I take a deep breath and dive, always amused at how different things look underwater. It is a Wednesday afternoon and we almost have the local pool to ourselves. We used to work conventional 9-5 jobs. It seem a lifetime ago, and it wasn’t always 9-5, especially for Tim.

The boys attended school like most other kids up until 5 months ago. So I can confidently say that we get to spend a lot more time together now than we used to. I think more than most families who balance work and family life outside the home. It is just another of the many benefits of home schooling and working from home.

Emil took this picture of Esben and me

But I guess as is so often the case with people, before we try it and see the benefits we tend to weigh all the cons. Before I had children the responsibility and hassle of raising kids seemed like a much bigger deal than they turned out to be once I actually became a mother. Likewise, the most common reaction when people find out that we home school is “WOW, I could NEVER do that!”

Emil making muffins with Tim

I used to think that way to. Well, I didn’t really realize that it would benefit me too, not just the kids. I mainly thought of all the work, wondered whether I would be qualified and consistent enough. In fairness, I will say, I am fortunate to share the work with Tim. And the joys. Homeschooling is not just sitting at home doing work sheets or giving lessons. There are activities with other families that home school, a few classes they attend in subjects we don’t feel we can teach and lots of sports. This means everyday they get to socialize with kids in addition to playing with the neighborhood kids. Much of my work with the boys right now involves reading together, discussion things we read, researching, experimenting, going on field trips, going swimming, baking, watching a movie about something we are studying and so on. And questions, lots of questions. Sometimes questions that totally stump me. Once in a while we do play hooky. We just take a day off. Which we can afford to do because we carried on learning throughout the summer.

Over the summer the boys have practiced their freestyle and can give us a run for our money. I take another deep breath and let myself sink under water. For a moment I feel myself melt into the blue as I am filled with contentment. A second later I am tackled by Esben, who has figured out that bouncing up and down underwater is a lot of fun. Emil is focused on doing his laps, determined to swim more than Tim once again.

Maybe in a later post I will reveal a few of the pitfalls of home schooling and working from home … although I confess one of them is still being on the computer at 2 am, when I should be snuggled up in bed.

Observing the Longest Solar Eclipse of the Century

Yesterday, July 22nd, we were able to observe a near total solar eclipse from Taiwan (it was a total solar eclipse when observed from southern China, but Taiwan lies that much further south that it was only a partial solar eclipse here). This will be the longest solar eclipse of the century, so needless to say we prepared to make this a perfect homeschooling opportunity.

We couldn’t get our hands on the special shades needed to observe the eclipse, so instead we used the pinhole cameras the boys had made some time back. But the urge to glance upwards was almost irresistible, despite warnings this could lead to serious eye damage – so when a patch of dark clouds passed in front of the eclipse I snapped some shots.

In truth it is easy to think this is only the moon during the day. But the light was otherworldly and as we watched day turned to pitch darkness on the news in some places in southern China, you become aware of the awesome power and light that radiates from even a sliver of sun – because even during the partial eclipse here that left a sliver of sun, it was still bright enough to seem like ‘merely’ early morning. Follow this link to see some amazing photos of the event shot by other photographers in different parts of Asia where the eclipse could be seen. I especially like the tenth image – now why didn’t we think of that! 🙂

Taxonomy Scavenger Hunt

This past week we had a bit of fun teaching the boys about taxonomy in their science class at home.

First we did a bit of initial reading on the topic before we set out on a little field trip to see the special Darwin exhibition at the Taichung Science Museum. The exhibition was great, although I would have loved it if it had been in English as well as Chinese. Luckily I read “The Kiwi’s Egg: Charles Darwin and natural selection”, by David Quammen about a year ago, so I was able to answer the barrage of questions the boys had. Emil was fascinated by the exhibition, taking his time to read and thoroughly explore the exhibits. Esben is still not able to read as many Chinese characters having just finished first grade, so Tim walked around with him, while I tried to keep up with Emil.

The next day we went out looking for anything interesting they could find on the grounds at the university next door, ranging from organic to man-made, rounding out the selection with a few things from around the house as well.

We then created taxonomy cards for each item determining whether it was organic or not, the material, color, symmetrical or not, whether it would float in water, etc. For most items we could guess whether it would float or not in water, but a few created disagreement, so had to be tested. We were surprises to find that BANANAS FLOAT (actually, that had been my guess, hum, hum, but nobody agreed with me) and the boys discovered that some things float initially until they absorb too much water …

Finally they grouped these items, first making groups according to whether they were organic or not, then regrouping according to color, and so on.

For the last two days the boys have been attending an insect summer day camp at TaiDa university in Taipei, which seems like a great follow up to this initial class at home. I am looking forward to hearing all about it when they return tomorrow …

Art Class

On Sunday’s I teach an art class to Emil, Esben and three of my friends’ kids, Karina, Rachel and Lauren. There is a big age span from 5-12 years, so finding suitable assignments isn’t always easy. The older kids are able to learn a bit of technique, while I want the younger kids to just draw or paint whatever they are inspired to do. Last week we made sculptures from aluminum foil, a great way to get them into sculpting without all the mess of clay – and with five kids and a distracted art teacher that has to be a consideration. While the kids get into it, we mommies sit around and commiserate to a glass of wine. We are all European women married to Taiwanese men. We would probably commiserate even if we were married to European men … Tim wisely goes and spends time with his second wife, his computer:-)