Friday, August 26, 2016

2016 Not Back To School Interview with Mikro

Q: What is your favorite subject?
A: Um, there's a lot. Robotics, Paleontology, Geography, Biology, Evolutionary Biology!

Q: What are you best at?
A: Science, especially Paleontology.

Q: I need to get better at __________.
A: Handwriting, note taking, typing, writing essays.

Q: What's the best thing about being a homeschooler?
A: Getting to study what I want and learning at my own pace.

Q: What's the worst thing?
A: No summer break.

Q: What kind of work do you want to do when you grow up?
A: I stand by last year's answer: I want to be a paleontologist, or evolutionary biologist. I also want to do robotics and cartography. I want to be a professor, because I like to lecture, and I would love to work at AMNH someday.

Q: This year I want to learn about ________.
A: Paleontology (of course), astronomy and exoplanets, geography, cartography, history, military history, the Etruscans, Foundations of Eastern Civilization, World War I, robotics, engineering, space exploration, science fiction, fractals, geometry, special effects and animation.

Q: I want to do more _________.
A: Creative Writing. Field trips, especially to AMNH to finish our detailed evolution study.

Q: I want to do less _________.
A: Workbook stuff.

Q: Who is your best friend?
A: Koby.

Q:I want to go on a field trip to __________.
A: Washington DC (and the NASM), Philadelphia and Boston. Also, some day I want to visit a battleship.

Q: I want to go on vacation to __________.
A. Ireland, Germany, Mongolia, Iceland and the U.K.

Q. The most fun or best thing I did last school year was:
A. Competed in the National History Bee and the US Geography Olympiad and went to Chicago for the Nationals. Visited the Chicago museums, especially the Field Museum of Natural History (I saw Sue, the T. Rex and loved the Evolving Planet exhibit), the Museum of Science and Industry (the U-505 was cool!), the Chicago History Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium (need more time there) and the Art Institute. I also got to see the ISS from our hotel balcony! I liked the hotel, too!

Homeschooling a teen...

Looks a lot like deulling laptops, sometimes! (And I wish I could play banjo well enough to make some appropriate musical accompaniment happen!)

Friday, August 19, 2016

This is the Song that Never Ends: Homeschooling Year Round

Sometimes I feel really jealous of the people who are blogging about their first day of homeschooling for the new academic year. We don't have a first day, or a last for the preceding year. We just keep going. There's no break, and little in the way of brand new books, since we have been at it all along, and are usually already in the middle of things by the time the August/September postings about the new school year start. We are oddities even among homeschoolers, it seems.

Technically, here in NY, the 2015-16 school year ended on June 30, and the new one started on July 1st. We've been quietly clicking along the whole while.

Seventh grade, so far, has been pretty productive. There is a lot going on here.

History/Social Studies:
We are covering the Renaissance through the Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions, and we will go further if we finish early. (We will also do other eras and topics as Mikro prepares to participate again in the History Bee, and we will cover topics in U.S. History and Government as well.) Current events, especially politics, has become a passion. (I think I owe that to his friend Koby, a self-proclaimed "political junkie.") He watches election coverage daily, and we are always talking about news stories. Mikro has already read a bunch of nonfiction books on the Renaissance and some key figures from the period, as well as fiction set during that time. He's also going to be taking a high school level class in Geography with his favorite professor, and American Musicals Project classes on the American Revolution and World War II at the New York Historical Society.We are continuing our Great Courses history binge, trying to finish up Foundations of Western Civilization, and Great Minds of the Medieval World. I am learning about people that my Ivy League education never touched upon. I love the fact that homeschooling isn't just for the kid. I learn something new all the time!

Science this year is a combination of invertebrate biology, botany, astronomy and an introduction to chemistry (non-organic to start with). We are using high school and college texts, regents books, more popular mainstream science books, together with the Great Courses and Discovery Streaming Education. We are also covering the history of science from about 1100 to 1700. Mikro has read biographies of Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo and Newton over the summer. He also enjoyed our trip to the Adler Planetarium in Chicago back in June, and is happy to be able to say that he has now seen the ISS from NYC, Westchester County and Chicago. We are hoping to take a trip sometime this school year to a place where he will be able to see the Milky Way. There's far too much light pollution in our neck of the woods...

Math: We are still struggling with memorization of math facts. He understands the concepts flawlessly, but he is slow computationally because he is using his own algorithms to calculate multiplication facts that he doesn't have perfect recall of yet... He likes complex math, and hates arithmetic. He wants to dive into algebra, and we have put our toes in the water, but I really need to get him faster on his facts since this is a mandatory testing year for us, and he is really anxious in time pressure situations. We are working through the Life of Fred series, and I hope to be in the Algebra book by the second half of the year...

ELA: I have him doing worksheets for grammar. His spelling is as good as mine. He reads at a college level. His writing is amazing, but only if I act as scribe. If he has to type or hand write, he balks after a paragraph or so. I would love for him to be ready to type his own Nanowrimo effort this year...

My left handed dysgraphic teen has got to work on his penmanship and keyboarding. I watched him struggle on the standardized test he took in June-- not with knowledge or understanding-- but with being able to write math equations down fast enough. So this is the year of No Fun Mom demanding worksheets, something I have never done before. He has a 3 inch thick "7th Grade Super Yearbook" that has worksheets for math, ELA, social studies and science, and I am making him do it, not for the underlying subject areas so much as for the handwriting practice. He has worked too hard to be tripped up by something as mundane as the mechanics of getting things from brain to paper, and I am going to push him on it, even though it violates my preferences, and his, because college is looming ever closer, and I am NOT repeating the experience as his scribe. No way, no how. So I feel the clock ticking on this, and it's time for us both to get serious about it.

Study skills: a big focus this year. I need him taking good notes, writing outlines, and getting a better handle on managing his time. I am not a substitute for a planner and a watch. We are going to use the Everyday Guide to Study Skills, and some workbooks. And I am constantly supplementing with tales of my own bad decisions and how they haunted me in my college days. Being a gifted kid who never learned to study before walking into an Ivy League school and getting a rude awakening in the utility of those skills is not something I want him to follow in my footsteps on. Not that I'm sure he's Ivy bound. He wants a career in evolutionary biology and/or paleontology, so he will be applying to the places with the strongest departments in those areas, whether state or private. Either way, he will not go unprepared. Not on my watch!

State of the Mikro Address:

Wow, he's changing. He's a teenager, and his body and his personality are in flux. The occasionally deep voice emanating from his lanky, skinny body still surprises me. He's all legs and elbows. He reminds me of a great blue heron. Gangly, but fast. The eyerolls and attitude have also been installed in Mikro 1.13. It seems like a bigger adjustment for me than for him sometimes. Who is this tall, sometimes stinky, sometimes surly, young man that has replaced my sweet, cute, little boy? Time will tell. He's growing up, and I am confronting the idea that, before I know it, he will be out on his own. That fact is guiding our homeschooling, as well as life in general. I can't wait to see who he becomes. He's a great kid. I think he'll be a really good man.