Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Busy Thinking and Doing

Sorry for my lack of daily posts.

In the summer of 2008 we hosted a Japanese foreign exchange student in our home for a month. He was a great kid and we continue to keep touch by email and snail mail. He lives north of Tokyo in Saitama. Our family has been worried about him since the earthquake and about the possible radiation exposure. We have offered to host him for a visit should his parents wish to get him out of the country. Actually we extended the invitation to his parents and grandparents as well.

We have not heard from him after the invitation was sent. At that time the radiation was 40 times normal in his city and the residents were told to stay indoors.

The train is not running which means he cannot attend school. He was on the train during the first earthquake and was let off where it was trapped and had to walk home alone which took three hours.

The Japanese culture is to be obedient and to comply. They do not think to challenge, question or disbelieve what they are told. They want to believe the words of their leaders that it will all be okay.

Today as I write this one nuclear power plant has been evacuated and it's being left alone to do what it will do, which may be to explode.

I am not quite myself with these matters on my mind, worried about my "Japanese son".


We're ten days away from the Science Olympiad event that my eighth grader participates in. I am busy with my son helping prepare him.

He's chosen what I think is the most difficult topic to compete in: physics optics which is high school level content. It is not just conceptual physics which is sometimes taught in the lower high school years. The problems contain trigonometry math. There is a three part test. If I am understanding the rules correctly there will be ten problems which may use math for one test. The second test is 100 questions. Then there is a timed hands on experiment using one mirror and a laser beam which requires the use of geometry and a protractor to find the answer to position the mirror so when the laser is turned on it will hit the target.

I have been concerned about this from the start as for an eighth grader to jump forward to advanced science and to move a kid who's at the beginning of Algebra I into trig is a challenge.

It also makes me feel incompetent as I have never taken physics in my life. I couldn't tell what he knows and what he doesn't, or what he thinks he knows but he actually is misunderstanding. He was first taught in a group class by a highly experienced high school teacher. To remedy the situation we're in now I hired a different tutor who knows my son to work with him alone to gauge what he knows and what his weak areas are.

We were also working only with the student text, a popular conceptual physics text used in high schools and in some colleges. I felt this was too simplistic in the explanations even of the conceptual physics. I realized to keep looking for more math help in that book was fool-headed as that text was not intended to teach physics heavy in math. I have remedied that situation by borrowing texts from a friend used in her daughter's private school. I now have the teacher manual for our conceptual phyics book on hand (wow it is so helpful!). I have some supplemental books in that text's series too. I also have another physics text that does have the math in it and the teacher manual.

The last thing we're using to help is the second tutor my son met with the other day gave him some writings from an open source physics textbook for high school students written and shared by scientists in South Africa. I love that idea! The writing is different and more clear in some cases.

The Kaplan physics SAT subject test prep book I bought has been of minimal help.

The Science Olympiad test is "open binder" so we can create our own materials or he can create his own materials. My argument with this is that if you don't understand it, having an open book test is not helpful. If you try to teach yourself the material during the test you will fail. Also if info is thought in one's mind to be accurate but really the kid has is jumbled up or incorrect then the test question can be answered wrong.

For the optics event my son has a partner and they can collaborate on the whole thing.

My son also has an easier competition to prepare for but it's a partner event for which we have limited access to the partner for practicing. That event is Write It Do It.

Lastly the other day he accepted the challenge to take on a third hands on event. All by himself he is going to do the towers project, which he's never done before. He doesn't have any adult coaching or mentors or teachers who can help with this. All he has is past experience with the elevated bridge event which he did in the last two Science Olympiad contests.


This week our favorite homeschool co-op has restarted.

I am teaching four classes on three topics. One of them requires developing a lecture and what to teach from a book of content. It takes hours of work and planning to prepare each one hour of class instruction.

One class is a discussion class based on lesson plans from My prep time is spend reading articles and picking which is best, formatting the article and questions then emailing them out.

The last class is based on a curriculum so I don't have prep other than reading it and teaching it to myself first. I have a co-teacher for that class so it helps to know I have someone to lean on. My biggest worry was that the class would be boring (the topic is formal logic). Now my worry is getting the kids to understand it as some are going in the wrong direction and applying informal logic thinking to what is supposed to be formal logic.


So we've been just busy enough with activities here and doing the regular homeschooling and I've been thinking and worried about our Japanese son.

Oh and throw in the job search and the possible move out of state or out of the country.

Oh and also we have major damage to our home from the water from that horrible ice and snowstorm this winter. We are arranging the claim and trying to figure out what construction steps must be taken right now.

We've all been kind of busy here...

...and life and homeschooling continues....


Fire Wife said...

My prayers go out to your "son" and his family in Japan.

We had one American friend there when it happened (now home safe), and I have several Japanese friends here whose families are there.

Will be praying for their safekeeping during this time.

ChristineMM said...

From FairyLover:
I trust your "son" and his family will survive this horrific tragedy. It sounds like your other son is really challenging himself. I know I could never do what he is doing. I just don't have that "math" mindset. I hope he does well in all of his competitions. Kathi Still trying to figure out science for my 3rd grader.