About Me

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Michigan, United States
a registered yoga teacher, and a Thai/Yoga Bodywork practitioner.

Friday, September 23, 2011

3rd week -- September

We're back from a break while Mom (I) finished Thai Yoga Bodywork training in MN. Onto to China (digitally)...

This episode of Wild China started in the north, just beyond the Great Wall. In one general latitude, it's mountainous, grassy plains, freezing, and barren desert.

It introduced the silk worm and showed how processing silk is done the old way--by hand. They collect the cocoons, drop them in hot water, pull the caterpillar out and use wooden spinning wheels to make thread. I'll never take a piece of silk for granted again!

Marco Polo was mentioned, which piqued Nate's interest, so we looked up Marco's route. He traveled for twenty-four years, one website says. Nate noticed the dates and connected the fact that America was far from "founded," but I corrected him.
"Remember when we discussed the mass migration out of Africa? People walked over ice and came into the Americas tens of thousands of years before Europeans did?" (Nipping that Euro-centric notion in the bud.)

After the video:
"I have a treat for you...a China treat."
(They were thinking food, of course. It wasn't food.)

It was an online language site with free Mandarin Chinese lessons: L-Lingo. We learned how to recognize the words for girl, boy, man, woman, ship, and bike. We forgot them by lunch. There's no fast-food equivalent for learning a language.

Our language arts is less constructed this year. I have pangs of wanting to impose more grammar, but after talking with another h-schooling mom (who started her 10 year old on grammar THIS year), I feel less uneasy. I want them to enjoy writing before we start tampering with how "wrong" it is here, there, and everywhere.

We are using Writing Magic, which is more about inspiring ideas. It's not a curriculum. The author has written many books and talks about how much "junk" she needs to doodle before good ideas come. The kids practice yesterday was to read the chapter to each others (my hands were covered in raw chicken since I was making dinner).

Then I asked "anyone" to summarize the chapter in one sentence. Nate said, "If you don't know what to write, just start writing junk." Yes!

The assignment was to come up with twelve story ideas.They hunched over their notebooks. Nate leafed through a Halloween costume catalog "for ideas." Then he said, "I don't know if these [ideas] are good."

"They don't have to all be good, remember?" I replied. After a moment's thought, I added: "When you turn on the hot water for a bath, does it come out hot right away?"
"So do you turn off the tap and wait for the water to be hot before you turn it on? No. You have to let it run. Well, ideas are like that. You have to turn on the tap--start writing--before good ideas will come."


Wrapping up the circulatory system and the liver, the options for an ending project included:

  • Write a story about a trip around the body (circulation or digestion)
  • Draw a diagram of the body's circulation system or digestive system
  • Make a hanging mobile of the body's organ ("For a baby!" they responded, with sardonic glee)
  • Make a picture dictionary

Nate chose the diagram.

I gave him some guidelines (and a hand) with sketching out the organ placement. We had a printed picture to look at and a blank template of the body. I showed him how to section off the organs by top border (armpits) and bottom border (um, the "bottom"), and the middle, which fell across the transverse colon.

Then we looked at basic shapes. The liver is like a right triangle; the large intestine makes a squarish letter "C." I showed him how to draw with the paper sideways or upside down. "Then you'll see the shapes better."

"I'm sorry, Mom, but I can't draw that way." He turned the page right-side up again.

Perhaps we should do a drawing unit. Learning to draw is not a "life skill" by academic standards, but Nate is convinced he "can't" draw.

I said, "That's like me saying 'I can't play football.' Of course I don't know how; I never do it. It doesn't mean I can't."

How to teach drawing? I did a web search. There's a book an artist friend recommended years ago: Drawing for the Right Side of the Brain.  It has possibilities.

Madelyn dove right into making a picture dictionary (she's a book-making veteran, in business since kindergarten). She has neither the reluctance to create nor the self-doubt about her abilities. She cut and pasted pictures into alphabetical order and left her work at Dad's seat "so he can see it when he comes home."

Dad leafed through it at dinner. "Ohhh, there's a penis. And it's labeled. How nice."

"There's a uterus in there, too," I chimed.


Despite Wednesday being our busiest "errand" day, we found time to create and play "Baxter Ball."

All that remained for schoolwork was writing. It was 75 degrees and sunny. We took our tennis rackets to an open, green park in our neighborhood--a park rarely used, especially at 2 PM on a weekday. We took the dog, removed his leash, and hit tennis balls for him to chase. Madelyn preferred to chase the ball with Baxter; Nate was continually gauging the safety of this experiment (he's concerned about losing the dog). We had treats in our pockets and a dog that was fixated on a neon-yellow ball. He came back every time.

Having to integrate work and school overwhelms me some days. The kids wander into playing with each other when there's schoolwork left to be done, and I get edgy. From experience I have observed that the longer they stretch their schoolwork into the afternoon, the more they resist doing it.

Today I yelled and stomped about  not being able to "trust" them to "do [your] work before you play," while I'm busy with other things around home.

"And we have to go somewhere today so I can work! I DON'T HAVE ALL DAY TO STAY HOME AND WAIT FOR YOU TO FEEL LIKE DOING YOURS!"

Madelyn deadpans: "Mom? You're not teaching me anything except how to lose my temper."

[Sigh]. "Yes." [Deflating]. "I know."

So for those concerned that my kids are not getting social experiences,
they are learning to deal with a "boss" who loses it once and while.
They are learning that the people in charge don't always deliver ideas rationally and reasonably.
They are learning that someone "in charge" is not necessarily the superior human.


  1. "So do you turn off the tap and wait for the water to be hot before you turn it on? No. You have to let it run. Well, ideas are like that. You have to turn on the tap--start writing--before good ideas will come."

    Love this!

  2. I agree with Leanna - what an excellent analogy! Also:

    "Ohhh, there's a penis. And it's labeled. How nice."

    That had me laughing hard!

  3. We don't mince words about body parts. I don't want them to think of some bodily functions/parts as "good" and others as "bad." There are private parts, yes, but no cutsie names.

    When I'm trying to explain something, analogies like that pop into my head. Then I have to live up to my own teaching; it makes me accountable!