Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tyrannies, Independence, and My Favorite Part of Homeschool

We just finished up our history lesson - which today was about different forms of government: 
monarchies, oligarchies, tyrannies, and democracies. We talked about how the country where we live is supposedly a democracy, but is actually more of an oligarchy. 

Lu thought that it would be pretty cool to be a tyrant because you got to make all the decisions, but then we thought about how it would be to live in a tyranny where someone else was the tyrant. He agreed that that didn't sound so nice. 

These kinds of discussions are my favorite part of homeschooling.

The history lesson was the only lesson we had together today. In the morning, Lu was with his youth group. His peers are a bit older, and middle-schoolers go to school in the afternoons here - hence the morning schedule. I taught them a short exercise class, then they had theater with another teacher, and then painting with another.

By the time youth group was done, it was noon. Lu helped make lunch, and we started on schoolwork at 2pm. 

We looked at the math page together, and he said he could do it on his own in his room. Lately, he likes working there. Then he went ahead and did reading and geography in his room too.

So, I didn't see him again until 4pm when we sat down together in my office, to check the math and talk about forms of government. It was a busy day.

And this week has been very much like that, especially since project workshops have started up again, and our homeschool time has been reduced to almost half of what it is when the project isn't running.  

Lu is becoming more and more independent, and the parts that we have been doing together were mostly reading and discussing - so not a lot of photos this week.

A couple of weeks ago I shared an art activity we did.
Lu made this, remember?

Well, since it was such a success with him (he was at it for several hours - totally absorbed), we figured it could make a great project activity for our kids' groups. 

So, I'll share some pics of how that went - 

This is the youngest member of our afternoon group.
He is four, and this is his first year participating.
He was adorably excited to be here.

I'll share more of these when they're done.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ancient Greece and Reading Socrates

History is one of our favorite subjects and, after studying Mesopotamian Empires last year, we have jumped head first into Ancient Greece. 

In preparation, we read dozens of Greek myths last year, and forty of Aesop's Fables. In studying the Persians, Lu had a quick overview of the more important events leading up to the Battle of Thermopylae, and we watched the movie. So we had a good head start.

Our History lessons include reading, writing, timelining, and watching documentaries like (our favorite series) Engineering an Empire. We read from websites like and Mr. Donn's Social Studies Site, as well as from Dorling Kindersley's graphic-full Ancient Greece.

After reading, Lu answers questions in his notebook, like:
What were the Pelopennesian Wars? Or:
Mention some differences between Athens and Sparta.

Our studies eventually brought us to the great thinkers
of Ancient Greece...

and then I remembered this book I had on the shelf:
 The Sapience and Chicanery of Socrates

And it's in Spanish!!!
which means that our History unit is running over into other subjects - 
and I LOVE that.

I'm not organized enough to MAKE that always happen, 
but sometimes it just magically does, and it's awesome.

Anyway, back to the book...
it's a collection of exchanges between Socrates
and his followers, friends, and enemies.

They are very funny.

Lu reads as Socrates (in bold print),
and I read as the other person.

 And the illustrations are great -

 I especially loved this one 
about putting anything you say through these three filters
before saying it:
Do you know it to be true? Is it a good thing?
Is it useful information?

When I took the book off the shelf, I thought we might just read a couple of pages, and that it would be too advanced for Lu, for now anyway. But I was WRONG. He is loving it, and it's pretty simple reading. I didn't see a translation of it to English, but if you can get your hands on some easy-reading Socrates for your kids, I highly recommend it.

After Socrates, we read about his student, Plato,
 and then Plato's student, Aristotle. 
Again, the magic happened...

The first chapter in our book 
of Great Scientists was, yup...

We read about his Earth-centered universe,
with crazy crystal spheres...

and his ideas of the four humors.

 And then Lu made a poster,

I mentioned to Lu that I didn't know what Socrates and the other Thinkers would Think about wearing jeans, but I complimented his more historically accurate depiction of Alexander the Great :)

We have a good time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Finding Our Flow

One of the things I've come to love most about homeschooling my child, is that we get to change things up however we want, whenever we need to. We can listen to ourselves and to each other, and flow with the situations that life brings forth, as we figure out how to best fulfill our needs and wants, and how to achieve our general well-being.

One thing that was very much lacking for ME last year was my own physical exercise time. And I really needed it. Another thing lacking was "Sanity Time" for both of us. We both have... strong opinions. We spend pretty much all day together. We are fire and water. And we have the ability to drive each other CRAZY if we don't get some Sanity Time.

Being more aware of this, with our now two years of experience, we've started 5th grade with a flow that seems to be working very well for us.

Sanity Time 1:
I wake up at 6am to get my first 40-min workout in (mostly interval training). Lu usually gets himself up before I'm done, and gets himself ready for the day. We make breakfast and eat together. Lu washes the dishes, while I get my coffee break - a very important time for me to review my plan for the day.

1st Period:
We start with some singing, which also usually involves some dancing. Our repertory includes 60's rock, 80's pop, reggae, soul, trova, and salsa. Ideally, we start at 8:00 and go for 30 minutes, to really wake us up and get our blood pumping. Starting our day singing gets us in a good mood.

Then we cuddle up for a read-aloud. Right now we're reading about magicians, and later on in the year, we'll be reading more mythology from around the world.

Sanity Time 2: 
After reading, it's time for writing. 
The assignment is "a few sentences",  
but Lu usually ends up with a paragraph or two.

This also counts as Sanity Time
because it is something he does independently,
while I can check emails or make another coffee.

When he's done,
he reads me what he wrote, and edits along the way.
Then, we do a second edit together.

By now, it's around 9:15 - 
and we're 75 minutes into our school morning.

2nd Period: 
Time for Math.

Our math sessions usually last an hour. Lu works on his own for the review/practice part of it, and then we work on new concepts together. When the work is easier and we finish sooner, we use the rest of the time for online math games.

Sanity Time 3: We both start getting antsy toward the end of Math - 10am-ish. We've been schooling for two hours, and it is most definitely time for a break. For me, it's time for my second workout (something more dancey / cardio). I can't tell you what a difference this has made. I'm more relaxed, more patient, and more creative when I get my mid-morning sweat and stretch. 

For Lu, break time is for pretty much whatever he feels like doing - like going to pick a basket of oranges at our neighbor's house, making yogurt with the yogurt maker his grandmother recently gave us, or working on his clubhouse.

 freshly picked oranges

 making yogurt

 putting down the floor of the clubhouse

At 11am we reconvene.

3rd Period:
Our first mid-morning class will change through the year.
We will learn about religions of the world, 
famous scientists and evolution.

We read, take notes, draw cartoons,
and make posters about what we're learning.

This year, there is a new emphasis on written
and graphic note-taking.

4th Period:
The second mid-morning class alternates between
Physics twice a week, 
and Geography and Typing twice a week.

We're really enjoying the Eureka Physics videos.

Again, lots of note-taking and poster-making

 (weird extended arm pic to get us both in - 
but this is what our Physics class looks like)

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

It's around noon now, and time to make lunch!

Lu wants to be a chef, among other things,
and is always more than happy to help out in the kitchen.

Here he's making his famous salad dressing with
raspberry vinegar and mustard (but the rest is secret...shhh).

 (notice the smiley face tomato and cucumber salad)

Sanity Time 4:
After lunch, we each take an hour to do our own thing.

Lu gets some screen time during this time,
which means permission to get on his email,
or use a design program.

I pretty much do the same, but with coffee :)

5th Period:
At around 2pm, we get back together for 
History three times a week,
and Art twice a week.

These are longer classes. Sometimes up to two hours.

6th and Last Period:
At around 4pm, it's time to wrap things up and get some Khan math practice for about 20 minutes.

At 5:30pm Lu comes back in, after playing outside for about an hour, for chapter-book reading. Right now he's reading the Narnia series, Prince Caspian, and he plans to read all the books this year.

Then it's time for dinner-making, shower-taking, eating, and hanging out with Cha who's back from work. We might watch an episode of something together, or Lu might watch something on his own with dessert, before washing the dinner dishes and getting ready for bed.

So, as you can see, we had six class periods, and four Sanity Times. Almost one for one, and it is well worth it. I can't go for more than two activities without a break, so how should I expect a child to?

Our "school day" runs from 8am-4:30pm, which is a long school day by normal standards, but we have lots of breathing space in between, and that's what works best for us. 

And that is pretty much our day for now. In February things will change when our art school starts up again, taking four half-days a week of our schedule. Our year will vary between the two: one month just us, two months with art school activities and lots of socialization with other kids. 

So, flow. 
It's important to feel it out and find the one that feels right.

And really, I don't know anymore, if we adapt our homeschool to life, or if we adapt life to our homeschool... but it has to fit, like the perfect pair of jeans - not too loose, not too tight.

Just right.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Petals, and Pebbles, and Seeds, and Stuff

This year, we'll be having weekly art classes during the months that Lu's social arts program isn't running. We'll be working with this book, but really any book or website about famous artists, or art history, would do. Just pick an artist, look at his or her work, talk about it, make something inspired by it.

Yesterday, we had our first session. 

We read a bit about the artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo,
and looked up more of his work online.

Then we made a little pile of stuff:
pebbles, string, rice, corn, shells, seeds...

and Lu started working on his design.

He went out to the yard a few times,
to collect more material.

He worked through the whole afternoon.

And as the sun was setting...

 he glued on the last leaf,
and called it a day.

You could also use buttons, bottle caps, lids, broken toy bits...,
or make an impermanent mosaic without the glue.

Here are some other examples: