Saturday, July 27, 2013

Setting up a homeschooling co-op.

One of the most common misconceptions people have regarding homeschooling is they have to teach their kids. So when people found out I am homeschooling 4 kids, one of the most common comments I got is how awesome I must be to teach all of them. Come on people. Get real. I can't even survive half a day without screaming to my kids. How can I teach them everything?? It takes a village to raise a kid, remember?? The truth is you don't have to do all the teaching yourself. 

One of the ways you can teach your kids effectively is through a co-op. It doesn't cost much to set up a co-op. But it will need some effort from your side. We set up the science co-op about almost a year ago. There are 10 kids now and we meet up every forth nightly in one of the houses. It's best to keep the kids' number small. I think 10 is just nice. Anything more than that will be difficult to manage. Especially when you are dealing with younger kids.

In the beginning, we did change venue from time to time but eventually we figured Lat's place is the most convenient as it's also next to a play ground. It gives us the option to do the class indoor or outdoor.
We keep the session simple. Just lessons. Once in a while parents do pot luck but food is not mandatory. Hence, it's not too cumbersome for the host.

The book that we chose as reference for the co-op was Apologia Exploring Creation; Anatomy & Physiology.
Sample of the content of the book.
Pic is from here.

Some people might be bothered by the constant mention of Bible in the book. But I have no issues with that. Just take the scientific part. The content was delivered in a very interesting manner. Lots of analogy and stories. The author made it easy for the kids to understand the facts. You can read more about the great features of Apologia books here. 

Making the lesson easily understandable to the kids is important as the kids age ranged from 5yo to 11yo. The age range is pretty broad. But that's the beauty of homeschooling. You don't segregate kids by age. Different kids will understand the lesson differently. Depending on their readiness. Most of the times, age plays very little role. A 5yo may understand some lessons much better than the 11yo. But that's OK. What's more important is the kid develop the love for science.

For the Human Anatomy & Physiology, there are 14 topics. So we cover 1 topic per session. Kids are supposed to study the notes before they come to class. Either self learn or guided by parents. Each session will run about 2 hours. Parents will take turn to teach. 
This might sounds a bit intimidating but as far as I can remember, I only taught the kids twice ever since we started the co-op. We tried our best to make the lessons fun and engaging by combining audio, visual and kinesthetic method. Most of the times, there are lots of activities to reinforce the lessons' key points.

Health & nutrition
 Muscular system
 Cardiovascular system
 Skeletal system
We completed the last chapter last month. We wrapped up the unit with presentations from the kids. Kids chose any topics of their choice. They can either present it alone or in group. 

Medina's presentation on the blood.
Emily's presentation on the heart.
It has been a great experience for the kids. To me, it's very refreshing to hear young kids talk passionately about science. To listen to them talking about lysosome and Golgi body, platelets and plasma, sperm and ovum and Gregory Mendel convinced me we have nurtured their love for science. And that's the essence of learning. The fundamentals of what we are striving for our kids. Apart from learning, co-op is also an opportunity for the kids to catch up with their friends. And parents to catch up with other parents.

Next, we are moving on to Botany. 
The parents have done the brainstorming session on the lessons and we are starting next week. I am pretty excited. Hopefully it will be a blast. So you see, it's not that difficult to set up a co-op. All it takes is a few like minded parents and you are ready to go. Once you get started, you can tweak it here and there and make t better. I hope this information helps some of you who are thinking of ways to teach the kids. All the best.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Volunteering experience with Box of Delights theatre production.

We have been to Box of Delights Family Theatre shows a few times. My kids love their children theatre. And truthfully, it's the only theatre I can afford. Early bird ticket's price is quite decent. Others are quite expensive to us. Every 2 months they will have a new show. In June, it was The Talkative Turtle & other stories. It's a collection of stories from Brunei and Borneo. This time, the kids got the opportunity to help out with the props and set design.

I am a strong advocate of volunteering. Look out for opportunities that are aligned with your kids' interests and don't be shy to offer help. You got nothing to lose. Teach kids they always need to start from the bottom. During this stint, the kids met up with Freddie who was in charge of the stage design & props for the show. They learned drawing & watercolour techniques, how to present their ideas to people and how to work as a team.
In general, all the kids are quite good in drawing. But what they think of themselves is another story. Luqman especially has this issue of perfectionism. I need to perfect my technique first before people can see my work. I don't think I am good enough.  I don't think  watercolour is my strength. bla bla bla bla. Haishhh.

At this age, it's very important for his development to get him a mentor. So exposing him to people in creative industry hopefully will put him on the right track. Freddy has been really good in teaching them some painting techniques and encouraging them to find their own style.

Hajar's painting.
Luqman's painting.
The kids also made the costume for the puppets. It's a lot of hard work. It keeps them really busy. But it's also very exciting. They discussed the design and I helped them sew the costume.

The puppets' costume in progress. Kampung boy, kampung girl, bobohizan, king, princess and crocodile man. Most of the costumes were made using recycled fabric.
Hajar's crocodile puppet mask. Her blood, sweat and tears. She spent one whole day crocheting the mask.
The crew were so impressed with the mask and she was beaming with pride. Finally all those long hours watching youtube to self learn crocheting did pay off huh??? :-)

All the puppets in action. 
The kids also helped out Freddy with the stage design.
Apart from helping out with the props & stage desgn, kids also had the opportunity to hang out with the crews during rehearsal and watch how they practised. They joined the practise whenever there's any opportunity.

Medina clowning around with the costume.
Medina as Moko

Emily and the wolf.
Wrap party with the crews.
The show was great. And we had a great time. The kids learned loads. I am so thankful to Marina Tan & Box of Delights for the opportunity given. Hopefully we will have more opportunities like this.