I am going against the grain this year: I am NOT planning any specific activities this December. It has been liberating and eye-opening for me to see how and how much unscheduled learning happens when we just 'go with the flow'.
1. Genomics Advent Calendar
This year, as I am not making an advent calendar like we did last year, we are enjoying the short daily clips about human chromosomes from The Royal Institutions advent calendar which are both enlightening and entertaining.
2. Mothers Who Embody Courage and Determination
Tiger has been attending a weekly hands-on science class since September. The class is held in a small church hall so the mums always sit at the back of the class quietly until the lesson is over, unless they are helping their children with a particular tricky part of the experiments. As such, there is very little chance each week for the mums to get to know one another beyond recognising one another's faces.
The sessions for this year have ended so one of the mums has kindly invited everyone to her house for a social gathering. It was at this gathering that I felt I have gotten to know these ladies much better, and I am very glad for that.
For example, I had no idea that one mother has managed to guide her son from being diagnosed as fully autistic (i.e. no speech, no eye contact, mentally delayed) at age two to being mildly socially awkward at age 14. This boy is currently preparing for GCSEs in biology, physics and chemistry. After listening to her amazing experience, I felt a profound sense of respect for this woman. Behind her meek, quiet appearance is a spirit of steel and courage.
It was only in the relaxed environment of the gathering that I got to know that the majority of the mothers here are single parents bringing up children on their own with little financial help from their ex-partners. Most of them are also having to cope with children who have special needs, e.g. diabetic, Aspergers, dyslexic. I don't know the ins and outs of how these mothers find themselves in their situation of becoming a lone parent, but I listened with respect and admiration to every story of the battles they have had to fight to get the support their children need -- financially, educationally, and medically.
3. A Nativity Play
Almost every child who attends school in England gets to be part of the Nativity play, which is an annual event for schools at this time of the year.
Since Tiger has never been to school, I thought he would not share this childhood experience with the 95% of children his age who go to school. Although it is not a big deal to us whether he takes part in a Nativity play, I sometimes wonder whether he might have liked, when he becomes an adult, to be able to say something like, "Yes, I have fond memories of being the donkey lying in the manger in my Year One Nativity play." Well, you never know, do you?
Thanks to a new set of homeschooling friends that we've made this year, we were invited to take part in a Nativity play -- well, it's Tiger who has the part of a shepherd/narrator. My job is to take him to the premise, be part of a supportive audience, and socialise with everyone.
We had a group of 15 children, aged two to 12. The children memorised their lines beautifully from a script written by one of the very talented mums. The play was interspersed with Christmas carols played by a few children in their various instruments (trumpet, flute, recorder, oboe).
|Waiting for their turns during the full-dress rehearsal.|
4. A Victorian Christmas
We are about half way through reading and listening to A Christmas Carol.
There are usually many Victorian Christmas activities available in various parts of the country around this time, and since the era ties in with the book that we are reading, we went to one to experience the jovial atmosphere of a Victorian Christmas.
There were diplays of Victorian toys, Victorian games, street musicians, street performers, and Victorian crafts. We found the hand-turned busker organ to be absolutely fascinating:
The event being of a Victorian theme in December, there was also a two-person street performance of A Christmas Carol:
As it was a two-person production team, they had to adapt much of the story and summarise it into a 20-minute play. Tiger enjoyed watching the performance in spite of its obvious adaptations. It's interesting for me to see him respond differently to adaptions made at a live performance than those made for films. I'd be curious to see his response to a film version of the story, when we watch it at some point.
5. A Bedtime Lecture
Tiger is a very animated child and his bedtime routine has always taken forever because he always has a lot to say when he is in bed. After I've read him stories and kissed him goodnight, he always has something he's excited about to tell me. It may well be his delaying tactic, but I feel obliged to stay for an extra 15 minutes because he does often have genuinely interesting things to tell me just before bed.
This week's bedtime topic of interest is computer networks.
Mum: (kissed him on the forehead and about to switch the lights off) Goodnight, darling.
Tiger: Mum, do you want to know about computer networks?
Mum: (hesitatingly) Umm... I don't know. Do I?
Tiger: Yeah, they're very interesting. I'll show you a few diagrammes quickly and you'll understand them in no time.
Mum: Well, ok.
That was his cue to sit up in bed in his dressing gown and start explaining to me how different networks work.
In the 30-minute session, Tiger educated me about the different switches, routers, how LANs (local area networks) and WANs (wide area networks) can be designed and how they work, as well as how they can be combined in various ways to make efficient cross-border networks. The mini lecture was delivered with numerous hand drawn diagrammes to illustrate his examples:
I vaguely remember studying two IT-related modules at university, so Tiger's diagrammes and explanations made some sense to me. What I enjoyed most in the session was his enthusiasm to share what he has learnt so far.
Much to my own surprise, despite my non-plan it has been a very busy week filled with rich experiences to nourish our hearts and minds. I wonder what is in store for us next week.
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