Saturday, April 4, 2009

Off to (make) a movie !

This week-end we got an opportunity through some of Nigel's good friends to be part of a movie. The kids, and probably all of us are going to be extras in a horror/zombie movie.
Needless to say the kids are excited. Especially since, if the movie goes all the way to production their names will be in the credits.
I'm sure there will be a blog post about the experience really soon.

Things have been going well here, although I'm still trying to figure out the kids learning methods. Xavier seems to do best if just left to his own device. He's incredibly smart and reading about things is enough for him, lessons can be a bit redundant. However lessons are not a bad thing for him, it's just nice to know that he can be left to reading articles if needed. In his blog posts he shows a great grasp of every single article he's read and his reactions have been very cool to see. He'll often stop and talk to us about what he's reading in order to let us know about the neat discovery he's just made.
Auna on the other hand is overwhelmed a bit by this latest assignment. Reading on her own is not the way she likes to learn, and while I'm having her push through this time, I don't think it's very beneficial for her. I'm still having her do it because there will be a lot of this when she gets to College, and she needs to learn to feel comfortable with it, but I know that we will have to do a lot more hands on activities and lessons with her.
Which is interesting because I do believe she is a visual learner, but I think that she's still focusing on images rather than words. Taking Auna to the Field Museum is great for example, she learns a tremendous amount there just by looking at all the exhibits and associating the text with what she is seeing... I now need to help her hone her skills to fit text instead of images. But again, I also need to cater to her auditory learning style.
I think part of the problem too is that she was not an avid reader before being homeschooled, and while she's started reading a lot more lately this is still very new to her. And we're having her read full on articles in Discover and Science Illustrated, which aren't always easy reads. I'm sure that has to be extremely overwhelming.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Loving the weather!

Yesterday was spent mostly outside walking. I think I walked at least 3 hours, half an hour of which Auna came with me, the other hours were spent walking while at work.
This week is pretty mellow, we are cleaning the house again, and the kids are catching up on their posts that they were supposed to have done. Tomorrow we are going to the Field Museum in order to review what we had learned about the classification of living things, there is an entire area at the museum consecrated to that, and I didn't even know about it! Needless to say I'm overjoyed.

This week-end is probably going to be spent catching up on homework and making sure that we have our goals set for this month.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Back on track

I've been super sick this last week. Instead of formatting the kid's month like I wanted to do, I had to sleep under the blankets the entire week.
So now this week is going to be charged. I think the kids will mostly have to post their responses to the articles they've read for the first few days, and by then I should have some pages of homework ready.

This month we are going to have them write something imaginative instead of writting a report. I think it might be a better fit for them to be able to understand how to write paragraphs and such. I have to come up with a subject though, that might be interesting.
I'm trying also to decide if they should write a shorter essay each week, or a longer one in three weeks. I think I'll go with shorter essays every week, otherwise they'll wait until the last minute to get started anyways.

Here are a few prompts that I'm thinking about:
-This is very important in our family. We encourage the kids to talk about everything that they are feeling, but we still have a few instances of the kids flying off the handle and stomping out of the room without listening, so this prompt might be very interesting to help us show how important communication is:
"People have disagreements. Sometimes the issues are small, such
as what to eat or where to spend time. Other times, the issue is bigger, like how
late you are allowed to stay out. No matter what the disagreement is about, you
can often settle the issue if you are willing to talk to the other person.
Think about a time when you had a disagreement with a friend,
teacher, or family member but settled it by talking with the other
person. Write a narrative paper telling what happened when you had
a disagreement with a friend, teacher, or family member but settled it
by talking with the other person. Include specific details,
descriptions, and reactions." (2 pages and up)

-Just for fun:
"There are many interesting characters in movies, books, and on
television. These characters can be brave, funny, or smart and it would be
interesting to meet them. Think about what makes a character in a movie, book, or
television program interesting.
Write an expository paper to describe one character from a movie,
book, or television program that you would like to meet. Explain
what you like about the character and what makes him or her
interesting." (2 pages and up)

-Again, just for fun:
"Imagine yourself as an animal. Which would you choose to be, and why?" (1 page+)

-This one is more to realize what the kids might or might not know yet about the world around us, politically, economically, etc...
"Describe three things that you would like to change about the world, and explain why you would change them and how changing them will affect everybody."

-This one is more for my own benefit, to know what they are interested in:
"Think about careers that you might want to do later on as an adult. Not just a job, something that you actually want to do, that you think will make you happy. Write about it/them and why you like the idea of that career and why you think it will make you happy."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What is happening to our books?

I have taken to reading most of the books that we get for the kids so that I know what they are reading, so that we can talk about them if they ever want to, because they enjoy sharing the stories with me as well, and also because I simply enjoy children's literature.
I am very sad however, by the turn that those books have taken. In the past few months I've chosen quite a few books for the kids, books that I could tell they would enjoy and that were well written.
It turns out that I was right, those books were great, after all I did not want to become a librarian as a kid for nothing.
However, OVER HALF of those books have had at the very least the mention of a divorced family, most of them have had the main characters come from a divorced family.

This is when the statistics that we are given in school or on the media really come into perspective. Over half of all families in the United States are divorced. This sounds bad enough, but usually you just shrug it off, saying oh well, not big deal. But when it starts permeating our culture so much that more than half of kids' books are now about divorced families, you start seeing the real problem.

Most of these books also don't really address the divorce in a way that might be constructive, instead they just talk about it in a matter of fact way that will just lead children to believe that divorce is normal and pretty much expected.
Now I would never take away the right of someone to divorce, but children should not be told that it's no big deal and that divorce is a norm now. They should understand that divorce is necessary in some occasions, but that your ultimate goal is to try and create a family that will last.
Desensitizing our children towards divorce is scary business. It means that the next generation might have even less consideration for marriage and staying in a relationship that this one did.
Granted it might trigger the opposite, this next generation might see what happened to their parents and swear that they will not do the same. They might not get married at all but stay extremely commited to one partner throughout their whole life, in which case I will be very happy. But with American morals being the way they are, and the American way being the "fast and easy" way, it is not very likely to happen.

As a parent now, I almost feel as though there should be warning labels on books, and that makes me really sad. But knowing whether or not a book has a divorced family in it might be important to someone. I personally would never stop the kids from reading anything that they might want to read, that is at their level of comprehension. At the same time I am glad to have read the books so that I can talk to them about this phenomenon and explain that it is not a norm and should never become one.
How about the parents that don't have the inclination or the time to read everything their child reads? Parents who might not want to have their child start thinking about divorce as being "normal". How are they supposed to know when going to the book store what books to avoid and what books to grab?
Again, it makes me sad to know that this is the society that we live in. That because of our society I am actually thinking about putting warning labels on books! This is not something that should ever have to happen. This is not something that is right. It makes me think of where we will go next... I don't want warning labels to turn into banned books to turn into book burning, and yet I do feel that those warning labels are kind of needed at this point.

Ugh what a nightmare.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Costa Rica?

I keep on hearing about Twitter and keep on shrugging it off. My first thoughts on the whole situation of twitter was wondering how a generation of people could have become so lazy, that even blogging has to now become a matter of quick and easy. Twitter is literally like the fast food of blogging.
And yet, seeing more and more people on livejournal using twitter to update, and having it talked about in classrooms and such is making me edge more and more towards getting my own. Because now I'm curious, and I have to see what it's like. I don't know if I will ever get a twitter account in the end... that is still very much up in the air as I do still think it's the easy way out when it comes to contacting your friends or blogging... but the appeal is there. Isn't publicity amazing?

In other news I'm concentrating right now on a set of geishas. I'm pretty excited about them, but they probably won't be done for another month or so. We'll see. Maybe I can finish them up a little faster. I am trying to build my portfolio at this point. The work I was doing before I started on the paintings just was not satisfying to me, so I still have a lot of work to do in order to build a large enough portfolio. This summer will be a good time to get started on that. This summer I will not be able to follow Nigel around on the gallery and convention tour as I will be working on the week-ends with one of my families, so instead I will have to concentrate and making enough work that I will be able to really jumpstart my career next summer.

I've been thinking about what to do in between my last semester and graduate school. I will be finishing up my BA in December of this year, so I will have a semester where I will not be able to go to school. I'm trying to convince Nigel that we need to go to Costa Rica for two months in order for me to finish learning my spanish.
If we do well this summer and make sure to start saving ahead of time I think that it's something that we might be able to actually do.
The kids would be overjoyed I'm sure, and they would be fluent by the time we got back. Nigel and Myself might not be fluent but at least we would be able to hold our own.
So this is what I'm researching at the moment. We'll see...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Things have been mellow lately. The kids are taking a break really, just reading articles, and writing everything on a word file until I can review it and we can talk about each of them.
Next month we will start over the regimen of lots of homework and lessons. I'm looking ahead at what activities we can do, and so far it looks as though we will be able to visit the Adler Planetarium and the Museum of Science and Industry. But I would like to do some other things as well. Maybe the Zoo since we didn't get to go last month.
Oh yeah, we can plan a visit to the Brookfield Zoo with Mum and Da actually, we were talking about that just this week-end and I need to start planning on it then. So far it doesn't look as we have too many shows in April, but that might change quickly.

I'm starting to look at craft faires on top of everything else as I believe that some of my stuff, mostly the plushies, will sell better there. I'm also building a bunch of new plushies for my line. Right now on the drawing board is an octopus that I really like. I just need to tweak a few little things here and there and it will be ready for show. Also making more three dimentional monsters at the moment. Can't wait to see how those turn out.

The galleries last month were really great, especially the Glitch Gallery. We had an amazing time there. We've both been productive, me in organizing another 2 paintings of geishas, Nigel on finishing up and starting some of his big paintings. I really love the way the new ones are going and can't wait to see them done. They are absolutely amazing.

Alright, off to do more work.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Catching Up

I haven't had time to update on anything really since the middle of the month. The kids did really well this month with all their homework. We had a couple of days where nobody wanted to work, but we managed to deal with those fairly well.
All of their homework pages were well done, I think that a lot of what we are going through with grades seven and eight is review to them, which helps.

I did find that the essays were still a big issue, but I haven't been able to help them much with those. They were better than last month though, so I guess that helps. We've switched to a new strategy for next month and maybe for a few months in the future as well. The kids have started blogging, which allows them to pay attention to their grammar and form in a much smaller format. So far it's been working. They are also learning how to blog and what to write when they are trying to relate their day.
This month they are asked to read two articles a day in Science Illustrated or another scientific magazine, and to blog on it each time. We'll see how that goes.

I need to walk over to the English tutoring place that is close to our house with them as I am having a hard time explaining grammar to them. I know the logic of french grammar, but the logic of english grammar is not quite within my grasp. I have tried teaching them nouns and adjectives, adverbs and verbs this month, and they got most of it. But there are still questions that I am unable to answer. So that will have to be something we do next month.

This month was also spent going to a bunch of fun places. We went to the Field Museum a couple of times and got to see the Aztecs, we also went to the Garfield Park Conservatory and to the Art Institute. But to me the most fun we had was at a science convention at one of the hotels downtown. The children's section was free and we truly had a blast. There were plenty of amazing experiments to look at, a lot of information for us to use in our homeschooling. We truly had a great time.

Now to see how this month goes....

Thursday, February 12, 2009


We now have the kids writing in their own blogs as well. This is very touch and go at the moment, but it's part of their writing skills. We are working on what exactly to write on the blogs at the moment, I want to leave them as much freedom as possible, but I also want them to write how they feel about things. So far they have been very general with their entries. Last night I was able to get Auna to write a bit more on how she felt about the episode of Penn and Teller that we had watched that struck her the most. So we are getting to that point little by little.
I tried to explain to them that I did not just want an hour by hour recall of their day, but that I wanted to hear about what they had learned and what they enjoyed or disliked every day.
It does help me too. For instance they have been great about just getting to work and getting everything done throughout the week, and while this makes me very happy, I've also learned that they find it extremely boring. Now there is not much I can do about them being bored doing homework sadly because they definitely have to get it done. But it does make me think about what I can add to their schooling that will make it more interesting and fun.
So far we have done a lot of things that they would not have done at school, but we are missing a few things. Some experiments that we talked about but haven't gotten a chance to accomplish quite yet (lemon batteries) for instance. I also was not able to get the citric acid to make the bath bombs with Auna.
During the summer this will all get a lot easier since we will be able to get out of the house and do a lot more fun things. I think we are all getting a bit of cabin fever as well which doesn't make any of this any easier.
How do you keep older kids entertained through school? I don't think there really is any way. I remember being bored myself getting homework done, but it just needed to get done no matter what. We are not ready to do complete unschooling as we want the kids to be able to take notes and do homework later on when they get to college. So I guess they will just have to suck it up, just like most of us did.