The Twenty-Ninth Week

greek wayI have changed my mind…again. I decided to return to our history-based Humanities units. I had originally planned to go from Prehistory through the Roman Empire this year, but it looks like we will only get as far as Ancient Greece. Though there are those who might disagree with me, I think that the Roman Empire actually has more in common with the Middle Ages than Ancient Greece, anyway. Because of the breadth and depth of Ancient Greek culture, I am sure this unit will take us to the end of the year…and possibly beyond. My father-in-law lent me a copy of The Greek Way, by Edith Hamilton, and it was truly illuminating. She presents a very convincing argument about how different Ancient Greek culture was from any civilization before or after it. I highly recommend it as an introduction to Ancient Greek culture. And, Hamilton’s prose is so beautiful that it is worth reading just to be in close proximity to a truly gifted writer. (A great deal of The Greek Way is available on Google Books, or you can buy it on Amazon.)

It is Hamilton’s love of this culture that I hope, above all, to bring to our study of Ancient Greece. Here is a brief excerpt from her book:

Of all that the Greeks did only a very small part has come down to us and we have no means of knowing if we have their best. It would be strange if we had. In the convulsions of that world of long ago there was no law that guaranteed to art the survival of the fittest. But this little remnant preserved by the haphazard of chance shows the high-water mark reached in every region of thought and beauty the Greeks entered. No sculpture comparable to theirs; no buildings ever more beautiful; no writings superior. Prose, always late of development, they had time only to touch upon, but they left masterpieces. History has yet to find a greater exponent than Thucydides; outside of the Bible there is no poetical prose that can touch Plato. In poetry they were all but supreme; no epic is to be mentioned with Homer; no odes to be set beside Pindar; of the four masters of the tragic state three are Greek. Little is left of all this wealth of great art: the sculptures, defaced and broken in to bits, have crumbled away; the buildings are fallen; the paintings gone forever; of the writings, all lost but a very few. We have only the ruin of what was; the world has had no more than that for well on to two thousand years; yet these few remains of the might structure have been a challenge and an incitement to men ever since and they are among our possessions to-day which we value as most previous. There is no danger now that the world will not give the Greek genius full recognition. Greek achievement is a fact universally acknowledged. (Edith Hamilton, The Greek Way (New York: W.W. Norton Company, 1983), 12-13.)

With that in mind…

Lillia’s Adventures

Lillia and the ever-present headphones…
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As mentioned above, we began our study of Ancient Greece this week. We are using R.E.C. Burrell’s Oxford First Ancient History as our spine. This week’s readings were about the Minoans. We learned a lot about this mysterious civilization. Did you know that the Minoans used three different languages and that, so far, we have only deciphered one of them? These include the as yet undeciphered Cretan hieroglyphs and Linear A. The one language that has been deciphered is a descendant of Linear A which we call Linear B and it belongs to the Myceneans (who we will be studying next week). While we may know a lot about ancient cultures, there is still so much work to be done! Two whole languages yet to be deciphered! Our ignorance of Minoan languages presents us with the opportunity to show our children that there are still mysteries to be solved, and that there are many ways to make contributions to our knowledge of the past.

DAulairesB_0For the literature portion of our Humanities unit we are reading first D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire. While there are many books of Greek myths written for children, this one is ubiquitous. I have seen it on many reading lists, and it is quite popular with those who follow the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling. I was concerned that it might be a little too “young” for Lillia, but she loves it! This week we read about the union of Gaia and Uranus (Earth and Sky) and about the birth of their many children. We learned about the cast of characters that make up the Greek pantheon, their home on Mount Olympus, and we started to read some of their individual stories (Zeus, Hera, Hephaestus, and Aphrodite). I’m glad I purchased this book because I think it will be something that Lillia will want to refer back to, even when we’re done with this unit.

We finally have in our possession the next Life of Fred book. In this volume we are diving right into multiplication. This week we learned 2×7, 7×2, 3×4, and 4×3. Lillia also had to do several Algebra problems involving these multiplication facts (such as 3y=12, solve for y). We’re definitely behind the school district math program in regards to multiplication. But, Lillia has learned so much extra math (important stuff that will make learning concepts much easier in the future) that I am okay with the fact that we didn’t cover all of the multiplication facts this year. She has plenty of time next year to catch up, and I’m sure she will.

Zane’s Adventures

One word: TRUCKS.

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Mama’s Adventures

I received my final grade and am now a college graduate. I was a college graduate before, actually, because I received my A.A. in General Studies in 2005 (when prospects were bleak and I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish my B.A.). But, even as a teenager I always envisioned myself finishing four years of college. Four years turned into thirteen and half, but I did finish what I started and I am proud of that. Although it means nothing to them now, I hope that someday my children will look at my accomplishment and see that if you really want to do something, you will do it. It takes perseverance, toil, and a lot of support from friends and family, but anything is possible. I truly believe that.

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The Twenty-Eighth Week

We made it through the illnesses and the vacations, and now we’re back in school full-time. This is going to be a quick overview because I don’t have much time to write today.

Lillia’s Adventures

Due to an oversight on my part, we didn’t get a chance to do any work in the next Life of Fred math book because I failed to order it! Thankfully, the last two pages of the current book were rows of problems, so we just divided them up and did a little each day. Doing the whole thing at once would have been too overwhelming for Lillia, anyway.

As per our Oak Meadow syllabus we studied life in the Arctic. Lillia drew this beautiful sketch of all the different types of Arctic animals. We are debating whether or not it needs to be colored, as many polar animals are actually white (though I’m fairly certain that elk are not…).

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We also spent some time working on writing words in cursive. Lillia has a lot of difficulty with this. She feels that it’s an unnecessary skill. And, she’s not entirely wrong. In the 21st century there aren’t a lot of compelling reasons to learn to write in cursive. As a historian I would be at a serious disadvantage if I couldn’t read cursive, and the best way to learn to read it is to learn to write it. Many primary sources are written in cursive, such as wills, marriage licenses, personal letters…the list is endless. And, as my husband pointed out, learning to properly form letters and developing that level of fine motor control will really help Lillia if she wants to continue to improve her artistic abilities. So, there is a case for cursive, but it might be a bit too abstract for a nine year old to understand. I will continue to encourage her to do her best, even though it’s difficult for her and seems pointless.

Truth be told, so much of Lillia’s “learning” is spontaneous. For example, today she started working on a new story, tentatively titled, “The Unmistakable Life of Autumn Fladora.” If she will consent to give me an excerpt, I’d love to post it here next week. And, last night she told me that she wanted to learn how velcro works and how superglue is made. She said she wants to learn about “sticky things.” So…I guess I’ll be doing some research on that for next week! If you have any good resources, please let me know!

I decided that I would like to keep sharing Lillia’s artwork when I can. It’s such a big part of her life, and something she spends a lot of time working on. It seems right for it to be on this blog. Here is a recent creation:

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And, just for perspective, this is her first digital drawing, done way back on September 30th. Look how much she has improved in just 8 months!

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Zane’s Adventures

Trucks! Cars! Trains! Motorcycles! Is it motorized? Zane loves it. He even brings his trucks to bed.

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His vocabulary is growing in leaps and bounds, though he still uses his own “language” a lot of the time. But, he’s trying. Here are some of my favorite Zane-isms, spelled phonetically, and their English equivalents:

Nane = Zane
Meow = Cat
Oof Oof = Dog
Cock-a-woo = Rooster
Bub = Bug
Tide = Outside
GuhnGuhn = Car/Truck
MroomMroom = Car/Truck
Butt = Bus
Beek-a-woe = Bicycle
Bopee = Coffee
Deeoo = Water (I’m still trying to figure out how that happened)

I wish I had more photos of Zane to share this week, but I guess I just haven’t had my camera out much. I did post a bunch of photos of him on my other blog this week, so you can check those out if you need a Zane fix.

Mama’s Adventures

I’m officially done with my class, but I am working on refining my paper for publication in an undergraduate research journal. When I get my grade in a couple of weeks I will be an official college graduate. I’ve been using my newly discovered free time (mostly while Zane is napping) to do all kinds of things. I’ve been reading, sewing, blogging, and working on an exterior painting project. It’s nice to be able to be able to do something other than take care of my kids and do research. I’m also looking forward to having more time and energy to devote to homeschooling, now that my own “schooling” is done.

Also, I’ve been reading about “unschooling” lately, and I’m intrigued. If I have more to say about it in the future, I will certainly do so here.

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Long Break

Lillia was really sick the week before last…more so than she usually gets. I had thought to myself, “Well, I guess we’ll just call this vacation week,” since April break was coming up. But, after giving it some thought, I decided that was fundamentally unfair. Vacations are for fun, not for languishing in bed with a head cold. So, last week was our “official” vacation week (which coincided with the public school break in our district).

I thought this might be a nice time to share some of Lillia’s digital artwork. Here is a small sample of what she’s been working on lately in Photoshop (which she now uses with some degree of proficiency, mostly self-taught):

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We’re looking forward to getting back to our studies this week!

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The Twenty-Sixth & Twenty-Seventh Weeks

So, last week got away from me, and I apologize. I am now fully immersed in my own schoolwork and I just haven’t had the time to blog. That doesn’t mean we weren’t doing anything, though.

Lillia’s Adventures

Last week we finished up our study of the Ancient Far East. We finished The Tao of Pooh and we also read The Legend of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching, by Demi. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago I decided that this would be our last Ancient History unit for this year as I ordered the Oak Meadow third grade curriculum and I really wanted to try it out. I just decided to start with the beginning of the third semester work and we’ll see how far we get. I’m not following the math curriculum from Oak Meadow because we really love Life of Fred, but we did dive into the Science and Social Studies material.

cactus-hotel-big-bookThis week we were instructed to study desert plant and animal life for Science, and the history of our local area for Social Studies. We checked out some books from the library and read them during the first three days of our school week (we don’t do school on Tuesdays right now because of my class). Lillia really enjoyed Cactus Hotel, by Brenda Guiberson and so we decided to make a page for our science journal based on Guiberson’s idea of a cactus that houses many small mammals and birds. Note: Oak Meadow is “Waldorf-inspired” and so they encourage using a pre-bound “main lesson book” for each subject. We are making individual pages on drawing paper and then putting them together at the end. The idea of a book that couldn’t be changed (i.e. if one makes a mistake) was just too overwhelming for our little perfectionist. Here’s our first page for this unit (it didn’t scan very well, but you get the idea):

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I made a really interesting discovery about Lillia during the creation of this page. Lillia loves to draw and write but if you ask her to do either one on command, she freaks out. This is especially true if what you are asking of her is a multi-part process (i.e. draw the cactus and animals, color it, and then label it). But, I had a moment of clarity and remembered that she really likes doing “collabs” (collaborative drawings) and often asks me to do them with her. Usually they are just silly pictures and we take turns drawing different absurd things, but I thought it might also work in an academic setting. You know what? I was right! Although it took some patience and persistence on my part, what we made is the first really complete piece of work I think she’s done this year. I feel so relieved (and satisfied). If she needs to work collaboratively, then that’s what we’ll do. We didn’t make our page for our town studies yet because the weather has been terrible (for example, today we had freezing rain and snow) and we haven’t been able to get out to any of the historical sites. We did do some map work, though, and I’ll post that when we’re finished.

Zane’s Adventures

The past two weeks I have been working really hard to establish a rhythm for the kids. I’ve worked out that Monday is painting day, Tuesday we have off, Wednesday we do a seasonal craft, Thursday we go the library, and Friday is baking day (treats — not bread!). So, Zane has been very busy…

…painting,

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…making some pretty birds for our nature mobile, (we used these patterns from the Downeast Thunder Farm blog — bluebird, robin, chickadee — but we made ours with paper instead of felt),

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…picking out “Zane books” at the library,

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…and baking with his sister.

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Mama’s Adventures

Identity crisis, anyone? In less than a month I will be a college graduate. This is kind of a big deal. I have been in college either part- or full-time for the past 13 and a half years. All told, that’s more than 40% of my life so far. I’m incredibly excited to move on to something new and to finally accomplish what I set out to do more than a decade ago. But, it’s going to be weird. I became an adult while in college (literally and figuratively). I got married, had children, had jobs…but I was always a “student.” I have a lot to think about, and if I’m not blogging at full capacity it’s not because I don’t care or things aren’t going well. I have so many things I want to blog about, but right now I need to focus my mental energy on crossing this threshold into the next phase of my life. Then I’ll be back full steam ahead.

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The Twenty-Fifth Week

Do you ever feel like you are being watched? I’m sure Lillia does…

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Lillia’s Adventures

This week we continued to read chapters from the Tao of Pooh. I think Lillia’s favorite chapter was “Bisy Backson,” in which we learned all about how living like Rabbit (constantly on the go) causes a lot of undue stress. I think I can fully appreciate this now that our lives have really slowed down. I was already working on cutting out the “Bisyness,” but choosing to homeschool was really the tipping point. One of my ongoing projects is to create a home that allows my children to live their lives at their own pace, without always being rushed, and most of the time I’m pretty successful (except Saturday mornings when it’s time to leave for ballet lessons…).

In Life of Fred we learned more about sets — domains and codomains and how they are used in relation to functions. For example:

A function: A rule that assigns to each member of the domain exactly one image in the codomain.
A constant function: A rule that assigns to each member of the domain exactly one image in the codomain, and it is always the same image.

The coolest thing about the Fred books is that I end up learning things right along with Lillia. I think that any adult suffering from math phobia would really benefit from doing this series.

As usual, Lillia spent many hours this week drawing and being creative. When she was little I thought that her love of animals would lead her into a science-oriented career like zoology or veterinary science. Now that she is older and becoming more of an individual I can see that her real talents and passions lie in the realm of the arts.

Here she is doodling on the floor of the garage with chalk.

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She also created a magazine for me. She got mad when I tried to photograph her making it because, as she exclaimed, “It’s a surprise!”

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Here’s my favorite page:

Zane’s Adventures

This week Zane experienced a kitchen remodel…on a small scale. Our friend gave us an awesome piece of play kitchen furniture a while back but it was just too big for Wee Little Zane to use. I switched it out with a little bookshelf we already owned, and now he has a just-the-right-size kitchen.

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He spent a lot of time playing outside. I’ve been trying really hard to work outdoor time into our daily schedule, so we definitely got out more than usual (the warm weather helped).

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And, as usual, Zane spent a lot of time playing with is sister. Yep, it’s true — two kids do fit on a rocking horse. They had to prove it to me.

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Mama’s Adventures

This week I did a lot of soul-searching and thinking about the rhythm of our home life. We didn’t really have much of a rhythm this year and I think that was a big contributor to some of the stress we experienced, in regards to homeschooling. My first order of business in tackling this issue was creating a snack/meal chart that we can use every week. The snacks and lunches will be the same each week so it’s a no-brainer when it’s time to shop and, more importantly, the kids will know what to expect. I’ve taken many early childhood classes, as well a year-long professional development course about caring for children ages 0-3, and time and again my instructors emphasized the importance of rhythm and routine for little ones (and all children from about birth to seven). I’m embarrassed to say that I’m just now putting that knowledge into practice in my own home but sometimes we have to spend some time doing the wrong thing in order to figure out how to do it right. Lillia is more independent and her food needs are somewhat particular. She has a lot of sensory issues and this manifests itself strongly in her dislike of most foods. Still, the rhythm is there for her, even if she doesn’t eat the snacks. I’m still tweaking my chart but when I feel like it’s pretty much done I will post it here.

My next order of business is developing a schedule for our special activities. I’m thinking of painting on Monday, seasonal craft on Tuesday, playdough or modeling clay on Wednesday, baking on Thursday, and trip to the library on Friday.

Do you have a structured rhythm? If so, what aspects of your home life do you include?

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The Twenty-Fourth Week

This week was interesting, but not as productive as past weeks. I blame myself for this (see “Mama’s Adventures” below). In any case, I’ll start with…

Lillia’s Adventures

life in ancient china coverHaving done a fast sweep of the Indus Valley civilization last week, we moved ahead into our study of Ancient China. We are using Life in Ancient China, by Paul Challen as our spine for this unit. My one complaint about both this and the book we used for the Indus Valley civilization is that the author’s definition of “ancient” often encompasses what I consider the medieval period, which I plan to cover next year. I don’t know if that is a by-product of some sort of Western bias or Euro-centric way of thinking, or if there just isn’t enough information about these ancient civilizations to make the book interesting. My guess is that it’s probably the former. We haven’t read the whole book yet because I plan to study the Ancient Far East for at least another week or so.

tao of pooh coverThis week we also started reading The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff. This is a wonderful introduction to the philosophy of Taoism (pronounced DOW-ISM, in case you were wondering). I chose this as our “primary source,” although it is actually a secondary source, because I think it is a really clever way to study the Tao Te Ching (pronounced DOW-DE-JEENG), an ancient Chinese text written around the 6th century BCE. In this week’s chapters we learned about the concept of the “Uncarved Block” (or P’u). As Benjamin Hoff observed, Winnie-the-Pooh is the epitome of the “uncarved block.” He is always in his natural state, not encumbered by cleverness or knowledge. Things work out for him because he does not fight his own inner nature. Having read all of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, Lillia can really understand what Hoff is trying to say, philosophically, through the various characters in the stories.

Life of Fred continues to be challenging. This week we learned what to do when you need to borrow from a number to subtract, but the next number available is a zero. Although Lillia got frustrated at first, after a quick review she understood and was able to complete the problem easily. I really like that Life of Fred doesn’t rely on endless repetition to teach concepts, as Lillia often understands after the first try or, at the most, no more than one or two reviews.

Lillia has been very pedagogical this week. She was intent on teaching Zane to write his letters (developmentally inappropriate, I know, but they were bonding). She was so pleased when he made an “A.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that toddlers are really good at imitating us.

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We’ve finally finished learning all of the cursive letters, and we’ll be moving on to practicing writing words!

Zane’s Adventures

This week, Zane has been doing a lot of “reading.” Of course, he’s just imitating what he sees. His family members read a lot.

Oops, it’s upside down!
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That’s better.
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Here he’s “reading” his sister’s math notebook.

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He’s been an out-of-control climbing machine. This kid is a problem solver. If he wants to go up, he’ll find a way to get there.

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He’s also been really interested in undressing himself (diaper included, much to his parents’ dismay). One would think overalls would be a deterrent but sadly, no.

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In all seriousness, I’m pretty excited about his interest in doing things for himself. Lillia is a very parent-centered child, which is great…except when it’s not. I would love for her to get her own glass of water once in awhile. Still, every child is different, and I love them both equally despite, and for, their differences.

Mama’s Adventures

I make a lot of confessions on this blog and I try to be really honest about my shortcomings. Being an INFP personality type means I’m always striving for self-improvement. This week I am feeling a lot of self-doubt. I wonder — is homeschooling actually making a difference for Lillia? Is she learning anything? Does it even matter that I stay home, or would the family be better served by a second income? I can say with some degree of certainty that at least one of my children benefits from my being home (Zane) because he doesn’t have to spend the day in child care. Lillia is a trickier situation…

I started out this year thinking that I wanted to design my own curriculum from the ground up. I would do everything myself. But, the further along into the school year we got, the more I started to think that I must have been absolutely nuts to try and do that! I’m okay with most of what we do, but I feel like everything is very disjointed. There are no connections between the different subjects. Also, I had envisioned a much more hands-on experience for Lillia with lots of fun projects (something different than the pile of worksheets she did every day in public school). But, I haven’t been able to pull that off. I feel like she is not really engaged with the work. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is useless. I’m looking for something more along the lines of the misattributed Yeats quote, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” From what I can see, there’s not much of a fire happening at our house right now.

Sure, she does the work without complaint (most days), but I can tell she’s not really interested. She’d rather be doing something else. Such is the nature of kids, I know, but I didn’t pull her out of school to bore her to death. I wanted her to experience another way of learning. I wanted her to make discoveries and have epiphanies. I wanted her little light to shine so bright that the whole world would say, “There is a child who loves to learn!” Okay…maybe my hopes were a little unrealistic. But, I still want that for her, to whatever degree it’s actually possible.

To that end, I just spent $150 for used copies of Oak Meadow’s 3rd and 4th grade syllabi. I first heard of the “inspired by Waldorf education” homeschooling curriculum from Oak Meadow about four years ago, when Lillia was wrapping up her kindergarten year at our local Waldorf school. She had an amazing year, and I am a big fan of Waldorf education (though I run away screaming from dogma, and some Waldorfians can be a little too dogmatic for my taste). Rudolf Steiner may have been looking at child development through the lens of anthroposophy, but his observations were spot on. I trust his methods because I feel that he honestly understood children in a way that most people don’t. Looking ahead to fourth grade, Oak Meadow students study Native Americans, make dioramas of local flora, and research animal behavior. Those are topics that Lillia is already interested in, so I think she will enjoy it. I love that everything is integrated (except math — we will keep using Life of Fred because we love it so much). It seems very comprehensive. And, most of all, it sounds very creative and flexible. For every lesson there is a list of optional projects. We were going to study the Middle Ages next year, and we still can. There’s no one who loves to read more than Lillia, and what I had planned was mostly just reading a spine and supplementing with library books. Once I have a chance to look over the materials, I’ll write a more in-depth review. If my books arrive in time, I will try out the third trimester of the grade three syllabus this year during our last trimester.

I feel better just knowing that I’m trying to make improvements. I’m not afraid of change, and I am humble enough to admit when something isn’t working (at least not optimally). I try to embrace all of the possibilities, and I know I’m at my best when I am striving.

ā€œI was taught to strive not because there were any guarantees of success but because the act of striving is in itself the only way to keep faith with life.ā€ — Madeleine Albright

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog.

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The Twenty-Third Week

Let’s dive right in with…

Lillia’s Adventures

indus river valley coverThis week we began our study of the Ancient Far East with a mini-unit on the Indus River Valley civilization. The textbook we are using this year for our studies of various ancient world civilizations only allotted a few pages to various non-European civilizations, so I chose to use other books as our “spine” for this unit. For the first installment I chose Life in the Ancient Indus River Valley, by Hazel Richardson. Overall, this book gave a good review of the two cultures from the Indus Valley — the Harappans and the Aryans. Did you know that the Indus River (to which the civilization owes its name) actually completely changed course and the area that was once inhabited by the Harappans is now a desert? Another river essential to the Harappans, the Sarawathi River, dried up completely.

Because I think it is important to learn about other cultures through their own works of art, music, and literature I always try to provide primary sources for each of our humanities units. For this unit, I chose the ancient Hindu text known as the Ramayana, which dates to the 5th or 4th century BCE. While not directly related to the Indus Valley civilization, the Ramayana is the cultural descendant of the people living in this area, and some scholars believe that the events and places described in the Ramayana are reflections of a historical understanding of the earlier cultures (though there is no proof of this). Regardless, the Ramayana is the primary source I chose to present for this unit. I’d love to hear if anyone has other suggestions.

story of divaali coverI tried to give Lillia a well-rounded, yet age-appropriate, view of the Ramayana by selecting severa books, each offering a different perspective of the tale. The first version we read was The Story of Divaali, written by Jatinder Verma and illustrated by Nilesh Mistry. This beautifully illustrated picture book is a retelling of the Ramayana that is completely appropriate for children. Lillia wanted to know why Rama’s skin is depicted as being blue, so we did some research. Though it’s difficult to find a clear answer, it seems to have something to do with his spirtuality and his depth, and perhaps his level of consciousness. Krishna is also frequently shown with blue skin.

hanuman coverWe also read Hanuman, written by Erik Jendresen and Joshua M. Greene, and illustrated by Li Ming. This picture book is a retelling of the Ramayana from Hanuman’s perspective. Hanuman is the monkey god who joins with Rama to defeat the demon king, Ravana, and bring Sita back to safety. The illustrations in this book are incredible, and the shift in perspective brings clarity to the other retellings that we read.

sita's ramayana coverLastly, we took a look at the story from Sita’s point of view, reading Sita’s Ramayana, by Samhita Arni & Moyna Chitrakar. While I usually read our primary sources aloud to Lillia, she read this one to herself because it is a graphic novel. I find it difficult, if not impossible, to read graphic novels and comic books out loud. In any case, Lillia was able to identify that this was another retelling of the same story, and correctly noted that it was different in that it was told from a woman’s point of view. I highly recommend this book, with the caveat that it is probably best suited for older elementary children.

In Life of Fred: Farming, we learned about the unification of sets. For example, if you have the union of the sets {nachos} and {nachos, napkin, jelly bean}, the result is {nachos, napkin, jelly bean}. You don’t include nachos twice in a unification of sets (I never learned about sets in school so this is all new to me!). We also learned how to subtract by borrowing when you have to borrow more than once. This is exactly the sort of situation that makes Lillia really upset. If she doesn’t get it right away all by herself, she has a mental breakdown. It takes some reassurance and some persistence on my part to bring her back to reality and help her to actually learn how to perform a new skill. After that, it’s usually fine as she is a very quick learner (once she decides she wants to learn).

Zane’s Adventures

This week went by so fast that I didn’t have the chance to take many pictures. Zane and I spent quite a bit of time outside this week, cleaning up the yard and just enjoying being outside. Early in the week it was so warm and beautiful, but it turned colder later in the week. Zane doesn’t seem to mind the cold, as long as he’s properly bundled (Lillia insists that I am always overdressing him).

Zane discovered this wooden barn of Lillia’s in the garage one afternoon. It’s so amazing to think that just 18 months ago he was plastered to the earth, unable even to turn his head voluntarily. Now, he can play pretend with farm animals. It’s pretty cute.

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The Twenty-Second Week

The blog hosting switcheroo is complete so I can finally post my update for last week!

Lillia’s Adventures

This week we finally finished up our study of Ancient Egypt and we’re looking forward to moving on to the Far East! Lillia had a good week. Because I’m already living in the next week, I’m not going to give details of what we did, but I do want to share some beautiful artwork made by our very own resident artist, Lillia.

A self-portait using pastels.

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An interesting study in pattern-making using watercolors.

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And, my favorite, a beautiful self-portrait using acrylics.

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I hung them up on a big, blank wall in the kitchen and they really brightened up the space.

Zane’s Adventures

Last week Zane was also very involved in artistic pursuits. He made all sorts of interesting sculptures from random household objects. For example, he built this interesting tower using the leftover breakfast dishes. The radio was also involved — maybe it was some sort of art installation.

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And, this is a lovely creation made of objects he scavenged from the refrigerator.

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This week Zane developed a real love of green smoothies. I can’t say I’m disappointed.

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He played in his room quite a bit. We recently moved this shelf in there, and now he has lots of books and toys at his disposal (and out of my living room). He most often wants company. He even pats his little hand on the floor to show us where to sit.

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And, lastly, he sang constantly — in the shower, while he was playing — and it was always “Jingle Bells.”

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On Vacation

I wasn’t planning on taking a break this week but it happened anyway! I’ll be back next week with an update.

Hope you all had a great week!

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Creativity & Education

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity lately, especially in an educational context. Today, while I was sitting in my car waiting for Lillia to come out of ballet class, I happened to catch part of NPR’s TED Radio Hour. This week’s episode, called “Building a Better Classroom,” featured Sir Ken Robinson, a renowned author and speaker who focuses on education, creativity, and innovation. Although his talks are several years old, I had never heard them before, and I was profoundly moved by some of the things he said about our public education system and its relationship to individual creativity and intelligence.

Despite my overall confidence in the success of our homeschooling experience, I do occasionally question my decision to reject the current educational paradigm, in favor of something different and unknown. Hearing Ken Robinson’s criticisms of a system that I feel is more harmful than beneficial to my child was both reassuring and enlightening. I will not go into all of the details of his talks (there are links to both of them at the end of this post), but I will highlight some of the points that really struck me as important to remember.

In his first TED Talk, in 2006, Ken Robinson discussed our educational system’s obsession with always having the right answer. This is clearly visible in the high value we place on test scores, from the standardized tests our children take in elementary school, to the SAT’s they take to get into college. The focus on always being “right,” to the exclusion of all other possibilities, leaves no room for experimentation and innovation. By the time our children are teenagers the creativity has been thoroughly taught out of them. But, there is much to gain from being wrong, or at least from being willing to be wrong. Ken Robinson says,

What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original…And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this, by the way. We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities. Picasso once said this — he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it.

I see this in myself, as I am certainly a product of this broken educational system. And, it always becomes a matter of self-blame because our culture won’t admit that the formula is wrong. Maybe instead of failing miserably at Algebra, I could have been pursuing things that really interested me, like literature, history, music, and art. Our educational system is based on the assumption that everyone will go to college, and that we need to standardize everyone’s education to fit that ultimate goal. There is little to be gained by this method, and it mostly results in a lot of square pegs in round holes. Instead of creating an atmosphere where individuals can follow their own passions, desires, and talents — their own “paths” — we try to force everyone to travel the same road. It’s really no mystery why there are so many unhappy and unfulfilled adults. In order to change this, Ken Robinson says, we have to shift away from an educational model based on mechanization, and focus on educating our children as individual human beings. He says,

So I think we have to change metaphors. We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people. We have to move to a model that is based more on principles of agriculture. We have to recognize that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.

In closing, I want to share a poem by W.B. Yeats, which Ken Robinson quoted at the end of his second TED Talk:

HAD I the heavensā€™ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Let us always remember, as educators and parents, to tread softly on the dreams that are spread out before us.

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