Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Cool Bug Singing OurStory and Metaphors

... and the importance of commas.

Look at this groovy little dude we discovered on Sunday.
We were upstairs when we heard Lu start yelling at the top of lungs
"Bring the camera RIGHT NOW! Hurry. HURRYyyyyy!!!"

After last week's semi-break (half days),
we're back to our full-day schedule.

We've been singing almost every day, and our repertoire is growing.

Today we sang them all:
(with links to lyrics)

Lean on Me - Bill Withers
Stand By Me - Ben E. King
Imagine - John Lennon
War - Bob Marley
El Rin del Angelito - Violeta Parra (Chile)Ojalá - Silvio Rodriguez (Cuba)
Come Together - The Beatles
Todo Cambia - Mercedes Sosa (Chile)

- - - - - - - -

We've also been working on idioms,
metaphors, alliteration and similes.

Here are some examples that Lu wrote in his notebook:

Simile - Jackie Chan is as strong as a mountain.
Metaphor - My dad is a calculator in math.
Alliteration - Tom tripped and tipped the tea.

- - - - - - - - -

Here are some of our recent Vocabulary words -

Dynasty, Heritage, Inference, Boycott,
Stupefied, Cantankerous, Colossal, Distorted,
Strikes, Nowadays, Genuine, and Whirlwind

- - - - - - - -

On Monday we started World History.
I've been getting ready for months - reading, writing,
planning, looking for videos, preparing activities...

Our first class was 2.5 hours long! We loved it.

I started out explaining to Lu that I don't agree with calling it History, because it means His-Story. Lu has been well formed in gender equality from a very early age, so he immediately saw my point.

So what do you call it?

. That's what I would call it.
I told him that this was probably the subject that I found most important of all, because it's the story about us and where we come from - the story of all children, women, and men. He was literally bouncing with excitement at the thought of learning how all of this (the world we live in) happened.

The curriculum I put together starts with prehistoric human, but we ended up going back 13 billion years or so earlier to first talk about how it is that the Earth came to be. We watched several Birth of the Universe videos (on YouTube), and found some cute animations done by kids like this one.

It's so vast - all that time before humans. But right now, I just want Lu to have a general idea of how little time we've been here compared to how long Earth has existed, which in turn is relatively little compared to how long the Universe has existed. My head starts spinning if I think about it too much.

How is it possible that teachers didn't manage to get my interest in all of this when I was a child? It's so fascinating. When Cha got home, Lu told him all about it. I love when he's so excited about what we're learning. I'm excited too.

Timelines are going to be an important part of our studies in OurStory which, for the sake of readers who don't read this post, I will be calling History (so lame and lazy, I know). I had Lu do this Phanerozoic Eon Table, just to become familiarized with the names, but I doubt we'll spend much time on them, not this year anyway.

OK. Gotta go get ready for some Radiocarbon Dating.
Hope you're having a good week!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

And The Weeks Go By

We didn't do much schoolwork this week
as the world's most loved grandmother is visiting,
and we were well overdue a week's break.

We went swimming... twice!
Do you see the little mountain in the distance on the right?
Supposedly, it's where Antoine de Saint-Exupéry got his inspiration
for the
Little Prince's Elephant Swallowed by Boa.

Lu finished (and loved) The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,
and is writing a summary.
There were so many words and terms like - ma'am, sir, lickings, Sunday School, scoundrels, etc... that were unfamiliar to him. I had to pre-read each chapter and make a list of vocabulary words to go over together before he would read. It was quite a challenge to find my own silent school-reading time, and I'm very glad that Lu is now reading Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach, for which I will not need to continue this practice. I SOOOOO love that he loves to read, and I can't imagine homeschooling without that love of reading - it definitely makes my role as facilitator much easier.

Lately, on the handwriting front, I've been sitting with him and holding his left hand on the paper while he's writing. I realized that his funky-lookin' handwriting is mostly because of his not steadying the paper. Reminding him isn't enough. His hand has a mind of its own and quickly wanders. So I've been doing this at least half an hour a day and am already seeing a big difference.

So... I have successfully survived 3 weeks as a non-smoker. This has freed up more time than I could have ever imagined. With this new free time, I have been BAKING LIKE A MANIAC, and trying out all kinds of desert recipes.

Here are my flour-free peanut-butter-chocolate-chip cookies:

Chocolate and Vanilla Pudding
I had to complain to my mom about this - "Chocolate pudding is so easy, why did you never teach me how to make it?" Apparently it's not an interesting enough desert. Hah! There is nothing I would prefer over chocolate pudding. And now I know how to make it myself, from scratch, in minutes. I'm very, very happy about this discovery. And you're like "duh, who doesn't know how to make chocolate pudding", but I am very new to all of this.

It's actually Mocha for Cha and me, and the Vanilla is for Lu.
And then...
I mixed them all together and made
a peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-cookie crust,
covered with stewed berries, apples, and raisins
and topped with vanilla pudding.
Yes, I am gaining some extra pounds, but I've hopefully added some years to my life by quitting smoking before 40. Besides, I'm all for promoting healthy feminine roundness and curvy abundance.
Bring it on!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

History of People and some other random stuff

Lu finished his introduction to World Studies with his final booklet - "History of People". He now knows things like: important landmarks around the world, general information on the world's main religions, how people settled and built cities, when the first printing press was invented, some history on the development of arts and sports, and how long WWI and WWII lasted. I'm so excited to now really sink our teeth into our in-depth unit on Evolution, and work our way through to WWII over the next four or five years.

We found this amazing creature by the tool shed.

We're really making progress in Spelling.
Something has clicked.

Finally finished this knitting project -

It was meant to be a
Mama's Day present, and then a
Mama's Bday present, and then a
Mama's Xmas present...

but today's as good a day as any for such a lovely gift

Lu's doing lots of dance between his afternoon children's art workshops and his morning youth group activities. Next year, Youth Group will be two full mornings weekly, plus the two afternoons with the younger kids. He really loves being in both groups, and he's showing a real passion for dance (and no, even though I was a dancer, I'm not a pushy dance mom at all). I was actually very surprised because he didn't show much interest when he was younger, but in the last two years, he's caught the craze. So, I'm thinking that we might have to let go of some other subjects next year to give dance enough space on our schedule, which is totally okay with me, as long as it's what he really wants. He does have the advantage of having a dance studio in his house!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Snow and other Stuff we don't have

I spent my blog time this week reading more than writing.
I love all the wintery posts with snow on the ground, rosy cheeks,
colorful hats and scarves, steamy cups of cocoa,
sitting around the fireplace early in the morning...

I spent 10 years
in Midwest US as a child,
so I know snow.

My mother, being from Guatemala,
wasn't used to the winter-time custom
of listening to early morning radio
to hear if a snow day was called.

Many days I walked the six blocks

in waist-deep snow to an empty school
with a SNOW DAY sign on the door.

- Here's me, age 10, mid-80's
(Check out Mr. Snowman's Ghostbusters cap)

Lu was 7 years old when he saw snow
for the first (and so far only) time.

It had been 15 years since I had seen or touched it myself.
So magical.

- Here's Lu in the New Mexican winter, 2010

Anyway, back to reading other people's blogs...

Snow on the ground is just one of the things that I don't have.

I also don't have the artsy-craftiness of many a homeschooling blogger. I'm a performing artist by trade, but never had much patience for glitter and glue, or needles and thread. And as pretty as those crafty homeschool blogs are, I can't help but think of how much reading we get done in the time it takes them to glue on all those sequins. Luckily, Lu also prefers reading. He is much craftier than I am, but he likes making practical things like knitting, or making jewelry to sell.

Another thing I don't have are learning labels for my son. If he has any learning problems or giftedness, I am unaware. This is partly because there are no specialists anywhere near us, partly because I don't have other children to compare him to, but also because I don't feel it's all that necessary to know. Lu does some strange things with numbers and letters, which I'm sure fit under some dys-something label, but I don't need to know the medical term to be aware of it and work with it. Labels are needed to explain why a person isn't standard in x, y, or z. And since I'm not going for standard... If I can go with my son's flow, I don't need to have him tested over why he doesn't learn this as quickly as that, or as well as other kids, or faster, or sideways, or backwards, or upside-down.

Another difference, and one that makes me feel slightly disabled as a homeschooler, is not having a library. I know we're not the only ones, and there are other homeschoolers who live out in the middle of nowhere too, but I so envy those pictures of dozens of library books spread out on the kitchen table, and I can't help but think how much easier they have it - with all those books available for free. But then I remember, in places with good libraries, the books are free, but everything else is crazy expensive, which is why we choose to live where we do. My father did the opposite. He left the jungle because he couldn't be without the libraries. But I can't be without the jungle. Go figure.

So, we're all different, and I mostly love looking at other homeschoolers' blogs to appreciate the diversity among us and to get new ideas. A lot of those crafty moms are really good at what they do, and I'm sure that their kids will greatly benefit from learning those skills. A lot of parents who have their children diagnosed for learning disorders do it because their governments will actually help them (whereas mine wouldn't do a thing). And a lot of those families near great libraries wish they had as much green and nature around them as we do.

There are infinite ways to homeschool, probably as many as there are ways of managing a family. Our choices are shaped by many factors - circumstantial, geographic, physical, ideological, financial... There is no one right way, except for the one that works for the unique you and your unique family.

This week I learned that there is definitely no way for me to get Lu's papers in order and get our homeschooling accredited in any way here. He will have no official papers to back his education. But I believe in what we're doing, and that my son is learning at the speed of light, and that the world is changing. I don't believe in the way universities work (with some exceptions), and want to see us go back to apprenticeships. I don't want my son to have a 5-digit debt for a PhD without a guarantee that he'll get a job in his field. Screw that.

So I guess it's a matter of trusting that:
My son is brilliant. He will know how to find a way to make a living, and he will be an expert in knowing how to make a life. He will follow his passions, and that can only lead to an extraordinary life. Creativity and innovation will compensate for any lack of paperwork. And if he still really wants to go for that PhD, he will do what it takes to make it happen.

But from where I'm standing now, trying to go through all the bureaucracy for something I don't believe in reminds me of trudging through the snow to get to that empty school building. I think we'll just stay home and read a book.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tamales, Scrabble, and Japanese

We start our mornings with read-alouds, 3 times a week. We usually take turns reading, but on Thursdays, Lu reads from Aesop's Fables to me, and I just sit back and listen. I love hearing him read. He prefers reading silently, but he does enjoy the morning read-alouds, as long as they're short. I love his intonation and his pauses, and to hear him really understanding what he's reading.

I'm so glad we set Lu up at my old desk.
It's so versatile, with several different layers,
perfect for the fidgety student who can't sit still.

This week for morning snacktime...

We had Penul (peh-nool)
a traditional staple of toasted corn,
ground into a fine powder.

Just add water, cook or not,
and add some honey.

We also had delicious tamales...

and played Scrabble
(on this 25-year-old, termite-eaten board).

On Thursdays,
Lu participates in Youth Group
for most of the morning.

Today, they learned how to write their
names in Japanese.

I'm teaching Creative Writing to the group.
Each week they take an assignment home,
to turn in the following week.

I like that it's something Lu has to be responsible for.
He has to make sure to get it done and turned in on time.
And he takes it very seriously. Here's his booklet -

As for me - I'm on Day 10 of successfully quitting smoking.
The worst part is over, and I'm starting to really enjoy life as a non-smoker. My morning ritual of coffee and tobacco for breakfast has been replaced with sleeping in a little longer, followed by a 15 min. exercise routine and a long, hot shower. And don't think - "10 days! That's nothing. Let us know when a month has past, at least." But I can tell you, after years of not even considering quitting, I know I will never go back.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cuttin' Class

We worked extra hard all morning,
so that we could skip afternoon classes and go to the lake...
we'll call it P.E. (giggle giggle)

Saturday, February 4, 2012


I was sitting here reading a paragraph that Lu wrote yesterday
(he's 9yo, in 4th grade):

When I road a horse for the first time, it was fun!

My hat fell twice, and evry one lafed.

Have you road a horse?

If you ever ride a horse be really careful.

That's how I read it the first time -
with all my attention on the mistakes.

Then I remembered that only 10 months ago we were just starting to learn reading and writing in English, and it seemed impossible. How was I ever going to explain why, in English, we have a gazillion different ways to make the "short e" sound, when in Spanish we only have one? Let alone "silent e's", "gh's", "ph's"...

The assignment was to write a paragraph using different types of sentences - declarative, imperative, interrogative, and exclamatory. On that front, he did a GREAT job. He also used two commas. And, he wrote twice with a "c" and really with two "l's" (yay!).

Gosh, we've come a long way. I needed to stop and remember where we're coming from and look at everything we've accomplished so far, instead of always focusing on the finish line. Had I been able to see this paragraph when we first started, I would have thought:

"Really? We'll get THAT far in less than a year? Wow!!!"

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ancient Egypt and Day 3 Smoke-Free

This week in World Studies, Lu worked on Ancient Egypt in his History of People booklet. This is a brief introduction to a much longer unit on Egypt that we'll be starting in a few months.

Here are two sites for Ancient Egypt related stuff:
Mr. Donn

Lu's been great this week at working independently,
which has been really important because...
I quit smoking!!!!!
I'm on day 3, after 20 years of a pack-a-day. Three days might not sound like much, but if you take into account that I couldn't go 3 HOURS...

It's been 8 years since the last time I even tried to quit, so it's a pretty big deal. It's been rough. At first I tried to keep on top of homeschooling, especially since the plan was to have our first break of the year next week. But Lu agreed to spread the work out over this week and his break week, so that I don't go completely bananas. So that's where my energy's been.
If you love a smoker, buy them this book. Seriously, if it worked for me, it can work for anyone. It's helped millions of people quit for good.