Homeschool Diary

It’s more than a little bewildering that it’s October already. I’ve been meaning to write these homeschool updates on a weekly basis, at least. You guys made such awesome suggestions last year, and we sure as heck need them. But somehow I never quite got around to doing it, and now six weeks have flown by. It’s crazy.

So, Lea, what are you doing in school these days?

History: She and her mom have been reading about the Renaissance. I understand they are reading a lot about Leonardo Da Vinci, and about Italian art in general, with complementary works of fiction by Avi. I have no idea how much Lea is retaining of this.

Spelling/Vocabulary/Reading Comprehension: We’re relying a fair amount on a computer program, I forget the name at the moment. Lea spends a part of each day reading and doing the quizzes, and seems to enjoy it. (And why not? She’s good at spelling and vocabulary and reading comprehension.)

Math: I go home every day at lunch to teach her math for an hour or so. We’ve given up on Khan Academy — the order of the lessons is not idealized, and they sometimes refer to concepts that have not yet been introduced. We’ve moved over to a fairly standard pre-algebra textbook, and that is working pretty well. Bonus: For each lesson, the book contains a decent number of word problems, which has always been a weakness. She has improved quite a bit at applying abstract concepts. We just finished a review of perimeter and area, and she made a chart in Excel comparing the length and width of different sports fields.

Computer Science: We are kinda stalled out on Scratch. She still uses it, and enjoys it, but we haven’t pushed forward in the past few weeks. She knows practically every command Scratch has to offer — it’s putting those commands together in more and more challenging ways that eludes us. My cursory search for a list of intermediate Scratch projects has gone nowhere.

I plan on participating in a large-scale online class called A Gentle Introduction to Python, and I’m hoping Lea will come along with me for the ride. We’ll see. We’ve done a little prep work on the subject, and she seemed to enjoy it.

Regular Science: A source of major frustration — my wife and I simply do not know what to do here other than “read a bunch of books with her.” Lea has become interested in diamonds and gems — how they’re formed, how they’re mined, etc. So we’ve got a whole lot of books on that subject floating around. We need to get into more hands-on stuff. We’ve been saying that for a while.

Writing: She needs to do more. She’s pretty good at writing, but she doesn’t like it. She’d rather write about her adventures in Pixie Hollow, and to some extent we allow that… but we also need to teach her to absorb information, process it, and relate it back in some way. I asked her just this morning to do a report — any sort of report; written, oral, whatever — on gems and diamonds. She sighed deeply.

Outside classes: Her homeschool co-op meets once a week, and her classes this year seem more social than instructive, which is fine. She’s also continuing with tennis classes, and pottery. It remains a fantasy that I might entice her towards a musical instrument.

Miscellaneous: Ted-Ed videos. Vi Hart’s videos. She won’t simply decide to pick up a book on her own, alas, but she doesn’t mind the mandatory half-hour of reading we impose on her every evening: She’s been going through all the Droon books. We’re always playing one game or another: Lately, it’s been The Room, Blast-A-Way, and the surprisingly challenging problem-solving game Bad Piggies.

Gosh, it actually seems like a lot when I write it all out here, which sets my mind at ease — I continue to wonder sometimes if homeschooling was ever the right move. (Most homeschool parents I know, including my wife, are 3000% more confident about homeschooling than I am.) The gaps are more than evident, however. We can’t seem to get Lea to do any significant amount of independent work, outside of that spelling/vocab program. And science needs a big-ass boost. Is there a Khan Academy for elementary-school science? (Bill Gates, get on that!)

Countering my worry that we’re screwing her up by keeping her out of school is the clear evidence that on some level she is learning every minute of the day. Just last night she said, “Arrgh, I can’t get this song out of my head!”

I replied, “Do you know what that’s called? When a song is stuck in your head? It’s called an earworm.”

“Oh right!” she said. “I know that from Spongebob Squarepants!”

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  1. Kath
    Posted October 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    Do you have a science museum in your area? You might investigate programs or classes there to get her the hands-on element. I wish I were closer; I’d happily volunteer to help with that part of her education.

    For gems and minerals, you might try to pick up a set of rock/mineral samples (e.g. and a test kit (e.g., and a book on identifying them. Using a streak test on pyrite is a really cool way to show that what you see on the surface isn’t necessarily the whole story (pyrite’s gold, but you get a dark green streak from it). Sites like Ward’s and Edmund Scientific have all kinds of equipment available. There are also sites that specifically cater to homeschooling, though be careful; I once flipped through such a catalog and found several creationist books, and other books had warnings about how they included evolutionary thought.

    This kit is kind of cute:

    If you have particular topics you’re interested in, let me know. I’ll be at an NSTA convention in early December, and the vendors there often have good stuff for sale.


  2. Andrew (530nm330Hz) Greene
    Posted October 5, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Apparently “earworm” (in the modern sense) is one of the words MW added to 11C this year. But the earliest citation is from 1802, referring to the “corn earworm”, which is ” a noctuid moth (Helicoverpa zea syn. Heliothis zea) whose large striped yellow-headed larva is especially destructive to Indian corn, tomatoes, tobacco, and cotton bolls”


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