Monday, January 30, 2012

Mythology Mondays

We start our week with a story from our book of Myths and Legends.

We're reading all African stories now, in preparation to our World History studies that we will be starting soon.

We'll begin with Prehistoric Humans spreading from Africa, the motherland, to the rest of the world.

As we progress in our History studies, we will continue our Mythology stories accordingly - Mesopotamia, China, Europe...
- as we learn about the Rise of Civilization.

I love reading together, it's my favorite part of homeschooling.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Shake It

This week was especially shaky,
with daily tremors - sometimes several in a day.
We're expecting lots of seismic activity this year.

Photo of the week -
Lu and Monkey working on Math

Lu is absolutely entranced with Gulliver's Travels,
and reading at the speed of light.

Here's a view through the window
that connects Cha's office to the kitchen.
When I'm making dinner, I can look in on this lovely sight.

After reading, Lu tells me everything (literally everything) that happened in the 15 or so pages he read, sometimes reciting parts word for word. It's funny how he can remember every detail from his book, but totally forgot about the five times I asked him to go brush his teeth (or clean his room, or put on a sweater, or feed the cats...).

This week in World Studies,
he worked on his People and Society booklet.

He learned about the six major religions,
the history of writing and printing,
art, architecture, sports, and fashion.

We learned the lyrics to Bob Marley's War, and
had an amazing discussion about "international morality".
Here's a verse I especially love:

Until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race -
Until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
World citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained -

Singing isn't actually on our schedule, but is something we do either to start the day, or when we finish work early. But we've been learning so many new words through the songs we're singing that I've been thinking about ditching our slightly boring Vocabulary worksheets for this much more engaging way.
Our schedule is working well for us, which is wonderful. Last year, I was tweaking constantly, and making radical changes every couple of weeks. Something that really helped was making a work table in Excel. This helps me spread the work out over the year, and know exactly how much we need to do each week to get the work done. The chart is specifically for worksheets and lets us know how many we need to do each week per subject. For non-worksheet subjects, such as History and Literature, I use a more general (monthly) chart, leaving plenty of room for expansion (as in, if I think it will take us 4 weeks to get through Prehistoric Humans, I give it 8 weeks on the schedule so that we can watch videos, site hunt, do related art projects...).

I've divided the year into segments of 5-9 weeks, with one week breaks in between. Breaks are synchronized with special events like birthdays, the town fair, grandmothers' visits... This year, we have 42 working weeks and 10 weeks off (including 3 weeks for December break).

Friday, January 20, 2012

Beatles, Knitting, Bubbles, Math and a Gorilla

This week, among other things, we:

did some knitting
while singing Beatles songs

she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah

did bubble experiments in Science Class,
and learned about renewable and nonrenewable resources

and worked through our MEP math worksheets.

MEP is a British math curriculum, very different from anything else we've used.

Math is difficult for me, but so far, I've found 4th grade math easy enough - until we started with this one. It really makes us think, which is great, but it's soooooo hard. After suffering through trying to do 3 worksheets per session, so that we would finish the whole Year 4 this year, we decided to slow it down a bit, work on 1 or 2 worksheets a day, and spread it out over this year and next. It's much more enjoyable now without the time pressure.

If you're looking for challenging math, you should give it a try.
It's designed for classroom use, and not to be worked on independently, as many of the problems require a lot of guidance.

It's divided into Years, starting with Year 1.
I've been on some forums trying to figure out to which grade level each Year corresponds. I got different answers. Some people said Year 1 was for kindergarten, but I can't imagine Lu having been able to do much of this stuff last year. Many people also said that if you're not starting at Year 1, to start a little under your level, as the exercises take some getting used to.

For grammar, he wrote this fictional Personal Narrative.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Understanding Our World

Lu's been learning about culture and religions in our World Studies class, so today we watched The Miniature Earth. It's a 3min video about what the world would look like, culturally, if the entire human population was 100.

We paused several times to talk about the numbers and what they mean, and drew some charts to see the religious and socio-economic divisions more clearly.

We were blown away by the $1.24 trillion spent on war
vs. the $100 billion spent on development.

We learned that we belong to the 25% that owns a computer, or has the comforts of a roof, a refrigerator, a bed, and a closet. It made for a great discussion.

Monday, January 16, 2012


So it's been, since I started this blog, that I haven't given my son or husband their blog names. But always referring to them as "him", "he", "my son", "husband" and "Dad" is starting to feel kind of lame. From now on, I'll be calling hubby Cha and son Lu.

Luminous Fire is the meaning of Lu's full name,
which explains the blog title.

I've shared our schedules and activities, but today I thought I'd make it more personal and share a bit about our overall day to day. But first, let me give some context -

We moved to the lake when Lu was 40 days old.
It's a beautiful place to live.
When he was little, we would go swimming almost every day.
Here he is at 2yo, making an important discovery of some sort.

Our project was born a few months after we moved here.
There's always a lot going on at our house -
drumming, dancing, singing...

Here he is parading at age 3.

The guys (Lu and Cha) usually wake up around 6am.
They get dressed, hang out, and wake me up around 6:30.

I'm not much of a breakfast person,
so I make my coffee and go to my desk
while they have breakfast.

Fruit first, then eggs or oatmeal.
Lu loves making his own eggs.

When they're done, Lu brushes his teeth
and tidies his room.

At 8am, Lu comes up to my office,
and we start our classes.
This is the view from our window.

I've set him up on this desk.
Here's what it looks like from my corner.

We're on the third floor,
which helps escape from the project noise downstairs.
I go down every hour or so, to check on project activities.

Most of our subjects don't involve me the whole time.
We usually start off with a song or a read-aloud,
look over the work together, and leave him to it.

When he's working independently,
I'm either on my computer or doing something

We work on three subjects from 8-10:30am.
We break until 11:00 and then work until 1:00pm.
Then it's lunch and break until 2:30.
In the afternoon, Lu has art program twice a week.
On the other three afternoons, we study history
and work on Khan math or third language.

5:00pm is bathtime and break.

Chapter book reading from 5:45-6:30pm,
while I cook dinner.
We usually have dinner at 7pm,
watch an episode of something together,
and then Lu washes the dishes.

Then it's PJs, brushing teeth, and bedtime at 8:30.
Sometimes he reads a bit more in bed.

On Saturdays we go to the market for our week's fruit and veg.
Lu helps carry the load back up the hill to our house.
Saturday evenings are pizza nights with friends over.

Some Saturdays, Lu takes his jewelry to the market.
He has his own small business,
making and selling earring.
On a good day, he can make up to $30.

Our lake had a cyanobacteria outbreak a few years ago,
and has risen so much that our old beach is gone,
so we're not swimming as much anymore.
But on weekends, we still jump in on occasion.
Here's Lu kayaking on his own.

On Sundays we might go to a nearby swimming pool,
but most often, Lu has a friend over,
and we just hang out at home.

Lately, Cha and I have been enjoying our Sundays with
this tequila concoction we came up with...

...and getting some "us" time.

No, seriously, here's a better one...

So that's us in our day-to-day.
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Art Program and World Studies

We had a very productive week schoolwork-wise, and lots of socializing too. He's now participating three times a week in our social art programs - afternoons on Tuesdays and Fridays (with the kiddies), and Thursday mornings (with the big kids). All together, he's spending 7 hours a week doing cool stuff with other kids.

He loved starting the big kids' program. Even though he is the youngest in this group, the coordinator said he was showing great leadership skills. Where we live, because most kids have to work to help their families, middle school runs in the afternoon, so middle-schoolers come to the project in the mornings. The project provides a monthly stipend to the participating families so that the kids don't have to work. Most of the kids have been here for several years. I'll be guiding a creative writing workshop with them (I used to be the dance teacher until my knees gave out last year). The public schools here really suck, and many kids finish middle school barely knowing how to write a complete sentence. Most of them don't go on to high school because they can't afford the commute to another town that has one.

*don't tell him I told you - (he has a major crush on his juggling partner)

We finished our unit on World Regions

We learned all about important capitals,
mountains, rivers, lakes, oceans, and landmarks.

As he goes, he chooses pictures from the book
to draw on the covers of the booklets.

It took me around 30 hours (over 4 days) to read the whole book and write up the worksheets - basically taking notes on the most relevant information, and leaving certain words blank for him to fill in. We did this last year in Science and it worked very well for retention. He works on one booklet for two weeks. Each day he reads 2-4 pages from the book and answers 10 or so questions in the booklet. At the end of the semester, we'll have booklets on World Regions, People and Society, History of People, Living World, Science and Technology, Planet Earth, and the Universe. By writing up the worksheets myself, we get to use books we like instead of textbooks with incorporated questions and exercises.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Imagine, Madonna, Soldering, Flexibility, and Arrowhead

It's been a lovely past few days. We've been more than on top of all our subjects. Speeding through math. Having extra time for nifty projects. Singing. Snacking. (Have I mentioned how much this boy is eating!?) And not needing to rush. I'm wondering if we need to step up the academic pace, but it's a nice rhythm for getting back into the flow. Today we learned and sang (and discussed) the lyrics to John Lennon's Imagine. Somehow, Madonna snuck her way into our music history lesson.

On Saturday we had a special workshop with Dad
on soldering and ring-making.

On Sunday, he volunteered to take the compost out,
and came back with a freshly picked bowl of wild rasberries.

Weekly soccer classes are back,
and while we were out playing...

Ashaki decided to take a nap on our grammar assignment.

Something I loved today -
So, we're using like 6 different language arts resources. None of them, on their own, are good enough (by my standards), but doing all of them is too much. So, as I mentioned in a previous post, we're doing a lot of our grammar verbally. Today's grammar was written though. At one point, he calls over to me and says "I think there's too much copying on this one". I looked at the worksheet and, sure enough, it was about combining simple sentences with and/or/but. I agreed, and we did the rest of them verbally, even though it was written work time. What I love is that he wasn't trying to get out of it, but was really seeing a waste of time in copying these, pretty shallow, sentences. He made the right call and showed good critical thinking. And he appreciated the fact that I saw his point and was flexible about it. With the extra time we had left over, we ended up having a discussion on ancestry - sparked by the compound word "arrowhead" from our grammar sheet. So random. I love it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

120 days

This was taken 6 years ago, on a camping trip in the Petén jungle.
We had just (barely) survived a major hurricane at home, and a change in scene was much needed.

We swam with crocodiles (well, the crocs swam at night and we stuck to daytime swimming)
, saw lots of monkeys, and climbed to the tops of Mayan temples.

This was a couple of years before I would enroll him in the school he would attend for k-2. The first year, he spent 3 hours a day at school, then it was 6.5 hours a day. If I add it all up, and divide by 24, he spent 120 days there. 120 days away from us.

I try hard to not regret. It's a terrible feeling to have. I try to look upon even my most terrible decisions and appreciate the lessons that came with them. But I do regret having missed out on so much during those years of my son's life. It's the one thing that makes me wish I could turn back the hands of time. So if I could go back and change one thing, I would have kept him home, even if it meant that we could only do one hour of homeschooling a day, or unschooling all day. Or whatever, as long as we were together. And everyday, since we started school at home, I have been thankful that not one day more went by.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The End of Our First Week of 4th Grade

Last year we struggled through the 6 units of Scott Foresman Grammar & Writing Grade 3. This year, I found Mc-Graw Hill Treasures Workbooks which have less copywork, and my son is able to do more independently because the instructions are clearer. But I didn't want to drop Foresman because I love the end-of-unit writing assignments. So, I decided to print out the McGraw-Hill for him to do on his own, and do the Foresman units together on the computer.

We gave it a try today and it went great. We did all the exercises verbally, and only the more creative exercises on paper. We learned about writing a Personal Narrative and actually had a fun grammar class. We flew through two chapters, as there is lots of repetition of stuff that my son finds easy. Having to copy several sentences just to prove that you know a fragment from a complete sentence is tedious. Reading out the answer is much more enjoyable. He'll still do plenty of copywork, but I prefer he do it with more interesting texts.

Here's what he wrote today -

He also worked on Science in Spanish. We're using this great little Larousse book on how things work. For each segment he reads, he fills in a Q&A table to remember whatever he considers important information. Today he learned about space travel, rockets, and space trash.

Today our Community Art Project starts back up, which means that 30+ kids will be running around here all afternoon. He's been counting the days and missing his friends. He spends 2.5 hours, twice a week in this program, and this year he'll also be spending one full morning a week with a group of slightly older kids in our Youth Leaders program. He'll be amongst the oldest in the kiddie group, and the youngest in the morning group. We'll see how it goes.

His favorite classes in the program are dance and team-building games.
They also do lots of arts&crafts, singing, theater and circus arts.

So, our first week of 4th grade has gone very well. I've posted every day this week, but today I start work and won't have time to post quite so often (we're going to be filming a documentary on the project, which is very exciting).