Homeschooling with Google Drive

Name any homeschool record-keeping software and chances are high that I’ve either subscribed or given it a whirl through the free trial option. I’m sad to say that despite all the choices, nothing comes close to the kind of functionality and interface I am searching for. So far, the tool that comes closest is Homeschool Tracker Plus but after pulling out my download from cold storage (yet again), and spending hours playing with it, I decided that there HAS to be something simpler than HST’s soaring learning curve. Continue reading “Homeschooling with Google Drive”

Oh To Play The Violin Again…

Now I know what I need to learn when empty nest syndrome hits. ūüôā


Kiddo sent this link to his piano teacher and cc-ed me. He forgot to explain why he sent it so here’s what he wrote in a second email:

“Dear Mr. H, You may have received some mysterious emails from me that said to check out some videos. I sent these for our class. One of them is the complete Doc Martin, but you may not have heard of the other one. It’s from a show called Sherlock, and it has a nice beginning theme. I was thinking we could learn it too.”

This video was just begging to be shared! Love that kiddo’s inspired to try playing it on the piano.

Year 5 Begins…

…right after Labor Day. Our charter school year began well nigh three weeks ago but I resisted the impulse to dive in then. A number of kiddo’s classes began only in January so it felt premature (is there such a thing as post-mature?) to declare August 13 the beginning of Year 5. But it’s starting to get confusing calling every January the beginning of a new school year so I decided oh well, why not just go with the charter school designation. I refuse to call him a 5th grader on this blog though (although in real life I don’t nitpick) so here we go. Year 5. Begins.

We tend to be loosey-goosey somedays and highly structured on others. There’s nothing like the start of a school year to make me feel insecure and bring out all the pro-structure parts of me. Oh yeah, of course I know that things will fall apart around October or November and that we’ll go back to our wicked ways…but while I’m still feeling pro-structure, I thought I’d whip up a new strategy to help kiddo decompress between scheduled learning times (apart from reading or walking on the treadmill or running out to the backyard to burn leaves).

The flip side has details of what to do.

I found this at the TeachNet.com site (I’ve lost the actual link to the article). The idea is to make fun in-between lesson activity cues or even start-of-the-day warm up cues. I wrote these out on craft sticks, stuck them into a little glass jar that sits in our supplies tray and they are now ready to go. I’ve seen ideas like this on other homeschooling blogs but we never used them then for reasons I can’t remember.

I ran this idea by kiddo today and he likes it. Some of the prompts are directly copied (and reworded) from TeachNet. I added a couple of my own for skills I thought he will like to learn (e.g. learning to use chopsticks).

Here they are for anyone who wants to follow suit:

  • Practice Chopsticks – Pick up the silly putty ball
  • Brain Binder Activity –¬† I print ’em, you fold ’em!
  • Story Cubes – The crazier the tale, the better!
  • Draw mom in 30 seconds – (I strike a funny pose) Capture the essence. No need to be perfect! (details would have really worried him 2-3 years ago)
  • Complete The Story – I’ll give you 2-3 lines, you finish the tale!
  • Make the correct change – Match coins correctly to amount given
  • Alternative Archaeology – (I lay out a few objects, he has to pretend to be an archaeologist who unearthed them, and make up some funny uses) Describe who might have used these and how
  • Make A Timeline! (I lay out a few every day objects or I list a few key events on the whiteboard) – Arrange these in correct historical order
  • Find This River/ Mountain/ Place – Unscramble the name and find it on the world map!

I might come up with new cues every few months to keep it fresh but I enjoy doing this and it’s not too difficult. Photo above shows where I keep the sticks. On our coffee-table (where most of our learning takes place), together with chopsticks, coins (in bottom of jar) etc within reach.

If it doesn’t work as planned, I’ll throw them into a little bag and we’ll use them in the car when traveling or while waiting for an outside class to begin so it’s not a waste.

Well, wish me luck! And have a wonderful new school year!

    I’ve found it…

    …finally. Words that explain why choosing the alternative path to home-educate really appeals to me. I found this link through a chance discussion on my local list about the Goldberg conjecture. Wonderful how you find things when you least expect to. Anyway, here it is:

    “Every person whom you come into contact with, every exploration into every place on your planet, every interaction with anyone who comes to you will be one that has the potential of uplifting them because you represent the best of all that exists in all of the universe. And you know it because you feel frisky. You’re full of yourself. Your eyes are bright. ¬†Your body feels good. Your body is functioning the way you want it to. Your heart is lifted. Your mind is clear. Your wit is sharp. Your fun is full. Your eagerness is pronounced. Your love is apparent. Your appreciation for all things is off the charts.”¬†

    Abraham Hicks*
    Source: Math Be Brave blog

    For reasons I don’t yet understand, this quote speaks volumes to me and really resonates with feelings I’ve held deep within.

    When you feel for something so deeply, it is an indescribable pain to have it snatched away or have it forced into unfathomably boring little boxes.

    I want to keep that fun full, that eagerness pronounced, the appreciation for all things off the charts, for as long as I can.

    *I am not connected in anyway to Abraham Hicks and persons related to this organization. I am merely appreciative of these well-crafted words.

    One Less Choice…

    …to (regret/ debate over/ worry about/ wish to change).

    As mothers, we are subtly telling ourselves every day to achieve perfection. Everywhere we turn, someone somewhere seems to be doing so much more, so much better. We wonder how we are going to do it all. Kids, what to cook (and should it be organic and healthy or can I just whip up junk today?), a beautiful yard, a neat and orderly home, a great career, regularly checked off to-do lists. And we learn we cannot do it all. That we have to choose. To prioritize. And then we feel we should have done it differently instead. How do we know what to choose?

    Choices are guided by feelings and thought. The whole head over the heart debacle. Once in a rare while, your head and your heart speak in beautiful harmony. You just know you are doing the right thing at the right time. But too often you feel torn, you aren’t sure if you should choose this over that.

    Some things luckily, happen in automatic mode. Like buying groceries. Do it long enough and you know which vegetable to put in your cart. Red or yellow onions or both for example. And if you just don’t feel like kale chips, you know that you are not going to regret not buying that kale. If only everything were so simple.

    Life’s all about choices isn’t it? I enjoy driving because I enjoy being in control. But I also know I enjoy it because so often, I am fortunate enough to have a cute little Garmin Nuvi telling me how to get to where I want to go. Perhaps 30 years from now, if someone didn’t make a choice to destroy the world, people would have a micro-GPSes embedded in their heads, telling them exactly what to do and when and how. Perhaps feeling will have less to do with choosing and we would be so much more at peace with ourselves and one another. I sure hope so because 30 years from now my child will be my age. I want him to be empowered by his choices, never disheartened.

    One less choice to regret. To worry about. That’s what I want for every mother for Mother’s Day. You deserve one day to stop worrying. Take it. Celebrate your choice. You did the best you could at that time. Learn from it. Embrace it. Act if it is not the choice you want now but don’t let yourself be pulled every which way anymore. At least for this one day.

    Happy Mother’s Day, my dear reader.

    What Is It About Cardboard Boxes?

    The boy and I want to make a true-blue, honest-to-goodness Calvin and Hobbes Transmogrifier. We have the perfect box, a nice big fella, thanks to the fountain portion of the Backyard Pond Project. I have no idea how we will actually make one of us “transmogrify”. We will probably resign ourselves to some “special effects”. It would be nice if we could morph, I mean mogrify, into something else for a few seconds though ;).

    As usual, we are turning to good ol’ Google for inspiration.And one of the things I love most about Google is that it can reveal so many amazing ideas for budding inventors in the brainstorming stage.

    Seen Caine’s Arcade yet? I heard about this lovely project a while back and am glad for this opportunity to bookmark it here.

    And then there’s this addictive music video by Walk Off The Earth. Really fires up the imagination this does!(Interesting message too.)


    From Pinterest: Cardboard Box Creations

    From Instructables: Incredible Cardboard

    From Escape Adulthood, a beautiful website on curing adultitis

    Check out the cardboard creations here. I like the recycled cardboard art.

    Please let me know if you have ideas for us!

    Doing What You Love

    Tried TED-Ed yet? Kiddo and I took advantage of some of the fun videos and animations to fill up a lazy evening. The video that really caught our eye, captivated our hearts and caused us to laugh out loud in delight was Aparna Rao’s High-Tech Art (with a sense of humor).

    Here’s the video if you haven’t seen it.


    Wouldn’t it be awesome to do something like this for the rest of your life?

    The PorsandRao Website.

    What Asynchrony Means

    This post is a dedication to all the kids out there who are “many ages at once”. You know you have an asynchronous child when she reads at the college level but cannot tie her shoes. Or perhaps she ties her shoes extremely well for her age and also does algebra in her head but cannot cut in a straight line or spell at grade level. Homeschooling is a blessing for many of these children but it may not be the best solution for every child. It takes time and money for parents of such kids to find the right fit but some of these parents may not be able to afford the resources necessary to help their child thrive.

    The following video, from the Asynchronous Scholars’ Fund, captures beautifully what it means for an asynchronous child to live in a world that does not understand him or her. If you would like to support the fund, please visit this page.

    Amazing Musical Instruments

    Kiddo and I are having a laid back Friday afternoon with curve stitching (from this book; I’ll post photos of his project later) and watching these pretty cool YouTube videos. These are so amazing to me that I wanted to post them here for others to enjoy as well. Have fun!

    The first is a halo drum performance on the streets of Oslo (reminds me so much of Indian music!):

    The second, a remarkable combo of piano and dance:
    Happy weekend everyone!

    A Wish For 2012

    2012….wow. The year kiddo will turn double digits. And my final chance to enjoy my thirties! What will 2012 bring? Excitement I’m sure. But challenges too and I wonder what kind of animal that will be.

    I find myself watching kiddo furtively these days. He’s at that age where he gets a little embarrassed if I stare at him lovingly for too long. Sometimes he seems so very, very grown up all of a sudden. And sometimes, he’s still such a little thing (especially when he’s in his jammies lol). He still says the darndest things. Still cracks me up. And still infuriates me too.

    I also find that my memory of his younger years is improving. There are so many things I’d forgotten that I suddenly remember now. Sometimes, I cringe about something harsh or stupid I said or did. Mostly, I’m thankful for the time I’ve had to watch him grow up to be the good kid he is.

    If you are a parent of a younger child, who is often anxious and rushing from one thing to another trying to get it all done, just like I tend to, now is the time to stop and take a deep breath and slow down. And remember all those moments when you were both happy. Truly happy. Hold on to that thought. Aspire to achieve that happiness again and again.

    Nothing else…curriculum, schedules, classes, school, social opportunities, fame, fortune…nothing else (except safety and good health) is as important.

    I’m past making resolutions. But I will make a wish. Oh, please let me give him a truly happy childhood. One that will make moments when I lose it and do the things I shouldn’t irrelevant. One with memories he will cling on to and hold precious and draw strength from when he needs it the most.

    Happy New Year everyone!

    A List of Things to Learn…

    I guess you could call this one of my random musings posts.

    I like to search the web randomly for interesting articles and ideas. Today, I googled two search criteria: “what you wish you’d learned in high school” and “learning to write by imitating classics”. I collected some of the results into a list to inspire me whenever I feel like giving things a crazy twist here at Funschooling Academy.

    11 Things We Should Learn (in no particular order, mind!):

    1. Critical Thinking – how to read deeply and actively question what we read.
    2. Networking – how to make winning social contacts to further our career and life aspirations.
    3. Personal Finance – how to consistently save for a rainy day. Also, how to be well-insured, and, why we should avoid using credit cards.
    4. Growing Our Own Food – see number five.
    5. Cooking – how to feed ourselves under any circumstance, and clean up afterwards.
    6. Repair and Maintenance – how to prevent and fix basic troubles like flat-tires and plumbing fixtures.
    7. Healthy Habits – how to live healthily, such as making daily exercise a routine we won’t neglect…and to do this before it’s too late.
    8. Orienteering how to know at all times where we are and how to get to where we need to go.
    9. Knotting – how to tie a good knot in any circumstance…hey, a tight knot may save a life some day!
    10. Writing Well – how to communicate effectively and precisely (and if possible, humorously too).

    And on the subject of writing well, I came across an interesting quote from W.H. Auden:

    “In my daydream College for Bards, ¬†

    the curriculum would be as follows:

    1. In addition to English, at least one ancient language, probably Greek or Hebrew, and two modern languages would be required.
    2. Thousands of lines of poetry in these languages would be learned by heart.
    3. The library would contain no books of literary criticism, and the only critical exercise required of students would be the writing of parodies.
    4. Courses in prosody, rhetoric and comparative philology would be required of all students,and every student would have to select three courses out of courses in mathematics, natural history, geology, meteorology, archaeology, mythology, liturgics, cooking.
    5. Every student would be required to look after a domestic animal and cultivate a garden plot.”

    ‘Twould make a fun homeschool curriculum for a language-lover, I suppose.

    Anyway, I don’t know about you dear reader, but my daydream college looks like this:

    The long room of the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland. Sigh, isn’t it fabulous? A panoramic view here.

    No. 11 on our List of Things to Learn? How to visit Dublin. Cheap!

    Year 4 Scheduling Update

    This year’s home-learning schedule has been an experiment from the get go. We’ve abandoned our afternoon schedule in favor of getting work finished and out of the way before lunch so that post-lunch, kiddo is free to follow his various bunny trails without interruptions.

    The hardest part previously was waking up early. We’re not morning people. But perhaps due to the warm weather, or perhaps because I’m beginning to freak out more now that kiddo is approaching the tween years, it’s surprisingly easier to wake up early these days. I also, err, tweaked my alarm clock so it’s about an hour ahead — he, he nothing like a shock factor to force me out of bed!

    This year has also been different in that kiddo’s using high school materials much more so now than before. Still isn’t producing junior high or high school level output (except in math and science). So it’s a balancing act all the way. For example, in literature (we’re trying Literary Lessons from Lord of the Rings), he completes the paraphrased passage, looks up vocab words and discusses the literary elements with me but isn’t yet ready to write all the answers to discussion questions. So we either discuss them orally or leave them be. I figure we’ll just catch up to these areas with an Online G3 class in the future or by re-visiting the Lord of the Rings when he’s older. What’s important is that he’s enjoying the work and is holding his own recognizing themes and appreciating Tolkien’s engaging writing style.

    I purposely included a mid-week “flexi-day” in our schedule to enable kiddo
    to pursue fun, hands-on activities he loves, like beeswax or clay modelling, cartooning,
    patty-paper geometry, origami and building.

    So far, after a shaky start, our schedule is going well. We try to set aside three hours in the morning to get the staples completed: math practice, foreign language online classes and then after a break, alternating projects, science, literature lessons depending on interest/ urgency. After lunch, kiddo has a lot of free time to be silly, read and attend classes like piano and swimming. My plan to begin grammar studies had to be postponed. We may put it off till next summer. I hate to not begin a curriculum when it’s sitting on my shelves looking so pretty. But hey, it’s not about me. Drat.

    You may also have noticed that I’ve been blogging less frequently. We’re still sharing a laptop kiddo and I and his online lessons demand more laptop time these days so I’ve had to resist the urge to blog, browse and brood over how much WTM-ers are getting done on the WTM forums. Less computer time has meant some productivity around the house. I’m finally finding time to devote to laundry and also, preparing meals in a timely fashion. ūüôā

    And I’m working on setting up a dedicated learning space. The time has come for kiddo to graduate from using the coffee table or dining table to a study desk of his own. I’m trying to rearrange our family room (the brightest yet coziest area in our home) to accommodate a desk and chair for the kiddo in addition to our sofa and bookshelves and kiddo’s toys and games. Perhaps if the result is to my liking, I’ll post photos when I’m done.

    Hope your year’s been a great one so far, dear reader!

    Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

    A friend of mine clued me in to this program and I must say it’s made me take my health a lot more seriously than I thought it would. If you have a Netflix subscription, you can watch the docu-movie instantly. Here’s a trailer:


    That same friend lent me her extra juice extractor! Juicing has become a very enjoyable pursuit and I had to mention it here because you just never know! It could be something you might love too, dear reader.

    I eventually hope to begin a juice-fast (have already taken the first step by replacing my morning coffee with fresh¬†juice). What’s great is that kiddo is embracing this new routine too. I was afraid he’d be put off by the less sweet taste of some of the juices vs store-bought options but he’s really taking it in his stride. It also helps that I include sweeter fruit to balance taste lol.

    We’ve been drinking plenty of apple and carrot combinations, tried a delicious celery and¬†watermelon recipe¬†and have also made pure fruit popsicles using ripe mangoes. Mmmm…delicious stuff! He eats regularly while having the juices (not recommended for growing children to juice-fast). I find myself feeling satiated enough by juice to reduce food intake (yay!). And the energy burst is amazing. I won’t say it’s a miracle or anything like that. I’ve only been doing it for about a week and still¬†tire¬†easily but I feel¬†lighter (despite not having lost any weight yet) and somehow, more enthusiastic about doing physical work lol.

    Shoes, Pandas, and Other Musings

    Random happenings¬†at FunSchooling Central…

    On a whim today, I tried on kiddo’s sandles. They fit! Exactly! With some room around the sides too. And I have wide feet.¬†Some useless personal info: I remember my brother’s shoe size reaching my mom’s when he was 10. And I used to think my brother has large feet (till I met hubby). My mom’s shoe size is one less than mine. Kiddo is eight. He reached one shoe size larger two years earlier than my brother did. I’m very glad we live in the US because if we’d stayed on¬†in Malaysia or Singapore, he will never be able to buy shoes when he is a teen.¬†So hurray for large American shoe sizes.

    We watched Kung Fu Panda 2 last weekend. Me thought there was a bit more of a bounce around Po’s middle than there was in KFP1. Tigress just oozed Jolie. That pooping dragon thingy? Sheer genius. And I felt a hug in me for Ping (Po’s adopted¬†dad, the goose). I had to regretfully admit the¬†show was hilarious. Why regretfully? Because the hubby went off on his own to watch X-Men First Class without us!¬†XMFC’s PG-13 rating was the culprit. It wasn’t fair! But KFP2 was worth it in the end. Kiddo and I both sniffed a bit and laughed a lot.¬†I’m SO glad we caught the non-3D version. Here’s a trailer if you haven’t watched it yet.

    My thoughts have been lingering on unschooling again this past week or two. Today, I stumbled upon this quote from the TED Blog:

    “You can’t stumble upon something new and wonderful if you don’t have time to stumble.”

    Beautifully said. Describes so well the wonder I notice¬†when kiddo is fully engaged in some discovery of his when I give him the time to run around (or sit around) and discover.¬†I do tend to kill it sometimes¬†by insisting on structure and scheduling…lol.¬†We’re reaching our fifth year of homeschooling and I’m still figuring it all out.

    We leave for Colorado Springs in about 2.5¬†weeks! I’ve been planning this trip since last year. But now that it’s here I’m too lazy to even book a hotel room! We have our air tickets but still haven’t decided where to stay. Hope it’s not too late.¬†¬†

    After the gray, gray skies of a pseudo-winter, we’re now having scorching temperatures. Sigh…I knew it was too good to be true.

    How’s your summer so far?

    Salutes, Stoicism and Survival Kits

    Last night, the kiddo and I spent a frightening three hours listening to our¬†windows being lashed by almost tropical-storm-quality gusts of winds¬†measuring¬†in the 60 mph range. The storm left many trees in our neighborhood uprooted and our yard a mess. With hubby away on business, it’ll probably take at least a week to clean things up. But you know what…this is¬†barely a millionth of what the Japanese are going through.

    You may not realize it but there’s been a lot of sadness over here at FunSchooling Academy over what’s happening in Japan. We have no family there but have long felt connected to that beautiful country in spirit.¬†The fact that we learn Japanese as a foreign language is not the only reason for this.

    I’ve been feeling this big, gaping hole-like thing inside¬†me over all the news. In fact, our recent book-shopping trip wasn’t just to feed our love for books. It was an attempt to cheer myself up and get myself away from the computer and those sad, sad, headlines.

    Somehow, what’s happening in Libya has totally escaped me and I was stunned to read a headline this evening about the recent bombing campaign. Wait, when did *that* begin? I’m so lost because all my attention has been¬†on our distant neighbor over the¬†Pacific, what I’d do if I were ever in that situation and¬†how helpless I feel because I’m not doing more to help.

    Remember 2004? Hubby, kiddo and I were supposed to be in a beachside hotel (and very possibly the very beach) in Phuket at the exact time the tsunami hit. It was a stroke of very good luck that prevented us from visiting Thailand that Christmas. The latest tsunami not only makes me tear-up for the Japanese people but also brought those memories, the complete horror of possibly watching my loved ones die, crashing back.

    More than anything my respect for the Japanese people has grown a hundred-thousand-fold. I have never witnessed¬†such calm acceptance. There have been¬†no stories of looting. Little report of¬†mankind’s uglier side rearing its often violent head despite all that’s been happening. If such a triple-whammy ever hit my neighborhood, I don’t know if I could trust myself to keep my head or my heart in the right place. I’m so amazed.

    I also realize¬†how unprepared and naive I am about such dangers. It’s only after what happened in Japan that I’ve taken steps to¬†assemble an emergency kit for our home. I take things like electricity and gas and cooking healthy food, eating healthy fruit so much for granted. I don’t even keep spare bottles of water handy because we have¬†one of those convenient¬†sinktop filtered water dispensers. Well, all that will change. Apart from ordering some emergency food and water supplies,¬†we will also stock up on¬†dust masks, blankets, sleeping bags,¬†waterproof matches and anything else that will make sense and yet not be too heavy to carry around.

    Each time I scan sites to research survival kits, my mind keeps going back to what’s happening in Japan.

    If I prayed, I’d pray for them. But I don’t. So¬†I’m just sending all the positive vibes I can. Do you think you could spare a minute to do that too? If you have, thank you so very much dear reader.