Thursday, October 29, 2015


Liam created this avatar of himself on Starfall, then went out to play with his scooter

I'm a voracious reader of other homeschooling blogs.  In part, I'm looking for some sense of community.  My blog is great for keeping track of our progress, but I want the chance to share ideas with other parents who have gone before (or are yet to come).  Last week, on Facebook, I read about a local homeschooling parents' involvement in Urban Homeschoolers.  A Google search and a phone call later and we were set to audit a couple of their classes in Atwater Village.

Urban Homeschoolers isn't a school, it's a resource center geared towards kids who are homeschooled or in a charter school and are looking for enrichment classes.  We asked to audit Natural Science, which promised to be very physical and Choir. 

Classes are grouped by age.  7-9 or 9-12 being Liam's range.  I decided to skew older, as the wee ones are a bit "zingy" with their energy and I was afraid Liam would have more trouble focusing.  It was a good call.  

The Science teacher, Mr. Guest,  is an experienced Waldorf teacher and he masterfully led the class through exploration of plant vs human life, ending with an indoor/outdoor encounter with ferns and designing and building their own fern plant out of paper. 

Liam was allowed to join in and seemed to be enjoying the tactile nature of the class.  At one point, he drifted to the chalk board, and I was afraid he was going to start drawing fonts or numbers, but instead, he started to write the key words that Mr. Guest was saying.  It was his way of connecting to the language.  Nobody seemed to mind in the least.

The next day we attended Choir with some seriously talented singers.  John and I were repeatedly impressed with the kindness, openness and easy, yet attentive manner of the kids we met.  At the end of Choir, I asked to register Liam for the rest of the semester.

This evening, I heard Liam say (out of nowhere), "I had fun with Mr. Guest."  As he rarely comments on anyone who isn't immediately present, that made me very happy. 

This afternoon, we returned to Riverside Drive to Coding Class, which Liam loves. 

I feel like we're finally creating a balance between Liam's amazing self-directed skills and connection to an outside network.  Outside we have: Tuesday nights - art, Wednesday morning - choir, Thursday afternoon - computer coding, Friday afternoon, natural science.  At home we have ST Math, BrainPop science and ESL, Mandarin, animation, and now Piano. 

I'll leave you with Liam's latest attempt at the Tetris theme.  

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Gift of Time

"It's HARD!"  I heard a lot of that over the past couple of weeks as we worked through the lessons on Area and Perimeter.  He'd get it, then lose it, then get it again.

What I love about ST Math is the ability to see the mistakes and keep working on it.  He's developed a lot of independence.  So much so, that he finished a level and went straight to the quiz, on his own.  While I hoped more had stuck, he only managed 40% on this level - an all-time low.  Since he got 80% on the pre-quiz, it also shows that he probably wasn't as careful with the language and making sure he really worked through all of the answers before making a choice - something I still have to remind him to do.   So he took the initiative, but rushed to finish and missed a lot.

In ST Math there is a little self-evaluation section where the student can rate how difficult, interesting or educational the unit was.  I watched him correctly assess that it was "Very Difficult,"  "Boring (he says that when it's hard and not moving forward)" and that he learned "A Little."

Fortunately, with a class of ONE, we can stay here a while, until he REALLY gets it.  Once more around the perimeter and through the area!

Monday, October 12, 2015


Autodidactic: a person who has learned a subject without the benefit of a teacher or formal education; a self-taught person. Origin of autodidact Expand. Greek. 1525-1535. 1525-35; < Greek autodídaktos self-taught; see auto-1, didactic.

One of the reasons we decided to homeschool was that Liam showed a remarkable ability to teach himself in his strongest areas of interest.  The videos he's made were made on programs he taught himself.  We showed him THAT he had PowerPoint on his machine when he was about 4, but he was the one who figured out how to do not only graphic layouts, but play with it in innovative ways to create mini-videos (it's what inspired me to show him stop-motion).

A few years ago, we hired a talented and flexible piano teacher, and while Liam learned quickly, he showed no interest in practicing.  We took a break from formal piano lessons to focus on something he does non-stop, art.

 Lately though, he's found a program called "Synthesia," which is a piano training program (  

He started by searching for tunes he liked, watching them on YouTube, then going to the piano and playing what he remembered.  Then he took his iPad with him, setting it up as sheet music on the piano and followed along with the program.  

Recently, he's been playing songs on his desktop, and tapping on the screen - not to make the notes, but to match the left and right hands, something he's working towards, slowly.

Although my husband is a classical pianist and composer, and I am an artist, Liam shows no interest in learning from either of us, when he can find it on his own.  The best part is that, even though he wants to find and practice it on his own, he is asking us to come and watch him more and more.  He's feeling the need to share.  

Amazing what he can do, if we just get out of his way!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

On The Road Again

When I was putting together a plan for this year's lessons, I decided to get us out of the house as much as possible.  Fortunately, there are plenty of great opportunities for exploration around Los Angeles.  And our new home is very near a Metro station, so I try to take advantage of it as much as possible.

Maybe, someday, Liam will have the focus to learn to drive a car, but at the moment, he's easily distracted by his favorite things, numbers and fonts!  So we take trips on the train (which he loves - more fonts and digital displays), and I take him through the process of loading the card, tapping it at the gate, looking for the right platform and getting off at the right station.

I know that his brain is always operating on two tracks at once.  During the trip, he's giving a running narrative of the fonts on every sign, with special notice paid to the number and type of digital displays.  After the trip, he remembers which train we rode and where.  I still need to remind him to board the train immediately, when the doors open, instead of reading the signs in the window, but he's getting the hang of it.  He's often the first one to notice the distinctive decor of each station.  I hope that the unique look of each stop will help him recognize them for future travel.

Last week, we visited the California Science Center to cap off our unit on body systems. 
They have a wonderful, permanent exhibit that shows how bodies function, including a show starring a 50 foot animatronic woman named "Tess."

  They also have exhibits which allow kids to pump blood and see how the respiratory system works in several different animals.  The best part is, the main part of the Science Center is always free, and with exhibits on habitat, space (including a retired Space Shuttle) and more, it's a fantastic place to visit in pieces, again and again.

Back at home, Liam has been enjoying his Chinese lessons.  This week, he learned a traditional poem.  After his teacher left, he somehow found a translation of it online (by himself) and we recorded him reading it in Mandarin and English.  He's a little excited.

Some days start out slowly, but later on, I'll find him on one of his educational sites, of his own volition.  I know he learns best when he can rewind and take things in pieces, even if it seems like he's just messing around.   If he's having fun, he'll play longer and more likely take more information in.

This learning experience is like a good road trip.  Have a plan, but be prepared to let it go and just enjoy the ride.