Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Merry Mikro Christmas

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate! Happy winter holidays to everyone!

We finally got our little Charlie Brown-ish Norfolk Pine decorated. Mikro took charge of decorating it himself, and drew an angel, Santa, reindeer, etc. and made paper cutouts to hang on the tree.


Mikro was really excited about writing a letter to Santa for the first time this year. (He used to ask me to email Santa for him.) He was thrilled to receive the Kindle he asked for.



And he was happy with his gifts from Mom & Dad, too. He got some games, some Mythbusters science kits, a Ninja costume, K'Nex robot kits and some books. The Ninja costume was a huge hit.


We always play with the wrapping paper:




More gifties:





You know you're a homeschooler when the books go over as well as (or better than) the toys...



Friday, December 14, 2012

School Tragedy

Heartfelt condolences to the families who lost loved ones today in the horrific Newtown, Connecticut school shootings. How anyone could hurt little children like this is just unfathomable to me.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holiday Silly

Mikro wrote his letter to Santa last night. He wants a Kindle for Christmas. (Yay! Maybe now I won't have to share mine!) And I had him pose with it and with his new seasonal headgear...

Auditioning for Rudolph's job, maybe?
Which list do you think he's on, naughty or nice?
With that smirk, you gotta wonder...

And last, but not least, his letter:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Education? Indoctrination? Virtual Lobotomization?

Have you seen this report on the horror movie version of a charter school, proposed in Massachusetts?

Kids silenced, taught hand gestures, forced into a life of utter servility and compliance, and the "educators" behind this have the nerve to posit that:

"every day brings ... the ...scholars one day closer to college and a more successful future – full of opportunity and the promise of independence."

Kids subjected to this wouldn't know what to do with opportunity and independence. How does being controlled like a puppet prepare one to be independent or think for one's self? Why not just offer lobotomies on acceptance to this sheep factory? It would certainly accomplish the same goal!

I have a keyword/tab on this blog entitled "Public Education is the Borg", but this is just orders of magnitude worse than the usual stuff that causes me to think that. Resistance is futile. You will be a good little robot. (Which causes me to wonder what they do with the kids who *do* resist? Work on 'em till they break? Um, this sounds like something that there would be a public outcry over if it were occurring at Guantanamo, but people are willing to sign up *their children* for this treatment? America, what happened to you?)


I hope this is some sort of twisted internet joke. Because if it is real, it is frightening. Unless it's all part of a government conspiracy to save money on the education budget by scaring parents into finding a way to homeschool and leave the system!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Homeschool Update

Yeah, it has been a while since I did a homeschool update. I am just not feeling like resizing photos lately. So this will be wordier and less visual than usual...

Mikro and I have been having a blast this year studying classical composers, artists and inventors using the really excellent video sets put out by Devine Entertainment Company.

We have also been using the DVDs and CDs by Classical Kids, which are fantastic. Mikro' favorite from this series was "Beethoven Lives Upstairs."

My kid now walks around humming Beethoven and Bizet.

In addition to the purely classical, we enjoyed a wonderful performance by Black Violin at the New Victory Theater. These talented young musicians combine classical, jazz and hiphop to create something uniquely their own that gets the audience on its feet. Great show!


Mikro has also enjoyed making art. He is taking a "Crafty Kids" class at our local library, as well as continuing to participate in Sketch Tuesday and to explore on his own (and with mom). He'll be glazing some pottery tomorrow, weather permitting...

Here are some things he has made lately:








For math, we are doing a lot of review with Teaching Textbooks, trying to make sure he has his math facts down cold. We've done math a lot more creatively in the past, and we are still doing some living books, but after a really bad day when Mikro basically pretended not to be able to do simple addition, much less the multiplication and division that he is fully capable of, in order to get a reaction, he got a reaction. I decided that a little more regimentation and a lot less attitude were called for in our math work. He may like higher math better, but he is not going to goof off on the arithmetic bits, not on my watch. He wants a hard science career, and he is going to have to accept that math goes along with it, even the boring bits. So we've changed things up a bit, and I am having to admit that there is some value in repetition. I have been so busy bending over backwards to be the antithesis of drill and kill, that I think maybe I swung our pendulum a little too far into the freewheeling fun zone for Mikro to take being careful in his calculations seriously enough. We are working on that now. Sloppiness in adding or subtracting (because it's too easy and he doesn't care) will get him marked wrong someday down the road, even if he does the algebraic (etc.) bits all correctly. I don't want the "sloppy genius" thing to become something he is too comfortable with. I had that scrawled on nearly every report card, and it wasn't a good modus operandi, really. I'd like him to avoid making the same mistakes...

Science classes have ended for the semester at SMLI. The last few sessions were CSI topics like fingerprinting, DNA sampling, microscope work and blood typing, and a unit on air pressure in which the kids lifted a table with a classmate on top by blowing up baggies with straws. They had so much fun, especially when they got to ride on a hovercraft! Kev and Mikro have a big project going here at home. They are building a 3D printer, and learning to design objects to print using software like Blender and Tinkercad.

For history, we have been doing the Middle East. We still have a ways to go there, and we keep finding interesting rabbit trails that sidetrack us. Amazon Prime has some great videos that are available free to members, and we are enjoying them, as well as the great offerings from our local library system. We just watched a couple of videos on Jordan and Petra, which I knew almost nothing about before. We'll be reading a lot more folktales before we move on, because Mikro just loves folklore and fairy tales, and because I think you get a great deal of insight into other cultures by listening to their stories. We also cover American History every semester, and Mikro has been enjoying learning all about the election process, and the American Revolution. He has become a big fan of Cobblestone Magazine, and so have I.

Well, that's a basic idea of what we're up to. He also reads lots of kidlit just for fun. Recent favorites are the N.E.R.D.S. series, the Dinotopia books, the ----Ology books (especially Dragonology), The Dark is Rising series, and the Golden Acorn series. He can't wait for the fourth Jack Brenin adventure, and the next volume of Mouseguard, which we hope will be out soon...

Mikro Wins Nanowrimo 2012!

Mikro managed to exceed his word count goal by 33 percent! I'm not posting this year's effort, as he says it is not finished yet, and wants to write more. When he is done, I'll post it.

For now, here is the cover, and his Nanowrimo badge, which he earned for the third year running, even in the face of uncooperative voice recognition software and beginner's hunt and peck typing. (I did take pity on him and let him dictate about half of it, though. My goal for next year is to be involved only in the revision process...)

Escher Inspired Tessellations

Mikro's subject for the History Fair, in case anyone has not guessed, was Maurits Cornelius Escher. Our entire household loves his artwork, and Mikro has been glancing through Escher books with us for ages. In all that time, it never occurred to me that, rather than just appreciate Escher's ingenious patterns, it might be possible to learn to make some of our own. And I'm an artist! (But I generally don't think of myself as someone who is incredibly technical or precise, or overly mathematical, even though homeschooling my son has done more to repair my relationship with math than all the formal schooling I ever had, including an A in college calculus. Trying to teach it has required me to really understand it, on a level not before required for passing math tests. And that has been tremendously empowering for me, and really good for my kid, who loves math, but hates "boring arithmetic"... But I digress...) But the history fair and Mikro's burgeoning interest in patterns and tessellations caused me to surf around to see what was out there in the way of how to's.

Here are some how to tessellate resources to check out:

And here is a documentary about Escher's life and art:

And now here is my attempt at a photo tutorial (Please forgive the awful font.):





Now comes the really fun part. Stare at that shape you created and figure out what it reminds you of... Mikro saw cardinals. Then add detail to your individual tiles and color in as you like....


Mikro was very proud of his piece, and I just love how those cute little birds turned out!


You know I had to try one! My shape reminded me of sting rays.


I like Mikro's better!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

NYCHEA History Fair 2012

We had an awesome turnout for our homeschool group's annual history fair. It is one of the best events we do every year, and my son looks forward to it. He is already thinking about who to present on next year!


Some kids opt to do a more traditional talk, but most do a series of clues, and give the audience a chance to guess what historical personage they are pretending to be. Some wear costumes (Mikro doesn't, because he thinks it makes it too easy to guess who you are if you dress up, and he enjoys trying to balance revealing biographical information against phrasing things cryptically enough to stump the audience). Some make posters, models or projects. All the kids did a terrific job and got some valuable public speaking experience. My hammy kiddo hasn't got a shy bone in his body and only reluctantly relinquished the microphone when he was done. He had a great time.


Can you guess who Mikro chose to present on? Here are his clues:

I was born in the Netherlands in 1898.
I was left handed.
I hated school .
Drawing was my favorite subject.
My parents wanted me to study architecture, but my teacher thought I would make a better graphic artist.
I made woodcuts and linoleum cuts. I liked them because using just black and white allows you to express ideas clearly.
I was inspired by listening to organ music, especially Bach.
After I graduated from art school, I moved to Italy.
I did many drawings and prints of italian landscapes.
Sometimes I did commercial artwork such as postage stamps and wrapping paper.
It took over 30 years for me to be able to make a living from my artwork, but in the meantime, my dad gave me an allowance.
I visited a castle in Spain called Alhambra and was inspired by the intricate geometric designs I saw there.
I started to read about crystallography, the study of crystals, because I was interested in the shapes and patterns involved.
In addition to prints, I also carved wooden spheres.
After studying crystals and math, I came up with my Theory of Regular Plane Division, which I used in creating my art.
I am known for playing with perspective and creating impossible structures and pieces featuring repeating patterns.
I was interested in the contrast between order and chaos.
I played with distorting images, such as by doing a self portrait of myself reflected in a glass ball and in a water drop.
I was fascinated by tessellation (regularly repeated pattern pieces that fit together perfectly without leaving spaces).
One of my famous works involves lizards which morph from a drawing on the page into live reptiles.
Another of my famous works is called “Hands Drawing Hands”.
Some of my tessellations involve animal and human figures.
Sometimes the pattern pieces change and evolve across the piece. I did several pieces on the theme of “Metamorphosis”.
My nickname was “Mauk.”
I died in 1972.

And as a last clue, here is an art project he did, in the style of his subject:


I'll give the answer tomorrow... and post a how to for the art project, and some links...

Thank you to our wonderful organizer and master of ceremonies!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

We were gifted with a couple of unseasonably warm and lovely days last week, and rather than stay indoors, we took full advantage. Academics happen just as well at home after dark. Some things can't be put off. Basking in the sun on the beach on a November day in New York is not a treat to pass up! Nor is a Hudson River sunset.

But first, we took a nature walk, looked for owls in a certain pine stand (none there), watched a kestrel fly over our heads, and wandered the hilltop meadow that used to be the County Dump and is now a bird watcher's delight. Mostly sparrows this time, but still a nice afternoon.

Want to come along?












And then it was time to head to the beach before sunset...









We found what I think is a catfish skull:


And an ancient plastic bucket covered in barnacles.


And then we watched the show... Wow.