Day Out in Sonoma, Part I: Picnic on the Plaza

May 16, 2011

Sonoma Plaza and old City HallOne of our absolute favorite family day trips is to the town of Sonoma. Sonoma is a fantastic wine country destination for either a family outing or a weekend getawaty. About a half-hour’s drive from northern Marin, Sonoma is not as busy or as up-to-the-moment trendy as the Napa Valley, its flashier Wine Country neighbor to the east, but it manages to be at the same time both quaint and sophisticated, with a clear sense of tradition and history. Above all, Sonoma is a great place for families, since the Wine Country isn’t necessarily all about wine.

One of our favorite things to do is to stake out a place in Sonoma’s historic downtown Plaza, and have a picnic. Once the parade ground for the Mexican soldiers stationed here in the 19th century, the Plaza is an expansive park in the heart of Sonoma, with lush green lawns, two playgrounds, fountains, a pond with ducks, and plenty of shade. It’s the perfect place for families to relax and play. There's often something fun going on here, too, like art shows, a farmer's market, and even an annual ox roast celebration.

Day Out in Sonoma Part II: Explore California's History

May 16, 2011

Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, CaliforniaIn our last look at the town of Sonoma—one of our favorite places for a family outing—we focused on the historic Sonoma Plaza, picnicing, and places to pick up lunch supplies. The Plaza itself is surrounded by the historic remains of the old Mexican town of Sonoma, which dates back to the founding of Mission San Francisco Solano by Father José Altamira in the 1820s. Sites include the mission itself, the remains of General Mariano Vallejo's Casa Grande, the Sonoma Barracks, the Blue Wing Inn, the Toscano Hotel, and Lachryma Montis, Vallejo's Victorian home, which is located a short distance from the Plaza.

The historic buildings in Sonoma, all part of Sonoma State Historic Park, are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm and admission is inexpensive (just $3 for adults and $2 for kids), so you should definitely plan a visit with your family. The park is a great way to learn about California history, especially since Sonoma was the site of the 1846 Bear Flag Revolt that proclaimed the California Republic and marked the beginning of the end for Mexican rule of the Alta California, as well as the creation of California's iconic state Bear Flag.

Help Save Our California State Parks—Again!

May 14, 2011

Jack London State Historic ParkBack in 2009 we wrote about the proposal to help alleviate California's budget problems by closing 200 of our priceless state parks. Fast forward to 2011 and legislators again propose to shut down 70 of our state parks—25% of California's state parks system—to help trim the state budget gap. This time the closures are permanent, marking the first time in the century-long history of the California State Park system that park closures would be implemented.

You can see a list and map of the proposed closures here.

This is an incredibly short-sighted, harmful, and embarrassing plan that ultimately will only serve to hurt the state of California, its citizens, visitors, and businesses. Closing parks will have a severe financial impact on nearby businesses that serve park visitors, and the tax revenue they provide. Closure of state parks will also leave them open to potential environmental damage and vandalism.

Summertime Sailing Fun in the Bay Area

May 13, 2011

Kids and mom sailingGuest contributor Barbara McVeigh shares some great resources for summer sailing and nautical fun for kids and families.

The America’s Cup sailing race is yet two years away, but the excitement in the maritime communities is beginning to build just like the wind before a full blown gale.

There are lots of family fun sailing events planned this summer with activities promising to please the youngest of sailors to the crustiest of old salts. Treasure hunts, model boat building, schooner sails and pirates in Vallejo are just some of the teasers to lure a landlubber into the magical world of sailing.

Youth sailing camps start in June. The sport encourages teamwork and develops self reliance and confidence unlike any other activity. For a child, this can be the beginning of lifelong knowledge of the sport and art of sailing, as well as a connection to the natural elements of sea and wind. Kids laugh and have fun sailing!

Novato Parents Nursery School Open House on Saturday

May 13, 2011

NPNS garden signDo you want hands-on involvement in your child's first school experience? Then Novato Parents Nursery School (NPNS) may be for you! Find out about this cooperative preschool's programs and community at their open house on Saturday, May 14, 2011, from 10–11:30 am.

NPNS has been going strong in Novato since 1968, and offers a safe, nurturing, and stimulating, and challenging environment for children to learn, discover, wonder, express themselves in many ways and succeed. The school is located at 1473 South Novato Boulevard in Novato.

For more information, visit www.npnurseryschool.org or call (415) 897-4498. You can read our profile of Novato Parents Nursery School here.

Tiburon Adventure Camp: Tiburon’s Best Kept Secret

May 11, 2011

Tiburon Adventure CampAre you looking for a fun, safe, and well organized summer camp in southern Marin? Check out the Tiburon Adventure Camp, run by the Belvedere Tiburon Child Care Center (BTCCC). This summer's Tiburon Adventure Camp offers the Sharks Program for children aged 4.5 to 8 years (incoming kindergartners to third graders) and Dolphin Program for children aged 2 to 5 (children do not have to be toilet trained to attend).

The Sharks program offers both stimulating fun and time to relax and hang out with friends throughout the summer. The camp is attended by about 25 to 30 children each week with 4 to 5 counselors. Highlights of the camp include:

  • Monday: Jumpee Day—wrecking ball, obstacle challenge, run and slide, foam pit, velcro wall
  • Tuesday: Hot Lunch and Movie Day—Tangled, Toy Story 3, Despicable Me, Shrek Forever, Megamind
  • Wednesday: Field Trip Day—Scandia, Chabot Space Center, Six Flags, Trapeze Arts, Marin County Fair

Celebrate Imagination and Inspire Literacy at San Geronimo's Fourth Annual Storyland Festival!

May 11, 2011

Celebrate imagination, children's literature, literacy, and above all fun at the fourth annual Storyland Festival, this Saturday, May 14, from 10 am to 3 pm at San Geronimo Preschool in San Geronimo. This enchanting event is perfect for kids from 1–8 and features exciting activites that bring storybook characters to life and help inspire a lasting love of reading. The Storyland Festival gets rave reviews from local parents and children, and It's always one of everyone's favorite yearly events.

This year's Storyland Festival features roaming story characters, live music by everybody's favorite family recording artist Tim Cain, a bounce house, cookie decorating at the Teddy Bear's Picnic, storytelling and games with favorite characters like Snow White and Curious George; face painting, a petting zoo, arts and crafts, healthy and organic food, and much more. Also on hand is Aladdin's Bazaar, where parents can pick up special treasures for their children.

Day Out with Dad: Sonoma Valley Airport Display Days

May 10, 2011

Curtiss P-40N at Sonoma Valley AirportOne of the best things about being a dad is getting to take my own children on the kinds of outings I did with my dad way back when I was kid. One of the things we did was to head out into the wild of Northern California in search of cool machinery to look at, especially airplanes. It's fun, exciting, noisy, fascinating, and in many cases free. After all, what kid doesn't dream of flying, especially in an open-cockpit biplane? One of my favorite local spots for an airplane-watching outing is Sonoma Valley Airport, also known as the Schelleville Airport, located just south of the town of Sonoma. The romance of the Golden Age of Aviation lives on in this small airport, and one weekend a month the planes' owners put them on display for visitors to come see.

The Sonoma Valley Airport holds these "display days" on the second weekend of every month, where the owners of the vintage aircraft open their hangars and show off their planes. Schelleville aiport is home to numerous different historic planes, making it a living aviation museum of sorts. This month's display days are this weekend, May 14 and 15, from noon to 4 pm. Feel free to wander the hangar rows and check out the planes on view. The

Assessing the Educational and Social Needs of a Gifted Child

May 10, 2011

Gifted child at schoolWe all think our kids are brilliant (well, most of us do, anyhow), but how can you tell if a child is really gifted? What do you look for, and how do you assess their needs?

We posed this question to the staff and parents at the Dunham Academy, Marin's independent school for gifted children in grades K through 8. One of the first things that comes to mind for many people when they hear the phrase “gifted student” is the straight-A student who effortlessly excels at everything he/she does. The common misconception is that if a child is smart, he or she will just sit and do schoolwork quickly without much supervision; after all, everything comes easy and the student will eventually have his or her pick of Ivy League Universities, right?

Not so, according to Dunham academy. The truth is that school is a veritable minefield for gifted students trying to fit in with both teachers and other students. These students need a great deal of support and understanding and are very much “at risk.” Highly intelligent students are often not property identified. Gifted students:

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