Toilet Paper Solar system 

Age: 7, 10

Science Co-op Session 1 Week 6: Solar System


  • Book on Neil Armstrong
  • Toilet paper Solar system
  • Draw your own solar system

This is week 6 of our first co-op session.  I’m reaching a point where I procrastinate prepping night after night until the night before class.   Next week Eclectic Mama will do a rocket ship presentation.  Everyone is thankful that we’re doing a 6/7 week on 1 week off schooling routine.

I’m kicking myself that I did not do this type of schedule earlier.  It gives us so much more breathing room.

This week the focus is on the planets.   Given our limited time I thought the best thing to do is to get the kids to at least memorize all the planet names in both English and Chinese.  If they want to follow up, they can do that at home.


Our Work Plan 2016-2017

This post is only about one whole year late.  But since I always document our workplaces for my own future reference…….

For the 2016-2017 school year, I had 2 different work plans, one during GYA16 and one for Spring 2017.   Here’s the Spring 2017 work plans.  The travel work plans is a modified version that we very very loosely followed.         


We try to study English, Chinese, Math, History, Geography, Arts, Science daily with focus on English/Chinese/Math.

In 2015-2016, I started by planning how many times an activity had to happen each week and planned what she had to do every day.  So in a way, she ended up with a “todo list” in a grid format, of subjects she was to study daily.  She could have choices within the subjects, but the subjects were fixed.  This was my way of ensuring all subjects were covered.

When that still didn’t quite work, I severely cut back what she had to do by ended the year by having “must dos” daily and the rest are “do one from this list.  So English she must do All About Spelling, then choose amongst Story of the World, Writing with Ease, or writing a diary.


DIY Solar Oven

Age: 7 & 10

Science Session 1 week 5: The Sun


  • Picture book – 射向太陽的箭 Arrow to the Sun
  • Solar Eclipse Overview
  • DIY Solar Oven
  • Manga Encyclopedia – 星空大搜密 Secrets of the Sky

After the First Great Lesson and a quick overview of the moon, it time to focus on the sun this week.

I’m amazed we managed to pull off an interesting project for the children for this weeks focus on the sun. As the weeks progress it takes me longer and longer to prep for my science co-op.   I really need to plan it all out in the beginning.  Prepping takes a lot of effort and is easily side tracked by life.


State of Our Chinese Before 2017-2018 School Year

Once again, it’s time to take stock of our Chinese before we start our 4th year homeschooling.   I find myself repeating our learning to read Chinese journey to various people over the years and I always feel like I’m exaggerating a bit.  So it’s handy to have a reference as to just what the kids worked on each year and how their Chinese came along.

I imagine to most people, I come off as super hardcore when it comes to getting my kids to learn Chinese.  The reality is, I personally find the topic of learning a language (and education in general) interesting so I do a lot of reading and research.  But when it comes to the actual implementation, I have to say I can only really focus on one skill at a time.  Many of my homeschooling mommy friends implement the Chinese learning part so much better.

But thankfully, what the kids do well in, namely reading in Chinese, goes along with my idea of how to learn Chinese.  So I’ve been okay to let other things drop by the way side.


Montessori’s First Great Lesson

Age: 7 & 10

Science Co-op Session 1 Week 4: Montessori First Great Lesson


  • First Great Lesson Presentation
  • Van Gogh Starry Night Art
  • Break
  • Moon Log

After 3 weeks of background presentations, this week was IT, the First Great Lesson.  This presentation was already done two school years ago, in Fall 2016.   I’ve never quite liked the lesson the way it was taught to me because I don’t have the best classroom management skills yet and dealing with kids who go off script when you show them the experiments while you’re busy telling the story throws me into a loop, and then I start rushing and things fall apart.

This year, I decided to change things up by using the story as told in The Deep Well of Time.  The author advocates telling the story by doing all the presentations in the weeks leading up to the lesson, then make the story an oral story, without reading from the book.  Alas, I could not memorize the whole story.  So I did read from the book, but tried to tell it as much as possible without reading straight.

The other thing I changed was to tell the story in English so that I’m not stumbling over words and shortening the whole story because I don’t have the words for them.  Thankfully, all the children in the co-op actually could benefit from more English exposure. (more…)

Homeschool Summary Jul 2017

Wow, it really helps to have monthly summaries even though I never manage it for half the year.   I never think we accomplish too much but re-reading the summaries it’s not too bad.

Here’s what the kids did last month.  It may look like a lot, but this is what we did the whole day, not just during our work period.  Also, something I’m trying this year is only doing the item once a week.  I’ll talk more about that in my yearly Workplan post.  Having a revised schedule also helps in us having more downtime to do activities like reading and practical life.

In general, we had a very good 2+ week homeschooling and another 2 weeks half homeschooling half playing.  The changes I made to schedule and workplan has resulted in a little bit less frustration on my end and I like that we’re covering the materials I think we need to cover.


Solids and Liquids are Dense

Age: 7 & 10

Science Co-op Session 1 Week 3: Solids and Liquids are Dense


  • 盤古 Pangu – Chinese Creation Myth
  • Solids are Dense Lab #1
  • Liquids are DenseToo worksheet
  • Lab from Daily Living Science 生活裡的科學

Density is a concept that is repeated very often in the First Great Lesson.  It wasn’t until training that I realized density had a big hand in how the Earth was formed (air in our atmosphere vs the heavy earth core).   It’s why I continue to come back to Montessori science even though I find it hard to implement, because it ties all the disparate scientific concepts together and show how they’re related to each other. (more…)

Using Kindle Paperwhite to Read Traditional Chinese Books

Two summers ago, I bought a Kindle Paperwhite for Thumper‘s annual summer vacation at Grandma.  Originally I bought it for Thumper to read in English.  However, as we moved up to upper elementary Chinese books, I started using it for reading in Chinese as well.  The more we use it, the more I’ve fallen in love with it.    It is an indispensable tool in our quest to learn Chinese.

As they like to say in Chinese, it has a high CP value.

Why buy a Kindle?

Honestly, it probably doesn’t have to be a Kindle.  It can be a Nook.  But I don’t know anything about the Nook, so I don’t know if it can do the things that the Kindle can.

  • It’s great for traveling.  When we Worldschooled this past year for 4 months, I brought only the Kindle Paperwhite along.  We used it to read English books and eventually the Chinese books I managed to find online.
  • No need for an English library at home.   I’ve donated about 80% of my English books at home now that I have a Kindle.  We usually borrow ebooks that we download onto the Kindle.  For books that have no eBook format, we go to the local library.  We only buy non-fiction books we need for homeschooling when we need it.
  • It provides support for English learning.  Use the Word Wise setting to provide definitions over texts, which is super great for learning vocabulary.  There is also a dictionary to look up words you don’t understand.    There is also Kindle FreeTime, which allows you to track reading progress, though I have never figured out how it works.
  • It’s got Simplified Chinese support!  You can read in Traditional Chinese as well, but the menus can only be configured for Simplified.   You can highlight Chinese text and look up translations and definitions.  For simplified, you can configure it to display pinyin on top of words!
  • Entice children to read higher level books.  As I mentioned in my Harry Potter book review, kids can’t quite see how big a book is when it’s on the Kindle, so they are more willing to read a long book that they’re capable of reading, but resist because they’re not used to words without texts yet.
  • Not worry about the kids’ eyes.  I’m no optometrist so I don’t know if it’s actually better.  But I feel better that I can change the font size to something huge for the kids.  Fonts start getting so much smaller the higher the level and I always worry.  In fact, because of this, I actually prefer the kids reading on the Kindle and always try to find an ebook before looking for a physical copy now.  When I asked the kids’ optometrist the last time we went for a check up, she said that for screen devices they just need to make sure to rest their eyes every 30 minutes.


Properties of Solids, Liquid, Gas

Age: 7 & 10

Science Co-op Session 1: Week 2 – Properties of Solids, Liquids, Gas


  • Mayan Creation Myth
  • Nomenclature Overview – Solid/liquid/gas
  • Air Takes up Space Lab
  • The States of Matter Lab: Presto-ChangE-o water Lab
  • Supplmental for kids who are interested:
    • Radio Lab: Solid as a Rock
    • Radio Lab: Speed

Looking back after we finished the session, I planned too many activities.  Everyone is still getting used to the schedule of arriving at 10:30.  So if we don’t start on time, then the kids start loosing focus by 11:30 because they’re hungry. (more…)

Cold and Very Cold

Age: 7 & 10

Science Co-Op Session 1 Week 1: Cold and Very Cold


  • Norse Myths
  • Cold and Very Cold
  • Blow up Balloon with Dots

After a whole year of gap year traveling, we are back to doing our science co-op.  This is the only way I’m able to squeeze in science, by forcing myself to meet with other homeschoolers once a week.

After talking to Eclectic Mama, we decided to change the format of the class now that the kids are older.  Namely:

  • Limit to age 7 and up.
  • Limit to 4 kids in the beginning
  • One person teach
  • $10 material fee per person.
  • A scheduled start and ending time
  • Bilingual science/history class

The format of the class got set once I realized that I really do want to teach the class because I wanted to do Montessori science.  I’m partial to it because it ties all the different disciplines in science together.   The other thing I really need, because I now have a 4th grader, is a class that doesn’t just have fun activities, but more thoughtful discussion and perhaps some writing.

In order to do that I had to limit it to a group of similar age kids (3 year difference max).  To help with the prep and to encourage people to arrive on time, we also added a $10 material fee and I even wrote up a class description.  All to make it feel like a class that you need to commit to.

Lastly, now that the children are older, we can add English into the class.  In fact, most of the kids actually need some English instruction to help with English exposure.  This, along with the material fee, would help make prep easier, as one reason I kept procrastinating was because I did not relish the painstaking task of translating something like the First Great Lesson story into Chinese.

Thankfully I have cool friends who are easy going and willing to go along with my always overly ambitious plans.  Eclectic Mama even spent an afternoon with me while I babble through my lesson plan options.  Because I can only think through problems by talking about it, rather than thinking in my head. (more…)