Monday, April 30, 2012

Back to Work

We are back to work after our two-week break.

8am this morning we were ready to go. 

We started the morning singing several songs from our repertoire - 
La Bamba Los Lobos version, 
La Bamba Lila Downs version, 
Lean on Me, Imagine, and War

We worked on our MEP math - fortunately an easy worksheet today. The more difficult worksheets can take us up to an hour, but today's was easy-breezy.

Then we learned about The Plant Kingdom with Mr. Q Science.
non-vascular and vascular plants, flowering and non-flowering plants, different forms of plant reproduction...

After Science it was time for break - 10:15 to 10:45.

Our second math class followed - frequency tables, bar graphs, and line graphs with this math resource.

To finish our morning - writing sentences with the new vocabulary words: neglected, bluffing, and desperate.

After lunch we started our next World History unit - The Rise of Civilization. We read about the specialization of labor and the development of trade routes.

My mom is visiting and brought with her a collection of the Little House books. I really wanted Lu to read The Little Prince, but Lu didn't get into it. It's the first time ever that he doesn't like a chapter book. He hasn't been picky at all with his reading - which might mean that I do a good job of providing interesting options, or that he's simply easy to please.

The collection was given to me when I was a child, but I don't think I ever even read the first one. I'm glad someone is going to read them! And Lu is loving Little House in the Big Woods so far. 

I timed Lu's reading today. He read 15 pages of approx. 160 words per page  in 35 minutes. I have no idea how that compares to how much or how fast other kids read, but I ran into a homeschool blog the other day where this 6 year old girl was reading Magic Tree House books in one sitting. It got me wondering - is Lu an especially slow reader, or is this little girl just freakishly speedy? Have you ever timed your kids' reading?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Carpenter

We're at the end of our two-week break and Lu has spent the better part of the past week being a carpenter. After building a toy house he surprised us with this coat hanger. He decided to make it for a friend who had her birthday on Tuesday. He went into the workshop at around 7am to start on it. I thought I had plenty of time to drink my coffee slowly while reading mindless nonsense on facebook, and then go take some pictures of the process. But before I knew it, he was varnishing.

On Wednesday he started building a small table, with supports and everything! This time, before I could get a photo, he'd already put three legs on it and then completely dismantled it. I found him and Cha in the workshop, with all the parts spread out on the work table, learning how to make a stronger structure.

We start our homeschool schedule up again on Monday. But something is bugging me. After watching Lu go at it in the workshop - using math in such a real way and starting to learn a real trade - I can't help feeling that letting our schedule take him away from this is, well, stupid. 

Are we seeing a theme here? -
Me finding a million reasons to lessen the school workload and follow a more relaxed or unschooly path, but then not actually having the courage to do it. Why is this so hard for me? 

Did I mention that I come from a long line of hard-core academics? 

You know how people are so proud of being the first in their families to go to school? That's me, but backwards. I'm the first in my family to not go to school. And it's one thing to make that decision for myself, but it's another to decide for Lu. 

I have a very clear memory of the absolute panic of looking at a math problem on a graduation exam and not having a clue as to what I was supposed to do. I don't want him to ever feel that helplessness because of a test, but maybe that's not a good enough reason...
After all, I already know that those tests can't really tell what someone knows. 

So, as a first step, I'm going to combine our spelling, grammar, homophones, and vocabulary lessons into one longer "language arts" lesson three times a week, instead of our current eight times a week setup with the individual classes. I'm going to toss every fourth worksheet, because it's too much repetition. And, I'm not going to make us finish all the math problems all the time. That's probably as much as I can handle for now, but it's something. And, with this post, I'm even adding the tag "thinking about unschooling".

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Breaks are Great

Lu probably learns more life skills in a week off
than in a full year of schoolwork,
there's no arguing because he gets to do whatever he wants 
pretty much all day long,

I get to putter around in the garden,
 and write totally random posts like this one
with lots of lovely, lovely coffee.

Our funny little house
- due to having been built in bits and bobs -
is a peculiar arrangement of spaces.
We live up top, and the project runs down below.

And just because they're so cute, 
this pic of Cha and Minu -

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Bone Man and the Magic Stone

My sweet boy bullied again.
He's really becoming an expert in the field.

We left early in the morning to go to the town fair, where a temporary arcade has been set up. We're on break and Lu wanted to go play the video games before the other kids got out of school. It had gone well the day before. A few boys had started giving him a hard time and he had stood his ground. 

We got there at noon, half an hour before the public school lets out. There were only 2 or 3 other kids there. Lu got his choice of game and was playing when the bell rang. Kids raced out of the school and a group of about 15 boys ran straight for the arcade.

I was sitting on a bench outside the arcade, reading, and the blue curtain didn't let me see inside. 15 minutes later, Lu came out and said "Let's go now."

We made it through the better part of town and then sat on a bench in an empty park, and the tears came streaming down. 

The boys had first circled him. Then they started pushing. Then they pulled his hair. Then one boy yanked off Lu's hat and started running. Lu ran after him, grabbed the boy by the shoulders and demanded his hat be returned. He went back to his game. They kept running past him and punching him. One boy even hit him on the head. At one point, Lu turned around and pushed a boy out of the arcade, flat on his ass. Lu was angry. He wanted to fight. It was when an older boy came up behind him and used a very vulgar phrase, that Lu finally walked out and came to me.

I wanted to go back. I wanted him to point them out to me. For a moment, we almost did. But then we thought about it and realized that it could just make things worse. So, instead, we talked about the fact that there are bullies everywhere, and that we must learn to deal with them without making enemies out of them. In such a small town, one really doesn't want enemies.

We got home and Lu had another long cry with his daddy. We had lunch and talked more about it. Basically, bullying sucks. Bullies run the world. This is the way it is.

Whenever something like this happens we bring up the possibility of going to spend some time with Cha's family in UK. Although I can't imagine going back to the world of cars, tickets, taxes and lines, I do like the idea of going back to the world of libraries, museums, cultural diversity, basic human rights... Lu is intrigued too, but has a hard time thinking of leaving our home and our pets.

I don't know if he really understands that in other places we wouldn't be as "different", places where he would just blend in. I've never really wanted to put it to him quite like that. I've explained that those boys are just testing his reactions because he seems so different to them, that they need to prove that he also feels pain, gets mad, bleeds... It's a difficult concept to grasp - our history classes will hopefully help shed some light on the historical reasons for this.

Several hours later, getting into the shower, Lu suddenly started feeling a terrible pain in his shoulder, where one of the boys had punched him. 


The closest hospital is 3 hours away. So we called the Bone Man. 

The Bone Man, or huesero in Spanish, is taught the art of manipulating bones. It is an inherited trade, usually passed down from parents, aunts, or uncles. When someone gets hurt in town, they go to him - unless it's a fracture. So Cha ran down to fetch him. We've had to call him before when our older students have dislocated shoulders doing acrobatics. He's always there and ready. 

They were back in less than 15 minutes. Lu was scared. He'd seen the procedure done on someone else who was yelling in pain. But he needed not worry, it wasn't that bad for him. There was a bit of pain with the pulling and twisting, but Lu kept a brave face. 

Then, the Bone Man reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, smooth, round stone, and started pushing the shoulder back in place with it. Soon, Lu's face relaxed and he was able to move his arm around again.

He wants to cut his hair now. He says he loves his long hair, but that he doesn't want to live like this the rest of his childhood. I told him that it wouldn't necessarily stop all the bullying, and that he shouldn't let idiots make him do something he doesn't want to do. He said he knew those things, but that he still wanted to do it. OK, I said. (but I hope he changes his mind)

And I'm torn. Do I keep on preaching peace to my sweet boy and manifesting a future world of respectful camaraderie, or do I accept that idiots are and will always be everywhere, and train him in the fine art of ass-kicking?

*  *  *  *  *  *

I get up to make a snack, hang out with the guys a while, Cha and I keep on telling Lu that if he cuts his hair he's letting them win, Lu insists he wants to cut it, an hour or so goes by, I come back to post this photo (taken last night after the Bone Man operation) -

Lu comes up and sits next to me, looks at the picture, wraps his arm around my shoulder and says: "and to think I was going to cut off my hair for those jerks."  

YES! One for the hometeam.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Our Town Fair - part 1

One of the great things about secular homeschooling is that we get to choose when we want our holidays - not a school, not a religion - we choose. The week before last, most kids were off on Easter break, but Lu chose to wait a bit more for his break, as this week one of the most exciting things that happens in our town begins... the town fair! But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

So Friday was our last school day before our break. We all usually go to bed pretty early, but we stayed up until midnight on Friday. I said I wanted to stay up a while working, and Lu said he would do the same...

The next morning he showed me what he'd been working on. He had copied the lyrics of one of his favorite songs from a website, with PERFECT handwriting. I should be happy right? Well, I was infuriated. I couldn't believe how neat, and even pretty, his handwriting was. E.V.E.R.Y.D.A.Y I fight with this boy about his handwriting. And what do ya know? As soon as we're on break, not only does he sit down to write for 2 straight hours, but he does it with the kind of handwriting I beg of him on a daily basis. Grrrrrr.... But then Cha pointed out that at least all my efforts have been worthwhile - the boy can print nicely when he really wants to.

Over the weekend Lu got into this flight simulation program, which I think is pretty cool. We have a weekend/vacation-only policy with video games, so I'm super glad that he is choosing this over the other (few) video game options we have, as he could be playing Mad Birds or whatever it's called.

So, back to the town fair. We have one every year. I hate it. Lu loves it. The streets become filled with vendors selling the most useless plastic sh**, everyone gets stupid drunk, there is loud music until midnight for a whole week, and the town is left covered in trash. Next week I'll post photos of the infamous ferris wheel that rolls into town, in rusty pieces - some held together with wire where bolts are missing - that must be 100 years old.

The first vendors have arrived, but it's only just starting. One of the main attractions for Lu is the video arcade. The machines are brought in on pick-up trucks and stay for a few weeks. Lu doesn't go near the violent games, which limits his choices, but he totally respects my rule about this. Today he played a Mario bros game and some other 20-year-old pac-man looking thing. We went early, while other kids were still in school, so that Lu could have the whole arcade to himself, but there was a small group of boys there who must have been skipping class for some Street Fighter.

Of course I really don't like this. Not one bit. I wish we could just hide out at home until the fair passed, but Lu, like all the other kids in town, is excited as can be. There isn't really even that much to do besides the arcade and a few other really pathetic fair-type rip-off win-a-prize games. But it's not about that, Lu explains, it's just about going and seeing, and also being seen I suppose. So I have to bite my tongue and walk the six-minute walk down the mountain and into town with him. The boys here can be rough, so I don't wander too far from the arcade.

I hate waiting around, but don't have much choice in this situation, 
so I take some pics while I wait.

By the time I took this one, I was desperately bored:

So I took a peek inside the make-shift tent arcade 
and discretely asked if we could go soon.

On the way home Lu related that one boy tried to push him off his game, but that he had stood his ground. He also said that he's feeling much stronger and tougher than he did last year when he was easily bullied off the games. And yeah, me too. I'm feeling more confident in his abilities to defend himself. It definitely puts a mama at ease to know that her kiddo can stand up to a bully with muscle, wit and word. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wrestling Alligators and Identifying Oregano

Over the last couple of weeks, Lu's been reading The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht in his spare time. He's learned about how to escape from a sinking car, how to identify a bomb, how to wrestle an alligator, and how to fend off a mountain lion.

In three consecutive days, Lu got stung on the hand by some unseen creature, I got stung on the toe by another mystery bug, and Cha got stung by our friend Mr. Scorpion. Lu's hand was swollen for a day or so, my toe was a purple and swollen itch for several days, and Cha had all kinds of reactions including a numb tongue and painful joints. So, that was exciting.

Cha learned how to catch a scorpion with his bare hands from a local man. One day Lu decided that he was ready to try this. He was feeling brave. It was going to be a great and memorable step towards manhood. He grabbed the stinger just like he'd learned. He got it! But then he was unpleasantly surprised when the scorpion folded up backwards on itself and grabbed Lu's fingers with its pinchers (which is a pretty yucky feeling). Lu freaked out and couldn't fling the thing from fear that it wouldn't let go, so Cha had to step in. It was funny, though poor Lu felt pretty poop about it afterwards. Nasty little creatures they are.

I've been letting myself get too wound up over Lu's fidgeting lately. So the other day I let him sit on the exercise ball while he worked on math and decided I'd just see what happened if I let him move however he wanted. I even helped out by writing down the answers that he dictated to me while bouncing away and pondering numbers. We got so much done! I just let him do a bunch of it mentally while bouncing in a trance. And he got all the answers right! So why do I get so worked up over the fidgeting? It obviously isn't getting in the way of his learning (even though it does seem to be getting in the way of my teaching). I used to be the exact same way. I hated school mostly because I wasn't allowed to move. Maybe that's why I insist so much... Maybe deep down I think that my own academic failures are due to how fidgety and day-dreamy I was (am).

In my last post, I was having major Math Crisis. MEP especially shakes my confidence - even though I know it's really good for us, but this week, our new resource - Glencoe Math - has given us a boost. The explanations are really clear. In just a few pages we've learned so many new concepts, without any stress or tears.

Prime Factorization
2 weeks ago I'd have been like Say Whaaa?

Lu wanted to do another experiment using the Scientific Method.
He tested ants' interest in different foods.

Chocolate, bread, sugar, mozzarella and cheddar cheese.
They're hard to see, but there are a few ants in there.

By leaving it untouched, the ants proved my point that cheap chocolate just isn't worth eating. It's the kind of stuff people put in piñatas. Yuck. Imagine what it's made of if an ant won't touch it.

We were out in the yard this morning during our break when Lu excitedly announced that our cotton tree was in bloom.

I asked him to give me a tour
of all the edibles in our gardens that he knows.

Lemon Grass


Two types of Oregano.

Pigeon Peas



Two kinds of Lettuce.

Bananas of course.

And Garbanzo Beans!

The garbanzo beans were a surprise to me. I didn't know what all we had growing in the garden. That's more Cha and Lu's area of expertise. I, meanwhile, am in the kitchen melting down raw cane sugar to replace the partially refined sugar we've been using. It's delicious, and so much better for us.

So, between knowing how to run a vegetable garden and how to wrestle alligators, Lu's definitely in the right direction as far as learning sustainability goes (even if he can't sit still for more than 13 seconds). I'm so grateful for everything he learns with his dad (provider of the survival book and many survival lessons).