Friday, 23 December 2016

The "Where Have You Been?" Update

I just want to give a quick update of what we have been up to since February.

We hit a very difficult time in homeschooling at the beginning of the year, to the extent that we considered the option of putting Tiger into school and me going back to work.  We went through the motion to find Tiger a place at a private school (after the sitting the usual entrance tests).

The process of admission to a good private school with excellent academic results is another post altogether, but because we made our decision at the last minute, we missed the usual application deadlines so it was all a bit of a rush to secure him a place as the school told us it was fully subscribed, and that there was no place for him.  Nonetheless, they had him take the entrance exam, giving us a day's notice, so there was no time to prepare.  It was just as well since Tiger would not be persuaded to prepare for tests anyway.  So, without any expectation or preparation, he took the tests the next day and the school secretary called me that same afternoon to offer him a place.  As a result, since September, the boy has been attending a small private school near where we live.

Why a private school?  The main reason is physical safety.  I am not joking.  The state schools around here are quite rough, and I have very little comfort that the environment is one that is condusive to studying.

Do I think that private schools provide a better education?  I would say that depends on what the yardstick of comparison is.  If compared to state schools, maybe so; but I personally think home education trumps private school education on all fronts, if it were done properly, of course.

For those who are interested or curious, there is an attempt to demystify the difference between a private education (where only 7% of the UK population attends) and a state education:

So what am I doing now that Tiger is at school?  Most days I spend 12 hours in the shark pool, which resembles this:

Life takes on unexpected turns.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A Very Special Monkey

For those who are not familiar with the Chinese zodiac signs, I wrote about it in this post.  This year being the Year of the Monkey, I decided to introduce Tiger to one of the Chinese classics, Journey to the West ( 《西游记》)

As with many Chinese children, Tiger's first introduction to this Chinese classic is through animation:

After seeing him become enamoured with the cartoon above, I told Tiger that the cartoon shows only a very selection of the monkey's journey, and that it is part of a very long Chinese novel.  He immedidately asked me get him the story.  I got him the abridged, single-book version of the classic to see how he got on with the story.  At 528 pages, the abridged version gives a good overview of the actual novel but when I asked Tiger whether he read about the characters' encounters with certain demons, Tiger realised that there are many juicy and interesting adventures that are being left out, so he asked me to get him the unabridged, four-volume version:
  1. Volume 1 - 576 pages
  2. Volume 2 - 424 pages
  3. Volume 3 - 464 pages
  4. Volume 4 - 440 pages
Seeing Tiger read this Chinese classic novel in English translation (I read the original Chinese version) brings back memory of my own experience of reading Pride and Prejudice in Chinese translation at about 12 years old.   Obviously it is always preferable to read a story in its original language as certain linguist nuances and subtleties are often lost in in the translation process, but where one's language skills are not up to the required standard to allow one to read the original text, then finding a good translated version is the next best thing to do.

When Tiger has read the four books through twice (it took him about a week), I showed him a TV series based on the book.  While this classic has been adapted into movies and other performances many times over the years (the latest one being a new movie based on one of the major adventures from the book):

the 1986 TV version is the one that I think stays closest to the original novel, and the actor who played the monkey is acknowledged as unsurpassed in his interpretation of the character:

Journey to the West is the most popular, accessible of the four major Chinese classics.  Even those who have not read the book would know about a number of the fantastical adventures of the main characters in the story.  However, although the story is written in the form of a historical fantasy/myth, the story has a much deeper, spiritual meaning to it, in a very similar way that The Lord of the Rings is so much more than a fantasy story. 

The following video is rather appropriate as a new year wish from me to you: may your year be full of wonderful adventures!  I know mine will be!

(I know those are apes in the video but they belong to the same primate family as monkeys.  Besides, they make me laugh, so that'll do for Chinese New Year.  I'm sure Sun Wukong would approve!)

*Disclosure: some links are affiliate links, which means I earn a commission if you click through and buy something.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Collage Friday
  2. Multicultural Kid Blogs
  3. Hip Homeschool Hop 2/16/16 - 2/20/16
  4. Finishing Stron #77
  5. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one that started with an amazing Valentine gift

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Year of the Monkey

The Year of the Monkey started last Monday.  The celebration usually lasts 15 days so we have two weeks to mark this significant Chinese festival.

As with last year, Tiger and I found an Chinese New Year-related activity to do in London.  This time, the National Gallery had a short workshop on decorating the Peking Opera mask, so we went along and did that.

Although the workshop emphasised creativity, which Tiger exercised plenty of, his mask doesn't look particularly Chinese in colour or design, so I asked him to read the Origins of Chinese Art and Craft as well as Lianpu in order to look into the significance of the design and colours of the various traditional Peking opera masks to understand that they are not chosen randomly.  We also found the following clip useful to give us a better understanding of this art form:

From the National Gallery, we walked to Chinatown to buy a few special items in preparation for the Chinese New Year as well as to eat a hearty meal.  It is interesting to see that we have chosen exactly the same food as last year.

Once we got home, we started decorating the house by putting up various decorative items around the house, much like what people would do to decorate their homes for Christmas.

Many of the Chinese decorations have symbolic meanings that usually mean well-wishes and the ushering in of good fortune and prosperity for the family.  Unlike a child who grows up in the East who will understand the symbolism behind the various Chinese decorations through sheer exposure to the culture in his environment, Tiger does not have such luxury so he has to find out about the symbolic meaning of the various decorations through reading books.

This year's New Year's Eve dinner was quite special in that I bought the 'Yu Sheng' (鱼生) from Chinatown.

This dish is like a raw salmon salad that is only eaten during the Chinese New Year period, and is a tradition of Chinese living in Southeast Asia.  It is a dish to be eaten with family and friends as a way to welcome prosperity for everyone in the new year:

*Disclosure: some links are affiliate links, which means I earn a commission if you click through and buy something.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Finishing Strong #76
  2. Collage Friday
  3. Multicultural Kid Blogs
  4. Hip Homeschool Hop 2/16/16 - 2/20/16
  5. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one that started with an amazing Valentine gift
  6. Practical Mondays Link Up Week #2

Monday, 1 February 2016

Begin at the Beginning

One of the things tha I try to do in our homeschool is to go through history in a chronological order.  In the elementary grades (Cycle 1, according to some factions of the Classical education model), we started from the ancient world.  Now that we are in the middle grades (Cycle 2), I want to start at the beginning again, but this time I want to start at the beginning of life, i.e. prehistory.

One can go as far back as the Big Bang Theory, or the birth of the earth, but that, to me, is stretching too far into science so I decided that we will just start from the evidence of life, i.e. fossils.  It is very handy that our patio is laid with natural stones that contain fossilised plant imprints, so that is a very good place to start.

It doesn't take much to pique Tiger's curiosity so I directed him to the relevant books to acquire the necessary background information,

before breaking out a fossil-making kit to make plaster casts of various fossils.

Tiger also made a scaled-down cardboard model of a Hibbertopterus, which is a two-metre long prehistoric sea scorpion whose trackway (made 330 million years ago) was found preserved in sandstone in Fife.

In our typical fashion of homeschooling, we wanted to see whether we could find any real fossils ourselves so we visited a quarry in Gloucestershire to try our luck.

There was a whole lot of stone-staring that day... we were at a quarry after all.

Take for example the following: do you see anything special about these stones?  Are they just some rocks?

How about now?  Can you spot the fossilised mollusks embedded in the stones?

Once we knew what we were looking at/for, thanks to the very helpful geologists with whom we tagged along on the trip, we started finding fossilised bivales everywhere on the site!  If they were not exciting enough, I'd just like to mention that they are from the Jurssaic period (205 - 102 million years ago) too.

I don't know about you, but I personally think it's very cool to actually find something that is hundreds of millions of years old.  That got us to contemplate the geological changes that have taken place on earth through the ages, such as the simple fact that the land that we were standing on was once the sea floor where these prehistoric creatures dwelt in.

We brought two big bags of fossils home with us that day.  Once they were thoroughly cleaned and dried, we identified each one using a fossil identification chart.  The most interesting one that we found was the gryphaea, commonly known as the devil's toetail from Victorian folklore.

After identification, Tiger made notes in his science notebook to record his observation by a variety of methods that include drawing and taking rubbings.

Below are a few samples from his notes on fossils:

We watched First Life for review, and to check whether we had any gaps in our knowledge so far.  While we have learnt much from books and especially on the field trip, there is nothing quite like watching a good documentary to bring the prehistoric habitats to life.

The link from the study of prehistoric fossils to present day is that of fossil fuel, which we read about using the following books.

However, the greatest outcome of our study so far has been that Tiger is now the proud owner of his own sizeable collection of fossils, which he is only too happy to talk about all day to anyone who'd listen.  I therefore have been on the receiving end of a much-needed education on the various fossils that include:
  • their identification
  • where they were found
  • the geological time period in which the original creatures existed

* This post contains affliate links to products that we have bought and used ourselves, and that I recommend.  I earn a little bit of money, at no extra cost to you, when you make a purchase through the link.  Thank you for your support.  :-)

This post is linked up to:
  1. Finishing Strong ~ Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years #74
  2. Collage Friday: A Day in the Life of Our Homeschool
  3. Weekly Wrap-Up: The last one before Texas
  4. Hip Homeschool Hop: 2/2/16 - 2/6/16

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Liebster Award Nomination

I have very kindly been awarded the Leibster award by Lynn at Raising Little Shoots. Thank you, Lynn!  Sorry it has taken me so long to get round to it but better late than never!

Liebster Award Rules  
  • Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
  • Display the Liebster Award on your blog
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions you were asked.
  • Nominate 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers for the Award and have them answer 11 questions.
  • Let the other bloggers know you’ve nominated them.
  • Copy the rules into your post.

Here are my 11 Random Facts:

1.  For a time I used to read exclusively non-fiction books but now I read more fiction books.
2.  I used to play the piano really well.
3.  I dream in another language.
4.  I have a deeper emotional connection with the language that I was brought up in.
5.  My memories of my siblings are frozen in time so in my mind's eyes they are still tweens(!), which must really irritate them because I sometimes forget and still treat them as such, even though they are in their 30s now.
6.  I can't be sure about this one, but I suspect I may be a luddite.
7.  I don't mind driving fast but I don't like to be a passenger when someone else is driving fast.

8.  Of the online friends that I've made through this blog, I've only ever met and spoken with two in real life.  It's nice to know that there are at least two real (non-virtual), wonderful people who read this blog.

9.  I have eaten barbecued fruits bats, compliments of a friend and her family in Borneo.

10.  I once saw a burning corpse floating down the Ganges while people were washing clothes or bathing themselves a few hundred yards away.

11.  I once spent 10 days floating down the Nile in a felucca boat.

Answers to Lynn's 11 Questions:
1.  Your favourite season?  Autumn.

2.  The words I’d like to live by are…  Be true to who you are.

3.  Introvert or extrovert?  Introvert.

4.  Your favourite childhood place?  My childhood home.

5.  Which character from a book would you most like to meet and why?  Siddharta from Herman Hesse's Siddharta, because I am intrigued by the character's path to spiritual fulfillment.

6.  What are your hobbies?  Too many to list.  The only hobby I can manage with an acceptable level of consistency at present is reading.

7.  Something you’re good at?  Cooking.

8.  What would your super-power be?  Empathy.

9.  Your favourite drink?  Chai Latte.

10.  Your favourite book?  Siddharta

11.  What kind of day are you having today?  Hmm... that's a hard question to answer at the moment.  Lots of ups and downs is all I can say.

11 Questions for my nominees:
  1. What did you do before you became a homeschooling mum?
  2. What is your greatest joy?
  3. What is your worst fear?
  4. What is your dream destination?
  5. Why do you blog?
  6. What are your personal dreams?
  7. What is the most exciting thing you have done?
  8. What are your plans for when homeschooling is over?
  9. Which book/movie has the deepest influence on you?
  10. In what ways has the book/movie chosen in question 9 influenced you?
  11. Who do you look up to?

I don't really know of many blogs with fewer than 200 followers, so I am nominating the following blogs in good faith.  Please don't be offended if you already have more than 200 followers and I thought you didn't, because I honestly don't mean to cause offence!  My nominees (in no particular order) are:
  1. journey-and-destination 
  2. Luminous Fire
  3. Stories of an Unschooling Family
  4. The Queen of Hats
  5. Frolicking Flamingoes
  6. Quark Academy  
  7.  Laugh, Love, Learn
  8. delivering grace

* This post contains affliate links to products that we have used and that I truly recommend.  I earn a little bit of money, at no extra cost to you, when you make a purchase through the link.  Thank you for your support.  :-)

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Slowly Making My Way Back

Hello, everybody!  Remember us?

Many things have gone on at the home front since mid-December, which explains my absence on this blog.  There has been much joy, with the birth of my new nephew thousands of miles away (which Tiger is very happy about since he is therefore no longer the youngest member in the family),

and Tiger recovering from his nasty ear infection in time for us to enjoy a wonderful Christmas with all of the family.

As if all these excitement was not enough, my little cozy world was, and still is, somewhat "shaken" by a few remarks and observations that I received both online and offline.  As though being hit by a wave of personal issues all at once, I had to take time off from blogging and from many other activities to think things over, to untangle each interconnected piece so that I can tackle each one effectively.

Meanwhile, one of the issues/topics that have come up again and again over the years in various forms is that of giftedness.  I intend to share more of our experiences very soon.  While you're waiting for me to get my act together, may I direct you to a few related posts that I have written over the years, particularly this one that was written in 2012?
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