Friday, November 25, 2016

7th grade. Check.

Today is officially our last day of 7th grade. Lu will still need a few more days to finish his final project - a compare/contrast essay about the American, French and Russian revolutions. But other than that, we are D O N E.

This was our sixth year homeschooling. Every year I seem to blog a little less. Our academic activities/projects are less and less photo-worthy, and they also take a lot longer, so there's not as much variety. It's a lot less taking nature walks, and a lot more trying to wrap our heads around algebra and chemistry. We also recently got chickens and started a vegetable garden, so our little farm is growing and giving us more work.

Tinich is undecided on the chickens.
And maybe a little jealous :)

But really, this year, I haven't written as much because it's been a difficult year. So difficult, I sent Lu to public school for a few months. Hormones and attitudes were raging, and it felt like I had to learn (in about one second) how to be the mother of a teenager who took the place of my baby boy from one day to the next. Well. It was a bumpy ride, but it was one of much growth. 

We've learned so much about love, patience, acceptance, respect, and communication.

These last months, since returning to homeschooling, our objectives have been more about creating harmony in our day-to-day, our home, our family, and ourselves. Academics took a backseat, but we still covered our 7th grade bases. 

We studied a little chemistry with different online resources like these videos - and this site -

Lu completed this workbook that I found in an old box of books from when my mom was a teacher in the 80's, dated but clear and thorough, and something Lu could do on his own, while out with the goats.

We got halfway through our algebra course and then circled back to review. We'll do the other half next year.

(I had no idea how to do this a year ago. lol)

Lu mostly does art through the after-school program we run from our house two afternoons a week, but sometimes we do art on our own.

 Here's Lu with the other kids from the program, performing with the "diabolo" in their circus show.

We did lots of creative writing over the last couple of months. Lu remains very passionate about cooking and playing the guitar. We do yoga, go swimming, and dance regularly. We used this list of 100 words for spelling and vocab - and got quick at finding words in an actual, for real dictionary. But WHY MOM? He argued that it was ridiculous when we have online dictionaries. I insisted, and he later actually confessed that he enjoyed looking up the words. Like, he really actually said it was "fun". So, see, you never know. 
Try it, it might work. 

(I need to go look up synonyms for "actual and actually" lol)

Besides our regular viewing of (lots of) history and science documentaries, we also watched movies about growing up, life and its difficulties, freedom, passion, compassion, love, loss... and I'm recording them as school activities because I think we learn a lot from the right movies at the right time. Here's the list, in the order we watched them:

Whale Rider
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Outsiders
Earth to Echo
The Color Purple
Little Big Man
What's Eating Gilbert Grape
O Brother, Where Art Thou
Dead Poets Society
Les Miserables

So, it's vacation time :happydance: !!! And, despite goats, chickens and adolescence, we had a productive homeschool year.

See you in January, when we embark on our 8th grade adventure, and start preparing for high school!

***If you're struggling with a just-turned-teen, don't worry, you'll get the hang of it. Just remember to breathe and try not to take it personally (that's the hardest part). Good luck!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Movement Morning Wednesdays

Wednesday is our favorite weekday.

Most mornings, Lu is out with the goats from 7-10am, but on Wednesdays we have help and he gets a break. So we start our mornings with a game of Scrabble which I count as school because, besides being a game we both love, it's a fun way of improving spelling and developing vocabulary. We allow free use of the dictionary and learn new words every time. 

Then we grab our mats and head over to one of the yoga classes in town. Both Lu and I can be pretty intense, hyperactive people with short fuses, so we're trying yoga with the intention of learning how to 
c h i l l

Lu very relaxed after shavasana.

After yoga, it's time for some swimming.

We walk to the next place over - a luxury hotel with lake access, ping-pong and pool tables. It's still under construction, so not a lot of people using the facilities yet. Most of the time we have the whole place to ourselves! 

Lu gets some laps in and mama sunbathes
while sipping a cappuccino :)

 Then it's ping-pong time!

 After a few rounds, we order fries and drinks,
and move on to the pool table.

It's already 1pm, and we've been out and about for 5 hours!

Time to go home.

In the afternoon, Lu will do some schoolwork 
while I teach a dance class.

Then two more days and it's the weekend. 

It really helps to have such a fun day in the middle of the week
to look forward to :)

Friday, August 26, 2016

We're Back

It's been three months since my last post.

A lot has happened.

Lu and I needed a break from each other. We were having a hard time getting along. During a heated argument, it was decided he would go to the local public school. It was dreadful academically, but turned out to be a very beneficial experience for Lu, socially. 

After two and a half months of it, we're homeschooling again.

On the upside, he made friends and went from being that weird kid from up the hill who doesn't seem to go to school, to just another kid. When walking down the street, he is no longer harassed by his peers, but greeted. I don't have to worry about him getting beaten up when he goes out by himself anymore.

All of this made the experience well worth it. But, living by the school schedule, wearing a uniform (and keeping it clean), having to follow rules about hairstyles and piercings, and the insane amount of time-wasting that went on in the classroom proved to be too wearing of our patience to go through with the original plan of Lu finishing the school year (in October) there.

At the same time that all of this was happening, Lu went into anaphylactic shock from a scorpion sting. We all get stung by scorpions pretty regularly here, they're everywhere. But it had never been a problem. Now we have to carry life-saving medicine with us wherever Lu goes. Bees, ants and wasps can trigger the allergic reaction too, and we live in tropical countryside (lots of bugs), so... it really sucks. It was so scary in the beginning, but we're learning how to live with it.

Anyway. We took a three-week break after pulling Lu out of the school. Family was visiting, the sun was shining, and we needed a vacation. We swam, ate, enjoyed and rested. 

The last Sunday of our holiday I came down with Chikungunya (like Dengue fever). I couldn't do anything for a week, but Lu read, practiced guitar, and we watched documentaries. Even though I was feeling like death, I couldn't have been happier to be cuddled up on the day-bed with my kiddo again, listening to David Attenborough talking about an exotic jungle bird. 

By Friday, Lu was running the fever and suffering from the signature pain in the joints. A week later, he's still in bed. So. Lol. It hasn't been the best start to our back-to-homeschool, but we are back, and no matter how difficult it gets, I won't forget again. I won't forget how lucky we are to be able to homeschool, how much I love the lifestyle and the freedom that comes with it, and how much I love learning together. Homeschooling a teenager can be hard, but I know it's worth it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Post I Never Thought I'd Write

We decided to take Lu out of school five years ago on a Friday, and we started homeschool the following Monday. It was very sudden. It was a decision that brought much happiness to our lives. We have learned so much together over these years, and being able to spend all that time with my 8-13yo has been an amazing gift.

But just as suddenly as we started to homeschool, we stopped. Just under a month ago, Lu started attending the local public middle school.

We live in a small Mayan village in Central America. 
The schools are poor. Very poor.

Lu is not going for the classes, he is going to make friends. 

He's the only white boy in the whole school and has suffered from bullying in the past at the hands of local boys in the street, so we were a little worried in the beginning.

We went to ask the principal if Lu could go to the school as an auditing (unregistered) student. He agreed and gave us a list of the things we'd need, like 18 (eighteen!) notebooks, covered in paper and plastic. The school year starts in January, so Lu had some catching up to do. He couldn't wrap his head around covering the notebooks, but he did it in good spirit. And, hey, wrapping skills are a good thing to have. He's a pro now! lol

We were also going to need a uniform, but they didn't have any available, so they just asked him to dress formally - dress pants, dress shirt, belt... Definitely a big change from our "uniform" (me in pj's and Lu in goat-smelling jeans and T).

The school schedule is from 1-6pm, which is typical around the country as many middle-school-age children are already working to help support their families.

Lu was nervous on the first day. We talked to some of the teachers and he was introduced to his class of 44 (forty-four!) kids. I asked him to please call me at recess time to know how it was going. The phone call went something like this:

Lu: Hi, it's recess time.
Me: Are you okay?
Lu: Yeah, I'm good. Actually, I'm very good and I already made 8 friends!

I don't know if the teachers had prepared the students for Lu's arrival, but the whole group was exceptionally welcoming and accepting. It's a small town, everybody knows everybody, so he wasn't completely the "new kid". Some of the kids in his class had bullied him in the street for years.

On the second day of school, the boy who Lu was most terrified of from street bullying, went up to him and asked if they could be friends, even though they'd had problems in the past.

We run an after-school program from our home since Lu was a baby. Forty kids come to our house twice a week for arts and recreational activities. So Lu has had this social outlet his whole life, but being the director's son isn't the same as being just another kid in school.

The school doesn't have running water. The toilets are not flushable, so the janitor flushes them with buckets in the evenings, for the next day's... load. A big bucket of water in each bathroom is for hand-washing, so it's a giant germ and parasite pool by the end of the day.

But Lu needed this. He needed to feel like just another kid in a big group. He needed more friends. And I'm definitely not saying that all kids need this, but Lu did, even if I wish he didn't. 

I'm writing this post nearly a month after this HUGE change in our lives because it took me that long to pick myself up off the floor and accept that, for now, we are no longer homeschoolers. It was like losing my (favorite) job, my lifestyle, and my boy all at the same time. Of course I didn't lose my boy, but not having him around that many hours a day is a major change.

The school schedule works well with the goat schedule, so mornings look like this now - Lu doing his homework (argh! homework!!!) while the goats graze.

I don't want to dis the school, it is giving Lu what he wanted the most - a place to make lots of friends. But if I couldn't homeschool, and this was my only choice, I would be very, very active in trying to change things. 

Don't even get me started. 

But that's not why we're doing this.

This is temporary, for social purposes only. Although there are some added benefits like changes in hygiene habits (haha! all those girls make him very worried about being smelly), he is learning how to turn work in on time, follow instructions, respect authority, be part of a team and do your part without complaining... yes, we were having problems with some of these things at home. 

He also gets to play basketball and be in the band.

Yesterday the school celebrated Mother's Day and Lu's class sang a song while he accompanied with his guitar. They got together on weekends to make the decorations. They have class presidents who organize everyone and give or take away points depending on their classmates' participation. It's all about points, and Lu takes the point system VERY seriously. lol. I think it's because the principal said that he could be an auditing student there as long as he was "very formal" in his studies.

The school is not secular, at all. Prayers happen at every event. The teachers remind the students that they'll be looking for them in church on Sundays. They allow religious organizations to come in and hand out literature. OH! And the other day, Lu came home to tell us that all the girls had been vaccinated with no warning or parental permission (for HPV I'm guessing - Lu would get up and walk out if they try to vaccinate him at school). At the end of yesterday's activity, the girls were asked to go serve food to the mothers, while the boys were instructed to take down the stage. These are just a few examples of things they do and say that make me furious. But I bite my tongue.

If Lu was any younger, we wouldn't be doing this. But I know he is strong in his beliefs and can navigate through religious, sexist or prejudice brainwashing without being swayed. We've talked about looking at it like a sociological observation, and a way to understand how a lot of the world works. He'll come home and tell us the stories of the day, and we talk about it.

I miss him. I miss homeschooling. But we needed this break. And I'm very happy that he is making friends so easily. In the meantime, I'll continue to share our experiences or anything insightful about homeschooling if it comes to me. A friend suggested that I think about this as an unschooling experience, where Lu is choosing to spend his time at the public school, learning how to be part of a group and deal with The System. 

I'll go with that :)

But being slave to the school's calendar and seeing all the time-wasting that happens there are not things I'll be able to take for long. So, we'll be homeschooling soon again I'm sure.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Caramel, Clay, Scrabble, and Siddhartha

For first-time visitors: My 13yo son, Lu, and I have been homeschooling for five years. This year, Lu wanted to start a goat farm. He got his first goat at the end of last November, and now has six goats - three of which were born here, that Lu delivered himself.

Having goats means waking up very early to milk the goats, many hours of grazing on the mountainside behind our house, coming home to make cheese (we are getting LOTS of cheese), keeping their water bowls full and clean, and occasionally cleaning the goat pen. So, Lu is a very busy boy.

Just look at that tired little face. 
It's around 9:30am when he's done making cheese, 
he's already been up and at'em for 4 hours, 
and it's time to start school.

 *     *      *     *     *

We've been playing Scrabble over breakfast almost daily. 
Lu has now beaten me a few times and suddenly LOVES the game :)
I'm the family Scrabble champion, so this is a pretty big deal,
and I'm thrilled to finally have some real competition!

 After breakfast, it's time for reading.

Lu is currently reading Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse.

We had a blast sculpting this week,
it was so much fun!

 I'm not very artsy/craftsy, 
but I think my purple Mama goddess came out pretty awesome :)
And I love the combination of these two <3

*     *     *     *

One evening Lu decided he was going to make caramel out of 10 liters of milk that had accumulated. He started at 4pm and continually stirred the milk until 10pm. It wasn't until about the last hour that we could actually start seeing a change in color and texture. He says we'll have to eat it slowly because he doesn't plan on doing that again for at least another year! It was a helluva job.

Other stuff we're doing that I didn't get pictures of this week: 

Geography review - capitals of Americas, Europe, and Asia
Documentary series "Journeys to the End of the Earth"
Dance improvisation class with other kids
Music composition with Garage Band
Making a poster of the Periodic Table
Guitar practice

And that's about it for this post! No insightful ideas on how to deal with teen-agers (but please do pass them along if you have any :) No step-by-step activity descriptions. No book reviews or analysis of our homeschool style. Just some of the cool stuff we get up to with the freedom that comes with homeschooling.

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Goat/Kitchen-Centered Life

This picture of our kitchen table is very telling of what our lives are like these days. Lu is trying to figure out how to assemble his new cream separator that came with a manual in some Eastern European language. You can see our 30-yr-old Scrabble board. That red tub is goat lice treatment. And the baby bottle you ask?

The baby bottle is for our little Almendra (almond). 

She and her sisters were born on another farm
and separated from their mother,
so she needs to be bottle-fed.

Her sisters have since gone to other homes,
and we officially have six goats now.

 The cream separator is still learning how to be used. lol
But we'll soon be eating goat butter and goat cream!

Lu has been experimenting with different cheese recipes,
and we're having ricottas and mozzarellas daily!

This is a chili and herbs rolled cheese.

Lu is managing an on-going fermentation process 
that makes a hibiscus flower probiotic fizzy drink.
He also has some ginger beer fermenting :)

 It's a pretty goat/kitchen-centric life right now,
but we also do normal school things.

Like guitar-playing:

 Lu is currently reading Don Quixote

Our algebra skills are getting pretty solid
if I do say so myself.

This is a year of Revolutions in History class.
We finished our studies on the American Revolution
and now we're learning about the French Revolution.

Besides all the exercise Lu gets walking the goats
for two hours every morning,
we also do swimming and dancing for P.E.

Goats and school make for a hectic schedule, no doubt.
Our days start at 5:30am and it's go, go, go until dinner time.
But we're happy and inspired with everything we're doing,
and that's a lot to be grateful for.