Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What we did for Science this Year

Something I love about my son becoming a more independent learner is running into questions that he already knows the answers to, and that I do not. 

He'll say things like:

Oh, they do that with radiation.


That's a Red-billed Oxpecker.

and I'll be like... A wha-wha??? Where'd you learn THAT? 

Of course, there is not one answer to that question. Lu has learned these things from the books we've used in Science class. He's learned from conversations with his dad, and from documentaries we've watched together. He learns from observing the world around him, and connecting the dots.

Here's a little overview of the main science resources we used this year:

The DK Encyclopedia is divided into seven chapters: World Regions, People and Society, History of People, Living World, Science and Technology, Planet Earth, and Space and the Universe. With books like this, I recommend coming up with some questions for review and discussion. The book doesn't provide the questions, so I read ahead and prepared them myself. It was totally worth it. Lu learned SO much from this book.

I wanted to include some Spanish resources in our science classes so that Lu would be familiarized with science vocabulary in his mother tongue. It's full of fun little bits of information. For this one, Lu came up with his own questions, which he would write down and answer in a notebook - this also meant that he was getting in some Spanish writing in science class. 

When you homeschool, multi-tasking is a must!

Mr. Q's Life Science packet was also jam-packed with science learning that kept Lu engaged and wanting more. Each chapter includes about five pages of reading and three activity pages. With Mr. Q, Lu learned about Living and Non-Living Things, Biomes/Ecosystems, Life Cycles, Classification, Food Webs, and The Five Senses. Lu really likes the way the chapters are formatted, as well as the way Mr. Q talks to the reader. We are saving the last three units - Body Organs, Cells, and Nutrition and Health - for next year, because I plan to expand on them with other resources.

How To Think Like a Scientist was the only book I actually bought for science this year. I recommend borrowing it from the library for a very clear explanation of the Scientific Method. Lu read the book by himself and then did some independent experiments to try out the steps, and recorded his findings. It wasn't the most exciting thing we did in science class this year, but understanding the Scientific Method is important.

Animal Hide and Seek was totally awesome for reviewing biomes and learning about all kinds of different animals. Lu would read a page and then I'd quiz him by naming animals for him to point to. It was a simple activity, but very effective for sparking an interest in zoology and understanding how vast the Animal Kingdom is.

 And, our favorite science teacher - David Attenborough.

 We watched around 30 hours of BBC nature documentaries, 
usually at lunchtime.

We watched the series
First Life, Life, Planet Earth,  
and (my very favorite) Life of Birds.

Lu quotes David Attenborough on a regular basis, showing that he has retained an amazing amount of information from these wonderful films. 

If I had to choose only one science resource, it would definitely be YouTube for documentaries and science videos.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Crepes à la Lu

Lu is going through a crepe craze, and we're hoping it lasts :) 

He learned the recipe from his grandmother, and has been making fresh batter every other day. I insist on our egg&veg scramble on alternating days.


I remember seeing pictures of children cooking and baking in homeschool blogs, when we first started homeschooling. At the time, I couldn't imagine Lu being that independent in the kitchen. Homeschooled kids looked so cool, interesting, and skilled.

Yesterday, one of Cha's clients came over when Lu was making crepes, and Lu very politely offered him one. The man said to Cha: Well, isn't that the life! and Cha replied: Yup! It's definitely one of the benefits of homeschooling.

We've been having a great time inventing new combinations to try in our crepes. One of my favorites is orange marmalade, fresh strawberries, and macadamia butter. 

Lu usually goes for the Nutella.

On a more academic note: Lu has finished reading about Ancient Mesopotamia, which means we are officially done with History for the year. Although, there are still a few documentaries on Egypt we might watch with lunch.

 After reading, a little quiz on what he learned.

He also worked on a diagram of the nose
for his studies on the 5 Senses.

We've been taking daily walks in the late afternoon. It's been great. We really needed to work on Lu's walking - foot placement, posture, resistance, stride, pace... He had a hard time doing the first 30-minute walks we did (we go fast), but now he's walking hard for an hour with no trouble. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lessons From Our Second Year

We're coming to the end of our second year of homeschooling. Last year was a dreamy one, filled with learning adventures, cuddly reading, exciting discoveries, and mutual appreciation. 

This year, however, was quite different. 

Maybe it was Lu's age (9 is a hard one), maybe it was something to do with being our second year, maybe it had something to do with me quitting a two-decade tobacco addiction. But it was probably a mix of all of those.

We recently had a long talk about what we learned this year, and how to make next year better. I promised to not lose my patience so quickly, and to give him the benefit of the doubt more often. Lu promised to not let pride get in the way of accepting his mistakes.

We're also much more aware of these two very important things - 

1. Lu has a very hard time sitting still, and he can't help fidgeting. Really, he can't help it. And he's not doing it to piss off his mama. 
He's really not.

2. Mama has a really hard time with repetitive noises, and is more sensitive than most. And she is sorry for this, and I really am, but mix an obnoxious noise with a hard math problem, and I start bouncing off the walls.

I'm reading about sensory disorders, and learning more about both fidgeting and misophonia. But most of the stuff I find on fidgeting talks about lack of focus and attention deficit, neither of which apply to Lu. The funny thing is, I know exactly how he feels, because I was a fidgeting child too, and I hated school for making me sit on a hard chair all day long because I needed to move around. But even if we have our sit-down schoolwork time divided between the floor, the desk, and the daybed, Lu still fidgets. So, I'm going to try incorporating some kind of daily relaxation exercise into our schedule.

Anyway, and in conclusion: Mama needs to be more forgiving of Lu's fidgeting, and Lu needs to try to avoid making repetitive sounds like tapping or rubbing when he's fidgeting. It's a deal.

 *   *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *   *  

Our Language Arts curriculum was WAY too heavy with almost daily spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and writing. Some of it was worth it, most of it was lame. Next year, we'll still do spelling; use a couple of fun, interactive grammar websites; and do some occasional writing projects. BUT, we will give READING, CONVERSATION, and SINGING priority because that is where we really see his language skills develop.

 *   *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *   *   

Kayaking - which was not in our yearly plan - became a very important part of our week, taking up almost a full morning every Wednesday. This was very important for us to learn about working together, communicating effectively, and finding a common rhythm. There should always be space in the schedule for the unexpected and the unplanned, because sometimes they can be the sources of the most important learning.

  *   *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *   *  

Math: practice makes perfect. 

No matter if he seems capable of learning new math concepts at the speed of light, he needs to PRACTICE.  Math is all about practice, don't rush through it, even if he's a math genius, he still needs to practice. Otherwise, he'll just always forget it. And yes, he'll relearn it again very quickly, but giving it a bit more time the first time around will make it stick better. And SPIRAL. Spiral, spiral, spiral. Go back, and then go back again, and again.

*   *   *   *   *   *    *   *   *   *   *   *   

Movement has to be a BIG part of our day. Every day.

Now that I spend almost 24/7 with my son, whatever I need to do for myself needs to be incorporated into our day. So, if exercise isn't something we do together, I most likely won't get any.



 and walking

 Exercise keeps us grounded, healthy, and strong.

 It hasn't been an easy year, 
but it has been one of much growth for our family,
and I have gained a clearer vision of what kind
of homeschool works for us.

I know that this journey is one of constant change 
and transformation.

What fits today may not fit tomorrow.

Each day brings something new.

Every season has its own rhythm to embrace.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Just Another Boy in the Kite Contest

Flying kites on the Day of the Dead is a tradition in Guatemala, and this year, our mayor decided to organize a special kite-flying contest for kite-flyers of all ages.

We heard about it over the loud speakers (it's a very small town). Lu wanted to go, but then, at the last minute, changed his mind. And then he changed it back again. So he got his little kite, and off we went.

He wasn't sure if he was going to participate
in the contest.

So he just ran around, off to the side.

But then they announced that
his age group was coming up, and
to please approach the organizers to sign up.

He wasn't sure. He looked at the other kids.
He gave it a good, long think...

and then, with a tiny push from me,
and a lady standing next to me,
and his grandmother,
and the guy in the blue pants
(who waved a friendly "come here", 
for which I nominate him for sainthood)...

... he signed up!

There was a little practice time before the contest,

 and then they called the participants to line up
and show their kites.

And the contest began...

Lu's kite crashed a few times...

but he always managed to get it flying again.

Lu didn't actually make his own kite. A friend gave it to him for his birthday. The more serious competitors made their own kites, and the originality of the designs were an important part of the competition. It's about looks and ability to stay in the air, and go really high. Lu's kite was very simple, so he knew he wasn't going to win, but he says that next year he'll make his own kite and really compete.

Some of the kites were incredibly elaborate.

I'm proud of him for participating. He is usually reluctant to participate in big local events because the boys can be rough, and sometimes he gets pushed around. He gets picked on because he's usually the only white kid, and he understands it, and we talk about it, but it's still hard to be the odd one out - whether it's because you look different, or move differently, or talk differently, or have a different belief system, or different abilities, or think differently from the majority of people around you - it's always hard to be different. But today, Lu's differences didn't cause problems - he was just another boy in the kite contest, which is exactly what he wanted to be.