Posts Tagged ‘Social Studies’


I’ve not been blogging for a while — obviously. I attended the VAHomeschoolers Conference last week, though, and feel inspired to get my act together again. “Scared straight” would be another way to phrase it.

While I’ve been busy being negligent, the kids have continued with their lives, learning as they live and play. A few particularly educational events from the past six months stand out in my memory, though:

VGL'11
Having so much fun they even posed for a picture.

Jason and I surprised the kids with box seats at a Video Games Live concert. It. Was.

Fabulous!

Amazing!

Stupendous!

Brilliant!

Astounding!

And I’m not all that into gaming myself. Noah said he’d love to go again, and that’s high praise from him. I thought it was a fabulous way to introduce young people to the symphony orchestra. {music appreciation}

 

He CAN get up at 9am!

Noah recently took a two month Saturday Morning Physics class at the local college. I’m not sure how much he actually got out of the class; it was held at 9am, so he often used planetarium time for a nap. I think the material was a bit over his head as well. Still, he was exposed to a college-like situation, which is something.

 

Noah’s Japanese studies are going well for him, but I have completely let the ball drop there. He wanted me to teach him, but since I don’t already know Japanese I said we could learn together. Not only do I lack the consistency needed to teach him the he’d like, I also don’t have a curriculum that lays it out, lesson by lesson for him. The books we’ve bought are for a person who wants to visit Japan — which we do, but we want to actually learn the language, not just memorize key sentences.

I recently discovered a great app for my iPad, however, so my own studies are back on track. We’re not yet back to doing lessons together, though, which is what I’m striving for.

Also, Noah’s ability with computers and electronics surprises me. He’s dismantled our XBox and controllers and apparently does amazing things wih his computer. He’s asked to take a computer course at the Community College this summer, which I’m very excited for him to experience.

 

Studio time was bliss.

Music, of course, remains Noah’s primary activity, and all is going well. He and his band, ((The Evidence Of)), have been practicing a lot lately in preparation for their big gig later this month. Stay tuned. =D

 

 

Aengus has been busy discovering various YouTube personalities, reviewers, and comics. Though he’s discovered computers rather later than his brother, Aengus is finally learning to navigate his way through the internet. Only a little, though, as he can’t yet read what he’s clicking on.

And speaking of reading . . . Aengus’s frustration with being unable to read has reached an all-time high. I have absolute faith in unschoolers’ insistence that reading comes easily when children are not pushed. But Aengus views his inability to read when so many younger people can has him feeling really, really stupid. And I can’t just sit back and wait anymore.

So, we’ve instituted Operation: Reading. He and I are now working our way through Explode the Code, a little every day, until he feels comfortable with reading on his own. We’ve just started book four, by the end of which I suspect I can hand him some Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes books. Come to think of it, I’ll give him Garfield tonight!

Even better than now making a deliberate effort to learn how to read, Aengus has finally —finally!– started enjoying being read to. This child never liked storytime or lullabyes — only one of the ways in which he is unusual. =P I don’t know what finally clicked in his head, but he requested that I read Harry Potter to him.

~pause for happy dance~

While reading Harry, I was astounded once again by all the learning along the way: Latin, mythology, vocabulary, history, interpersonal relationships, politics, ethics, . . . . I really wish I’d been blogging then, because we paused all the time for mini lessons.

We just finished the series the other day (I was once again crying my eyes out), and he was concerned about what we’d read next. He now has a huge list of books he wants me to read to him! Noah requested A Series of Unfortunate Events, so that’s where we’ll start, then Artemis Fowl and The Hunger Games. Nothing beats Harry, though. ❤

Oh, and we adopted a puppy back in January and named him ‘Buster (as in Myth). This was him at 3  and 4.5 months old:

Just a wee lit’le pup!
Buster, Bear, and Vinnie

He is now, at six months old, nearly a hundred pounds! (pics coming soon)

Aengus, in particular, has been helping with the training and raising of ‘Buster. He and Jason love watching The Dog Whisperer together and implementing Cesar’s methods. {biology, life skills, leadership}

We scored a trampoline from Freecycle, and it’s been a big hit with both boys and their friends. {P.E., socialization} If  it continues to need repairs, we can add sewing to that list of  learning opportunities, LOL. And the debate about whether we actually needed the net became a lesson about safety. 😉

Just yesterday, Aengus and I started reading about the Egyptians. {world history} He says he wants to do some of the activities from Story of the World (which I LOVE), so I’m excited for us to start that. For now, though, we’re just reading a bit and discussing what we’ve read.

And that right there, folks, is the key to successfully home educating your children.

Aengus spent a lot of time there for a while watching Netflix, especially That 70’s Show, Mythbusters, Doctor Who and Torchwood. {modern U.S. history, science, critical thinking} The complexity of the ongoing and crossover plots is what really excited him about Doctorr Who and Torchwood, I think.

That, and who doesn’t want a Tardis?


This weekend was our homeschooling group’s Educational Freedom Party — what other groups refer to as their Not-Back-To-School picnics, parties, etc.  I hate that this lifestyle gets defined in relation to school, when school is so very far from what we do. So I flat-out refuse to call it a “Not-Back-To-School” anything. It’s the celebration of what we have — freedom to educate our own children however we choose to — not of what we are giving up, avoiding, or rejecting.

Anyway, our party was this weekend. We kind of got rained out; there were many families who bailed because the weather was iffy. But we forged ahead, partly because I’d already cleaned the house (dammit) and partly because any time the schedule gets changed all hell breaks loose. We had a good time even with the smaller crowd, and I really enjoyed chatting with new people and people I don’t get to see very often.

The teens seemed to have a good time playing their instruments (music) together (socialization). When it wound down to just Noah and one other teen, they played Call of Duty (dynamic thinking, cooperative problem solving) together for a while. Young men bond so easily over shooting and stabbing, don’t they?

Note to self: we need to encourage more teen girls to join Natural learners!

Aengus stayed inside for a long time playing video games (dynamic thinking, cooperative problem solving) with Tori and Ash (socialization). When he came out later in the evening, though, he really hit it off with yet another girl, a ten-year-old named Madison. Together, they chatted and played for several hours — and got a good workout when they discovered the treadmill.

The rain came full-force just when we were about to light the bonfire, which is always my favorite part of our parties. I guess that means we’ll just have to have another party this fall! Hot dogs and hot chocolate and teens with guitars. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect autumn party? ❤

Noah was in a talkative mood this weekend, too, which is rare. We talked a lot about religion, society, politics, and particularly other cultures. He and I went to the Harrisonburg International Festival for a bit, too, where he got to play in a drum circle. He was slow to join in but thoroughly enjoyed it when he did.

Both boys have asked for me to push them to work on some academics, so we’re starting with math and foreign languages today (and for Aengus, reading). I’m not happy about this; I don’t like telling people what to do any more than I like being told what to do. But they want me to be the bitch, so here goes. If it affects our relationships, though, we’ll have to change course. I have always —always– said that I don’t keep the kids home so that we can fight. If our days become constant battles, they can either go to school or take on the responsibility of pushing themselves. Learning information is easy; repairing relationships is not.

And now it’s time to wake Noah. Getting him up before 3pm is step one of the new whip-cracking policy around here. Wish me luck.


Several of my homeschooling lists seem to be discussing both video games and homeschoolers’ superior preparedness for the coming zombie apocalypse.

My favorite comment (from Morgana, a woman I have no doubt I’d be friends with IRL) came in a thread about strangers grilling us about whether our kids are really learning anything outside of school. Her response to them is a blunt but honest “None of your business.” But —

If I get any further questions, such as what we learn at home, I tell them that I only teach the basics: How to survive a zombie invasion, ways to take out a ninja, and how to run a successful pirate ship.

One of Aengus’s favorite video games is the Call of Duty franchise, particularly the Nazi Zombies minigame. He believes zombies really are possible and that the government is,  in fact, researching them in Area 51. Since I am a big believer in the educational value of video games, even the ones that involve shooting supernatural creatures, I’ve always  loosely considered zombies part of our “curriculum.” But as open-minded as I am to the academic potential of video games, I was unprepared for what happened this week.

When we went to the book store the other day, Noah bought some manga (language arts, art, cultural studies). Aengus? He bought The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, by Max Brooks.

When I started reading this to Aengus, I was pleasantly surprised by the academic topics we touched on. By page nine, we had discussed wilderness survival (life skills), first aid (life skills, health), the afterlife (religious studies), viruses versus bacteria and the transmission of each (health), sex (health), how nerves and the brain work, (biology)  the various body functions necessary for life (biology), reflexes and instincts (biology), and I had defined several vocabulary words for him.

For example: When describing zombies’ five (or six?) senses, Brooks writes

Zombies have, literally, no physical sensations. All nerve receptors throughout the body remain dead after reanimation. This is truly their greatest and most terrifying advantage over the living. We, as humans, have the ability to experience physical pain as a signal of bodily damage. Our brain classifies such sensations, matches them to the experience that instigated them, and then files the information away for use as a warning against future harm. It is this gift of physiology and instinct that has allowed us to survive as a species. It is why we value virtues such as courage, which inspires people to perform actions despite warnings of danger. The inability to recognize and avoid pain is what makes the walking dead so formidable. Wounds will not be noticed and, therefore, will not deter an attack. Even if a zombie’s body is severely damaged, it will continue to attack until nothing remains.

It turns out that in the context of something utterly ridiculous, something created for pure fun, we can extrapolate the study of any number of “academic” subjects. Can you imagine the discussion that follows reading such a paragraph? My son stays home with me, reading this stuff with me, so we actually had that discussion. Multiply that times 365, then by eighteen, and I’m pretty sure his education will be fairly broad by the time he moves out.

On top of which, he’ll survive with all the other homeschoolers.

Aengus’s interest in video games sparked his interest in this book, but also in  iPhone apps, online games, and many television shows, each of which has led to their own discussions. I am a book lover, but as an effective means to learn about the world, I’d say books come in dead last. Helpful and informative, but only in a supporting role. Video games, television, and other electronic media bring learning alive in a very real way.

My kids’ education isn’t leaving a paper trail. It’s leaving body parts.


Our family has felt . . . disjointed for quite some time now. With Noah in the throes of puberty (and my instinctive reaction to negativity being withdrawal), it’s felt like he mentally moved out already. I’m not ready for that!!! Aengus has never, by nature, been as open and connected with me as Noah always used to be. Add the Xbox and we’ve felt separate for a very long time now.

But on Friday, Aengus and I had a day away from home, just the two of us. We ate at IHOP (computation: percents, life skills), visited friends (socialization), walked through a few malls (economics), and talkedtalkedtalked (about aliens, gods, and ghosts: cultural mythology, about illnesses: P.E., and about politics). He never opens up to me the way Noah used to, but it was still nice to connect with him a little bit. We also bought the next book in the Magic Tree House series, by his request (reading).

Noah was in a good mood when we came home and wanted to watch Casablanca with me. When Noah requests that I do something with him — anything at all — I drop my own plans and do it. He and I used to be extraordinarily close; and while I know that shouldn’t last forever, I do miss it. So we watched Casablanca, and he loved it. I loved watching it with him.

Fridays are Jason’s short days at work, so after dinner (together!), we decided to watch a movie — together. We don’t often do that anymore, since we each have our own interests and are often just doing our own thing. But we decided it was time Aengus started his Pop Culture Tour and Noah returned to his. And the movie to reboot the tour was . . . Conan the Destroyer.

Can someone please tell me why this movie was made?!

Saturday is a blur, since I spent it spring cleaning my kitchen. We have mice, and I’d had it with them. I took everything out of my cabinets and drawers, washed it all, and cleaned the cabinets. We set traps, which I am normally opposed to; I prefer to let the natural food chain take care of things. That’s why you’ll find spiders in my house. But no snakes have moved in and our cats are useless as mousers. So the traps ended up catching nine mice. I haven’t seen any, erm, evidence of mice since then.

On Sunday, Noah went to his bandmates’ house for a sleepover/practice session (music, socialization).

Good friends and a guitar.

Their family is wonderful and a really good influence on him. While he was away, Aengus had his bff over for a sleepover. They actually managed to sleep a little this time, after spending the evening running around outside (with guns, of course; P.E.), building lots of Bionicles (engineering), playing chess (strategic thinking), and of course playing video games (cooperative problem solving, dynamic thinking).

Monday evening, after Aengus’s friend left, he crashed while I ran out to get Noah back. We had our own little one-on-one time at the mall, checking out books and posters and DVDs and talking, talking, talking. It was wonderful to talk about stuff with him, real stuff like the “Ground Zero Mosque” and financial responsibility and the importance of interpersonal skills and whether it’s group psychology or biology that determines what we find attractive and why physical attributes are so prized when it’s intelligence that really matters.

I absolutely loved it.


Aengus slept over last night at his good buddy’s house. He took his new iPod (he’s already had the talk about responsibility and that we won’t replace it if he loses or breaks it, blahblahblah) and TWENTY-SEVEN motherfucking Bionicle creations.

I know it was TWENTY-SEVEN motherfucking guys because he set them all up in our living room, organized them into teams, tallied them, and counted his tallies. That’s computation, number sense, and the beginnings of multiplication, people. Add in all the building of those guys and you’ve got physical science and engineering.

The only traditional sleepover item he packed was his toothbrush — although I had to remind him, and I was under no delusions that he’d use it. He crashed around six this evening after staying up most of the night. 😀 I’ll nag him about his teeth in the morning.

Me? Yesterday, I peeled peaches. And peeled peaches. Then, when my ADD couldn’t take it anymore, I facebooked for a bit . . . then peeled more fucking peaches.

Almost done with one bowlful (and the compost bucket is already overflowing)

I only got about halfway through the ones I’d picked that morning, so I put those in the freezer to later be turned into wine (when my bff’s daughter gets out of the hospital, I’ma have mah girls over to maykah da wahn). I’ll be peeling the other half for jelly tomorrow. Focus, Adesa. Focus.

After Shelby left last night, Noah spent some time with his other girl, a little Fender acoustic number (music), then played some Call of Duty (strategic, cooperative, and dynamic thinking; history) with his friend Nick. No idea how late he was up, but he didn’t get up today until after four. I’ve only spotted him occasionally tonight; he’s spending today in his room, I guess.

I hate when he has days like this. He’s already cutting those apron strings (not that I’ve ever worn one), and it breaks my heart. But to go an entire day without spending any time with me . . . it feels like I’m in mourning.

Aengus’s friend’s family brought him home this afternoon, and while the boys played outside (P.E., imaginative thinking, leadership skills), his friend’s sister and mother watched Across the Universe with me. I’ve seen it before, and I like it very much. Beatles music, with a plot — what’s not to like? I got a bit weepy, though, when they sang “Let It Be.” My dad loves the Beatles (and, I think, fancied himself as one of them in another life). I grew up listening to them and know most of their songs by heart.

My dad was just like most dads in the 70s: worked all day, came home in time to discipline the kids after they’d gotten in trouble with mom during the day, fixed stuff around the house, and put the kids to bed. When we did get to see him relax and hang out with us, though, he was always singing. He’s the reason people’s conversations always remind me of song lyrics and why I always break into song myself — apologies to the world for that.

Hearing them sing “Let It Be” in the movie got me to thinking first about my fantastic dad . . . and then about Noah, and what kind of father he’ll be. Although I sing A LOT to myself and there’s always music around here, I really never sang to him the way my dad did to me.

My one piece of advice to Noah when he enters fatherhood will be: sing to your kids. And don’t ever stop, even when they get bigger. Especially when they get bigger.


Aengus and I have spent hours poring over Google Earth [geography], searching for military bases. Specifically, looking for aliens in Area 51 and zombies in Germany.

So, as a mother and educator, I have to ask myself: to what extent do I enable/support this interest? I mean, theoretically at least, I support any interest that my kids fancy; if it’s important to them, there’s value in it, even if I don’t value it myself.

But seriously — aliens? Oh, okay, maybe I can get on board with that one a little. I have no doubt that if life could happen here, it most likely has happened somewhere else in this ginormous expanse we call the universe. But zombies?! I think the kid actually, truly believes Nazis were able to create zombies, and that the government is just hiding the evidence from us.

How long do I support such a crazy idea? I know he’s young and will likely outgrow this (good lord, I hope so!). But if I support him too much, won’t that just set him up for the inevitable fall when reality bites? And then what happens to our relationship? It’s one thing to discover at six years old that your parents lied to you about Santa. But to find out at ten or twelve that your parents knowingly guided you through deceptions . . . well, that just seems cruel.

For now, I’ve tread the line that divides passionate interest and crazy belief very carefully: I let Aengus know that the Nazis did, in fact, do a lot of psycho experiments, and that the government does actually know a lot that they don’t tell us. But I’ve also told him that zombies cannot physically, scientifically exist (despite the recent Zombie Apocalypse).

He doesn’t believe me.

In other news, the boys had sleepovers this weekend: Noah had his buddy Nick over for much gaming, and Aengus went to his bff’s house for . . . well, much gaming. Noah’s also been pulling apart some XBox controllers [mechanical engineering?], and Aengus has been diligently searching for and counting change. There’s a new map pack for Modern Warfare 2, you see, so he’s been counting his change . . . adding what he found in the sofa . . . working to earn more . . . subtracting what he has from what he needs . . . dividing the cost to come up with a fair portion for his brother to pay . . . negotiating with me to loan him some cash . . . adding 4.5% sales tax . . .

All thanks to video games.


I didn’t think this would ever happen. Veteran unschoolers have insisted it would; I’ve been waiting for it so long that I’d almost given up. But, after a year-and-a-half with the Xbox and three years of unschooling, it has finally, blessedly happened: my kids have gotten bored.

And by “bored,” I mean bored enough to say something to me, thereby risking being given chores or academic work.

So, bored silly.

This is a good thing — a great thing, in fact. Boredom, like necessity, gives birth to many amazing things. In Noah’s case, that’s meant fiddling around with photography a bit (no doubt inspired by his girlfriend).

Aengus, on the other hand, simply started whining. So, we calculated how much money he has and how much more he needs to buy the next game. I also insisted he listen as I read from Story of the World, Volume One (“The Earliest People” – history) to my daycare kid. I knew that if he just gave it 30 seconds of his time, he’d actually be interested; and sure enough, he was. I’m hoping he’ll want to hear more today, and maybe even do a few of the activities. Cross your fingers for us.

We’ve also been watching a phenomenal amount of LOST, and I am constantly amazed by how well he picks up on the littlest clues and details. He’s like having my own little pop-up video/LOST for Dummies commentator.

One of the many things LOST has inspired in him is a desire to camp out in our yard, by himself. And although he said he’s be okay with using our tent, what he really wants to do is build a structure from found materials, like this:

Ummm . . . Okaaay. I’ll get right on that, Aengus. Anyone have a spare fuselage sitting around that we could borrow?