Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Things We Take For Granted

I work with a group of teenagers three mornings a week in an arts program for community youth leaders. If I tried to explain the kind of education they receive at their public schools, this would be a very long post: rote learning, brain-dead teachers, perilous infrastructure... It's a very economically challenged community, so most of the kids don't have much more than the family T.V. for indoor entertainment. Most of them graduate high school without ever having read a book.

I've always loved board games and my son
has been playing them since he was 2yo.

But most of my 16yo students
don't know board games, so I decided to use our games in class today.

My son helped me by teaching UNO and pick-up sticks in small groups of four. I taught Jenga and Memory.

It was painful to see how much the kids struggled with Memory and the seemingly simple skills involved (like knowing not to pick up the same first card every time), skills that one would assume the average young adult has. I realized how easy it is to take the development of logic and strategy in such simple games for granted.

On the other hand, in Jenga and pick-up sticks, the skills learned naturally by being raised around weavers and builders were clear. The patience and precision with which they proceeded was, I'm pretty sure, way beyond what could be expected from the average western teen (given that the western teen had never played before either).

So don't forget to play lots of games!
They might be teaching your kids much more than you realize.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms

"This animate was adapted from a talk given at the RSA by Sir Ken Robinson,
world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA's Benjamin Franklin award."

For more information on Sir Ken's work visit:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Independent October, final week

This was the third and last week of independent projects.
He choreographed a whole 3 minute routine, did a 3 page illustrated report on the Saber Tooth Tiger and finished all the lessons in his "How to Draw Cartoons" book.

The initial reasons for Independent October were to give ourselves a bit of a break from each other, to give me some time to catch up on my work, and to get a taste of some unschooling.

The most important findings have been: full-time unschooling is not for us right now, but we do need to try to keep a few hours a week for self-directed learning so that he can continue to practice coming up with his own ideas, learning to do independent research, and developing confidence in doing things by himself (without mom).

We had some great breakthroughs getting through the stuck points. Several times, when he got frustrated and came to me with lines like "tell me what to do, I don't know how to continue, I don't have any more ideas...", I really had to stick to my guns and just say "Do it yourself, or drop it and find something else to do, but I am not going to tell you how to do your own project." He would leave in a huff, but return to his project and find a solution. A few times he even mentioned how proud he felt of his work, and what a good feeling it is. For this alone, the experiment was totally worthwhile. It was also a great exercise in letting go for me - slightly ControlFreak mom.

I was able to take some time to really think about how we're going to do this. We were thrown into homeschooling so suddenly that I never really had time to get organized. Now I have a much clearer picture of the amount of time we have, what we need to get done and the resources we need to do it.

Next week he'll have a bit of finishing-up of the projects, and it's his birthday week (9!), so we'll probably be taking it easy and eating the last jocotes from our trees (picture above).

Friday, October 14, 2011

10 Books

Here's something I shared today on a fun thread at SHS

If I were asked to write a list of books that I would want all of my descendants to read, these would be the ones:

The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State - Friedrich Engels
Thus Spoke Zarathustra - Friedrich Nietzsche
The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
The Prophet - Khalil Gibran
The Metamorphosis - Franz Kafka
The Witch, The Lion and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
Oh! The Places You'll Go - Dr. Seuss
Horton Hears a Who - Dr. Seuss
A Zeitgeist Movement book, if they ever publish one
A Complete World History Book - from the Big Bang through WWII

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Independent October, Week 2

It's been an exciting couple of days with hurricanes in the vicinity and back-packs ready in case we need to evacuate. Nevertheless, we have been on top of our schoolwork!

Independent October hasn't been quite as independent as I had hoped. So, I figure we'll probably need to practice more self-directed learning throughout the year. He dropped the music project completely when he got frustrated. The same thing was about to happen with the choreography project, but I insisted he stick with it. He got through his "I'm stuck" point and is feeling quite proud of his routine now. The Saber-Tooth Tiger research project proved to be more than he could handle, so it's become a project that we're doing together. The drawing project has been the most successful and completely independent.

Here are some snippets from the works in progress:

In Guatemala, school ends in October and starts back up in January. We were considering switching over to the US school year, which would have meant doing 18 months of 3rd grade, but we're almost done with our 3rd grade stuff and feeling like we'll be ready to start 4th in January. We'll keep working through November and do some testing in December, just to make sure we have all our bases covered. It's been fun going back over everything we've learned and writing up the tests. He really likes tests and I think it's a good exercise in studying, being tested and analyzing the results. I've also printed out some standardized tests - they look dreadful! We'll give them a stress-free try, just to see how we do. I much prefer writing them myself, purely based on what I know he's learned and can handle.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Independent October

We've been working really hard for the last six months,
so we decided to take October as Independent Projects Month.
He chose three projects to work on alone - zero mom interference.
This was our first week and it's gone great.

He chose a drawing project using a "How to draw cartoons" book.
Here are some of my favorites:

He also chose to work on choreographing his own dance piece.His third project is a research report on the Saber Tooth Tiger,
inspired by this Saber Tooth fossil given to him by an uncle.
I found some sites for him to get information.
He'll be putting a book together with his findings.

This week, we also:
found a scary spider in our kitchenpicked lots of jocotes - a fruit specific to Central America (I think)
There are Jocote Trees everywhere here, and the kids go crazy for them in October.First, you gotta get your pole ready.
You need to smooth it with a machete and fix the end to catch the jocote.
You stick the pole way up in the tree and try to get the fruit into the catch.
It takes patience and aim to manage this, but he's a pro.

With the extra time that Independent Projects Month is giving me,
I get to spend more time with my other kids -
This is the youth group that trains at our art center in the mornings.
They haven't seen much of me since we started homeschooling,
even though they're just downstairs.

This is a project that I started 10yrs ago and have been full-time directing since.
This year, the project is being run by one of our graduated students.
It's been hard to let go and delegate, but it's allowed me to homeschool,
and he's doing a great job as junior director.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Pluto Monologues

Last Saturday my son invited friends over to watch him perform "The Pluto Monologues".
We started our Unit Study of the Solar System back in May and finished our mobile in July. The Solar System had us oooohhhhing and aaaahhhhing the whole way through, and we weren't ready to stop there, so we decided to extend our Unit Study with this theatrical project.

We wrote the first half of the script together, and he wrote the second half pretty much on his own. An actress friend of ours came in one morning to work with him on his acting and stage directions.

Although we did the Unit Study in English, he wanted to do the theater part in Spanish (his first language), which meant translating all the terminology we had learned.

Here is a rough translation of the script:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Six Months!!!!!!

We are celebrating 6 wonderful months of homeschooling!

This was our very first day -
we painted, mostly because I didn't know what else to do.This was our very first project -
we learned all about the Mesozoic Era,
fossils, extinction and the age of the Earth.

We learned about continents and oceans,
and know all the countries of our continent.

We did SO much writing -
creative writing, summaries, poems...
we learned about the parts of speech,
did lots of spelling lists and worked on composition.

We did loads of math and science,
and felt a strong attraction to these subjects.
We did our second big project on
The Solar System
Tomorrow is the gran debut of The Pluto Monologues!
We did ballet once a week with a friend.
Dance, circus, arts&crafts and music
every Tuesday and Friday at our
Art Center

We started our most recent project on
Greek Mythology
We had kittens!
Played soccer with the cat?We built a new bedroom
bringing an end to 8 years of co-sleeping
(mama's still having difficulties with this one)
Took our first big family trip
Survived another hurricane season
in the tropics
Welcomed our river back,
built dams
and had lots of picnics
I still managed to put on a few performances
and get some creative outlet

DH and I celebrated our 7yr anniversary
Bought a new mac with this silly photo programstarted this blog, met lots of awesome people in the hs communities,
and finally figured out what "dh", "dd", "ds", etc. mean after
months of guessing because I was too shy
to ask on the forums.

We love homeschooling!