Friday, April 26, 2013

Intermittent Schooling, Anatomy, and Christianity

Project activities start up again next Monday (we run an art school downstairs, seven months a year for about 70 kids), which means that our homeschool load will lessen significantly with Lu participating four half-days weekly of dance, arts&crafts, circus arts, theater, and singing. 

Our school year is divided up between light homeschool months with project activities, and heavier homeschool months without. 

Given that we take a month and a half off for homeschool vacation time, I have 3.5 months a year to teach new concepts and really sink our teeth into researching and Unit Studies.

Lu's been helping make an educational board game for the project. It's a life-size Chutes & Ladders (or Snakes & Ladders) type game, so the participants move and stand directly on the board.


I've been worried that we won't have another "project-free" month until September/October, and have been cramming stuff into our schedule to get it all in before the chaos begins. 

I imagine there are lots of homeschoolers who break their year up like this for different reasons like travel, seasonal work, short-term projects, farming, touring...

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We've been using this Awesome Anatomy Site.

Respiratory System

Circulatory System

 Excretory System

 As part of our unit on Ancient Rome,
we studied the life of Jesus Christ
and the history of Christianity.

It was pretty intense.

We read from our book about religions,
and Lu took graphic notes along the way.

We had a heavy conversation about capital punishment, and Lu wanted to know what types still exist around the world today. I didn't want him to see photos of stonings and hangings, so I did the research alone and then answered his questions. I could see a spectrum of feelings come over his face - confusion, fear, horror, pain, sadness, and then rage. "How could they do those terrible things?" and "If they had to kill them, couldn't they have done it painlessly at least?"

And of course there were questions about what I - mama - thought about everything they say about Jesus. "Could it be true that he came back from the dead?" and "Do you believe that an angel really talked to Jesus' mom?"

I want him to know the story behind the beliefs of the 30-something percent of the people sharing the planet with him, and not just my version of it. I try to be unbiased, and precede any personal beliefs with, "This is what I have a tendency towards believing, but it doesn't mean it's a truth...". Nevertheless, he's quick as a whip to question and even scoff at certain parts of the story that are incompatible with what he already believes about the physical world through his exposure to science.

So we also talked about respect, and appreciating the beauty in all the different religions, even if we don't agree with them. I do also try to cultivate a distrust of scientific dogma.

Lu made a final poster today.


 And then flopped down with a big TGIF sigh.

It's been a long week.

Friday, April 19, 2013

iPad this, iPad that

Remember that Lu was saving up to buy himself an iPad?  Well, he did it! And his little package arrived this week.

Amazon doesn't deliver here, so he had to wait until someone was coming down from the US.

For weeks, all I heard about was iPad this, iPad that.

And then, it was here.

We don't see much of the "latest technology" out here, so it's pretty foreign (to me anyway). But Lu, like all children of these times, no matter where they are in the world, come with magic techno fingers. Have you read about the experiment they did with iPads and a group of rural Ethiopian children?

It's like their little fingers just know what to do, as if the machines were telepathically instructing them on their usage. Of course, if you're my age or older and are technologically gifted, you probably think I sound ridiculous - but my kind do still exist.
 Alien child from the future.

Anyway, he's totally psyched about it. And I'm very proud of him for saving up (for months), and reaching his goal - even though I am not a big fan of tiny portable devices that connect you to the virtual world, whilst disconnecting you from your physical reality.

But I have to admit, I can see the advantages.

He's now reading Voyage of the Dawn Treader, downloaded for free. I have the whole series in paperback from when I was a kid, except this one, which I lost somewhere along the way. So, that was pretty handy. 

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I remember being ten years old. It was 1985. And I remember calculating with a friend how old we'd be in the CRAZY-sounding year 2000. We wondered what it would be like. Would it be like the Jetsons?

The next year, in 6th grade, our school got its first computers, and we had those horrendously tedious classes that many people my age probably still remember with glazed eyes, as I do.

But I was actually around seven years old when I SAW a computer for the first time.

 Yeah. My mom cut my hair.

A woman across the hall from my dad's office had an Apple computer. He took me over to look at it, and she even let me push some buttons. It didn't really interest me. And when other kids started getting Atari games, it still didn't interest me.

I started knowing people with computers in their homes in the middle school years, but we never got one. Eventually, both my parents started using computers at work, but still didn't need them at home.

I did not own a computer until I was twenty-nine, and I had never really needed one. I was a dancer/choreographer, and ran a small dance school the old-fashioned way: on paper. 

This was the year 2,000,
and we still didn't have flying cars.

Boy oh boy, did my life change when I got that computer. A Mac. I learned Photoshop, music and video editing, and all the other super neat-o things they do. 

Living where we do, it is easy to lose touch with the modern world. I can go months without running into modern-day scenarios, but sometimes it happens, and when it does - like when we go to a bigger town, to a restaurant - it pains me to see so many people looking at screens, rather than at each other. It makes me feel like I'm from another world, in another time - a world that Lu, and all generations to come, will never know.

Do you remember those days?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Scorpion Dance, Tidy Room, Rome, Anatomy and Early Morning Self-schooling

Last weekend ended with a most magnificent spectacle. These two scorpions were dancing, claw in claw, on Lu's bedroom floor. Well, they weren't really dancing, but it looked like it - feet tapping, turning around in circles, back and forth... They were fighting, probably to the death. But a bowl and a piece of cardboard threw them out the window before there could be a victor.

There was also much room-tidying over the weekend, and into the week. Lu moved all his furniture, swept, and reorganized everything on the bookshelves. He even cleaned out the stuff and yuckiness under his bed, and tackled the dreaded desk drawer. On Sunday, he spent six straight hours (with a short lunch break) going at it. This kind of focus and completion is a rarity.

In history, we've been learning about Ancient Rome - the architecture, the emperors, the senate, and the dictators. We took a detour to Carthage, and watched the "Engineering an Empire" documentary on this fashionable and alternative city, founded by a most radical Phoenician princess. Very awesome story.

 We've also been studying the human body.

 For P.E. we've been taking long walks up the valley twice a week,

and swimming twice a week.

 Soon the rains will come, and we won't be able to swim for a while,
so we're getting as much lake time as we can these days.

For the last three days, I've woken up to find Lu up, dressed, fed and finishing up all his morning work.  He recently decided it was time to start sleeping in his own bedroom (we've shared a family bed since he was born), and he's been setting his alarm for 5:30am!

He's becoming so independent with his learning,
I just hope that he doesn't completely stop needing me 
as a learning partner.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Second Year Anniversary!

Two years ago today, Lu and I had our very first homeschool day.

Last year we celebrated with breakfast out and a swim in the lake, and this year we totally forgot about it until the afternoon. So we'll do something special on the weekend. After all, it is most definitely celebration-worthy. Our lives changed that day, in many, many ways.

 This is Lu on our first day of homeschool.
April 4, 2011

Lu decided he wanted to be homeschooled on a Friday, and we started the next Monday. So I had exactly two days to figure out HOW to start. I also had a dance class to teach that morning, so I set him up with some paint and let him at it.

Over these two years, I've learned to relax about our schedule. I've also learned to push aside the boring, tedious or unnecessary subjects and resources. I no longer spend half my free time hunting for new curricula, and reading about how other homeschoolers do it.  
I *do* still read homeschool blogs for new ideas, as well as for feeling part of a homeschool circle (no co-ops around here) - but not as much as I used to. I trust Lu's interests, and our rhythm.

I still break a cold sweat when we start a new math unit. Everything math-wise is unfamiliar territory from here on. But just this last week something wonderful happened. Lu gave me a math class.

Our worksheet asked us to measure angles. We needed a protractor. OMG. We don't have a protractor. Panic. Panic. What will we do?

Oh right. My husband is a builder. I bet he has one. Okay. He does. OMG. OMG. I don't know how to use a protractor. Well, once upon a time I did, but not anymore. Ask husband if he can be a little late to work today, and give Lu a short class on how to use one. 
Phew! Yes, he can! ...and I can go finish my coffee :)

I *could* look up a YouTube tutorial, but... 
I have a weird blockage in my brain that makes me panic
when it comes to learning new math concepts.

Twenty minutes later, Lu calls me down - 

"Mama, come here. 
I'm going to show you how to use a protractor."

And, ladies and gentleman, I now know how to use a protractor. 
:taking a bow:

Lu loves to learn, and he loves to read, and there's not a lot more a homeschool parent could ask for. Besides his fidgeting, I don't have much to complain about. He's genuinely interested in history, science, and math. He's great at grasping new concepts, and does pretty well at retaining information in general, and very well at retaining the stuff that really grabs him. So, all in all, I feel confident that he'll get to where he needs to go. 

But sometimes, some things get...


we're so busy learning about ancient civilizations 
or evolution, or Jupiter's moons, 
that we forget some "little" things, 


oh say...

the names of the months. 

Gulp. The names of the months!
:shaking head in shame:

Yup. Just a few weeks ago, we realized that Lu did not know the names or order of the months. In 5th grade. Oops. Well, we nipped it in the bud, in not one, but two languages. I look forward to running into more of these, as I'm sure we will.

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Two years homeschooling has taught me that the best I can do as a parent is love my child for who he is, and be honest about who I am. 
I have limitations and I make mistakes, and taking on the responsibility for my child's education is a lot less daunting since I have accepted this.

More and more, it becomes a practice of not forcing things and going with the flow, with complete trust in where the flow will take us, and that there will be enough time to get there.

What matters is the ride. 

Every day. 

Every moment.