Monday, March 29, 2010

Lots of Activities

Yeah! Mi'ita made the swim team!

She also got promoted in ballet, so she's doing ballet three days a week, will be doing swim practice twice a week, guitar once a week, and horseback riding lessons once every other week. There will also be swim meets on the weekend once in a while--maybe once a month? That's a lot. Twice a week she has two lessons during the day.

Next year Mi'ita is considering going back to school. A friend of hers is in a school play and she can't be in it because she's not in school, so she wants to go back. I don't know whether this desire to go back will last (I doubt it, but it's possible) and I'm okay with it if she does. I really think that kids who have some control over their own education have better buy in, so if she wants to go, off she goes.

I don't think she can do four lessons if she does go back, though. I don't think it would be good for her, it'd get exhausting. I don't think she's going to like the idea of dropping any of it. When homeschooling it's nice to have these lessons--gets her out of the house, gets to see other people, shakes up the routine a bit, they are all her choice and things she wants to do. With a full day of school it would be a different story. More of her life will be proscribed, and she'd have less time and energy for the extracurricular things that she wants to do. I can't imagine letting her be involved in all these things if she is in school full time. I'd make her quit some of it.

Homeschooling gives you more freedom to be involved in all those cool things out there.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Apple Fractions

A long time ago Mi'ita had a book called Apple Fractions. I don't remember much about it now other than a bunch of elves used ladders and saws to cut up different kinds of apples and they talked about the fraction the apple was cut into. When she was five or so she wanted to do it too, so we went to WinCo and bought one of every kind of apple they had and cut them into sections, following the book, talked about the fractions, and ate different kinds of apples. We had a taste test and decided what was her favorite type of apple (Golden Delicious.)

Every couple of years she has wants to do it again. She remembered about it earlier this week and wanted to do it again so we headed to Freddy's and bought one of every kind of apple they had and did it again. Being 10 now, giant daughter of mine, we added and subtracted the fractions, too, and wrote the problems down and found common denominators and such. We probably should have checked the book out of the library. They added details like what the numerator and denominator are called and such. I forget to add those things.

We did it with her friend D. who is on Spring Break and decided to hang out and homeschool with us yesterday. D. had an easier time of it than Mi'ita did. Interesting. I am used to Mi'ita being the quickest mind in the crowd. Our math programs that we have used this year are single minded. The first program (Singapore Math) focused exclusively on long multiplication, the second program (Math-U-See) focused exclusively on long division. Neither one of those worked with fractions at all. Math-U-See adds a little geometry in there and some measurement, but no fractions. Wait, I take that back. When you get to remainders (no decimals yet), you write your remainder as a fraction.

Anyway, after we taste tested and ranked the apples, D. and Mi'ita cut them up and made a pie with the rest. Home Economics. Yum!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Break

Everyone in this neck of the woods is having Spring Break right now. We just got back from a month long vacation with a week of recovery afterwards and Spring Break just doesn't make sense for us. We need to get back to work--we are still catching up in our math concepts and Latin.

But everyone else is off, around, and ready to have fun with my only child that needs socialization.

Compromise. No one can come over before work is done for the day. Anyone that spends the night has to homeschool with us in the morning or be gone by 9 AM. Friday field trip is on Tuesday this week with an all day horse camp.

Today is our first trial. Mi'ita's friend C. spent the night last night. It is 8 AM and they are dressed and making waffles for breakfast. They have a list of assignments that they both have to do: two pages of math, one page of Latin, a writing assignment, cleaning out the lizard cage and feeding him, one hour of exercise (they want to walk down to the rope swing), and guitar lesson at noon. If they can get that all done, we'll go to the Alice and Wonderland showing at 2:30.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Physical Education

I read Michelle Obama in Newsweek last night, making her argument to feed our children well and to get moving. She had things to say about how our modern life style of driving kids to school, playing electronically instead of physically after school, and school lunches are leading to childhood obesity. Got me thinking about our PE program.

One of my motivations for homeschooling was better health. Our local schools are cutting down on recess and PE times. While our state has strict standards for food offered to children at school (only whole wheat flour used, maximum amount of total fat in the lunches, no sugar allowed...) children have free choice about what to eat among what's offered and they routinely skip the salad bar. I went head to head with the school principal this year, too. While no soda pop is allowed to be sold on school grounds during school hours, by anybody, the Booster Club is offering Italian sodas right after school lets out every Thursday. What? It is unhealthy for children to drink soda at 2:59 PM, but at 3:00 it's fine? I lost that one, but I my cranky voice was heard by a lot of people.

I have to say that Mi'ita is what I call "a baby giant." Last weekend I saw Mi'ita with her friend, T, who used to be about an inch shorter than her. Now Mi'ita is almost 6 inches taller than T. She is immense. Certainly not fat, but far from skinny. She's inherited my body (except in a giant size) and twice a week PE will not cut it.

So what do we do? Mi'ita has ballet twice per week, horseback riding lessons twice a month, bike riding with her dad once a week, and lots of walking. We walk everywhere, every day. In addition to that, we're trying to add the swim team, if she can pass her tryout in a week and a half. Wish her luck! That will round things out very nicely and she will have practice two hours a day three days a week.

And food? I try to cook with whole foods, there is a green vegetable with every dinner, and fruit is her snack option. We are far from perfect (while we were traveling, we were FAR from perfect) but I think her diet is better for staying at home.

That said, she does not have regular eating times. We are at home and she has snacks and lunch when she's hungry. When she's growing it seems like she eats constantly. If I buy those cutie oranges in the store, five pounds will go down her gullet in a couple days. Sometimes I wonder if I should regulate how much and how often she eats instead of just what she eats. I've been thinking hard on that because I think she does eat when she's bored or more likely just because she likes the taste of something, not because she's hungry. Opinions?

Also, she is a sedentary child by nature. She likes to read and she reads constantly. I don't let her watch TV on school days (except educational programs) and her computer time is only school related. But how can I tell her to put her book down and go out to play? There is very little out there for kids to do. She is an only child in a neighborhood where if you look out the window on a school day, there is no one out there riding a bike or roller skating or playing jacks. She won't go out by herself. If we invite kids over (which we do regularly) she plays, but otherwise she is reading a book.

I don't know if Michelle would approve. I'm trying, though.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Greek Obsession

Mia's obsessed with Greece. We started studying ancient Greek history at the beginning of the year and my friend turned her on to D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths. She has memorized the book, and now Percy Jackson's series is keeping her hooked. Anything about Greek gods, goddesses, temples, etc, etc, etc.

She has decided to start studying Greek. My Lord. We're already doing Latin. Latin and Greek? What is she going to turn into, a classics scholar? Luckily the Latin program we use, Latin for Children, also teaches Greek because I don't know any. It's on backorder, actually, so we're starting with a program that teaches the Greek alphabet, the Greek Alphabet Code Cracker. This is the fifth language she's dabbled in this year. Why not?

And fair time. What would a girl obsessed with Greece do for the science fair? A model of the Parthenon, of course. We've got a kit on order and she's starting to write some information to go with it. Architecture is science, right? John says not really. We'll have to see what we can do to morph it. This is my first science fair project attempt in my life. I never did it as a kid and I've never helped a kid with it.

I was starting to go insane trying to get her interested in writing. It's her weakest area and she resists it intensely. But if she's writing about the Parthenon for her science fair project, she's all over it.

She's not interested in my cooking from other cultures, either. Except Greek food. We're having falafels tomorrow and shish kabobs the day after.

She'd like to travel to Greece next. That's on the long term agenda.

The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that you can run with something like this.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Back to the books

We're easing back into the books. Jetlag is doing both of us a number, but more so for me. Come noon I feel like I've been poleaxed and need to sleep for several hours. Mia doesn't need to nap, but she's been very irregular in her sleeping schedule.

While we were gone, the only math I had Mia do was figuring out money. I figured that converting dollars to dongs, dollars to bahts, and dongs to bahts was enough math for anyone. She had an allowance to spend, figured in dollars and then converted, and she was always helping me figure out how much things cost. I had a cheat sheet that was absolutely necessary for me, but Mia could often figure things out without it.

Yesterday I had her review her Latin flashcards and do some long division. Today I had her take a math test to see how much math she had forgotten.

She knows how to do long division, our current lessons. She has forgotten how to do long multiplication, which is required to check her long division. She had 18 problems to do and it took over an hour. She has some catching up to do, for sure. Tomorrow we'll review long multiplication. I don't think it will take long for her to get back up to speed.

We need to do some writing, too. I've never really taught writing before and I feel like I've been floundering a bit. Yes, I can require her to write, get her to do a cohesive paragraph about some topic, and help her edit her work. I don't really feel like that's enough, though. This trip has been eye opening in that area. The two boys that were on the tour with us had to write journal logs, too. One was a year older and one was a year younger and both of them were vastly superior in their writing abilities. I listened to their parents working with them. They required quite a bit more from them--more volume of work, more variety of writing styles, better vocabulary usage, etc. I pumped up my expectations for Mia in response to that and got nowhere really fast. She mutinied. We ended up eliminating the journal entries in favor of daily emails to her father. That was vastly more popular, but not as easy as it sounds. Computers were not always available and we had not a few computer problems on the way.

Needless to say, we need to get back to writing. I had bought a writing curriculum way back when we first started homeschooling, but had abandoned it when we stopped the classical method in favor of freeschooling. During our musing for our mission statement, writing came back as an essential skill that needs to be a part of our curriculum. The Daddy required Mia to read two newspaper articles a week and do a summary of them. I required Mia to do journal entries on the other days. The articles and summaries are still good skills. I want to continue that. I think the journal writing isn't enough, though. I'm sticking Mia back into that writing curriculum today to see how that works.

But we'll skip Latin today. We're just easing back into the swing of things.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cu Chi Tunnels

I wanted Mia to learn about Vietnam before we went. She was very resistant, so I didn't make her. I figured that maybe during our travels something would peak her interest and she would learn after she got home. I especially wanted her to learn about the Vietnam War (they call it the American War there.) She had no interest.

Then we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels near Saigon (the city has been officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City, but all the Vietnamese I talked to still called it Saigon.) It is a historic site they have preserved for education. The Cu Chi Tunnels were a tunnel system used by the Viet Cong during the war. Because of Agent Orange, Napalm, and the continuous bombing, it became impossible to liv
e on the surface of the earth in that little part of the world, so they moved underground. Whole villages with women, children, old folks, and soldiers all lived underground. They had underground kitchens, wells, barracks and living quarters, safe rooms, and escape routes. That particular system had 250 kilometers of tunnels that went into Cambodia, under American military bases, and had escape routes into the Mekong River. They shoveled the excess earth into the river so that they would not leave hills of earth to give them away. They used bamboo to create ventilation systems. They had three levels of tunnels. The first had the best air and they lived in them. The second level was for moving down to a safe level if invaded, and the third level were the escape tunnels. According to our guide, the Cu Chi tunnels were just one of many tunnel systems that spread all over Vietnam.

Mia was initially interested in seeing them because you could go down and crawl around in tunnels. How cool is that? I had heard about the tunnels during my own study of the Vietnam War, but I had no idea. All our minds were blown.

They had a film they showed us before we went on the tour. It was made in 1967 and there was no white washing or political correctness. The American soldiers were referred to as "the enemy" and were talked about as being ruthless beasts that killed women, children, and old people. They showed a sweet class of Vietnamese kindergartners while talking about this. The Vietnamese soldiers were all brave and strangely beautiful. I say strangely beautiful because almost all the soldiers I saw in the film were lovely young women. I asked my Vietnamese guide about that and he said that during the war there was no difference between men and women. Everyone was a soldier and fought. They talked about one woman who had been injured as a young girl in a bombing and so dedicated her whole life to killing Americans. The film ended with a surreal scene of these beautiful women soldiers doing a traditional dance in their army fatigues.

Mia was horrified. The Vietnamese got awards for killing Americans?

It got worse for her. After the movie we went to another section of the site that showed the different booby traps built by the Vietnamese to protect themselves. They were simple mechanical traps, adapted from the hunting traps they used for killing tigers. There were pit traps that swung on a hinge and had spiked bamboo on the bottom. There were 6 different types of foot traps that had bamboo spikes for stabbing the unfortunate person's foot or leg to disable them. There were door traps that would swing down and slash a person who was trying to enter a house. They were all simple designs using the materials easily found in the jungle, elegant even, but vicious, invisible, and deadly. My mother added that the spikes were often dipped into excrement in order to infect wounds. Those booby traps surrounded villages, homes, and were all over the tunnels.

The tunnels themselves were amazing. They had to seriously expand them to make them big enough for Western sized bodies. There was a small section we could go into and crawl around to see, but most of us were too claustrophobic to get far. One of the tools the Vietnamese used for this type of fighting was their body size. I am 5'4" and was taller than most Vietnamese people I saw during my travels. I counted two women in my entire time there that were taller than me, and only about half the men were taller than me and not by much. (The Thai and Japanese people I saw on my travels were much bigger, to give you an idea of how small these people were.) Their bone structure is tiny, too. Add this to the fact that there were food shortages throughout most of the war and you have little, little people. They used this to their advantage by making little, little tunnels. The entrances were tiny. A full sized Vietnamese man had to wiggle in with his arms over his head to squeeze in. None of the American, Canadian, or Brittish people in our group was small enough to get in except the children. On the bottom level of their tunnels, the escape routes, they routinely put in smaller sections, like girdles, to keep out the chasing enemy soldiers. Think of a rabbit disappearing into it's burrow. A fox had to dig its way in and by then the rabbit was far away.

Mia had a hard time with this whole display. She kept picturing in her mind the men in her family that she knew who had been in the military (like her father) getting trapped by these booby traps, shot at, called "ruthless beasts." It was not an easy place to be American. I had to explain that the Vietnamese were fighting for their freedom, that this was their Revolutionary War. These people were protecting their homes and their families. They didn't bring the war to us; they were the ones invaded.

There is so much out there about the brutality of the Americans against the Vietnamese during the war. The soldiers were called baby killers by their civilian peers when they got home. This experience at the Cu Chi Tunnels wasn't what I would have chosen as Mia's entrance into that part of our history, but it was really eye opening. How can you vilify soldiers for killing women and children when anyone in a Viet Cong family could be a soldier--the wife, the husband, the children, the uncles, the aunts, the grandparents?

Ho Chi Minh told his people that if they lost the war, they lost nothing. If they won it, they won everything. They were fighting for their independence, their liberty, freedom from foreign rule. They believed in what they were doing.

It will be interesting how Mia applies this experience to her future studies of the Vietnam War.