Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March birthdays

Both, my and my husband's birthdays fall in March. This year was somewhat special, because kids really took the effort and prepared nice surprises for our birthdays. (Well maybe they were not surprises for me, but still it's the thought that counts, right?)

Zosia couldn't come up with any present for me. She didn't want to buy anything (she doesn't have much pocket money). She wanted to make something for me, but ... it had to be practical as she knows that I like practical presents. I gave her an idea of making labels for all our kitchen jars. And that's what she made! I've never thought that she would make labels as nice and as professional looking as these:

Jas decided to make a birthday cake for me. It was first time for him to make a sponge cake with baked apples (Babcia's recipe). It turned out delicious!

Two birthdays in one month that's a lot of thinking and work for the kids :-)

Zosia really had no idea what to give Tim. Fortunately she saw a cute bear-slipper in one of the shops. It was affordable and would be useful for the cold winter days (next winter).

Jas made another sponge cake this time with pineapple and cream. Adding some color to the cream and decorating the cake was his idea. It was really yummy and ... pretty.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A peaceful Sunday

It does not happen often that we stay home and don't have visitors on a Sunday. I often forget how nice it is just to sit at home with everyone busy doing what they like. It's quiet, it's peaceful, it's so relaxing.

Yesterday was a day just like that. It must have looked quite strange for an outsider as all four of us were sitting in front of the computers and doing our own things. I was preparing lessons for the week. Zosia was listening to the lectures on Acient Greece, Jas was listening to the audio book and doing Hama beads and Tim was writing articles about homeschooling for the newspaper.

Zosia doing Coursera course and x-stitching at the same time.

Jas doing Hama beads and listening to an audio book.

Jas' finished work - Asterix.

Later on in the evening I continued to work on the 4000 pcs World Puzzle:

And Zosia was busy filming and editing her vblog :-) You can see it here.

Here is Jas' blog entry about his Sunday :-)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Coursera is for everyone

More and more often people ask Zosia and us, the parents, where is she going to go to college.We've heard this question from our friends and family, from those who we've just met and those who have known us for a while, reporters and teachers also want to know the answer.
Most people assume that since I am a foreigner in Taiwan and Zosia is fluent in English and Polish we are going to send her abroad to study. To tell you the truth, I don't understand this connection.

First one needs to ask children weather they want to go to university at all. One needs to find out what are their interests and how can they deepen their knowledge in the area they are interested in. Is it possible for them to audit classes at a local university? Can they observe and experience the kind of work that they are interested in? Is it possible to sign up for on-line courses?

Nowadays it doesn't really matter where you are, you can take courses from the most prestigious universities taught by best professors, right from your bedroom or study. You can choose one of many university on-line courses and you don't need to wait until you finish high school! And that's what Zosia started doing this year.

In January she signed up for one of the Coursera courses offered by Wesleyan University. The course she chose was "The Language of Hollywood: Storytelling, Sound, and Color". She had to watch not only course videos, but also many old films. Throughout the course she had to answer many quiz questions and at the end of the course take another longer test. It was not easy. It took a lot of her time. It took more time than I thought it would. But ... she has enjoyed it a lot and has learned a lot. And ... she got hooked on Coursera.

Zosia has signed up for four more courses (they don't run at the same time). The one that she is taking now is about Ancient Greece. Who would have thought that my photography-media-film-loving girl is also interested in Ancient Greece! We did cover that part of history two years ago and obviously it has sparked an interest in her and she wanted to learn more about it.

While listening to the lectures Zosia is taking notes. Here you can see her notes for the Hollywood course:





 So please, next time that you meet us - don't ask us where is Zosia going to study, she has already started her "higher" education and if she receives a diploma from X or Y university or she doesn't receive one at all, doesn't really matter. What matters is that she will learn things that she likes and that are going to help her with her "career" in the future.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

2nd Tuesday

Last Tuesday was "2nd Tuesday" - a monthly outing day for homeschoolers in northern Taiwan.
Our family started these monthly outings back in the fall of 2007. We wanted our kids to get to know other homeschooled children and at the same time we wanted to go out and learn new things. Most of the museums in Taiwan have guided tours, but one needs to book them in advance and very often a  a group of people is needed to participate in some activities organised by the museum.
Kawai Piano Factory
In the beginning there were only two other families meeting with us,but after just a few months the group has grown to over 10 families. Right now, every month, there are about 60-70 people coming to 2nd Tuesday outings! This week was not much different, 65 people came to see the exhibit on Michelangelo at the Historical Museum.
2nd Tuesday is a good chance for the homeschooling families to meet and chat and for the kids to play together. We usually start with a visit to a museum or an interesting exhibition, then we have lunch together and afterwards the kids play and the parents talk.
For the first two years our family was the only one involved in organising the outings. Later others joined in deciding on the venue and contacting other families. Unfortunately most people still don't want to get involved in the process of organising an outing, they just want to participate in it. That's why in the past year there were less outings, no one wanted to take responsibility for them. Too bad.

Drumming at Performing Arts School 36
In the past years we visited among others:
- Museum of Fine Arts
- 228Museum
- Discovery Center of Taipei
- Museum of Contemporary Arts
- Puppet Museum
- Robot Museum
- Hakka Culture Center
- Kawai Piano Factory
- Ceramics Museum
- NTU Museum
- Jing-Mei Human Rights Memorial

We also went cycling in Danshui, listened to a Chopin piano competition, danced in Tsai Jui-Yueh Dance Research Institute,met with the Taipei mayor and set through the public hearing about 12 year compulsory education.

At a Pool Party opening the Home-School year last September.
There were many more outings, it's just impossible to mention all of them here.

The group has grown and is still growing. It may be a good idea to break it into two - one for the younger kids and the second for older, but this way every month two organisers will be needed and it's hard enough to find even one...Any volunteers?

To sign up for upcoming 2nd Tuesday events please go to 2nd Tue Exchange.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Friday, March 15, 2013

Teaching chemistry

Teaching chemistry is not an easy task for many homeschooling moms. It isn't easy for me either, but I do enjoy it. I was never good in chemistry in high school, I never liked it, never really understood it, so why do I enjoy teaching it and how do I do it?

While visiting Poland we bought some chemistry school textbooks with CD-Roms and workbooks . As always I let Zosia choose the textbooks herself as I think that the child has to like the book, the layout, the pictures and even the font used. If the book is not appealing to the child then he simply is not going to enjoy reading and learning from it (at least that's how it is with my kids).

Having clear (and nice) textbooks which I can follow helps a lot. This way I know what should be taught first and what next. The CD-Rom and YouTube are also helpful when it comes to understanding the experiments.
In addition to the Polish school textbooks we are also using a science curriculum by Sonlight, but there is not much chemistry in it. We are also reading the Physical Science that somebody gave us.

After reading a chapter from the textbook and watching the experiment explanations, it's time to answer the questions and do a few exercises. All this we do together. Next is time for  Zosia's independant work. Depending on the topic she is learning she will either write the definitions of new vocabulary in her notebook, make a mind map or draw a poster. This way she is reviewing and organizing all the new information she has learned.You can take a look at other postes with "chemistry" label to see what she has done before.

Poster about carbon dioxide

Chemistry notebook (in Polish)

A few weeks ago Zosia started going for science class with a group of other homeschoolers. They meet once a week for two hours and under teacher's supervision do some lab experiments. So far she has only attended the class twice so I don't know if it's very helpful in her understanding of science.

This week Zosia was reviewing what she has learned about atom. Here is the poster she created:

There are many homeschooling science curricula out there. Some require more parental involvement, some less. You and your child would need to decide yourselves.

Please share how your child is learning chemistry. Is chemistry a part of your homeschooling curriculum or do you just skip it?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Keeping hands busy

In our homeschool we read a lot. Kids not only read by themselves, but I read to them and with them. We read novels, poems, biographies, stories and also books on history, biology, astronomy, science. We read mainly in Polish and English, seldom in Chinese.
We used to cuddle on a comfy sofa, but more than once I ... fell asleep while reading, it was just too comfortable... So right now during the daytime we read in the study. Kids like to keep their hands busy while I read. Take a look at the things that they've been busy making while listening to my reading:

Zosia made beautiful cranes which are now adding some color to our classroom.
Zosia stitched this horse a while ago,
but it laid forgotten somewhere in her room
until last week when she made a frame for it.
Zosia has started cross-stitching not long ago.
These are her first projects - a card, a key chain and a small picture.
A brand new craft - loom knitting!

And ... something by Jas. His new hobby, he has just picked it up two days ago.
These days we tend to forget that beside all the academic work that kids do at a desk at home or at school they should also use their hands to create art, learn new handicrafts and do work around the house. Give your children a chance to create something and be proud of it just as if they got 100% on a test.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Road to Photography (part 2)

A year and a half ago, when Zosia was 14 years old, she attended with other homeschooled friends photo class organised by Por Que Base.
At first kids learned all about pin hole camera and later about the ancient art of taking black & white photos with 35mm film and a fully manual camera. They've also spent some time in the dark room developing and printing the photos they took.

Here are a few of Zosia's B&W photos from that time:

Lesson in progress

Next step, beside taking lots and lots of photos, was for Zosia to take part in camps and classes organised by Fubong Education Foundation. One of the classes was for homeschoolers to create a graduation photo of themselves. They had to think how they would want to be portrait, what kind of props need to be used and what photo technique they need to use for their picture. This is what Zosia has come up with:

In December last year the photos were on display both in Taipei and Kaohsiung cities.


Now Zosia is taking part in a fun challenge on Flicker - the participants are supposed to take one photo a week on a previously specified subject. It's not as easy as it sound, but so far so good - she hasn't skipped any subjects. Quite a few people participating in this challenge have a lot of experience with photography (and much better equipment) and give nice feedback on the photos Zosia posts.

Here are some of the photos for the Photo Challenge:

Fire, Water, Air

For more photos by my 15 year old please go to her Flickr photostream.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Road to Photography (part 1)

I am trying to remember how Zosia's love of photography started.
How come the photos she takes are so ... different ... unusual ... special?
Does she see the world differently than most of us?
Let me take you through her early photography days ...

When Zosia was in 5th grade she received her first phone and the only reason she got a phone was because she needed a ... small camera. She was going for a four week long skiing camp in Japan and she was supposed to document everything that she experienced there. We figured out that the best choice would be a small camera phone - easy to use, easy to carry (even when skiing)  and waterproof (snow proof!). This way she became the happy owner of Sony Ericsson C702.

The following summer she went to a camp organised by Juming Museum. There the kids were supposed to explore the five senses - her group was working with the sense of sight. One of the assignments was to take photos while rolling down the hill. Great idea of how to show kids how to look at the world from a different perspective.

Here are some of the photos presented at that exhibit:

After years of use (and abuse) of her phone-camera, last year she got a real camera for her birthday. She carries it almost anywhere she goes, but from time to time she still takes photos with her new Sony Ericsson Experia.

(to be continued)