Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas in Hong Kong

Our very comfortable hotel - East Hotel.
Instead of staying home for Christmas we decided to fly for three days to Hong Kong. It was my and kids first time on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. The city didn't really impress us much ... but we still had a great time.

Views from the airport bus to the hotel - far from pretty.

We not only walked around the city, but also took all possible means of public transportation - bus, tram, taxi, small bus, boat, underground and train (all of us agree that the taxi was the worst). It was very convenient with the Octopus card.

Doubledecker tram, Tim on a ferry and plan of MTR.
We tried some local food and drinks.

What is "Milk water egg"? Condensed milk diluted with water with
a raw egg inside - quite nice. The drinks very really good
and the jelly eggs were fun to eat too.
Jas loves LEGO so we couldn't miss a visit to the Times Square where big Lego figures and houses were set out.

What surprised us most: the lack of scooters, many Taiwanese restaurants and very few bookstores.
We also met a wonderful homeschooling family who a few years ago has sailed on a catamaran across the Pacific with their two young daughters. They invited us to their boat, where kids played a game of "Risk" and we had time to chat.
Tim wouldn't be himself if he hasn't arranged to meet with Hongkongese families interested in homeschooling. It's not easy to homeschool legally in Hong Kong as there is no set application procedure. Still there are quite a few families that choose to educate their kids at home.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Getting the house ready for Christmas

Last year we were away from home for the whole Christmas season, so there was no reason to decorate the house or to put the Christmas tree up. This year, we are spending most of December at home, so we wanted to have the house all ready for the Holidays.

We invited our homeschooling neighbours for an afternoon
of making dough ornaments.
This is how they turned out.

Kids also made origami and Hama Beads ornaments.
We've also put out the old and new decorations,
mangers and ornaments.
And of course a very colorful Christmas tree!
Zosia made some cute sweets from marzipan
and Jas made and decorated cookies.

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Young Voice Super Festival

Zosia sharing her experience at the camp.
During summer Zosia participated in a few summer camps organized by Fubong Culture and Education Foundation 富邦文教基金會.

For one of the camps she went to Orchid Island 蘭嶼 off the south eastern coast of Taiwan to learn about the aboriginal way of life. At the end of the camp kids had to make a short film presentation about what they have learned.

Another camp was in Tainan, where she explored the newly opened National Museum of Taiwan History 國立台灣歷史博物館. During this camp she not only learned history of Taiwan, but also made a short feature film about one event from the history using the photos taken inside the museum.

Images from "The Kite" animation
For the last camp Zosia gathered a group of eight homeschoolers interested in film making and together they signed up for the film making camp. After a few days of learning about acting, working as a group and preparing a script for their movie only half of the groups was asked to stay for two additional days of filming. Zosia's group was not chosen to stay, but ... was offered an even better deal - they would be given time and an animantion teacher's help to finish their work back in Taipei. This way the Homeclub Image, as they call themselves, met for a few days in September to finish their work.

But that's not all ... The same group of eight homeschoolers was given an opportunity to learn more about photography during a special three  day photo session. The subject of their work was - graduation photo. The kids came up with some wonderful and very interesting photos which tell us a lot about how they see themselves.


The first weekend of December was the time for all the kids, who participated in Fubong's camps, to present their work - the films, the animations, the photos and the writings. Youngsters from all over Taiwan came to Taipei to see the premieres of their films and talk about their summer camps experiences.
The homeschooler's graduation photos had a special exhibit with their work printed in huge sizes. Everything looked really professional.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A visit from St Nicholas

December 6th was St. Nicholas Day. It is a tradition that on that day kids in Poland receive small gifts, usually sweets and chocolates, put under their beds at night by the Good Old St Nick. This year St Nick was a bit busy and didn't get here on time, he was late by two days. He also thought that instead of stuffing the kids's tummies with more sweets it would be better to "stuff" their brains with some literature. 

Kids also wrote letters to Święty Mikołaj, as we call Santa in Polish. 

Jas even left a snack for tired Santa and carrots for Rudolph.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Planet Earth and map projections mindmap

Zosia has just finished reading (and studying) The Usborne Encyclopedia of Planet Earth. Everything that a teenager should know about our Earth - climate, plants and animals, land shapes, rivers and oceans, the planet itself, earthquakes and volcanoes - can be found in this book. In addition to that Usborne Quicklinks's website has many links to different interesting and fun websites explaining even more in depth these issues.

As a last exercise from this book, Zosia has created a mindmap about different map projections. Here it is:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

One very busy girl

This time I would like to write a few words about my 15 year-old daughter.
After we got back to Taiwan from Poland I've realized what a busy teenager she is. It's really hard to believe in how many different things/activities she is involved.

This semester she doesn't have many classes outside home, only art class and ice-skating. After 10 years of dancing in Cloud Gate Dance Studio, Zosia decided to quit, not because she doesn't like dancing anymore, but because of conflicting schedule. She chose to take part in the production of a first Taiwanese musical "Dancing Diva" 台灣舞孃. One night a week she spends 4 hours observing the rehearsals and helping with little tasks. This way she is learning how a big theater production takes shape. She can see the work of director, producer, music director, choreographer and of course dancers and actors.

Last week TEDx Youth@Taida took place in Taipei. Also in this event Zosia had a small part to play - she was one of the announcers.  Zosia and her 20 year-old partner had only two evenings to prepare for this event. It was a bit of a rush. Zosia thinks that if only they had more time to rehearse the presentation would be much better, much more smooth. In my opinion, Zosia has done a wonderful job, I am really proud of her that despite having so little time to prepare she managed to performed this well.

Last week one of the TV news programs came to our house to film a short interview with Tim and kids about Khan Academy. Lately this form of teaching/learning is gaining more and more interest in Taiwan. The math part of Khan Academy is being translated into Chinese and some more remote schools have started using it as an additional math material for students. We've been using Khan for the past two years and the TV news was interested how the kids like it and how they actually use it - as a main introduction to new math concepts or as a review tool.

The "book tour" is still underway. Tim and Zosia went all the way to Kaohsiung (in the south of Taiwan) to meet with the readers of our book. About 100 people came to the event, that is a very large turnout!

Few days ago Zosia was asked to prepare two short movies about herself for a movie festival called "Change Makers" and organized by a very popular Taiwanese writer and radio personality Tom Wang 王文華. One of the movies shows her as an ice-skater and the other is a compilation of 3 interviews talking about her. Quite interesting.

In the coming weeks she will be just as busy:
  • TV is coming to film how we homeschool at home
  • another book presentation event (this time in Taoyuan)
  • 2012 Youngvoice Super Festival 不簡單生活節
  • presentation of Zosia's (and other homeschoolers') animation film and their "graduation photo" project
  • filming of a new TV program
There were even more things planned, but Zosia can not be in two places at the same time, so she had to choose.

I keep asking myself - isn't that too much? Shouldn't  she be doing more 'real school' work? Shouldn't she be doing more physics, chemistry, Chinese? Why are we letting her do all those extracurricular activities and not really teaching her the 'boring stuff' sitting at a desk?
I don't have a short, straight forward answer...
Maybe because we want her to persue her interests, to be happy?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Siblings' botany lesson

Zosia and Jas are five years apart, so it doesn't happen very often that they can work together on something. I do try to get both of them involved in the same projects, but it usually ends up with Zosia finishing what Jas has started.

Last week we started reading together one of Sonlight's recommended books for science. Zosia already knows most of the things in it, but I think it is a good review for her. Jas, on the other hand, wants to do all the experiments in the book and is fascinated with all the interesting facts about plants and animals and ways to observe them.
The book we are reading.
Yesterday after reading a chapter about experimenting with plants, Jas has started a few 'experiments':

How long will it take for the
cherry branches to have leaves?
Learning about osmosis
(sugar in a potato in water).
Starting to grow green beans
(unfortunatelywe didn't have any
larger variety of beans at home).
Beside reading and setting up these ‘experiments' Zosia and Jas have done some work from the Science Centers book:

Zosia explaining to Jas some new vocabulary

Matching the vocabulary cards with the definitions.
Writing worksheets together.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Jas' first dinner

Yes, that's right - last Friday Jas, all by himself, has made dinner for the whole family.
Last week he has studied a few of his cookbooks and chose one of the dishes. He then asked me to buy a few things he needed to make the dinner he chose (which was Pasta with Tuna and Tomatoes).

The book Jaś chose to cook from.
It's a Polish edition of a "Cookbook for Boys"
by Abigail Wheatley, published by Usborne.

Cutting tomatoes and stirring the tuna+tomotoes+spices sauce.
Adding shredded cheese on top was Jas' idea
as he likes everything with cheese.
The only thing Jas needed help with was opening the tuna cans. He boiled the pasta and made the sauce and later baked everything all by himself. He was very proud of himself when the meal turned out really tasty. I hope that there will be more dinners 'by Jas' in the near future.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Learning about the wind on a windy day

Looks like the weather knows exactly what we need :-)

Yesterday we read about the wind in our science books

DK Eye Wonder Weather and
The Usborne Book of Science Activities Volume III
 and we made the "instruments" needed to measure the strength and the direction of  the wind:

We couldn't try our "instruments" outside in the wind, because simply there was no wind, not a tiniest breeze.
Today, on the other hand, we woke up to a beautiful cloudless sky and some pretty strong winds!
Yeah! It was time to try out what we've made! Take a look at what was happening to our "instruments":

Friday, November 9, 2012

Preparing for All Saints' Day

Every year, just before Nov.1st, Polish people go to the cemeteries to clean their family graves. Then on the All Saints Day they go back to light candles and place flowers.
This year cleaning the graves was a bit difficult because of the frozen snow and leaves. Normally Tim, kids and I would have gone to 4-5 different cemeteries in Warsaw, but this time because of the weather we went only to one, where we cleaned three family graves. It was a lot of work, it took us over three hours to get the snow and leaves cleaned up. Unfortunately on Nov.1st we were already on our way to Berlin so we couldn't visit other cemeteries and light the candles.

Homeschooling away from home

Jaś writing in his journal.
The time spend in Poland, by some would be considered as vacation or holidays. But do homeschooled kids have vacation? 
For us "schooling" and learning happens all the time, no matter where we are or what time of the year it is. Visiting a different country, going for an art exhibition or to a museum, going hiking or taking a walk in the forest - all this is part of learning, part of our school. 
We don't want the kids to think that learning happens only behind a desk, with pen in the hand and a book or computer in front of you. Learning is a ongoing process and it can take any form, not only reading and writing. Talking to older people about their experiences, about their childhood is also learning. Taking care of younger children or helping with the chores at home is learning too. 
Some of my friends, and even my parents, think that the kids should not be given any school work during the vacation time. But how can it be done? Our family is away from home at least 3 months in a year and can we just say: Hey stop learning when we go to this museum, don't ask any questions and don't think! We are not going to say this and I guess nobody will.
So next time don't be surprised when you see a child in a museum during vacation time with a notebook in his hand or doing his math while waiting in the restaurant for food to arrive. It doesn't mean that they have to catch up with school work, it just means they like to learn even when they are not at school.

During our stay in Poland the kids experienced some hands on
science in the Copernicus Science Centre
(Centrum Nauki Kopernik).

 We learned about Polish art in the National Art Gallery in Warsaw.

Went to the forest to learn about edible and toxic mushrooms.

Learned history at a cemetery.

Kids also played with other kids - here they made a really nice
(and very complicated) playhouse out of a cardboard box.

To top this all  up -
Zosia went back for a few days to a Polish midlle school
to meet her friends.