.

Our apartment hunting trip was timed to coincide with Celine's travel plans for Chicago.

There is no international airport where we live, just small expensive regional airports. On our budget, to fly you must first drive. And so drive we did, to Montreal, so Celine and Damien can fly to C2E2 today.

Celine's big project and driving goal since returning home from the trail is to attend C2E2, this weekend in Chicago.

I wrote about that in this post on a goal-driven curriculum.

Today's post is the big reveal of Celine's costume. Part of attending a comic convention, or Comic Con as they are called, is participating in cosplay.

Not all attendees do this but the really creative geeky ones do.

Celine has been working on her costume since last fall. She bought the fabric on our trip to Nova Scotia, just two weeks after getting off the trail.

She had many months on the trail to think about what character she wanted to be and in the end she choose Black Widow from The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes animated television series.

This is a television series I know nothing about, belonging to a realm of media and pop culture that is foreign to me.

I'm not entirely sure what it is about Black Widow that captured Celine's imagination except I do know that Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow character is one of her favorites from the Avengers movies (not to be confused with Earth Mightiest Heroes animated series). And Celine informs me that the animated costume is easier to recreate, with its simple design, than the non-animated version.

Our entire family eats up superhero movies, they are the one movie genre we all mutually love, and the Marvel Avengers are always a great hit. How can you not love Hawkeye, Thor, Captain America and Robert Downey Junior's Iron Man?

Celine's costume, down to the golden gauntlets was made entirely by her. No dollar store or costume shop purchases for her. That's part of the fun of cosplay.

It's not about buying the costume, it's about creating the costume. You can see how this is the perfect "fit" for my geeky, sci-fi fan, sewing and design astute daughter.

For her, this is what "project-based" learning looks like.

When people find out that we employ project-based learning (among other methodologies) in our homeschool they sometimes ask "what kind of projects" our kids do.

I sometimes wonder if they are expecting projects that are academic in nature, along the lines of a science fair project.

Real life, project-based learning is driven by a person's natural need or want to make or build something. These projects arise from an innate desire or interest to figure something out, express an idea, have an experience, or participate in community and culture.

In which case, it might look like a "classic" science fair type project, figuring out the best location to plant the beans in the garden for example. But project based learning can look like almost anything.

The key thing is, you don't "assign" true student-directed, project-based learning with a scoring rubric of "skills to be learned".

The project itself is the educational means and ends.

Conceiving the original idea, making plans, re-configuring plans, doing the work, (sometimes discontinuing), and finally finishing - the process itself is the learning as much as the finished product or community contribution.

I cannot tell you all the hours Celine put into this costume. It is entirely her baby. I did not "direct" any of it.

Celine did all the stitching and painting. All the research into wigs and where to buy them. Not to mention all the hours she spent on her part time job to earn the money to pay for all her materials (and her flight, hotel, food and convention ticket).

This kind of project was well outside the scope of my personal experience, or interest. I offered opinions when asked for them. But it's hard to give an opinion on something you know so little about. Mostly I was just a cheerleader and sounding board for ideas.

And when Celine considered giving up all together, sometime in February (who doesn't want to give up in February), we said the choice was all hers but we would do everything we could to support her in finishing through to the end.

And finish she did!

Celine worked so hard to get here. She's overcome many obstacles and unknowns (too numerous to mention), not the least of which is her own mother's cluelessness about such things, "what's a comic con?"

To say I'm proud is an understatement, and to say she's beautiful is stating the obvious.

Watching her in cosplay is to see a new side of Celine, "who is this girl?"

I am continually amazed at Celine's talent for something that eludes me (sewing anything other than straight lines on cotton fabric). And I am impressed at her dogged persistence in working towards a goal.

And today I'm grateful that the person I trust the most, who loves Celine as much as I do (her dad and my husband) will be accompanying this blossomed-into-beautiful young woman on the first of her many self-directed grand adventures.

You go girl!

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  • Kimberly

    Kimberly on April 23, 2015, 4:25 p.m.

    I love this post!  I struggle with letting go of the reigns because something doesn't look "academic" enough to be considered school.  Foolish I know.  I have loved reading your posts about Celine and Laurent.  It has given me the courage to let go just a bit more.  Thank you and please keep sharing with us!


  • Amber

    Amber on April 23, 2015, 6:04 p.m.

    Oh that is fabulous!  What a wonderful costume and what great pictures too.  She did a gorgeous job on it all.  

    And the project thing is tricky, isn't it - it really needs to be life projects, not contrived science fair stuff...  but yet the contrived science fair stuff looks so much more appropriate and impressive to the skeptical onlookers, not to mention the bureaucrats and nay-sayers.  But really, what's of more lasting value, and has more impact on the person - something like this, or growing beans on a grid to make some charts to attach to some posterboard and stick in a badly lit hall?  Granted, if you're into beans and not ComicCon, then the beans are the way to go - but I don't think one is automatically better than the other.


  • Krista

    Krista on April 23, 2015, 6:25 p.m.

    I totally got a lump in my throat - like a sense of mama pride - reading this (even thought I am not Celine's mama) :)

    So happy you found an apartment too. Georges is heading to Quebec with his students in two weeks. I am a wee bit jealous. But I am actually hoping the girls can come with us not this fall but the next down East and perhaps, just perhaps, we can drop in on you.


  • Tracy Alsterlund

    Tracy Alsterlund on April 23, 2015, 6:51 p.m.

    Wow Renee,

    You reap what you sow.  As you have trusted in your learning/teaching philosophy, in Celine, and in yourself as parents/teachers, the "harvest" is overflowing.  I can't imagine the sense of accomplishment Celine must feel as a young woman directing her own life work.  She has had to manage her goals, her confidence level, her resources, etc in ways that most teens would never imagine.  Praying that this trip spurs you all on as Celine moves forward in who she was created to be.  She looks fabulous and confident and ready to conquer the world!


  • Catherine Forest

    Catherine Forest on April 23, 2015, 8:14 p.m.

    I have goosebumps reading that... The little Celine I remember from the early blog times... Wow! She is nothing short of amazing!! You go girl!!


  • Lauren

    Lauren on April 23, 2015, 8:51 p.m.

    That is just awesome! I think it's wonderful that you are confident and suppotive enough to let her run with it! My 3rd kiddo is really creative and very into cosplay as well. She attends public school part-time after homeschooling for several years and I have to say that the joy she gets from creating things is sometimes what saves her from all the pressure to be a clone of the typical American girl. She is currently into the "Furry" thing and has made furry feet and is working on furry hands. Its amazing how much effort and creative energy and problem solving skills are involved. I am so impressed by your Celine and all her dedication. Tell her Brava from a fan in the US!!


  • Sarah M

    Sarah M on April 23, 2015, 9:24 p.m.

    This week you have been revealing your kids really growing up and succeeding at project-based homeschool. As an observer who has been reading for a few years, I'm sort of cheering alongside you (with Celine, and Laurent's project/story earlier this week) that so much of homeschooling is now seeing the fruit for you. I'm still in the young stages, which can feel like a slog sometimes...but I know that the fruit will come. Thanks for that. And best wishes to Celine, who has created a beautiful costume (the sewn aspect with that fabric is amazing first and foremost!). Enjoy your time--you've earned it!

    Sarah M


  • Andréann

    Andréann on April 23, 2015, 11:34 p.m.

    We adored the animated series here, and that costume is spot on! We love Natasha Romanov !! :D She's all skills and no super-power, and still  very useful to the team. 

    Have fun Céline!


  • Nana

    Nana on April 24, 2015, 12:36 p.m.

    Absolutely amazed but not surprised to see, as this granddaughter from very early on has had such an appreciation, imagination and creativity for fibre arts. Smashingly beautiful!! So proud of her and thanks to you and Damien for nurturing her gift and love. xo, Mom



  • Becky

    Becky on April 24, 2015, 6:38 p.m.

    I am a long time reader and silent lurker on your blog. I happen to be visiting Chicago and this morning saw your daughter and husband on the street. They were instantly recognizable-- but I was too bashful to say anything. Thanks for opening your life to strangers.


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