February 2017

So far, 2017 has in one fell swoop, dealt me both heartbreak and intense joy.

The heartbreak of betrayal, a different family dynamic, lower socioeconomic security, and becoming single again. The heartbreak of the tense political climate and what it means to the communities kiddo and I belong to and support.

At the same time, intense joy that I did not fail my child by homeschooling. That I was right to follow my gut and make the choices I did. And that through it all, we always chose love and laughter over burning midnight oils or pressure cooker learning styles.

In a few months, I expect that I will be a divorcee. And that kiddo will start college at kiddo’s first choice university (Yes, the wonderful, hardworking child received both an acceptance and a scholarship offer from a selective university! Still so humbled by it all!).

Funny how life deals you both roses and the thorns isn’t it? Soon, I will only be a mom and no longer a wife. Perhaps it is for the better. For now, I am hoping for strength. I am hoping to be surprised again by joy.


We’ve Gone and Done It


After that last update about 8th grade in May, we went ahead and made it official.

  • Started planning college admissions more actively with Barbara, our fantastic college counselor.
  • Prepared kiddo to be sent off to a summer math program at HCSSiM in Amherst, MA.
  • And while kiddo was away, started writing my counselor documents – counselor letter, course descriptions and school profile. Then, polished and updated the transcript I had started way back when (kiddo was chronologically in 6th but finishing up 9th grade level work at the time).
  • When August came along, I told myself to be brave and skipped the kid to 12th grade for the 2016/17 school year.
  • Kiddo is checking the very last “requirement” boxes now…the ones we happily ignored while following a very pointy math journey.
  • Yes, in the end, things did turn out to be okay. All the worrying I did when kiddo was in 4th-5th-6th about looking like there will only be loads of math credits on the transcript and nothing else turned out to be just worries. The kid will have more than 10 math credits and also more than 4 each in english and science. History and foreign language at 4 and 5 respectively. A bunch more for electives.

This November, kiddo wrote and submitted all applications. Essays! Yes, they were actually written and polished! We had to brainstorm together but I think that’s something many families do. Still 14 after all, right? Oh my goodness, to think I used to be so nervous about writing ability. It caught up too. We celebrated with M&Ms and ice cream.

Now, we wait. If all goes well, I will have a 14-year-old college freshman in the 2017/18 academic year.

Proud of this kid and even more proud of how hard he works. (Shhh…and still worried for health, safety and everything else but hey, isn’t that what parents do? Worry all the time?)

We are still very pragmatic folks and if things don’t go well, we’ll just pick up where we left off and move forward. Homeschooling definitely seems to be wrapping up here but that’s a post for another day.

Malaysia Trip (Dec 2013)

This time, unlike all of my previous trips, my semi-annual trip back to Kuala Lumpur was a solo effort and a short one too, spanning a little over a week. I left SFO on Dec 23rd, arrived in Changi a little past midnight on Christmas day (due to the 20-hour flight time plus time zone difference), then flew to KL the same day. I returned to SFO on January 1, so both my Christmas and New Year’s were spent on the plane. Continue reading “Malaysia Trip (Dec 2013)”

Funschooling is 5 … and Year 6 Begins!

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! πŸ˜€

So kiddo is now in Year 6. Sixth grade. Almost 11 years old! Wowzers! Continue reading “Funschooling is 5 … and Year 6 Begins!”

2012: Counting My Blessings

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. πŸ™‚ 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!).

Given hubby’s busy travel schedule, kiddo isn’t able to spend as much time with his Dad as most boys do. But when he does, they get up to some pretty cool hijinks together.

The boys finished the backyard pond project this year and kiddo added basic furniture assembly to his repertoire of skills. To top it off, kiddo and his buddy also built a Rube Goldberg machine!

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! πŸ™‚

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. πŸ˜‰

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!

A Celebration…And Time To Pause

Kiddo turns 10 today. Double digits! I can’t believe that 10 years have flown this quickly…but they have and I guess I have to come to terms with it although I long for him to remain a young child always. My baby. 10 years old. Wow.

We celebrated yesterday with our friends who drove from afar just to be with us. I just can’t thank them all enough. Hubby and I planned for it to be a surprise and looks like we managed to pull it off! The weather was searing hot but it turned out to be a great accompaniment to the ginormous water slide we rented. I also had squirt guns available for the kids! Have you watched a bunch of kids running around with squirt guns on a hot day? Then you know what fun it was! I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

I hope kiddo grows up remembering this day…I hope it will bring a smile to his face every time he thinks about it and also gratitude that he has such great friends (of all ages too!). Childhood is just so fleeting. I hope he has had an amazing 10 years and will have many more decades of fun days and delightful adventures to enjoy. His cake, Star Trek-themed for our young Data (another nickname!), read “Live Long and Prosper” and I hope that message holds true. I hope he knows how much he is loved and that he’s the most precious thing in the world to his father and me. He is such a good kid. And we are so proud of him.

This post is also my opportunity to say that I am so grateful to all my blog readers for following my blog and for all the thoughtful comments and offlist notes I’ve received from you all over the years. Funschooling.net is four years old! That’s not very old but if you know me, you’d know how surprised I am that I’ve actually kept a project going for four years.

I made a decision a while ago to minimize the amount of time I spend online because I have realized how quickly childhood flies and how valuable is the time that I get to spend with my child before he’s all grown up and has his own life to lead. And I feel this pressing need to give him more privacy. Yes, I have to say this out loud…I have decided to blog much less, or possibly, even stop blogging about academics and homeschooling.

It’s not goodbye…but it is a farewell of sorts. Perhaps you could call it hitting the pause button for a bit till I figure out what else I want to do with this blog?

Be well, stay well and the best of fortune always, dear friends…especially in this amazing journey called parenting!

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 –Β  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!