Sunday, May 22, 2011

Year 3 in Words and Pictures

Year 3 began in June 2010 and ends May 2011. It has been a most unbelievable year in terms of learning. However, it's also been the most relaxing, accepting year for me yet. Now if that made sense to you count me grateful. :) These are the highlights of kiddo's learning journey this year.

A large part of summer (June to August 2010) was unschooled and included reading more about the brain and behavioral disorders, performing kitchen chemistry experiments, learning to make smoothies and improving his balance and stamina on the bicycle. In July, he learned how to blow glass at the Bay Area Glass Institute and that sparked keen interest for a while in abstract glass art, fusing and the science of glass blowing.  

He likes the Peanuts comics and in July, August and September, decided he would work on learning the Peanuts theme song, Linus and Lucy. This video shows an early attempt to read the music and master the song. He plays it a lot better now! :) 

Scheduled academics in the first semester was loosey-goosey and I remember having this feeling as if I was waiting for something to happen. We'd always circled and circled around math curriculum and this time it started becoming obvious that I had to look for an alternative soon. But he was only just starting to develop interest in online channels of learning and I didn't want to start a program and overwhelm him just yet. So we kept using math literature and the Life of Fred and Key To Algebra workbook series for fun math and I threw in other curriculum like Singapore Math and Math Mammoth for catch up with math gaps. I ended up selling many of the materials before they were well used though.

Similarly, we had a wait-and-see period for his writing skills to catch up.

While all that waiting was going on, the kiddo began learning German, experienced a fun year of solving logic puzzles, and also attended the prize-giving ceremony for the Johns Hopkins Talent Search test he'd taken in Year 2 (totally cracked the audience up with his goofy waving to Dad who was taking photos). He toured the Bunge Lab at UC Berkeley too!

In addition, he gave several presentations to our homeschool group: one on the effects of isolation/  solitary confinement on a prisoner's psyche, one on Watership Down by Richard Adams and a very fun one on Jeopardy!, the game show. Towards the end of Year 3.0, we began learning Japanese together.

Our second semester saw the kiddo working one-on-one with a math tutor who is flexible and accommodating of the asynchrony between ability/ interest and difficulty with writing. I help oversee the homework his tutor sets and ask kiddo to show his work about 10% of the time to get him used to the habit of writing his math down instead of always solving it in his head. Other times, I compact the already compacted homework or just have him do it online with his tutor if we've had a particularly busy week. As you might have noticed, I've learnt a lot from experience not to structure his learning as much as I used to.

Kiddo completes his live Intro to Counting and Probability class through Art of Problem Solving this month. Since the objective is for him to keep loving math and not make it tedious, I complied with his wish not to hand in weekly assignments. I would say it's been a successful but tiring math journey--the classes are very fast-paced and since I'm learning along, I'm forcing my slow-mo-ol' brain to relearn concepts I was learning at 14 or 15 years old.

For science, we continued with simple, mostly unschooled kitchen-science projects. He baked cookies and continued coming up with his own food and beverage recipes, built and tested a circuit section for his Funnel-o-tron contraption, created buckyball sculptures galore (of mostly platonic solids), studied basic genetics, built an electromagnet from scratch, watched lots of MythBusters and science-themed videos, and read, read, read anything he wanted to.

Other significant highlights of our year:

February - we finally met with, in real life, my bestest buddy Kerrie and her similarly 8yo son, B and her hubby Pete. I'll always be grateful to Kerrie for seizing the opportunity and making the trip from Australia possible. When it was time to send them off, I remember just dropping them at their hotel and driving away so I wouldn't bawl in front of her (lol). Happily, I think Kerrie has forgiven me for it.

Kiddo also took the Explore test via the Belin Blank Center in February. It was proctored by his charter school education specialist. He received a percentile ranking at the upper 5% nationwide (woohoo!), despite not being able to finish the math section on time.

February to April - Kiddo learned how to sell his bike on Craiglist. Feeling offended by the MetroPCS Ranjit and Chad TV commercials, he conducted a survey via Survey Monkey, used the analysis tool to make sense of the results and typed a letter to MetroPCS, asking them to drop their campaign. As of today, we don't know if his request will be successful but it was a pretty unique experience!

April - Kiddo worked on a math pattern that he'd noticed in square and triangular numbers. He spent weeks plugging numbers in to see if his theory worked and finally came up with an equation for it. We googled it and found he'd been working on this one all along (the one about Square Numbers). In true-kiddo-fashion, he's not disappointed that it's a well-known idea but is psyched to keep discovering patterns where he can. :)

He's enjoying Mark Kistler's online art academy instructional videos.

Before I wrap up, I wanted to share this video of him proving a basic trigonometry identity. This is a good example of how he likes to work and learn, i.e. casually and non-sequentially. Note also how difficult it is for me to resist asking him to write more than he's willing to (evil grin).

What jumps out at me is how he's moved from being passionate about chemistry in Year 1, to loving anything neuroscience in Year 2 to now adoring math in Year 3. I can only hope and wonder for what Year 4 will bring.

What I know for sure...things rarely turn out the way I plan for them to!

Our Year 3 Curriculum (what's worked best)

Life of Fred
Key To Series
Math Mammoth
Algebra: Structure and Method Book 1 by Dolciani, Brown et. al.
Introduction to Counting and Probability (The Art of Problem Solving) by David Patrick

Delight-directed science projects
The Happy Scientist
Thames and Kosmos Genetics Kit
Horrible Books
Lots of BBC/PBS science shows and documentaries


Medieval-history themed literature
Horrible Books
He began reading Ellen McHenry's Excavating English (we're using it as a history curriculum). He will continue using it through summer of Year 4.

English/ Literature
We mostly unschooled English by giving him access to well-written literature. Apart from the mandatory writing assignments from his charter school (four a year), I decided not to structure English lessons this year. It seems to have worked fabulously--at least if you believe achievement scores. He scored 100% on the reading and language mechanics subtests of his Explore test and also received a perfect score in the reading portion of the charter-school administered Scantron test (more woohoo!).

World Languages
Irasshai Japanese (plus fortnightly practice with a tutor)
PowerSpeak Middle School German

All Year 3 posts: Year 3 Journey


  1. Its amazing how much they change in one year, isn't it? Sounds like its been a great learning year - the glass blowing sounds so cool!

  2. That video is fantastic! It's so fun to watch him enjoying the process of manipulating equations. :) What a great year. :)

    Have you heard of FIRST LEGO League? We're just getting started with it around here, and it looks like an awesome program - the kids work in teams to build and program a LEGO robot. If you search for "first lego league" on YouTube you can find videos of the robots in action - very cool!

  3. Thank you ladies! Yes! A year can bring so many changes...I'm honestly exhausted to just think about them and had to turn the computer off to recuperate from writing this post lol.

    Stephanie, FLL is really popular where we live but we haven't seen any interest from the kiddo yet. I'm watching and learning from others just in case that interest develops!

  4. Definetly a year of growth, change and accomplishments. Here's to another successful year in year 4.

  5. What an awesome year of learning! It's definitely worthwhile to take stock of how much both of you have achieved in one year. Congratulations on a successful year!

  6. Thank you aly and Neo. Yes, it's been a fun year, ups and downs aside, I feel like I've learnt so much too. :)


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