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.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Garfield Park Conservatory

Our field trip to the Garfield Park Conservatory was a lot of fun. I believe I enjoyed it as much as the kids did, if not more. The Conservatory in honor of Valentine's Day, was showing all of the different "sweet" plants that they grow there. We also had taste stations where we got to taste all the delicious things that these plants give us.
For instance we got to taste candied ginger, vanilla jelly beans (I love the vanilla plant!), non processed sugar, agave juice, dried fruits, and so much more. It was quite a treat, but by the end of the tour I felt as though a sugar cube explosion had just happened in my mouth.
We did decide that when we move to California we will do our best to have a vanilla plant, and some agave plants. We are also switching from sugar to agave nectar as our sweetener as it simply tastes better and is supposed to also be more beneficial for your health. It is low calories, non processed as it is naturally sweet, and has a lowest glicemic index than sugar itself. But again, it is simply yummy!
We did have a surprise tasting chocolate beans, before they were sweetened. Those are definitely not very good. We were expecting something bitter, but not quite as bitter as what we got. We ate one, but then they were giving them out again at several other stations and it was just too much for us.

As we were leaving we decided to go look in the gift shop for a plant to bring home. We are horrible gardeners altogether but do enjoy having plants in the house. We did find two fat plants, that we think we might be able to keep alive. One was an aloe plant, which we wanted to have anyways in the house as they can be quite useful, and the other we haven't found yet. It might be a delosperma algoense, but I might be entirely wrong.

The rest of the day wasn't quite as much fun, as we cleaned the house entirely in order to be ready for the board game play date that we have today. I haven't heard from anyone though, so I'm not even sure that anyone will show up. Nevertheless the house needed to be cleaned and we did a pretty good job of it, With everyone in on it, it also did not take as long as I was expecting it to.

All in all a very good day, and the kids started their blogs as well, so that will be interesting to see.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Things have been doing amazingly well with the new schedule. I'm actually very surprised at the way the kids have stepped up to the plate.
We've literally gone from complete un-schooling to having them do homework everyday, and getting lessons, and having to follow a schedule and they have been incredibly good about the whole thing.
Going into this month I was expecting to hear complaint after complaint, and to have to fight my way through every single one of the lessons. Not so! The kids just took up everything and have been going to work like crazy.

All the experts who say that kids thrive on having a schedule and knowing what is expected of them have so far, in our family been proven true. And this doesn't mean that the kids are becoming drones or anything like that, quite the contrary actually. They are going up and above everything that we give them, really striving to learn and do the best they can do. I am simply overjoyed and amazed at their dedication.

This really got through to me this past week-end, when we let the schedule go a little bit (The kids don't really get a week-end, they get a few days off here and there instead as needed). Well on Saturday we told them not to worry about getting up early and getting to work, that they could have the morning to themselves and that we would get to work in the afternoon.
Around 2pm I told them to come to the study room so I could go through grammar with them real quick and then they would have been done with the week. It seemed as though all hell broke loose right then and there. There was complaining, completely negative attitude, and unwillingness to work at all. We did get through it later on, but it took about an hour before they would even start working.
On the other side, on days were we start school right at 9am like we had planned, and go through the day with the schedule we had set, sometimes going over time and just keeping on working much longer than we had planned on, the kids are happy, eager, and have no issues whatsoever with doing the work. Again... I'm amazed!

So this is really good news for us. We now know that we can push the kids as much as we wanted to, and that they will be perfectly fine following our lead, just as long as we keep up with a set schedule.

We only have two more lessons left, which we will go over this week-end. Ecosystems and Classification. Those should be fairly easy. We are also going to the Conservatory this week-end and they will be able to learn more there. I love this month's Conservatory tours, as they are showing us all the sweet plants that are at the Conservatory, and what kind of tasty treats they give us all in honor of Valentine's day. I'm sure the kids will enjoy being able to taste all of the different fruits and concoctions.

Then on Sunday we have that playdate with new kids, so hopefully that will go over well. I'm sure it will, but it is a bit nerve wracking to think of a whole bunch of kids coming over that we do not know. Luckily the parents will be there too, so we should be fine.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The week

So we have started going more with a schedule this past week and at the beginning the kids were doing pretty well with it. Of course since I'm not always there to keep things in check it gets pretty lax at times, but at least they are trying.
We went through most of the lessons for the month already, or at least half of them which is good.
It's sometimes hard for Nigel to remember that not all brains work the same way his does though, so I'm trying to work with Auna on the side to make sure that she's getting everything that he's saying during his lessons. We might have to start thinking about just having Nigel give the lessons to Xavier, and me give the lessons to Auna. That might simply be the easiest way to make sure that we are keeping the kids on track. Xavier and Nigel understand each other perfectly, and me and Auna have the same way to go about things, methodically in order to understand things from the end to the beginning, without having tangents all over the place.
We'll have to see where that takes us.

Tomorrow we have grammar and hopefully they will finish up their homework for the week. They don't get a week-end, during the week-end. They had two days off during the week on Wednesday and Friday, and that accounts for their week-end, however week-ends are definitely more relaxed. For instance today, we didn't do anything really until 2pm. On top of it Auna is sick, so work is pretty much out of the window. I really hope she will be feeling better tomorrow as I want to be able to give those lessons and have them over with.

So next week's goals, are tightening up the schedule. No more trying to get extra time before school starts at 9am. We need to not take the kids away from their schooling either. Last week we were going to lunch during my lunch break, but that cuts right into their school hours, right after they just got started. Can't do that anymore, because otherwise they don't get to work done after the lunch hour, they just do all the fun stuff during the afternoon. So no more of that. I will have to see how that goes.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Let's see !

So, February is almost here and we are about to start the curriculum that I built for the kids. I'm excited to see how it will go.
Hoping the kids will enjoy being challenged a little more, hoping that the curriculum actually covers everything that they need, and definitely hoping that they won't have too hard a time with all of it.
They are supremely smart, but there are things that only maturity will bring to the equation. I think they are ready for everything that I prepared, but only hope that this is really the case and that we won't encounter huge obstacles in the running of things.
I'm sure we'll have hiccups here and there, but hey... at least we will be trying.
I cannot wait to tell you all about this next month and how we do.
Playdates, outings, homework and all that fun stuff.
We will be getting them their laptops this week, probably on wednesday so that I can join them in the endeavor. They also have a hundred dollars each from work that they've done for us, that they might want to spend on either an upgrade on a computer, or games/learning CDROMs, or hopefully books if we go to Borders or Barnes and Nobles. Either that or they will keep the money to spend during convention season, not sure yet. We'll have to see.
One thing that we have to try and do, is get Xavier to spend a little less time on video games this month, and more time reading. He's our easy reader and we often forget to push reading on him, but it's just as important for him as it is for Auna. And the video games, while fun and compelling for him, should be replaced with either more learning, or more board games so that we can all participate on it.
So now the rule will be a little more strict. Mostly about what times he can use the consoles, I think. I don't mind him getting up earlier to play games as long as it doesn't interfere with school work.
We will also have school work in our study room from now on, no more going to your room and doing the work on your bed (which is what they are both doing)... one their hand writing is suffering, and two it's much harder to keep an eye out for when they are really done, or when they are simply procrastinating.
So a lot of new rules... hopefully we don't end up having a huge head butting session. *Crosses fingers*

Thursday, January 22, 2009

It's been a while since I updated. The past week was spent getting used to the new school schedule. I love all of my classes so far.
Been working hard on getting ALL of my homework done before each of my classes. It's hard, but I'm hoping that I will keep up with it. I think it will definitely help me up a huge amount with my grades in the long run. I tend to have a hard time with it though. (How bad is it, that I have to tell MYSELF to do my homework, while trying to homeschool two teens?).
I have been setting up a Steam Punk meetup here in Chicago. I was afraid at first as nobody had answered, but it looks as though we will have quite a big turnout. I'm very excited about it. So far about 7 people have answered. We are going to the Lincoln park Zoo, and then going to the Voltaire concert on Saturday night.
I can't wait!
And I've finally managed to also make sure that we had a playdate for the kids set up for next month. We should have about 4 families that will come over to play board games with us. That should be fun, the kids were getting a bit bored with just adults around them all the time.

Alright, back to focusing on class.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I just started school again this week.
My teachers are nice so far and it is starting off as a good semester since I'm taking all classes that are quite interesting to me.
It's always a challenge to juggle everything, which is why I'm making the schedule for next month this month, and I'll go on from there... Then Nigel gets to make sure the kids are doing their homework and I can concentrate on my own schooling.

One of my new favorite resources for teaching grammar to the kids is
It uses funny phrases and very easy to comprehend study sheets to teach grammar. It's very teen oriented, so as not to make the study of grammar boring and tedious. Hopefully the kids will enjoy it.

I'm going to leave it at this for today, and try to get back to writing more in the next week and week-end.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Schedules can be icky

One of the challenges that we’ve encountered with home-schooling the kids is the fact that we are both extremely busy already on our own, and that it leaves us very little time to go through lessons and such.
For Nigel, working from home, it’s a bit hard to have to stick to a schedule. As an artist he is used to working when the inspiration takes, and so his teaching with the kids comes at impromptu moments, throughout the week, without much planning.
I on the other hand, can stick to a schedule, but I have to work and go to school outside of the house, which means that I still have limited time with the kids in order to implement lessons and review homework. I get home in the evening quite late, often after eight or nine and at that time homework help is either coming too late, or the kids are too distracted to really pay attention to any lesson.
While there is always a parent home with the kids, since work still has to get done, the kids are expected to be responsible enough to work a lot on their own. And while the kids are very responsible, and absolutely great, this is not something that they are entirely able to do right now.
So we are changing our schedule for February to see how it goes. The kids will have their “week-end” during the week, as needed, and we will hold classes on Saturdays and Sundays instead. We will go through the brunt of the school work during those days, and then they will have the week to do homework and writing.
Nigel will the there every day during the week to answer questions as needed, but the kids will have to take responsibility for their own school work.
I really believe that we will be able to go through all the lesson work during the week-end, as things go a lot faster when you are working one on one. And we do want to give the kids more responsibility in their schooling as well, so this process should be good for them and us.
We will see. I also have a good chunk of the afternoon on Tuesdays and Thursdays where I come home between two classes in order to have dinner with the family and where I can catch up on lessons and homework help as well. So we should be ok. It'll just be an adjustment.

Monday, January 5, 2009


I was talking in one of my previous posts about wanting to teach the kids how to truly enjoy reading. The lack of wanting to read in kids nowadays always surprises me greatly. By the time I was six years old, I was going to the library weekly and taking out six books every single time. And these weren’t picture books, I read 6 full on novels a week. While I didn’t always enjoy the classics quite as much as the “fluff” books, I was forced to read 2 classics a week, and then I could have 4 more books of my choice.

In contrast, right now it’s a battle to have the kids read one book a week! On the other hand, both Auna and Xavier if they really get into a book can finish it the same day, or within two days. I would like them to be able to do this with every single book they are given. They have the capability, and the drive to really read and enjoy it, but it's hard to find the books that will trigger that drive.

One of the ways I want to go about this is for us to go to the used bookstore that is right around the corner every week in order to choose a new book. If we keep it at paperback books, they would be able to each pick a book and the cost would still be under 6 dollars.
I’m hoping that this will give them the satisfaction of being able to build up their own library.
We already have four walls covered with books in our study room, and I know that the kids love to see people’s exited reactions to all of the things we have to read. They also really love being able to just walk in the study room and choose a new book as needed. And I’ve been catching both Auna and Xavier hoard books in their room, pretending they weren’t doing it on purpose the past few months. (Not that I mind, I just find it funny).
So I figure that being able to build their own library for their rooms would be a great feeling for both of them. The only rule will be that they have to read the last book they bought before getting another one…. Oh, and they have to let the rest of the family read the books if they want to.

In some ways I'm a bit weary to be doing this, I'm afraid that it might be spoiling them quite a bit. On the other hand we would still be going to the library every week for research and extra books for them to read. I don't want them to start taking books for granted either, I want this building of a library to feel special to them. From the used book store to special trips to Borders, they should feel that building their own library is a privilege.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

February Outings

I’ve already planned most of our activities for February.
I was very glad to discover the website this past month, as it includes tons of links to activities in the city of Chicago that are either free, or not very costly. They do have more expensive classes listed on there, mostly for adults, but for now we do not need those.

From that website I was able to find, “A Quantum Journey”, which happens every first Sunday of the month, and where you get to ask scientists all of the burning questions you might have gathered throughout the month. From Quantum theory to how the Big Bang occurred, all questions are answered. I’m very excited about this, as this is something that I think we will come to rely on quite a bit. Especially since the teen years of, "but my parents aren't always right!", are poking their noses out.

Then one Wednesday of the month we will be going to the Ryerson Observatory to look at the stars. Which is why we are studying simple astrology as well throughout the month. The Observatory is free to go to every Wednesday night as long as the skies are clear, which is amazing for us.
What always astonishes me is that places like this are available all over the city, and yet, I would have passed up so many of them without proper research.

Then Garfield Park Conservatory has sweet Saturdays all throughout the month, where we can visit tropical treat stations where we learn fact and sample sweet tastes brought to us by plants, which should be a fun outing for the kids.

And then there is this amazing Meet the Scientist expo at one of the hotels where you can get in for free and attend classes about a variety of subjects and sciences.
For example there is a talk about where the bees have gone, a new dinosaur eating crocodile discovery, mysteries of space and the dark universe, x-ray vision: not for superman anymore, and many more…
I’m sure the kids will love it, and Nigel and I will thoroughly enjoy the experience.

We’ll probably also be going to the Museum of Natural History since we are buying a membership, and maybe once to the Zoo if we can find the time.
That’s about all we could fit for the month, as during the last two weeks of February we are going to a few shows during the week-end where Nigel will be selling his art. It’s also Auna’s birthday towards the end of the month, so we’ll probably have an easy going week for everyone as part of the birthday celebration.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Fun Experiments that do not require many things, and will make your kids laugh.

These are the experiments planned for February, only a few, but fun little things that we will be doing on the week-ends, or on evenings. We will also be making bath bomb fizzies with Auna, and Xavier, if he feels like helping.

The Copper Nail Experiment:
You will need:
-1/4 cup white vinegar
-1/8 teaspoon salt
-20 copper pennies
-An iron nail
-Baking Soda
Pour vinegar and salt in a jar, stir well. Put pennies in for 3 minutes. Clean nail with baking soda and sponge. Rinse well. Drop clean nail in solution, wait fifteen minutes.
The pennies should be bright and shiny, and the nail should be coated with copper.
-Why? The acetate in the vinegar (acetic acid) combines with the copper on the pennies to form copper acetate, which then adheres to the iron nail. (Great for studying the properties of copper and iron).

Electric Lemons
You will need:
-Wire cutters
-5 stiff copper wires, 16 inches long, 14 grade
-4 galvanized nails
-4 lemons
-Bulb holder
-1.2 volt flashlight bulb
With the wire cutters strip 1 inch of insulation off both ends of each wire. Wrap 1 end of 4 wires to its own nail. Squeeze the lemons to loosen the pulp and juices inside. Insert the nail end of the first wire into the first lemon. Insert the bare end of the second wire into the first lemon, insert the nail end of that same wire into the second lemon, and so on. Don’t let wire and nails touch inside the lemon. Attach the remaining two wires to the bulb holder and insert bulb. It lights up!
-Why? The citric acid in the lemon juice acts as an electrolyte, conducting an electron flow between the copper in the wire and the bit of steel in the nail, turning each lemon into a battery.

Exploding Life Savers
You will need:
-Wint-O-Green Life Savers
-Ziploc bag
-Wooden block
Place 1 life saver in Ziploc bag. Seal bag and place on wooden block. In a dark room or closet look directly at the life savers as you smash it with the hammer.
You will see sparks of light.
-Why? Crushing a crystalline substance, in this case the synthetic wintergreen (methyl salicylate) emits light. The phenomenon is called triboluminescence.
Apparently you can also do this while crunching the candy in the dark, but this is the best way to go if you don’t want to risk your kids loosing a tooth.

Fried Marbles
You will need:
-Frying pan
-Bag of clear/transparent marbles
-Large pot
-Cold water
Place marbles in the frying pan and wearing over mitt, heat them over high heat stirring with wooden spoon. Fill large pot with cold water, add ice and let cool. When marbles are piping hot pour them into ice water. Let them cool off, then dry off. The marbles will be cracked on the inside.
-Why? When glass goes from extreme heat to extreme cold, it cracks from the inside out.

We will also be planting both a tomato plant and a potato plant, in order to create our very own “Pomato!” Apparently by grafting both of those plants you can achieve getting both tomatoes and potatoes from the same plant. This should be interesting.

As I said I will be making bath bombs with Auna, and possibly a group of new friends as a play date.

Bath Bombs:
You will need:
-Baking soda 8 ounces
-Citric Acid 4 ounces
-Corn starch 4 ounces
-Salts (Coarse) 4 ounces
-Water .75 Tablespoon
-Essential oils 2 Teaspoons
-Oil (vegetable) 2.5 Tablespoons
-Food coloring 1-2 Drops
-Round molds
Blend all dry ingredients in glass bowl. Whisk or pestle clumps out for smooth consistency. Blend wet ingredients together. Use a small jar and shake wet ingredients up. Then, while whisking add small amounts of the liquid to dry ingredients (very small). If mixture starts to foam you are adding liquid too fast, quickly whisk with more dry ingredients. When all is added you should have a mixture the consistency of wet sand that will clump together. Pack each side of a ball then add some on top and press two sides together. You can actually take the balls our of the molds right away and lay on plate to dry. If you have any left over press in cookie/candy molds for smaller fizzies. Try to work quickly especially if humid, otherwise the mixture will puff up.

All of these recipes or experiments were found either in “The Mad Scientist Handbook” by Joey Green or on


The way we are going about home-schooling is very inclusive. Both Auna and Xavier are going through the same subjects at the same time. We will not create different curriculums for each of them.
Because they are 11 and 13, we believe that they are close enough in age to go through the same curriculum. If one of them struggles on something new, we will adjust as needed. Maybe Auna will not read the same books as Xavier for instance, or her essays will not be graded in the same way, but most of the time we will push for them to learn at the same pace. The ultimate goal is for both of them to finish high school at the age of 16.

Right now my biggest concern is to get Auna to enjoy reading as much as her brother does. While they both complain about their reading, her brother has a much easier time with reading than she does.
On the other hand, Xavier is very much the same way I was at his age, in that as soon as he reads a book and starts another, the previous one is out of his head.
Auna, on the other hand focuses on the book a lot more and is able to recall stories much longer than her brother is.
I’m not sure which is best to be quite honest. I relate more, obviously to the way Xavier goes about reading, but at the same time being able to retain what you read is very important.
The retaining issue is why I’m having them both memorize poems each week. Memorization is nowadays given a bad name, but no matter what people might say, it does give your mind a better ability to focus and remember things after a while, allowing you to read things once or twice rather than having to study them for days.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

February Schedule

So for the month of February, we decided to still keep things fairly light, but to expand our teaching to all subjects, instead of focusing on one or two like we did last year.
In science we will review or learn:
-The Classification of Living Things
-The Scientific Theory
-Simple Astronomy
-Elements and Compounds
For Social Studies we will do Greek and Roman cultures. Technically we should be going through American History with Xavier, but we decided we would go through all of history going a little deeper than they would have in school instead. So we will review Ancient History first. Egypt was a given, since Auna loves it so much, both of the kids knew more than their share about the whole culture already. Xavier on his hand loves Greek and Roman culture and myths, so it will be a piece of cake for him.
Language Arts we will review
-Noun, Pronouns, Verbs and Adjectives
-Diagramming Sentences
-Homonyms, Synonyms and Antonyms
-Types of Writing (Narration, Description, Exposition, Persuation)
-Poems (Each month we chose two poets and they have to discover the author and copy as well as illustrate two poems from each of the authors. Then they have to memorize one poem from each author.)
And finally for Math we will look at
-Problem Analysis
-Multiplications and Divisions
-And more Logic problems.
I’ve done most of the research for each of the subjects and found great study sheets for the kids, I will try to figure out a way to link them all here.

We’ll also be doing a lot of fun things so the kids don’t get bogged down from the amount of work.
We have a few “Meet the Scientists” activities planned, February is apparently great for kids to meet different scientist and ask questions and learn what they do in their specific fields. I’ll post more about that in another post. We are also planning to go star gazing that the observatory, hence the simple Astronomy that we will go through, and we will go to the conservatory in order to look at natural sweets given by plants, since it will be Valentine's Day that month.
We’ll go ice skating as well, and I plan on making more cookies and bath bombs with Auna. Xavier should have a few video playing dates with new kids from the area, and hopefully I can have some play dates set up for Auna to meet friends as well.

We are also planning to do a few fun experiments as well that I will add in another post.