Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Homeschool Update

Mikro started some new classes in September. He is taking Debate/Mock Trial, Applied Social Sciences and Earth Science Regents Lab. (He may or may not take the Regents exam this year. I'm leaving it up to him. He still doesn't much like timed tests, and his handwriting (and lack of stamina) are issues. His knowledge of science is not... It will be his call.

In debate/mock trial, he has done a few challenge debates, and he is working on his public speaking skills. He is memorizing the St. Crispin's day speech from Shakespeare's Henry V, and already has a poem memorized. He's also working on other Shakespeare bits. For mock trial, he is working on putting together opening and closing statements, learning common courtroom objections, and he can finally answer what Article III of the Constitution does. (Back when he was 5, he decided that I was an imbecile because I did not know all the dinosaurs. In an effort to illustrate that people have different sorts of knowledge, I quizzed him on legal minutiae, which left him getting that there are more ways than one to be intelligent in this world. He just reminded me of this as he was researching Article III!)

henryv challengedebate

In Applied Social Sciences, the kids role played forming a society after beig stranded together on a deserted island. Their next scenario has been to act as cabinet advisors to the President, advising him on a hypothetical crisis (which resembles the Cuban Missle Crisis...)

On his own time, he's designing a prehistory board game.


He's also intrigued by my art journaling, and has started a little daily cartoon journal.

In Earth Science Lab, he has been doing rock ID labs, using tools like scratch plates and a mineral testing kit that comes with various specimens of known hardness on the Mohs Scale. He worked with a team to learn how to use an altimeter, and some trigonometry, to calculate the jheight of the waterfall in the Central Park Ramble. He gave an oral report on plate tectonics and the Indian subcontinent. He has learned about superpostion, intrusions, folding, minerals, plate tectonics, volcanoes, etc. and is really enjoying the class. He isn't enjoying writing up lab reports, because of his fine motor issues... But he is equally hating learning to type, so I'm just leaving it to him to decide which process is more odious...

earthsciclass922 earthsciclass922a earthsciclass922b

earthsciclass922c hallofplanetearth hallofplanetearth2

atomicbonding hallearth1 hallmeteorites

hallofmineralsclass waterfall2 waterfalll1

mikkroaltimeter trig

He was really intrigued by the cast members from iLuminate who appeared at Maker Faire, and I was lucky to be able to get discounted tickets to see their show.


We also saw a show at the New Victory Theater:


Both of these performances got us into a discussion of visual storytelling, and Mr. Verbose is thinking of how to retell the Prometheus myth visually. I am eagerly waiting to see what he comes up with. (Last night, he informed me that The Phantom of the Opera was the story of Persephone...)

We continue to do all our other academics at home, and although I designed this year's history study as dark ages and middle ages, we have gotten obsessed with Roman Architecture over here (I am doing a Yale Open Courseware class.) So we are taking a little detour and revisiting Rome. We are almost done with a Great Courses offering entitled Understanding Greek and Roman Technology: From the Catapult to the Pantheon, which is an engineering class! Mikro and I are both fascinated. Kev has not had much chance to watch with us, but was intrigued by the bits he was able to catch. We are also doing the Great Courses' Experiencing Rome series. We're a third of the way through that one. (And I have the Great Courses Vikings class on hold at the library for when we are done with Rome...)

Mikro is working on his UFO models. Here is his latest creation:

mikromodel1 mikromodel2

And since it is November, he's once again signed up for the Nanowrimo Young Writers Program. He is working on a sequel to his story "The Boy and the Egg." I can't wait to see what he does this time.

First Quarterly Report, Fifth Grade

SCHOOL YEAR: 2014-2015
THIS QUARTER COVERS: 7/1/14 to 10/16/14
DATE SUBMITTED: October 20, 2014


Mikro is progressing at a satisfactory level or above in all subject matter.

We have had instruction in all the following areas, as per Section 100.10 of the Regulations of the New York State Commissioner of Education and Mikro’s Individual Home Instruction Plan (IHIP): Reading, Writing, Spelling, Language Arts, Math, History, Geography, Science, Health, Physical Education, Music, Visual Arts, Patriotism and Citizenship, Fire Safety and Prevention, and Traffic, Bicycle and General Safety. Mikro had no absences from instruction this quarter, and has exceeded the required hours of instruction (225). Highlights for the Quarter include:

Reading/Language Arts:

Mikro reads fluently and at a very advanced level. At the moment, his favorites are in the science fiction and fantasy genre, although he still enjoys nonfiction, particularly in the biological sciences. He still enjoys making up rich and detailed stories, world building, and creating new mythologies.

He is taking a debate and mock trial class, for which he is required to research issues and prepare arguments, including opening statements, rebuttals and closing statements. Mikro is a member of our homeschool group’s newly formed competitive debate team, and hopes to be ready to compete during the 2015-16 school year. He is memorizing and reciting poetry and famous speeches, including the Gettysburg Address, the St. Crispin’s day speech from Henry V, and others.

Mikro is getting good practice in spelling, composition and grammar in connection with his fiction writing and cartography pursuits. He keeps notebooks of ideas for stories and games. He is slowly improving his keyboarding skills.

Some of the books read independently by Mikro (in addition to those listed by subject matter in other categories below) include:

Wildwood, Under Wildwood and Wildwood Imperium, all by Colin Meloy; Tunnels, Deeper and Freefall, all by Roderick Gordon; Eager and Eager’s Nephew by Helen Fox; Minn of the Mississippi by Holling C. Holling; Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements; Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham; Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt; Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer; The Book of Beasts by TH White; How to Write Poetry by Paul B. Janeczko; Effective Speeches by Valerie Bodden; Science Fiction (Stories Well Told) by Valerie Bodden; The Kids Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things to Do in Nature Before You Grow Up by Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer; The Sierra Club Summer Book by Linda Allison; Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan; The Ring of Fire by P.D. Baccalariao; Ghost Hawk by Susan Cooper; Survivor II Field Guide by Mark Burnett; The Ninja Handbook by _Douglas Sarine and Kent Nichols; The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook by Shawn MacKenzie; The Vampire Book by Sally Regan; Vampires by Martin Jenkins; Unicorns and Other Magical Creatures by John Hamilton; The Singing and the Gold, poems selected by Elinor Parker; 2095 by Jon Scieszka; Count Draculations: Monster Riddles compiled by Charles Keller; The Funny Side of Science by Melvin Berger; Flash Gordon: On the Planet Mongo by Alex Raymond; Scary School: The Northern Frights by Derek the Ghost; Vampire Hound by Jim Kraft; Knuckleheads by Jon Scieszka; My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Colville; Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand; Irish Fairy Tales, edited by Philip Smith; It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles, poems by Jack Prelutsky; Noah by Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel; Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus by Tom Angleberger; Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku by Paul B. Janeczko and J. Patrick Lewis; A Poke in the I: a Collection of Concrete Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko

Videos: Debate Can Change Your Life (TED Talk by Lucinda David); Where Does Creativity Hide? (TED Talk by Amy Tan); Four Lessons in Creativity (TED Talk by Julie Burstein); Taking Imagination Seriously (TED Talk by Janet Echelman); Tales of Creativity and Play (TED Talk by Tim Brown.)


This quarter, we have practiced multiplication, division, percents, fractions, and decimals, including adding and subtracting fractions and decimals, using real life math, books, workbooks, games, drawings, original word problems and manipulatives. Mikro uses online math resources such as BrainPOP, Khan Academy, and Lesson Pathways He also uses Teaching Textbooks 5.

Books: On the Job Math Mysteries: Real Life Math From Exciting Careers by Marya Washington Tyler; Fractions, Decimals and Percents by David A. Adler. Life of Fred E, F, and G.

Videos: Math Challenge: Equivalent fractions and Mixed Numbers (Sclessinger Media); Solving for X: Pre Algebra Volume 1 (Bill Nye). Donald in Mathmagic Land; Bill Nye: Probability; Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trips: The Amazing Trade Shop Math Race (circle math, area and perimeter, multiplication and division, budgeting).

Music: Multiplication Mountain by Hap Palmer; Division Unplugged.


Mikro remains fascinated with geology, astronomy and biology, and has been taking Coursera classes with his mother (because he is too young to have his own account), including: Emergence of Life; Dinosaur 101; Introduction to Forensic Science: Learning How to Learn Math and Science; and Dynamic Earth.

Topics covered included: Emergence of Life: Geological Time, Nature of Science, The Tree of Life, Early Earth Environments, Fossilization, Precambrian Life-Earth Interaction, Paleozoic Life After the Advent of Skeletons; Paleozoic Plants, Reptiles, and the Transition to Land, Mesozoic Reign of Dinosaurs, Development of Flight, Cenozoic Mammals, Global Environmental Change, Astrobiology and the Search for Life in the Cosmos; Introduction to the Science of Forensics: Introduction to Forensic Science, Locard’s Exchange Principle, Chromatography and Spectroscopy, Fingerprinting, Polymers and Fibers, Ballistics and Gun Shot Residue, DNA analysis, including gel electrophoresis, PCR, and STR analysis, Narcotics and Toxicology; Dinosaur 101: the diversity in dinosaur appearances, how fossils form, how we interpret the taphonomy of skeletons and bonebeds, possible biases taphonomic events may create in the fossil record, the variety of food types, feeding habits, and feeding adaptations amongst the major groups of dinosaurs, the general modes and styles of locomotion in the major dinosaur groups, a generalized life history of a dinosaur, from birth through adulthood, including reproduction, behaviors and structures that may have served for attack or defense through the lifetime of a dinosaur; Dynamic Earth: Radiometric Dating; Reading Rocks; Writing Lab Reports; Formation of Earth’s Atmosphere; Banded Iron Formations, Stromatolites; Learning How to Learn: Focused versus Diffuse Thinking, Chunking, Procrastination and Memory, Renaissance Learning and Unlocking Your Potential.

He is also taking an Earth Science Regents Lab class, and is interested in possibly taking the Earth Science Regents test this year.

Field trips: Mikro spent a full weekend at Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science. He participated in several workshops offered by Cognizant, including building a mechanical hand, making a diorama with a cam shaft to provide movement, making an assemblage, and making a light up pillow with LEDs. He attended lectures on topics including Young Makers and Maker Educational Initiatives. He also explored the Physics Bus, made a light-up finger knit bracelet, tried a 3d printing pen, made a tiny drawing under a microscope, played a Mars Rover game, learned about automated evolution, designed a tote bag, and did a design challenge.

He also enjoyed a full day of marine science at Submerge, hosted by the New York Hall of Science, at Pier 26. He handled the controls of a submersible robot ROV, designed new species of plankton, learned about buoyancy by constructing a 3 dimensional plankton model that did not sink or rise to the surface, but floated in the middle depths, He measured the salinity of water samples taken from various locations along the Hudson River, using a refractometer, and found that the levels dropped as the samples moved further from the harbor. He observed plankton under the microscope, learned about the hazards of marine debris, saw a solar cooker in action, and did countless other fun, science-related activities.

We have made several family trips to the American Museum of Natural History, concentrating on exploring the Earth Science related material in the Hall of Planet Earth and the Hall of Minerals. We also did the Astronomy Grand Tour, and enjoyed the Poisons special exhibit (where Mikro assisted in the toxicology demonstration.) We have also made several visits to the special exhibit on Pterosaurs.

Mikro also attended the Animal Embassy Zoology Program at the Croton Free Library, featuring turtles, lizards, frogs, snakes and a chinchilla, and the Paper Airplane Workshop at the library.

Books: Let’s Review Earth Science by Edward J. Denecke, Jr. (chapters 13, 14, 15); The Mad Scientist’s Notebook: Warning! Dangerously Wacky Experiments Inside! by Elizabeth Snoke Harris and Rain Newcomb; The Technology Behind Robots and Artificial Intelligence by Nicholas Brasch; Cool Science: Robotics by Helena Domaine; Rise of the Thinking Machines: The Science of Robotics by Jennifer Fretland Van Voorst; Robotics: Robots Through History by Jeri Freedman;
Videos: Bill Nye the Science Guy: Architecture; Probability; the Science of Music; Rocks and Minerals; Earth’s Crust; Safety Smart Science: Renewable Energy. Environmental Science for Children series (Schlessinger Media): Air Quality; Water Quality; Green Energy; Sustainability in the 21st Century; Global Climate Change; Howard Hughes Medical Institute: The Beak of the Finch: Speciation of Finches in the Galapagos; We Hear With the Bones that Reptiles Eat With; Speciation in Anoles; Lizard Olympics; BBC Animated History of Physics; World Science Festival: Einstein Hated Quantum Mechanics.

Mikro watches TED Talks on scientific topics of interest and other scientific programming online, such as Bob Ballard’s Nautilus Live website, with live video from remotely operated submersible vehicles, videos and webinars from the America Chemical Society, Discovery Streaming Education Unlimited, and various websites including PBS, Project JASON, and Amazon Prime Instant Videos. He also has a subscription to science videos and experiments online by Robert Krampf, The Happy Scientist and Supercharged Science.

Classes: Earth Science Regents Lab class.

Projects: collecting and observing bugs, monitoring nest boxes and bird feeders, maintaining a compost heap, caring for and observing a growing collection of pets including two bearded dragons, a Chinese water dragon, an Italian Wall Lizard, a hermit crab, and various insects; building simple Arduino circuits, building electronics kits, maintaining a Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat.

History, Geography, Social Studies & Patriotism and Citizenship:

During this first quarter we have begun our study of the Dark Ages and the Age of the Vikings, using Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World as a spine, as well as maps, videos, nonfiction and fiction concerning the cultures studied.

Mikro is also taking a Coursera class called A Brief History of Humankind, which tracks our species’ development from the cognitive revolution, through the agricultural, industrial and socio-political revolutionary eras.

Mikro is taking a class in Applied Social Science. In the first module, the students developed a society in a scenario involving being stranded on an uninhabited tropical island. They brainstormed and agreed on necessary tasks, division of labor, and a rudimentary government consisting of a President and an Island Council. They drew maps, designed shelters, developed a security plan, and designed a flag for their “Island Republic.” Afterwards, they presented their plans and organizational scheme to their parents and teacher.

In American History/New York History/Patriotism and Citizenship, we have discussed Colonial America, including the triangle trade, the colonial economy; colonial currency; the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War, the Constitution, the function of governments, the Bill of Rights, rights and responsibilities of citizens, legal systems, courts, lawsuits, service of process, commencing suit, defending a suit; immigration, slavery, racism and the Civil Rights movement. Mikro can draw an accurate (but not to scale) map of the United States from memory.


Vikings/Dark Ages: The Real Vikings: Craftsmen, Traders and Fearsome Raiders by Melvin and Gilda Berger; Step into the Celtic World by Fiona MacDonald; Great Medieval Projects You Can Build Yourself by Kris Bordessa; The Hammer of the North by Magnus Magnusson; Usborne Illustrated Guide to Norse Myth and Legends by Cheryl Evans and Anne Millard.

Other: People You Gotta Meet Before You Grow Up: Get to Know the Movers and Shakers, Heroes and Hotshots in Your Hometown by Joe Rhatigan; The Golden Age of Maritime Maps: When Europe Discovered the World by Catherine Hofmann, Richard and Emmanuelle Vagnon; Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s “Chocolate Pilot” by Michael D. Tunnell; The Orphan of Ellis Island by Elvira Woodruff; M is for Majestic: A National Parks Alphabet by David Domeniconi.

Videos: Colonial Life for Children series (Schlessinger Media): The French and Colonial Quebec; Jamestown; Plimoth Plantation; Roger Williams and Rhode Island; William Penn and Pennsylvania; The Dutch and New Amsterdam; The Spanish and Colonial Santa FE; Settling the New World; St. Augustine The Vikings (Schlessinger Media); A History of the Middle Ages (Schlessinger Media); Colonial Williamsburg Electronic Field Trips: The Amazing Trade Shop Math Race (provisioning the Continental Army); The Bill of Rights; The War of 1812; Harsh World, This World (slavery); Women of the Revolution; Balance of Power; Civil War Ironclads.

Field Trips: Pierpont Morgan Library, Mythical Creatures program (exploring the history, geography and mythology of ancient Mesopotamia, cuneiform and cylinder seals); Ellis Island (immigration); National Archives in New York (using primary source documents to understand the immigration experience); Tenement Museum, Victoria Confino program; Walking Tour of the Lower East Side; City of Water Day (New York maritime history; sailing on the Clipper City and a tugboat ride aboard the Pegasus); Boston Tea Party Opera; New York City Transit Museum: Transportation of the Future exhibit; Croton Friends of History lectures on The Mighty Hudson and Lost Amusement Parks of New York City at the Croton Free Library.

Music and Drama:

Mikro learned about the lives and music of several opera composers, Bizet and Mozart, and enjoyed a full dress rehearsal performance of The Marriage of Figaro at the Metropolitan Opera. He also enjoyed Seegerfest’s Pete and Toshi Seeger Memorial Concert at Lincoln Center Outdoors, as well as Bash the Trash (recycled instruments) at the Croton Free Library and The Old Man and The Old Moon, a musical featuring a combination of live actors and puppetry, at the New Victory Theater. Mikro is experimenting with playing a 44 key electronic keyboard.

Mikro also was inspired by the visual storytelling of iLuminate, and is working on creating a dramatic rendition of the myth of Prometheus and Fire. Mikro and his father looked at the many ways to tell the same basic story by comparing a series of films: Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven and Battle Beyond the Stars, and discussed other instances of this phenomena.

Mikro watched the videos for his mother’s online music classes: Fundamentals of Music Theory; Developing Your Musicianship, and Songwriting, and was introduced to concepts such as melody, harmony, bass and treble clefs, major and minor scales, modes, intervals, notes, rests and values.

Mikro was introduced to the basic frailing stroke on banjo and watched some banjo instructional videos by Patrick Costello.

TED Talks: Music and Emotion Through Time by Michael Tilson Thomas; Music and the Brain by Jessica Grahn.


Mikro took a class exploring the architecture of New York City, in which he visited the Chrysler Building, the Chanin Building, Grand Central Terminal, the Flatiron Building, the Appellate Division Courthouse, Madison Square Park, the New York Life Building, the Washington Square Arch, Judson Church, the Morris Jumel Mansion, and the Guggenheim Museum, learned about the architects who designed them, and sketched the buildings and various architectural details.

Mikro has continued his drawing and experiments with various media, including clay, watercolors, pastels, markers, acrylic paints and collage/assemblage.. He enjoys watching TED Talks on sculpture, architecture, and other art forms.

Books: Dreaming UP: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale; Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock; Gargoyles, Girders and Glass Houses: Magnificent Master Buildings y Bo Zaunders;Arches to Zigzags: An Architecture ABC by Michael J. Crosbie; Skyscraper by Lynn Curlee; Frank O. Gehry: Outside In by Jan Greenberg; Earth Friendly Buildings by Miriam Coleman; Simply Wright: A Journey into the Ideas of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Architecture by Diane Bresnan Fleming.

Mikro also enjoyed the Italian Futurism exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum, and the Palaces for the People exhibit on Guastavino tile vaults and City as Canvas (graffiti) exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.

Phys Ed:

Hiking, park days with homeschooled friends; playing catch, soccer and basketball informally with friends and family; running, mock combat ninja battles.


We have discussed puberty, family planning, good nutrition, the basic food groups, the food pyramid, safety issues related to food allergies, basic human needs, vision and eye safety, laboratory safety, maintaining adequate hydration, personal hygiene including dental hygiene, why drugs, alcohol and smoking are unhealthy, HIV and AIDS, and the perils of drunk driving.

Traffic, bicycle and general safety:

We discussed lightning and storm safety, including the dangers of flash floods. We continue to discuss the importance of always wearing a bicycle helmet, of looking both ways before crossing the street, obeying traffic signals, watching cars for signals, safe and appropriate behavior on public transportation, seatbelts, car seats, not distracting the driver, what exit signs and emergency instructions (e.g. on the trains) mean; water safety; boating safety; strangers, staying where mom and dad can see you, what to do if lost or separated from family, how to avoid getting lost in the first place, how to ask for help. Mikro knows his name and address including zip code, and his parents' full names. Mikro has a cell phone and knows how to use it to call for help, or contact his parents, in the event that he becomes lost.

Fire Safety and Prevention:

We have discussed what to do in a fire emergency, including formulating a family escape plan, stop drop & roll, get low and go, exiting the house immediately and not returning, trying to wake family members, but leaving if unsuccessful, telling firefighters if family and pets are still inside, using a cell phone or going to a neighbor to call 911, and waiting at a designated location for family members. We talked about fire prevention strategies.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Senasqua September

In my quest to update our blog, I am still in Septemberville. Since I just pulled out the winter jackets, I wish I had a time machine and could go back to warm, sunny days by the river. Sadly, while I tell Mikro that I'm the 23rd Doctor, and the Blue Beast (my PT cruiser, which is crammed with beach stuff and a rolling library....) is my Tardis, she's on the fritz at the moment and I am stranded in Novemberland...

This is the "Picture Tunnel". Walking through gives you an awesome view of the Hudson River, which seems like a painting on a wall.




And this is our beautiful village park, right on the river.















Saturday, November 1, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! We broke with family tradition and instead of Trick or Treating for UNICEF in our neighborhood, we decided to have an NYC Halloween this year. We started the day in the kid edition of the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. While we were waiting for the parade to start, Mikro got interviewed by a Japanese TV channel. Then we went to Mikro's favorite place on Earth, the American Museum of Natural History, for their Halloween Party. Mikro loved it, and thought the most awesome costume ever was the trilobite. After that, we raced downtown to Trinity Church for a showing of the silent Lon Chaney Phantom of the Opera, with live pipe organ accompaniment. It was really cool! The churchyard looked spectacularly spooky, too. All in all, a great Halloween.