Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Unique Days

Now that we're on this new non-schedule, each day is very unique. 

Today, we started the morning with a long shower, 
curled up in towels on the day bed, and read some poetry.

After a bit of math and spelling practice, 
Lu went down to the garden to cut some fresh oregano,

chopped it up,

and made us some breakfast!


The Words of the Day: Abhor and Counterfeit
Look them up and use each one in a sentence.
I get words HERE

This is a great little activity for communicating, listening, giving instructions, and following instructions. We sit back to back, each with one sheet of paper. One person draws something and then, using only words, instructs the other person on how to replicate the drawing.

In this one, Lu drew the original and gave me instructions:

His design worked very well, and his instructions were clear.

The instructions might sound like: from the top right of the spiral, draw a diagonal yellow line to the top right corner of the paper. Go to the half-way point on the yellow line and draw a circle the size of the your fingertip.

In this one, I drew the original and gave the instructions:

 (not as successful)

Several times a week, 
Lu calls for me to come running somewhere with the camera. 

He found all these little guys today -


 (Can you see? It's an ant carrying a piece of bamboo bark)

 A nap, mid-afternoon...

and that was that.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Big Changes - letting go of MY plans

It's 2012 and we live in Guatemala, so we're surrounded by it. People from around the globe are coming to the land of the Maya to await the fulfillment of the prophecy. Some expect the end of times, others interpret the end of the calendar as the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one full of energetic change.

If I had to choose, I'd go with the second option. I quite like the idea of everyone waking up on the 22nd of December, enlightened and uplifted. Maybe we'll suddenly be able to fly, or see through the matrix, or turn deserts into fertile land through the power of manifestation, end hunger and war forever, fart rainbows, and live happily ever after!

Okay. Maybe not. Maybe it will all go on as usual.

Here, at our house, things have definitely undergone major change over the last week.

I'm cutting our schedule down to the absolute basics. 

Last year was a dreamy homeschool honeymoon of a year. It was cozy, led by curiosity, full of cool projects, very improvised, and relatively easy for Lu. Last year, he was able to do at least 60% of the work by himself. He was confident and proud of himself. He was shining. But this year - 4th grade - is not as easy. He needs me in asking distance most of the time, and he needs me sitting right next to him for a good chunk of that. And maybe that was our problem. Maybe it was too much too close proximity, too many hours a day. 

On the one hand, we were getting so much done. We got through everything twice as fast because we were working together, side by side, and Lu's mind can't wander when all my attention is on him.  If we hadn't been arguing so much about everything, we probably could have finished everything in six months. But that, obviously, isn't the point. And somehow, I lost the plot.

Being right next to each other for most of the day was leading to things like me getting overly annoyed with Lu's fidgeting, Lu trying to push me over the edge, me yelling, Lu yelling, yucky feelings of a day gone down the toilet, and so much frustration for both of us.
But even so, I was excited every day to have another go. Another chance. A fresh start. Today would be perfect. But it wasn't. Quite the contrary. Each day was getting worse. I was keeping track of how long we could manage before getting into an argument. An hour. Half an hour. Fifteen minutes. Five minutes. And when we got down to five minutes, I finally accepted that it just wasn't working.

So, for now, I'm letting go of my very elaborate plan for 4th grade and just figuring things out day to day. Lu is doing his language arts worksheets and math reviews by himself, turns them into me, I check, and give them back to him to correct. No conversations about it. No constantly correcting his posture and handwriting. No complaining about his fidgeting. Because I'm not watching him while he works.

We're still having read-alouds together.

This story - The Dragon Who Liked to Spit Fire - was one of my favorites as a child. My mom recently brought it in a box with a bunch of other books from my childhood. It's so fun to read them again, and even better having them read to me by my son now.

We're doing more household stuff like cooking,

This is Lu's latest culinary invention - Cheesy Eggs a la Oregano

chopping garlic and talking about Star Wars 
simultaneously (almost),

and helping out with other household chores.

There's more time for outdoors work too. Here Lu is practicing his machete skills and cutting down the brush on an undeveloped part of our yard. Where we live, boys will start learning how to use a machete at age 6.

And of course, there's more time for the workshop,
one of Lu's favorite places.

He's typing a lot on a kids' forum - which he's loving-, and occasionally writing on his blog. He's doing a bit of spelling and grammar each day. Some math practice, and a bit of independent science reading and writing. He always has a chapter book on the go, and there's no arguing about that because he truly loves his books. He's reading Robin Hood in Spanish now. And that's about it. We've gone from 6 hours a day, on average, of actual schoolwork time, to about 2 and a half hours.

So, I have very little involvement in our current homeschool setup besides answering the occasional question and checking work. For now, that seems to be what we need. And even though it's hard to let go of what I had planned, I know that a loving and peaceful home environment is more important than whether or not we cover Ancient Greece or Multiplying Decimals or European Geography this year. And that might sound obvious, but when you're still new at this, and you've worked so hard to structure your year, and you've been trying to prove that you can, and things don't go as you expected - it can be tough to let go.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Fertile Crescent

This week we went to Mesopotamia 
and started learning about the Sumerians and their city-states,

and we watched this documentary on YouTube:

Civilisations of Mesopotamia


Part 6

They didn't manage to put subtitles on a French guy who's in it, but the main narrations are in English. Cha translated for us, but you can find a short translation on the YouTube page of each Part, and just skip over him.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ancient Egypt via YouTube

We watched these awesome videos over the last couple of weeks 
for our studies on Ancient Egypt:

The Nile: River of Life - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

YouTube is becoming our main History resource. We also do reading, writing, and timelines - but the videos are so much more exciting. And what better than to cuddle up in the afternoon and watch movies? It's one of my favorite times of the week. It's all so fascinating. How I'd love to stand on one of those pyramids. Must go to Egypt some day!

We break the videos up into 30 minute segments, which seems to be the right amount for Lu. We probably pause every 5-10 minutes, either because he has a question or because I have a comment or connection to make. 

So our 75-minute history lessons usually look something like this -
3 pages of reading (with lots of pictures), discussion, writing (answering 2 or 3 questions in notebook), marking events on our timelines, and watching half of a video. I just have to make sure to keep up the searching for good videos and always having them ready to watch.


Check out this nifty little collection of 16 videos:

Mesopotamia: Crash Course World History #3World History by Crash Course
Agricultural Revolution, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, and a bunch more.
Each one is 10-13 minutes long.

I can see us using them as a review in high school, as we will hopefully have covered everything up to WWII by 8th or 9th grade, and will need to spiral back. They could also be very handy as a guide for a parent putting together a history program, or just wanting to brush up on their history knowledge.

I would watch them just for fun!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

16th week of 4th grade

 According to my spreadsheets, we're doing 42 weeks of school this year. 210 days. This was our 16th week and we're already half-way done with most of what I had planned for this year. This is great for many reasons - I can stop stressing, Lu will have more time for carpentry and jewelry-making, and we'll have time to do some of those things I've been meaning for us to do more of (science experiments, cooking, knitting...)

This week, Lu learned how to use the jigsaw. He's still full-on carpentry crazed and goes into the workshop every spare minute he gets, Cha even gave him his own key (Lu was thrilled). But he's not allowed to use the jigsaw on  his own yet, so he has to organize supervision to use it. This has resulted in lots of huffs and puffs over Cha or me not stopping what we're doing immediately to help him out, but we try to - because we're ecstatic about Lu getting so into it.

Mother's Day was on Thursday for us, and I loved my present.



We've been using Head of the Class for our Geography. Lu likes the short videos on each country, and he's making posters with information about region, population, and language. Head of the Class provides complete, free curriculum for K-5. I really like that you can create your own curriculum for each learner, and you can combine content from different grades. We'll also be using it for our unit on the Human Body.

In math, we finished our chapter on Statistics and Graphs. We learned about representing data with graphs and charts, and using different measures of central tendency (average or mean, median, and mode). 

Lu asked us to give him more chores. He said he feels he needs more chores. (?) So this morning he did some pretty heavy-duty yard work with Cha. Hope it lasts!

I think Monkey realized that it would be better to move than to lose her tail as it was Lu's first time with the garden shears.