After years of being mistaken for a high schooler (due to height), kiddo is now officially done with middle school. Continue reading “8th Grade Ends”
After years of being mistaken for a high schooler (due to height), kiddo is now officially done with middle school. Continue reading “8th Grade Ends”
Every time the leaves change colors around here, I whip out my camera, make kiddo comb his hair and force him into smiley positions all around the house and just outside. This is one of those times when I really count my blessings about how cooperative he is. I hated (and still do) photo-taking. Continue reading “Randomly Recent”
Our first month of Year 6 is over. It went by in a flash and a blur. Sometimes I wish I had Hiro Nakamura’s ability to freeze time. Continue reading “Randomly Recent”
Can’t believe the blog is five years old! What began as an experimental log of our homeschooling journey in August 2008 (when kiddo was in Year 1 or first grade) has evolved into an obvious part of my life now. I might not update the blog as often as I used to but I do look forward to posting when I can and am thankful I started it when I did. I can’t rely on memory alone much these days. I’ve made so many wonderful online friends through the blog too…a most unexpected and valuable experience! 😀
So kiddo is now in Year 6. Sixth grade. Almost 11 years old! Wowzers! Continue reading “Funschooling is 5 … and Year 6 Begins!”
It’s been a while since I’ve written one of these. Gee, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything here lol! What we’ve been learning about, playing with, reading, eating, watching, discussing, repeating, trying to remember to, asking, contemplating, etc. in no-particular-order: Continue reading “Randomly Recent”
2012. I can’t wrap my head around how every year appears on my horizon, all tantalizing with possibilities, and then it’s over as if only seconds have passed. That 2012 is doing the same, that I’ve seen my wonderful, amazing kiddo turn 10 and lived watching him blossom into this cool kid that he is, I am just so thankful for this. I am not a religious woman but I feel blessed nevertheless.
Frequent readers will know how I try to write a post to commemorate each homeschooling year. I usually do that every summer. But I have some time on my hands today and the thoughts are pouring forth.
So here goes. These are my key memories of 2012.
1. Tinkering, building, taking things apart. What began as a fun autonomous vehicle project has now morphed into a true-blue crazy science experiment. You may remember me posting about the rover in January. It started off looking innocent (R). In summer, the boys built a special control station (tray for iPad, linked to backpack containing power source – L) so that kiddo can easily maneuver the car around the neighborhood. During the Christmas break, hubby and kiddo have further transformed the car into a part-autonomous vehicle, part-Lego Mindstorms monster, part mini missile launcher (for want of a better word). With an ominous name like The Black Death, I’m guessing we’re in for some pretty interesting special effects in the coming weeks. 🙂 Yes, I have courageous neighbors lol.
I’ll post pix of the new machine when I can or better still, have kiddo explain it on his blog (but hedgehogs may croon Auld Lang Syne before that happens!).
2. Learning adventures. 2012 was a fantastic year in terms of homeschool resource choices. This is how we homeschool: kiddo tells me what he wants to learn at what challenge level and I go seek tutors/ online courses and relevant books. His Dad and I may make adjustments to his wishes if deemed necessary but about 90% of the time, this is how we go about it. It’s nice to see him being in the driver’s seat. I occasionally still suggest courses or books because I can’t imagine not ever doing that lol. I keep an eye out for sagging enthusiasm and sudden roadblocks just to make sure he knows why it’s happening but most days, he’s able to identify and solve the issues himself. As a result, this year he is almost completely an independent learner. I don’t know whether it’s good for him to be 100% independent but I do know that if for some reason I am unable to oversee things, he will know how to carry on and that’s definitely a big load off my frequently anxious shoulders.
Kiddo’s math lessons are progressing swimmingly. His tutor is such a blessing to our family. I love watching kiddo interact with his tutor and have the time of his life every week. I will say this over and over again. If your kid is passionate about something and you can’t help him with this passion, find him someone who can (and who won’t take monetary advantage of you for it).
We are really happy to see kiddo satisfied with the level of math challenge he’s getting. He is certainly developing a good bit of stamina with those harder problems too. Kiddo also had a very busy but definitely invigorating summer filled with math camps: one was a research-style camp aimed at working on unsolved math problems and the other, a cryptology-themed math class with his tutor. He came away with much-improved ability to express his mathematical thinking in words.
The boy also made it through one half of a challenging Coursera course (took notes too!). He is ready to move on to year two of German and might be trying AP-level science courses next year, but without any expectations to actually take the AP exams.
As I am starting to outsource even more than we usual do, I no longer schedule literature or history studies for now but that hasn’t stopped him from voraciously finishing a significant number of well-written classics and enjoying my cobbled-together survey course in Shakespeare every morning during breakfast. Using an animated core program definitely has its advantages! 🙂
Yes, I still complain that he doesn’t write enough and writes his n’s like h’s and vice versa or forgets to put the date on his homework and leaves his study table in a mess no matter how many times I upsize the space. But blessing #2 is about celebrating how far the boy has come after all. 😉
3. Friends, family, good health. This year has also been a great time for nurturing friendships. I remember when kiddo was six and practically friendless because he was either “too friendly” or “too young” or “too chatty” or “too curious” for other kids in our area and “too physically awkward” for me to allow him to participate in some of the more sports-oriented friend-making avenues. Time has helped so much with finding friends who accept him for who he is and for me to realize that physical awkwardness is a normal part of child development, especially in boys. I am trying to accept that he might never take to martial arts or swimming like I’d hoped, but he is showing a lot of fondness for brisk walking and some interest in basketball and kayaking. And I am making him work on reaching 20 daily pushups by the end of January 2013. Let’s hope he gets there with a good attitude!
Our trip home to Malaysia this year was very well-timed too. Kiddo had a good time bonding with his grandparents and aunts and uncles. We had a blast devouring the seasonal fruits and the delicious food. It just felt so good to be surrounded by so much love when we are both home alone most of the time.
With Adrian joining us this year, we are benefiting tremendously. From our “pack walks”, from the general well-being that comes from having a pet, and just the idea that there’s one more little fella in the house who needs our love and generously returns it, no questions asked.
2012 isn’t all roses and rainbows. I grieve for the lives lost, both from natural disasters and from personal tragedies of minds gone wrong. I worry about what the future will be like both on a personal level and for the nation and the world as a whole. I just visited my family but I also miss them terribly. But I know how lucky I am to have what I have. To be able to watch my child grow healthy, happy and strong. To have a comfortable home and access to good food and books and safety. To have my parents and in-laws, my siblings and their own families. To have a furry friend who shows me unconditional trust. To have really, really good friends, both IRL and online, after spending the first 15 years of my life with only three, scruffy four-legged ones. I am blessed. And I am fortunate that I can realize this and appreciate it because I know it can be taken from me in a heartbeat.
I guess after all these years of trying to figure out parenting and homeschooling and worrying about books and curriculum and where we are headed, I think I might be getting the point. We can learn to learn anytime. It’s learning to live that’s truly precious.
Have a blessed, beautiful 2013 everyone!
Kiddo’s world history learning has been nothing short of sporadic over the years. So far, for world history, we have relied on audiobooks, graphic novels (ala Larry Gonick), documentaries, history of scientific inventions and scientist biographies, miscellaneous historical literature, a child-led project or two and numerous dinner-table discussions.
This year, thanks to sale prices, I was able to grab this Teaching Company World History course for high schoolers by Prof. Linwood Thompson. It is very much a survey course and I don’t intend for us to go into too much depth since he’s already experienced some age appropriate depth in the past. And while history is an interest, it is not yet his passion. Treading lightly is therefore, my best bet.
The following are multimedia resources (fun websites, interactive maps where available and related documentaries) that correlate with the Teaching Company course. Experience has shown that when everything is planned ahead of time and links are easily available, we’ll be more likely to actually use what we buy. 🙂 So here we go with another list! (Ha, of course, who am I kidding…I’m also addicted to list-making!)
Note: Several links lead to YouTube videos and I should warn you that I’ve heard horror stories about hacked YouTube links. I‘m also using this list as a catch-all bookmarking spot without actually checking to see whether each one truly fits our purpose. I will weed out bad links that don’t do what they say they do. So until I get to watching them all, if you would like to use this list, please preview or supervise the viewing with your kids to prevent unpleasant surprises. Also, kiddo is almost past the stage of disliking violence in movies. Please be aware of possibly violent and other possibly inappropriate scenes if viewing with sensitive children.
I will be adding more links to this list and including comments where possible as I find them and we view them so please stay tuned!
We may also rely on this Story of the World-Netflix documentary spreadsheet that someone generously shared on another forum.
I plan for us to use this workbook to learn new literary terms and review the ones kiddo already knows. We are going at our own pace with this and may use our own sequence instead of the suggested order.
I am bookmarking links to the miscellaneous poems and texts peppered throughout the book, knowing that my curious guy will not be satisfied with reading only the excerpts. We’ll probably only choose a few of the original versions to read. Longer works have not been bookmarked — I will either use the excerpt in the workbook or check out the paperback versions if he wants me to.
Links are active at the time this post was composed.
Outside my window…
the ivy on our stone fencing walls is growing waaaay too long. I remember falling in love with the zen-like clean, grey walls when we first viewed this house (it’s been three years since we moved! where does the time go?). In fact it was one of the reasons why I wanted this house vs. another one we had viewed earlier that day. I like how the walls shut the rest of the world out (not to mention the busy street behind us). The introvert in me was whooping with joy. But now the ivy, lush and green as it is, is blocking my beautiful wall from my view. Time to plan…should we cut it back, or pull the ivy off altogether…?
Around the house…
I’m fighting a losing battle with the Company That Will Not Be Named. We receive these catalogs so often and with such tantalizing coupon code offers…sigh. I’ve made sure my snapshot of my latest collections include the codes in case you might want to use them, dear reader (leave a comment if you can’t see them!). Oh no, now I’m trying to share my addiction with others! Forgive me?
Never buy when not on sale. And when on sale, use a code when possible for more savings!
We’ve lately taken to reading these catalogs before bedtime. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. Are we becoming addicted to hoarding these DVDs as much as we do our books?
I am thankful…
that July wasn’t as busy as I’d blogged it would be. We were going to be quite over-scheduled thanks to my sudden weakness for trying new classes. One class in and I realized what an error it was to sign kiddo up for a College for Kids summer camp. It wasn’t really college for kids, it was too far away, required too much time outside and in the intense heat for shy ol’mom to be able to tolerate and also wasn’t generally deep, involved learning anyway. My main reason was to try to introduce a little more social exposure to kiddo’s routine but neither of us wanted that in the end. What a relief it was to cancel the camp! A pricey mistake though. We couldn’t get a refund.
I am thinking…
Must learn from mistakes! Must not repeat too many expensive ones.
chose to take two more math classes this summer! I feel guilty telling him about them but he does seem to be enjoying them despite the hard work. He’s been such a trooper that I am tempted to make a certificate to reward his winning attitude.
I am looking forward to…
taking a long break once his classes end in August to just read, read, read and possibly watch our Company That Will Not Be Named acquisitions. I am also looking forward to September because I’ve been gradually collecting living books to learn more about economics principles and also biology. We’ve neglected those topics for a bit and there’s so much I need to brush up on myself.
A favorite quote for today…
from Mark Twain: “Life is short. Break the Rules. Forgive quickly. Kiss SLOWLY. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably. And never regret ANYTHING that makes you smile.”
Last summer, I wrote about organizing assignments with a blog. We like to follow different “tides” in our learning pattern and the blog became a little stifling when we felt unschoolish. From an assignment space, the blog morphed into another link-collecting space. Since I already have funschooling to park links, as well as the free, online bookmarking site Diigo to categorize links for online games, I ended up with long lists of unused links. Well-categorized, true, but still too much clutter!
Since late winter, I have been playing around with a different tool. I started compiling only the links kiddo uses most often, both for online classes and for fun, into a Weebly site. Of course, a blog will still work for this purpose. Weebly just makes it easier with its free, drag-and-drop widget-based interface. Most important, kiddo seems to prefer this to the blog. He just clicks on the site’s icon (he bookmarked it on his browser’s horizontal navigation bar) and now has visually clean, quick access to all his classes and preferred links.
We have been using this site for a few months now and we really like it.
Another benefit I see to this is that I can save every schedule in a separate page to keep a “record” of what he learned each year and how he learned it. It could be a convenient, quick-glance list vs. the longer blog records that require a few days’ worth of writing, editing, and photo-compiling. After saving the record for the previous year, I can update the site with new links and schedule for the next year.
What will the world of further education look like in 10, 20, 30 years?
I don’t know if I can even imagine it.
Around 6.5 yo, kiddo started making more leaps in math. I found an old video of him figuring out how to convert irregular fractions into mixed numbers (but am unable to link it here, sorry). It was a wonderful game for him. He enjoyed finding patterns in everything.
I recently answered a question about homeschooling science on the Living Science Yahoo Group. I decided to record it here to help me to remember what we did for science when kiddo was younger. I find myself forgetting things so easily with so much on my mind. While blogging is increasingly becoming the last thing I am able to attend to when I’m free, I am still grateful I have this blog as a memory-holder.
“Explain to me how you define “living science”. What does it look like in your home? What is your philosophy and how do you apply it?”
Answer (edited yahoo group post for grammar where I could, and added details, links and photos):
It will look different for everyone. Here’s what it looks like in our home.
Ages 4-5: I had no idea what a living book was but did wonder if my son could lead our science studies based on curiosity alone (all those why questions that never stopped had to amount to something right?). So that’s we did. We just answered his questions. And he did quite a lot of collecting! He collected leaves and rocks and observed birds and tried to mimic their calls. We did this on “nature walks” while living in a busy apartment community in the middle of a busy city. He did a preschool science class at the local community center where they studied slimy things, flight, weather and so on using simple kits. We grew lima beans. We tried categorizing the leaves and rocks he had collected. He also “collected” clouds, planets and nebulas, and scientists! He would intensely “study” them then mentally file them away and move on to the next interest. Then at about 4.5yo he was obsessed with death and diseases so he voraciously consumed information on the human body and names of diseases and tried diagnosing every little thing.
I lelped him with experiments (we didn’t do many, just a few key ones) or did demonstrations for him. I sometimes checked books out from the library and always found a couple that were much more interesting, beautifully illustrated and just so much more rich and worth our time than others.
I only later discovered that this is basically what living books are. Wonderfully written, usually by a single author who is very passionate about the subject. Not dry, or by committee. We tried a number of curricula written for homeschoolers, found them lacking (or requiring too much tweaking to work that it didn’t make sense) and just went back to working with the living books to supply information and ideas for experiments where he wanted them. He read some books over and over. We supplemented with a lot of dinner table discussions. And Curious George. 🙂
|A basic DNA extraction lab|
Ages 5-8: I learned about the Charlotte Mason method and living books as the name to describe the well-written books we were using. I found the CM method wonderful but not the best fit for how my son likes to learn.
However, the living books themselves were working so well for him that we continued using these, and our home library grew and grew. I added The Happy Scientist videos ($20/year membership) and documentaries galore. We added science kits where available/ interested.
David Attenborough’s Life of/ Life in (Mammals, Cold Blood, Undergrowth etc) series was especially well loved. Son developed an intense interest in chemistry so we took that bunny trail for a long, long time with more living books and mass market books and a class or two, and finally a twice-a-month group class that continues to this day (ask me how to set this up if interested).
|Made a glider using a kit|
We like integrated learning. While chemistry was going on we continued to watch life science themed shows, did a few nature-themed classes, discussed a lot of physics with physics-loving dad, and created a few projects, usually something to do with physics, and with magnets and also followed another intense interest in diseases, viruses etc.
We are amateur (very!) stargazers when there’s a chance. We watched a lot of PBS/Quest/NOVA astronomy shows. We “video/ book-stalked” science celebrities: we adored Neil deGrasse Tyson, then Brian Greene, then Oliver Sacks (and visited a neuroscience lab too). We listened to a number of Naxos audiobooks for children about scientists and inventors. Took field trips/ road trips where we could (fell in love with red rock formations for a bit).
Age 9: We are continuing the above but at a slightly higher level now (e.g. using a higher level kit for chemistry such as the one in the picture under this post’s title). And it works beautifully. There are areas he is ignorant about (gaps galore!) and that’s fine with me but if it’s not fine with you, maybe you could do a little gentle goal-setting to see what is important to you for your child to know by what age. There’s a book called Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp that will give you an idea of the usual “what to do by when” stuff. There is also What Your First Grader Needs to Know and others in the Core Knowledge series by Hirsch that could provide a simple guideline.
|Basic electrolysis lab|
My philosophy? I tell my son to have fun and let his passion consume him and to try to do it by himself because honestly, his mom is no help when it comes to science lol. But in the end, it looks too tempting for me to watch from the sidelines and I have a go at it with him too. For a while, I agreed to be an unschooler with science. This year, we took a more structured approach, using a distance ed science class because we think it will help him answer a lot of questions he has and also build a good work ethic.
Another family may find that using an even more structured approach or a particular curriculum or two works best for them with living books as supplements; still another family could be more into nature exploration, allowing nature studies to lead their learning adventures with art, sketching, real-life observation and discussion and experimenting being the focal points instead of doing all the sciences at once or living books being the focal point. It really depends what your particular bent is. You’ll find it developing as you get into it.
Note: The living science books we used are listed both on this blog and in the Files section of the Living Science Yahoo Group website.
A quick round-up of free resources found recently on my web travels (I have forgotten how I found some of these so please forgive me if I don’t mention all my sources).
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean, narrated by Sean Runnette
We listened to the unabridged audio book in April and I’m so glad I chose audio over print.
Prime Curios!: The Dictionary of Prime Number Trivia by Chris Caldwell could soon eclipse kiddo’s previous favorite math trivia tome, Number Freak. He is also enjoying Here’s Looking at Euclid by Alex Bellos. He doesn’t read these in any sequence. He savors them like you would a small and exquisite piece of expensive Belgian chocolate. He runs to google a little fact every few minutes or pulls out his math notebooks to create patterns from what he reads, forgets about them for a couple of weeks and then pores over them all over again, sometimes spreading all of them out in front of him at the same time.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and The Lion’s Paw by Robb White were read alouds that we both loved.
I managed a good bit of a British accent reading aloud The Secret Garden. Who says watching Downton Abbey doesn’t help? The Lion’s Paw is an adventure story about three children, aged 15, 12 and 9, who run, err, I mean sail away on a sloop to search for a sea shell, the lion’s paw. We started every morning by reading it beside our new backyard pool and learned a bit about sailing and catching alligators! 😉
Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes and Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes were free reads. He enjoyed reading about the Don much more than I thought he would and he keeps regaling me (I haven’t caught up with reading DQ yet) with what the Don or Sancho did. Yes, DQ is rather PG-13 in case you are wondering but the kiddo was just so ready for the story that I closed my eyes to the various libidinous references and agreed to let kiddo have a go at reading it.
Me: I just finished To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I have read it once before in my teens but the references did not make a full impact at the time. Having read it a second time, I realize I just can’t do this book justice in a few lines. It deserves an entire post of its own.
I absolutely loved it.
I am going to persuade kiddo to name our future pets (if we have any) Atticus and Boo. That is, if he doesn’t choose Hobbes and Snoopy first.
CURRENTLY READING and LISTENING to…
Physics with Derek Owens: Kiddo loves the lectures and practice videos but the homework and tests are hard work. Still, he’s managing this on his own so far. This and German are his first officially graded courses.
Irasshai Japanese I: His favorite elective. He’s finished half of Japanese I and is currently reviewing the 30+ lessons using the Irasshai workbook.
German Online German I: He’s able to lead, read and understand simple (and silly!) German conversations. Three more chapters to the end of German I.
Literature and Philosophy discussions with:
History and Other: History happens on an extremely random basis here. History through math and science is so much more eagerly embraced than history through curriculum. We periodically read aloud from well-written children’s books (mostly fiction) and listen to audiobooks too…I’m hoping kiddo is soaking something up from there.
Kiddo also finished a three-week audit of Introduction to Cryptology with Coursera. He wanted to work on it himself in the evenings and finished half the course at a slower pace.
ETA: Piano and swimming continue with the former being a hit and the latter being in between hit and miss. Kiddo participated in a jazz band program for six weeks in spring and even sang lead vocals for one song!
I’d love to read your school year reviews if you’ve written them. Please link to them when commenting.
Happy summer everyone!
Kiddo’s debate classes are over for the year. Yesterday, he had his final debate for the Public Forum session. The resolution: Birthright Citizenship Should be Abolished. Kiddo was for the resolution and debated alone against a team of two other students.
He has been taking classes at this debate school for six months and due to other commitments, we have decided not to continue over the rest of spring and summer. He may decide to participate in the fall again because he really likes the instructor so he’s not saying goodbye altogether. He has learned so much over the last six months and has met his match in many of the other students and I am so glad for all the incidental lessons that he’s gained from this experience too. He didn’t win at the latest finals but came away learning very important lessons about research and preparation, time management, communicating and thinking critically on his feet, not under-estimating his opposing team and taking defeat with a great attitude. All the more reason to work harder at the next challenge!
I was most pleasantly surprised when the instructor spoke to me privately about how much kiddo has grown from this. He was impressed enough with kiddo to use kiddo’s class assessment as a sample assessment on the school’s website. He is also using a recording of one of kiddo’s class sessions to show another class how to debate well! This is praise that I hope kiddo takes with humility and generosity of spirit.
I highly recommend debate and public speaking for any child interested in it. We drove many miles to give kiddo this opportunity so it didn’t come cheap but it was very worth the effort and time spent.
Onward to another fun challenge!
Baking butter cookies!
The FunSchoolers discovered a very yummy recipe and have so far experimented twice with it:
Both were delicious although the first batch was a little runny and couldn’t be decorated satisfactorily. The second batch had a melt-in-the-mouth buttery flavor. Kiddo had tons of fun decorating it. Next time, we’ll first plan the decorations before going trigger happy with the icing tubes. 🙂
Swimming lessons have resumed
After a difficult start when we first began, kiddo is doing very well and I’m very happy with how he’s being taught. He’s learning how to flip and push off between laps now.
He is currently very interested in philosophy. We have chosen to read aloud and discuss Philosophy for Kids by David White once or twice a week during afternoon snack time. We really like the book so far.
See this post on kiddo’s blog.We didn’t have the time to record every single point discussed but it does give you an idea of how we are using the book.
Learning as usual
It’s good to have our rhythm back after the holidays and the flu. Physics is going well with full marks in his grade book so far but the suggested pace is obviously too rapid right now. I’m not terribly concerned. It just means he may take longer to finish the course. I’m trying to keep my expectations neutral. Learning to stay out of the way is hard for this control freak, but I’m getting there!
Math and German are proceeding at a steady pace. I am enjoying learning this way and I can see kiddo is too. We have more time to learn and digest the information instead of rushing from one lesson to another. I wish we could somehow fit Latin into our days but we don’t seem to be able to right now. I’m trying to work in 15 minutes of Latin three times a week. Since we don’t do any “language arts”, Latin is my back-up plan for grammar and vocabulary studies.
The highlight of last week was kiddo’s team debate finals. He was team captain for one of the teams. The teams were judged based on three mini-debate topics:
The teams were both tied in the end.
Kiddo is enjoying speech and debate very much and will continue with the next session of classes in two weeks. I couldn’t be happier. He’s learning many other skills through the class. He’s learning to research and present his arguments coherently. He’s learning the difference between fact and opinion. And he’s learning leadership skills.
He’s fond of the State of Debate game here. If you know anything else like it that can be played or followed online, I’d really appreciate a heads up!