Sunday, 8 January 2017

May the Force be with Us

One of the key positives for Tiger in attending school is to have found a best friend in his class, a French boy, L, who shares his passion for all things Star Wars.  Tiger spent a whole day hanging out with L at his home (talking non-stop about Star Wars, according to L's mum) and also went to the cinema to watch the latest franchise movie:

Since I have not totally forgotten my previous role as a homeschooling mother, I then followed up with Tiger's interest by taking him to the Star Wars exhibition.

Given his current obsession with Star Wars, Tiger really enjoyed the exhibition.  I am not a sci-fi fan in any way but I have found the slightly philosophical theme (about making choices) of the exhibition to be interesting.  We had the opportunity to 'mould' a character by the end of the exhibition, and the below are our Star Wars characters:

Back home, Tiger whipped out the dot-to-dot book that I got him for Christmas and started playing with it.  Doing the dot-to-dot is nothing especially intellectual, but Tiger enjoys it, as so I, and doing what we enjoy is a good enough reason to carry on with the activity.

Besides, this is how we have always supported and will continue to support Tiger's interests, aligned with his increasing fleet of Star Wars models.

If you happen to be as ignorant about the various space vehicles as I am, here is a video that I have found to be useful to bring me up to speed with what the Millenium Falcon is:

Of course, one needs to know about Walkers:

Where does this obsession begin?  I trace it back to two Christmases ago.   Since then, Tiger has caught the bug, despite my best efforts to distract him from it.  When I saw that I could not save him from it, I let him immerse himself by reading all the related books we could get our hands on.


Having said that, I must confess that I struggle to see the importance of knowing the entire chronological history of Star Wars...

Monday, 2 January 2017

2016 Recap in Photos

Looking back at 2016, I realise that our life has changed dramatically.

While looking through these photos, I could not help seeing that homeschooling was indeed a lifestyle choice.  There are many aspects of homeschooling life that I miss, such as the ability to control our time and to engage in many uniquely interesting activities.  Nonetheless, we are where we are at this moment in life, and I am grateful for the opportunities that we have been given to enable a smooth transition from homeschooling to 'normal' schooling.

Everything from September to December zoomed past in a blur for me, so it is important that I keep the memories of what life was like for us, so that I may look back and recognise that I actually miss a lot of what was so good about our homeschooling life (I certainly don't miss the difficult bits!).

  • Time: in nature, with family, with friends
  • Sports: table tennis, climbing, archery
  • Classes: Chemistry lab, model aircraft, zoology, English, History
  • Studying fossils


  • Time: in nature, with family
  • Classes: model aircraft, zoology, chemistry lab, programming
  • Studying rocks and minerals
  • Special event: jazz singing concert, short story writing submission


  • Time: in nature, with friends, with family
  • Sports: table tennis
  • Classes: physics lab, forest school, model aircraft design
  • Studying art
  • Field trips: Hertford Castle, Chartwell
  • Special event: Universtiy Challenge in Chemistry (First Prize)!

  • Time: in nature, with family, reading
  • Classes: physics lab, programming
  • Studying art, ancient history, geography
  • Field trips: quarry, geological excavation site
  • Special event: jazz singing concert

  • Time: in nature, with family, with friends
  • Classes: physics lab, astronomy, model aircraft design
  • Studying art, insects, circuits
  • Special event: jazz singing concert, model aircraft competition (First Prize), percussion concert

  • Time: in nature, with family, drawing
  • Classes: physics lab, programming
  • Field trips: Cheddar Gorge
  • Special event: 'geek' gathering

  • Started attending school.
  • Resumed mountain biking.
  • Attended another 'geek' gathering.

  • No photos!
  • I was completely overwhelmed by work, and was practically just trying to survive it so did not even think to take any photos.


  • Time: with family, climbing
  • There's an obvious theme in this year's Christmas presents....

There is a definite lack of photos now that we spend most of our week day times apart.  I am still not used to not being the main participant of Tiger's learning journey.  It is a bitter-sweet feeling for me to see Tiger diving into his new phase of life so readily and successfully, and I am certainly glad that he is so adaptable to changes.  While I always knew that my homeschooling journey would eventually end, I was a little surprised to have it come so quickly and so suddenly.

Everything happens for a reason.  I am just so grateful that we are all in a good place right now, having the experiences that we are meant to be having for this season of our lives.

Wishing everyone a very happy 2017.

    Friday, 23 December 2016

    The "Where Have You Been?" Update

    I just want to give a quick update of what we have been up to since February.

    We hit a very difficult time in homeschooling at the beginning of the year, to the extent that we considered the option of putting Tiger into school and me going back to work.  We went through the motion to find Tiger a place at a private school (after the sitting the usual entrance tests).

    The process of admission to a good private school with excellent academic results is another post altogether, but because we made our decision at the last minute, we missed the usual application deadlines so it was all a bit of a rush to secure him a place as the school told us it was fully subscribed, and that there was no place for him.  Nonetheless, they had him take the entrance exam, giving us a day's notice, so there was no time to prepare.  It was just as well since Tiger would not be persuaded to prepare for tests anyway.  So, without any expectation or preparation, he took the tests the next day and the school secretary called me that same afternoon to offer him a place.  As a result, since September, the boy has been attending a small private school near where we live.

    Why a private school?  The main reason is physical safety.  I am not joking.  The state schools around here are quite rough, and I have very little comfort that the environment is one that is condusive to studying.

    Do I think that private schools provide a better education?  I would say that depends on what the yardstick of comparison is.  If compared to state schools, maybe so; but I personally think home education trumps private school education on all fronts, if it were done properly, of course.

    For those who are interested or curious, there is an attempt to demystify the difference between a private education (where only 7% of the UK population attends) and a state education:

    So what am I doing now that Tiger is at school?  Most days I spend 12 hours in the shark pool, which resembles this:

    Life takes on unexpected turns.

    Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all!

    Wednesday, 17 February 2016

    A Very Special Monkey

    For those who are not familiar with the Chinese zodiac signs, I wrote about it in this post.  This year being the Year of the Monkey, I decided to introduce Tiger to one of the Chinese classics, Journey to the West ( 《西游记》)

    As with many Chinese children, Tiger's first introduction to this Chinese classic is through animation:

    After seeing him become enamoured with the cartoon above, I told Tiger that the cartoon shows only a very selection of the monkey's journey, and that it is part of a very long Chinese novel.  He immedidately asked me get him the story.  I got him the abridged, single-book version of the classic to see how he got on with the story.  At 528 pages, the abridged version gives a good overview of the actual novel but when I asked Tiger whether he read about the characters' encounters with certain demons, Tiger realised that there are many juicy and interesting adventures that are being left out, so he asked me to get him the unabridged, four-volume version:
    1. Volume 1 - 576 pages
    2. Volume 2 - 424 pages
    3. Volume 3 - 464 pages
    4. Volume 4 - 440 pages
    Seeing Tiger read this Chinese classic novel in English translation (I read the original Chinese version) brings back memory of my own experience of reading Pride and Prejudice in Chinese translation at about 12 years old.   Obviously it is always preferable to read a story in its original language as certain linguist nuances and subtleties are often lost in in the translation process, but where one's language skills are not up to the required standard to allow one to read the original text, then finding a good translated version is the next best thing to do.

    When Tiger has read the four books through twice (it took him about a week), I showed him a TV series based on the book.  While this classic has been adapted into movies and other performances many times over the years (the latest one being a new movie based on one of the major adventures from the book):

    the 1986 TV version is the one that I think stays closest to the original novel, and the actor who played the monkey is acknowledged as unsurpassed in his interpretation of the character:

    Journey to the West is the most popular, accessible of the four major Chinese classics.  Even those who have not read the book would know about a number of the fantastical adventures of the main characters in the story.  However, although the story is written in the form of a historical fantasy/myth, the story has a much deeper, spiritual meaning to it, in a very similar way that The Lord of the Rings is so much more than a fantasy story. 

    The following video is rather appropriate as a new year wish from me to you: may your year be full of wonderful adventures!  I know mine will be!

    (I know those are apes in the video but they belong to the same primate family as monkeys.  Besides, they make me laugh, so that'll do for Chinese New Year.  I'm sure Sun Wukong would approve!)

    *Disclosure: some links are affiliate links, which means I earn a commission if you click through and buy something.

    This post is linked up to:
    1. Collage Friday
    2. Multicultural Kid Blogs
    3. Hip Homeschool Hop 2/16/16 - 2/20/16
    4. Finishing Stron #77
    5. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one that started with an amazing Valentine gift

    Tuesday, 16 February 2016

    Year of the Monkey

    The Year of the Monkey started last Monday.  The celebration usually lasts 15 days so we have two weeks to mark this significant Chinese festival.

    As with last year, Tiger and I found an Chinese New Year-related activity to do in London.  This time, the National Gallery had a short workshop on decorating the Peking Opera mask, so we went along and did that.

    Although the workshop emphasised creativity, which Tiger exercised plenty of, his mask doesn't look particularly Chinese in colour or design, so I asked him to read the Origins of Chinese Art and Craft as well as Lianpu in order to look into the significance of the design and colours of the various traditional Peking opera masks to understand that they are not chosen randomly.  We also found the following clip useful to give us a better understanding of this art form:

    From the National Gallery, we walked to Chinatown to buy a few special items in preparation for the Chinese New Year as well as to eat a hearty meal.  It is interesting to see that we have chosen exactly the same food as last year.

    Once we got home, we started decorating the house by putting up various decorative items around the house, much like what people would do to decorate their homes for Christmas.

    Many of the Chinese decorations have symbolic meanings that usually mean well-wishes and the ushering in of good fortune and prosperity for the family.  Unlike a child who grows up in the East who will understand the symbolism behind the various Chinese decorations through sheer exposure to the culture in his environment, Tiger does not have such luxury so he has to find out about the symbolic meaning of the various decorations through reading books.

    This year's New Year's Eve dinner was quite special in that I bought the 'Yu Sheng' (鱼生) from Chinatown.

    This dish is like a raw salmon salad that is only eaten during the Chinese New Year period, and is a tradition of Chinese living in Southeast Asia.  It is a dish to be eaten with family and friends as a way to welcome prosperity for everyone in the new year:

    *Disclosure: some links are affiliate links, which means I earn a commission if you click through and buy something.

    This post is linked up to:
    1. Finishing Strong #76
    2. Collage Friday
    3. Multicultural Kid Blogs
    4. Hip Homeschool Hop 2/16/16 - 2/20/16
    5. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one that started with an amazing Valentine gift
    6. Practical Mondays Link Up Week #2
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