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.