In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep it to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.

- Tao Te Ching -

Friday, April 11, 2014

Ten Ways Homeschooling Allows Quality Time with Family

Iron Man takes a photograph of Spiderwoman homeschooling Superboy.

As a homeschool Mama to my one and only son, I don't have a lot of spare TIME. I just don't. When we don't have play dates, field trips or coop days, I'm embarrassingly still in my PJs way into the afternoon. I don't know how my friends homeschool multiple kids, but they say homeschooling more kids is much easier than having to do it for just one. That said, homeschooling has allowed me to have the quality TIME for what matters most to me and my family.

What does QUALITY TIME in our daily homeschool life look like? We have:

time to cuddle every morning, every night, and during the day. 

time to read together. Recently, I started reading out loud again and my son asks for this time together. I love the reading lists on Ambleside, especially because you can download these quality age-appropriate books for free. If you don't prefer reading out loud for long periods of time, there are Librivox, Lit2Go, and Audible audiobooks. As a family, we love listening to books on CD (borrowed from the library) in the car. 

time to discuss ideas together and learn together. After cuddles and some playtime in the morning, the first thing we do while having breakfast is to watch CNN student news. We love to discuss current events as a family.

time to enjoy doing things at off-peak hours when the rest of the world is at work or school. It isn't crowded and prices are usually cheaper, especially traveling.

time to make slow-cooked meals. Most of our meals are from scratch, except lunch which is mostly leftovers so Mama is not in the kitchen all day. Some of our fave recipes from yours truly are here: Mama in the Kitchen.

time to have unstructured time together. We love just playing outdoors, watching movies, reading, experiencing new things, creating new games, dancing, making music and clowning around. Recently, we bought some larvae, watched them eat and eat, turn into chrysalides, come out of their cocoons, and when they learned to fly, we let them go in our garden. These memories will always warm my heart.

time to give my child immediate feedback, an art which fills our days with teachable moments.

time to communicate with my family. We talk at leisure about wants, needs, challenges, strengths, weaknesses, fears and dreams. These conversations are not forced, but come up naturally during our daily life. We understand and know each other very well. 

time to focus on and emphasize the subjects he needs in order to fulfill his dreams. While we are structured during some part of the day (we love a mix of secular Charlotte Mason and Classical Homeschooling), we leave a lot of time for Project Based Homeschooling too. My son has the freedom to create and develop his own projects: he acts on stage several times a year, creates videos for his own YouTube channel, blogs, creates original jokes, creates original music, authors books, and drums like a punk rocker. All this is part of his first grade homeschooling and I am very proud of the time he dedicates to his projects.

time to live slowly. It is possible to not feel rushed and sweetly enjoy just being home with my family.

Our time together is deliberate and meaningful and I recognize that our choice to homeschool has allowed us the precious time to enjoy our life together. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Learning How to Play Twinkle Twinkle on the Violin

We lent a violin to a cousin but she can't find a Suzuki Violin teacher near her, so we decided to make a video to help her learn the first song in the Book 1: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Just in case there are others out there who are interested... hope this helps!

Use your Pointer on the Baby String for the SAD Baby note.

Use Ringman, Longman and Pointer to press the notes when baby eats his/her first cookie, second cookie and third cookie!

Guess where the notes are?

Good luck and have fun!

Friday, May 31, 2013

An Introduction to Project Based Homeschooling

When I finished Lori Pickert's Project Based Homeschooling, I was determined to add Project Based Work into our homeschooling.  I knew my Kindergartner could spend hours on  projects he created for himself and that they sparked passion and inspiration deep inside him.

A Crystal Garden last Winter
A Monster Guide last Fall
BUT I wanted to see my son's passion and inspiration, not just once in a while, but EVERYDAY.

At first, I incorporated my son's yearning to PLAY into our school-type work. Then, everyday I asked him what he wanted to work on by himself during the evening while I was cooking (about 30 to 60 minutes on his own). 

In the first week, I asked him lots of questions to help focus his interest:

He made a handful of Toontastic videos these first few days.

Then, in the second week, he preferred to watch videos and read about topics instead of creating something more tangible for himself:

[I want to know] if animals had the same evolution as us?
Then one day, I found these on my iPad:

And this in his notebook:
Who invented candy?! An ancient artist in Spain drew a picture of a man scooping honey from a beehive!
He was learning how to take more initiative and ownership of his various projects.

Since then, his other projects included:

A bunch of "Loch Ness" monster photos (Mama taught him how to Photoshop)
A lot of Origami Yodas, Darth Papers (from the books Origami Yoda and Darth Paper) and various characters he came up with himself: Storm Troopers, Clone Troopers, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Lea.
A couple of homemade characters from Tim Burton's Film '9', here is '7'.
And, his own original music. At first he asked me to help him come up with songs: Buddy and Celina Grace. After a few days, they were all his: I Love Singing, Sweet Song, The Eagle Flies Over the Lake (instrumental), and even a horror piece A Little Nightmare Music. And his love for music continues.

Our one-month trial is over and we are definitely going to continue. What's not to like about Project Based Homeschooling?!? 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Learning about Storyboards

The Poem (by Daddy and Son)

Putting Poem to Music (Guitar and Drums by Son, Vocals by Mama)

Link here.

Using Photoshop to Create an Image (by Son)

Drawing Images and Creating Music to go with the Poem (by Son)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Using Writing for Difficult and Emotional Conversations: A Vegan Mama and Son Discuss Killing a Snake

It was the day to pick some greens for dinner. After five years of trying to DIY, our work finally paid off. We were all excited.

But as I opened the net around my vegetable garden, I screamed because I thought a snake was about to pounce on me. When it didn't, we discovered that the snake managed to get stuck in between the net and its esophagus was hanging out of its mouth. I prodded it with a stick and it was still very much alive. 

We thought the Common Garter would die shortly, but after 24 hours it was still reacting to my prods - but much slower.  I just could not bare to leave it to die a slow death, so I decided to end its life quickly. 

My Kindergarten son was all for it, "Let's put it out of its misery! I'll give you an award Mama!"

Although as a Vegan, I have always taught our son not to kill animals, I didn't think much about his comment.  So, I did what I had to do - quickly.

My son's response from behind a bush was a little scared, "Mama! I'm not watching! I'm not watching!"

Then proud, still behind the bush, "You are awesome Mama! You win a badge! An award! You're the bravest Mama!"

Then angry, walking back inside the house, "I don't want to see you anymore!!!"

Then with sad tears as he hides in the bathroom by himself, "You're not a good Mama!"

OH DEAR. What have I done?

After five minutes, he approached me a little calmer. I explained what happened but he still was clearly  upset. He did not want to listen to what I was saying.  

We used a journal he just created today during pretend play to work through his emotions and the snake situation. By writing to each other as other characters Murray (my son) and Lexie (me), my son was able to feel better about an emotional situation.
"Just released: The Lost Journal of Jones Murray and His Sidekick Lexie Jones"
Son wrote:
"Me and Lexie saw a skink today that was brown. We looked it up!
I was talking to a Lady Bug while Lexie was taking pictures of a Dragonfly!
Looked for wood for camp and saw an almost dead snake and..."
Son continued:
"...put it out of its misery! Draw Here: Dead, dead, dead and not buried!"
Mama wrote:
"Heck! Today, I, a Vegan, had to do the most horrible deed! I had to kill a fellow animal.
The snake had been in severe pain for 24 hours and was still alive! It's jaw was hanging out and broken.
I didn't know if the heart, lungs and body were still functioning. It was in clear pain and would never be able to eat again.
I got big clippers and cut its head off to put it out of its misery. I felt both good and bad.
Bad because I beheaded it. Good because it wasn't in pain anymore. It was the right thing to do."
Son wrote:
"The snake was caught in a net with its neck twisted."
Son wrote:
"At first I felt angry and stayed away from Lexie. But then I figured it was the right thing to do!
When I was angry, I wrote the first 4 to 5 pages before Lexie wrote her one page in my diary!
She is smart. She knows what to do always."
"PLAY" helped my son understand the situation.

But I kick myself as I write this... I could have handled it differently.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Notables at Noon: The Elementary Night of Notables

I decided to create a Night of Notables event for our local homeschool kids. Having had no luck attracting the older homeschool kids, I created Notables at Noon for the elementary kids at our local homeschool support group instead.

Last Fall, we had four kids who presented their notables including Christopher Reeve (project details here), Abraham Lincoln, Cleopatra and Harriet Tubman. It was a small group, but a good start.

This Spring, we had seven kids who presented their Notables including Emily Dickinson, St. Francis of Assisi, Angry Birds (not a Notable, but the little girl was adamant about presenting her passion and it was a wonderful addition to our event), Bruce Lee, William Shakespeare, Blackbeard, Anne Bonny and Mary Read. It was, as another mother pointed out, EXCELLENT. All the children were passionate and therefore confident speakers and very persuasive in their presentations. In fact, after seeing the younger set present, some older kids now also want to participate in our next Notables at Noon this coming Fall.

My favorite part of this Spring's Notables at Noon was watching all the kids crowd around the presenter and become interested in a new person as they watched their peer passionately talk about their Notable. Here is one photo which shows elementary children enthralled by the William Shakespeare presentation. This is but one photo. I watched the children throughout the event and they all had the same reaction to all the presentations. Still days after, the children continue to talk about what they learned from each other.

Why Do It?

A friend told me about her son's Night of Notables school experience. She remembers it as "one of my proudest moments as a mom... I was shocked!! My normally shy child was transformed into this ball of confidence. I think I cried!" I immediately thought of my own normally shy son.

Night of Notables is usually a project for sixth graders and up, but I thought WHY NOT for the younger set?  Some websites charge $100 for instructions on "how-to's" but after a lot of research, I created my own simple guidelines for my five year old and allowed his imagination to run wild about what to include in his project.

What To Do:

1. Ask your child WHO he wants to learn more about. It is important that the Notable is a person your child is passionate about.

2. Offer your child guidelines on what needs to be in his/her display. I have handouts available here that are suitable for elementary children. I find that elementary children need some sort of structure so that they understand what is expected from a presentation.

3. Once he/she understands what the presentation is about, let your child take over the project.

4. Offer help only when needed.

5. You and your child will discover that this project teaches not only the biography of a Notable, but history, geography, copy work, typing, printing, drama, literature, and so much more.

6. The best thing about the Notables Project, it's all about STEALTH SCHOOLING: YOUR CHILD WILL WANT TO DO ALL THE WORK!

7. Each child will have their own way of presenting. Some will want to read a whole essay, some will want to ad lib, mine preferred note cards with short questions to guide him during his presentation. Mine  also wanted to make sure he was ready and asked to practice several times before the event.

8. WARNING: Notables at Noon is addictive. All the children in our past event are already looking forward to our next event in the Fall.

Some Examples: (note - the videos do not show how my son would have presented at the event, but rather what the presentation involved)

My five year old son loved every single minute he worked on his Johnny Depp presentation, as you can see here:

The same son almost a year later thoroughly enjoyed creating his Bruce Lee Presentation:

I am hoping to start a Notables at Noon homeschool movement!  Share some photos and videos with me if you have a chance!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

You know your homeschool is a success when...

1. people in your gifted homeschool circle who believe highly in "unschooling" think you are "superschooling" 

2. people think what you post about your homeschool is "put on"

3. there is nothing "put on" about my homeschool because my blog is full of photos or videos to show you what we do 

4. you find notes like this in your son's homeschool books:

3. Math is a daily must in your homeschool, your son says "I hate Math" for the longest time and then one day you find this written in your son's Math workbook. 

"I love Mama School and Daddy's Rowing (Daddy's the P.E. teacher here) and Math!"

4. you realize that what works for your family... works for your family. That is the most important thing!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

What Worked in Our Asynchronous Kindergartner's Homeschool

Firstly, some statistics on the last 7 1/2 months at our homeschool. Our Kindergartner:
  • enjoyed the outdoors for at least 188 hours 
  • did 1,031 hours of homeschool work
  • wrote 1 novel, 1 comic book, and 5 book reviews
  • read a total of 245 books
  • rowed 200,000 meters in a year
  • appeared in 1 play and 1 music video
  • ended this school year more asynchronous than before: almost done with 2nd grade Math, writing  and spelling at 3rd grade level, working on reading comprehension at 3rd and 4th grade level, reading fiction up to 7th grade level.
Secondly, what has worked for him this past year?


We introduced our son to real art materials, not just crayons and water color pencils. Art Appreciation followed our history curriculum. More information here.


Our son uses Rosetta Stone for Mandarin and the Elementary Spanish Program by the University of Northern Arizona. The former is more difficult to get through, my son is now only finishing up Level 1 Unit 2 after a year and a half. He also attends a Mandarin class once a week. The latter is easier to follow and he will be finishing up Grade 3-4. Rosetta Stone is better in that our son can actually conduct simple conversation in Mandarin, but he probably enjoys the easy presentation of his Spanish Program.


Matching Postcards with Countries of Origin

Map Work

Our son loved the Evan Moore Geography Centers for Grades 4-5.


Our son loved the stories of MUD in Michael Clay Thomspon's Level 1. We are finishing up Music Hemispheres and plan to go on to Level 2 when we are done.


Lots of Dress Up (here as a Spartan Warrior)

Cooking Food (here King Alfred Cakes)

Arts and Crafts (here trying out his Viking Longship)

We follow Story of the World and Horrible Histories, which really enliven history through stories (the former) and a mix of comedy and horror (the latter) for my son.


My son doesn't really enjoy Math. He understands it and masters what is taught, but he is not motivated by the subject. That said, when we combine it with Brainpop Jr. or Brainpop videos, he is much happier during his Math lessons. We have tried, Math-U-See and Right Start Math, but prefer Singapore Math the best... although we are still plugging along in Grade 2.

Using "magic tricks" or having him "teach" us also helps:


We used the 6-8 year old curriculum and our son loved it. We decided to continue with MBTP and are now on their 7-9 year old package. I think it is a better fit. If I had to do it all over again, I would have advanced my son to the 7-9 year old package sooner. That said, he can still learn a lot from the process of literature studies (more information here). They also have SOCIAL STUDIES units, which is used alongside a literature study unit. I found this in my son's Amazing Weather MBTP Unit. If that doesn't 'sell' MBTP products, I don't know what will! ;)


Our son studies Drums (with a teacher who uses Echo games), Piano (at home) and Violin (with a teacher who uses the Suzuki method). Like Art Appreciation, Music Appreciation follows our history curriculum. More information here.


Our son studied Christopher Reeve and Bruce Lee this year. The video of the Bruce Lee project to be uploaded in May.


Our son really enjoyed the discussions in Jonathan Wolff's The Self-Awakened Child series, the stories in Wisdom Tales from Around the World and the activities in A Season for Nonviolence: 64 Daily Practices for Children. Some assignments from 64 Practices for Children includes smiling at a stranger, saying something nice to someone you don't know very well, expressing gratitude to someone...


After introducing new material, our son needs time to PLAY in order to internalize and practice using this knowledge. More information here.


Our son read 245 books this year.

His favorite books? Comics, graphic novels and fiction.

His favorite authors? Roald Dahl, Suzy Kline, Brian Selznick, J.K. Rowling, Chris Butler, Grace Lin, Eth Clifford, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, James Howe, Alvin Schwartz, Cornelia Funke.

This year, he also stopped asking me to read to him. They really grow up too fast!


We used Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding for K-2. Although it seems like a lot of reading and preparation for the teacher, it isn't. In fact, it makes teaching science so much easier. After studying Earth Materials, our son's Rock Project just took off. More here.

We also used Engineering is Elementary's Designing Walls:

and Building Bridges.


Finally, LEGO has been introduced into our curriculum too.


All About Spelling Level 2 and 3. Easy to follow for our son. We didn't buy the manipulatives, just the teacher's book. I just dictated words 4 days a week.


Writing Letters to Teachers to Thank Them

LEGO's Story Starter is a wonderful program for kids who like to building things before or after they tell a story. Our son enjoyed creating his first comic book with his new LEGO.

Nanowrimo's Young Writer's Program has a fantastic and FREE program for Kindergartners up. Our son would only write a word or sentence for me, but after using the curriculum, he wrote a chapter a day. Our son had a blast writing his novel entitled Chisel and Fluffy.

San Francisco Book Review has a wonderful Kid Book Review Program. Your child gets to choose and keep the book that they review. Sometimes, they get to 'talk' to the author of the book they review too.'s A Zombie Wrote My Essay is a really fun fiction writing program for kids who love a bit of horror. Writing lessons are taught by a comedic Vampire teacher, Mr. Butt, and his student, an equally funny and messy character. My son couldn't wait for 'Mr. Butt' lessons.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why and How Play is Important in Our Homeschool

Preschool was a breeze for my son. He was always one step ahead of me. I was the one who wasn't ready for him to keep going and it seemed to me that I was always scrambling to get him books or information he was interested in.

Towards the end of his Kindergarten year (this school year), my son again showed me he was one step ahead of me.  He did not want to rush through school. He wanted to be immersed in learning.  


While before school took only 1 to 2 hours, it seemed to increase overnight to 4 hours with me rushing through it and with my son not enjoying it at all. I really wanted to be 'done' with school sooner so that we could have more time to play and relax afterwards. My son, on the other hand, wanted a lot more time to absorb  new information. 

One of the two dialogues we had one day:

While studying our Weather Unit, our son was writing in his weather log:
Me: Come on! You are done! Let's get back inside. Nothing else to write. We can have a break and we can do Math after the break.
Son: It's beautiful outside Mama. Look! All blue skies, no clouds, slight breeze. We could play hide and seek in this weather!

On the same day, after our lessons on Vikings,
Son: Let's play Vikings. You can be a Viking woman.
Me: Do I have to be Gunnhild? Can I just take photos of you? I don't want to play. We have so many things still to do.
Son: No Mama. You have to go on a Viking raid with me. My bed is the longship, ok?

After complaining to everyone that boys really don't LISTEN, it finally clicked. I thought my son didn't LISTEN to me, when actually I wasn't listening to HIM and his NEEDS. My mistake was not acknowledging that PLAY is important in my son's LEARNING! When I realised this, I allowed PLAY BACK INTO OUR HOMESCHOOL and what a difference! 


from Lori Pickert's Project Based Homeschooling

Homeschooling now can last 5 to 6 hours a day, but I'm not the nag I hated and my son now immerses himself in his lessons. Overnight, he began to really cherish his homeschool days. When I recently asked my son what the best part of our homeschool days are, he didn't hesitate,

"All of it Mama! I'll never want to go to [another] school if you keep teaching me THIS way Mama!"

What do I do differently? After we study each subject, if my son wants to 'play' after his lesson, we PLAY. This play usually means reenacting everything we just studied. After a Math exercise on dollars and cents, for example, he wanted to play cashier: writing receipts, calculating how much I owed the cashier and giving me change. After a lesson on Storms, he pretended to see snow, sleet, hail and rain outside the window, and described the temperature and sky conditions each needs to form. It seems to me that these crucial times of PLAY are my son's way of TESTING his own knowledge. What a creative and subtle way to find out what he learned!

from Lori Pickert's Project Based Homeschooling

When I allowed my son time to play after each lesson, I learned that PLAY TIME is KEY in the PROCESS, IMMERSION and ENJOYMENT of his LEARNING. Plus, Mama isn't a sourpuss anymore. In fact, she gets to have lots of fun in the process too.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jamming at Home


This year, we are trying to study music alongside our history and art lessons. I am finding it easy to simply youtube examples. Recently, we have been enjoying Viking music.

This one comes with different pictures to go with the Viking theme, which is nice:

We have also introduced Wagner and The Ride of the Valkyries. I wouldn't have thought a Kindergartner would enjoy it but my son will come running to me if he hears me playing this on the computer!


I teach my son piano lessons at home and he gets to jam a lot on our keyboard, which he finds enjoyable. He can choose the 'voice' of each piece when practicing which makes his lessons a lot of fun for him.

Bridal Chorus (Trumpet)

Ode to Joy (with Drum Beats)

He takes drum and violin lessons with teachers. I don't have a video of him on the Violin, but here's an old one of him from last year jamming at home on the drums.

He also took part in the filming of his first music video with a Kindie Band. It was a really fun experience for him.

Enlivening The Art Experience in Our Kindergartner's Homeschool


I find that in our homeschool, history and art appreciation go hand in hand. My son's history lessons come alive in looking at historical artifacts and in recreating them himself.

His Spartan Warrior Helmet



We also supplement with art lessons... not just any art lessons, but high quality art lessons that are not elementary. It is important to me that my son is able to use high quality material even at this introductory stage because I believe this helps involve him much more in the process and in instilling a greater appreciation for this craft.  Our teacher this past semester simplified his college course for our homeschool coop. It was a wonderful experience for them that made a huge impact on how they understand and view art today.

Making Pigment


Making Fresh Tempera Paint


Making Fresh Oil Paints


Mixed Media Collage


Flemish Style of Painting (using charcoal, tempera and oils)


Encaustic Wax Portraiture


Creating Mosaics