Tuesday, January 31, 2017

新年快樂。 雞年,2017年

Happy Lunar New Year!  新年快樂。 雞年,2017年.  (We must be careful to say 'Lunar' New Year because it's not only Chinese people celebrating)  Speaking of Chinese... what's the deal with their 12 Zodiac Animals?  Some animal translations make sense like... The Dragon 龍年, The Tiger 虎年, The Horse 馬年, but others have terrible confusions such as... Year of The Rat 鼠年 (Yuck! Mouse is much more cute 老鼠 'Old Rat' Ha!) and Year of The Cow 年牛(Mooo! Bull is more powerful) and the dreaded Year of the Sheep / Lamb / Goat 羊年 (None of those sound right. Baaa!)  But the worst translation is the Year of the Chicken 雞年.  My year! Because.... isn't Year of the Rooster better? (Forget about Year of the Cock, that will never fly).  Maybe the Chinese have it figured out... and it's the English that needs to catch up!  Either way.... we're all one year older.  Eat a rice ball! Light a firecracker!  Happy New Year to Roosters and Chickens and Cocks and every other animal under the Full Moon.  
Sweet Korean Han Boks!
Oh... and speaking of Korean!
Xian won the Korean Speech Contest.  Good Job, Kiddo!  축하한다.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Story of the World Part II

(Brian Hartenstein, Great Wall of China, 1995)

Looking back now, I guess it had always been my plan, even though it took years to realize.  From my earliest days, I wanted to be a father and a traveler, and I wanted to take my children around the world.  People are nomads and life is transitory.  Profound relationships can easily slip away and become forgotten.  Yet one's relationship to the land, to the history of an area, to the splendor of our world's natural beauty, this can never be lost.  In the same way, a parent's love only deepens and broadens over time.  With this in mind, I wanted to share my home curriculum from last year (2016) with my three daughters, what I called: The Story of the World.  We basically unpacked our travel bags, unplugged our phones, applied for shiny new library cards, and fed on a steady diet of books for a year.  We'd been globe trotting for seven years...  and so a time-out was needed to catch our breath and make sense of all we'd seen.  I imagine we're about half-way through this full journey with another seven years to go before they become sick of ... their old man!  But the relationship to these places, the historic figures that shaped them, and the stories that still survive, will enrich their hearts and minds for a lifetime.
(Pomosa Temple, Busan South Korea, 2009) 

January:  Ancient Egypt, The Old Testament, The History of Jerusalem

(Guiding Question:  What is culture?  How can ancient cultures influence our modern life?  What is God?  What are ways God speaks to us and becomes real?)

1.  Ancient Egypt Texts, Documentaries:  Hieroglyphics, Mesopotamia, Sumerians.

2. Old Testament Complete Stories (Focus: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Life of Moses, Ten Plagues, Exodus, Commandments, Promised Land; Life of David, poems, psalms, and Solomon)

3. The History of Jerusalem.

Poem of Gilgamesh
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
Night by Elie Wiesel
(Roman Coliseum, 2011)

 February:  Greek Myth, Gods, Epic, Drama

(Guiding Question:  What are myths and heroes?  Why do we need stories?)

1.  Complete Stories of Greek Myths and Gods (Focus: 3 Kinds of Myth, Pantheon of Gods)

2. Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey

3. Sophocles' Oedipus Rex

4.  The Twelve Labors of Hercules

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
(Acropolis, Athens, 2011)

 March:  Greek Philosophy, The Hero's Journey

(Guiding Question:  What is philosophy?  What is virtue?  What is the hero's journey?)

1.  Socrates: (Focus: Socratic Method, Socratic Seminar)

2.  Plato: (Focus: Allegory of Cave, Dialogues, Eudaimonia, The Philosopher King)

3.  Aristotle: (Focus: 11 Virtues, Vice, Golden Mean, What is Philosophy)

4.  Life of Alexander the Great

Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
(Windmills of Mykonos, Greece, 2011)

April:  Life of Jesus, History of Ancient Rome

(Guiding Question:  What is faith?  How is faith tested?  How is power used for and against people?)

1.  Gospels of Jesus: (Focus: New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)

2.  Rise and Fall of Roman Empire: Texts and Documentaries

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Maus by Art Spiegelman
The Aeneid by Virgil
(Theatre in Ephesus, 2011)

May: Europe's Dark Ages, Rise of Islam

(Guiding Question:  What are the major world religions and how are they similar and different?  What is a romantic spirit?)

1.  History of Middle Ages (Focus: Joan of Arc, Charlemagne, Magna Carta

2. Life of Mohamed (Focus: Quran, Mecca)

3. The Stories of King Arthur

4.  One Thousand and One Nights (Arabian Nights)

The Inferno by Dante Alighieri
Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
(Agra, The Taj Mahal, 2010)

June:  The Crusades, Medieval Times, The Renaissance

(Guiding Question:  How has storytelling shaped our understanding of the world?  Why is "re-birth" important in life?)

1.  Epic Tales of The Crusades (Focus: Trade Routes, Silk Road, Influence of East-West Culture, Richard the Lion Heart, Saladin, Robin Hood)

2.  Wonders of Ancient World (Focus: New Technologies, Silver Coins, Gutenberg Bible, The Long Bow, Weapons of War)

3. The Renaissance (Focus: Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Copernicus, Galileo, Luther)

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
(Tibetan Monastery, Ladakh India, 2010)

 July: Ancient Civilizations, Age of Exploration, Age of Shakespeare and Elizabeth

(Guiding Question: What are the influences of ancient civilizations?  What does it mean to "explore" the world and oneself?)

1.  Ancient Civilizations (Focus: Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, Mongolians, Chinese Dynasties)

2.  Explorers (Focus: De Soto, Magellan, De Gama, Ponce de Leon, Columbus, Vespucci, Vikings, Marco Polo)

3.  Elizabethan England (Focus:  London, Life of Elizabeth, Shakespeare's Globe, The Plague)

Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Dafoe
(Brooklyn Bridge, New York, 2014)

August: The Enlightenment, Reformation, French Literature

(Guiding Question: What is enlightenment?  How can a life be "enriched" by thinking?)

1.  Texts on History of Enlightenment (Focus: Descartes, Newton, Rembrandt, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven)

2.  Music Appreciation Texts (Bach: Brandenburg Concerto, Air; Mozart: Magic Flute, Figaro, Symphony 36, Requiem Mass, Piano No. 11, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik; Beethoven: Fur Elise, Symphony No. 5, No. 9, Moonlight Sonata)

3.  History of Protestant Reformation (Focus: Henry VIII, History of Anglican Church)

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Three Musketeers, Man in the Iron Mask, Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmund Rostand
Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
(Mona Lisa, The Louvre, Paris 2014)

September:  French Revolution, Napoleon

(Guiding Question:  What is violence?  What is rebellion?  Why do people rebel?  What are basic human rights?)

1. History of French Revolution (Focus: Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Robespierre, The Bastille, Reign of Terror, The Guillotine, Declaration of the Rights of Man)

2. Life of Napoleon (Focus on Rise and Fall of Europe's greatest man, Josephine, Waterloo, Napoleonic Wars, Tolstoy's War and Peace, exile, death)

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
The Giver by Lois Lowry
(Kimonos in Kyoto, Japan, 2015)

October: British Empire, Colonialism, Literature

(Guiding Question: Compare / Contrast Napoleon and Gandhi.  Who had the greater impact? How should a life be lived?)

1.  Text on British Empire (Focus: India, Colonialism, war ships)

2.  Life of Gandhi

3.  Satire (Focus:  A Modest Proposal by Jonathon Swift; Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde)

4.  Victorian England

Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde, and Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs
Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Lion, Witch, Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Pride and Prejudice by Jan Austen
(Angor Wat, Cambodia, 2012)

 November: Industrial Revolution, World War I

(Guiding Question:  What are the events leading up to World War I? How was it fought?  What is war?)

1.  Texts on Industrial Revolution (Most of these texts are reserved for following year, 2017, in American History Unit)

2.  World War I Histories and Documentaries (Movies Include: Gallipoli, All's Quiet on Western Front, War Horse, Legends of the Fall, Chariots of Fire)

3.  Charles Darwin and Sigmund Frued

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
The Diary of Anne Frank
(Marina Bay Sands Hotel, Singapore, 2015)

December:  World War II, The Holocaust, Atomic Bomb

(Guiding Question: What are the events that created World War II? What was the Holocaust? What is injustice?  How can God exist when injustice reigns?  How can one person stand up for their belief?)

1.  Texts on World War II (Focus: Causes, Maps, Documentary Footage)

2.  Life Joseph Stalin

3.  Life of Winston Churchill

4.  Life of Adolf Hitler

5.  World War II Histories and Documentaries *Note World War II will be covered in 2017 through American History curriculum. This is an introductory study of World War II through a European perspective.  (Movies include: Hope and Glory, Empire of the Sun, Casablanca, The King's Speech, Hitler's Last Days, Enemy at the Gate, Diary of Anne Frank, The Hiding Place)

6.  The Holocaust *Note This was a main idea weaving through the tapestry of study this year: Man's cruelty against man and the abuse of power.  We end the year focusing on The Holocaust through books, testimonies, movies, and documentary footage.  (Movies include:  Schindler's List, The Pianist, The Book Thief, Defiance, Sophie's Choice, Life is Beautiful, In the Grave of Fireflies)

7.  The Atomic Bomb (Focus: Texts, Documentaries, Historical Footage)

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Literary Journal Prequel

Is American storytelling dead? I asked myself this question scrolling through my vast network viewing options during the snow storm that shut our city down last week.  We've become a nation of sequels. Do we really need Lethal Weapon and Training Day the television show?  Of course not.   But since the best thing I watched this year was a prequel to a movie from my boyhood, I thought I'd share my daughter's "prequel" to their learning the Story of the World.  It took a year to accomplish, but almost every night over the course of fifty weeks, we sat at the kitchen table in Taiwan and studied and journaled about Literary Terms while reading Lord of the Flies, Romeo & Juliet, the Hobbit, all the Harry Potter books and Oliver Twist, among other novels.  Talking with my daughters now, laughing at the richness of our conversations, I'm so grateful that I had this plan.  Here's the list, the journals will remain private.  
1. Literary Term
2. Literature
3. Author
4. Title
5. Fiction / Nonfiction
6. Character
7. Protagonist / Antagonist
8. Conflict
9. Internal / External Conflict
10. Plot

Writing Reflection 1:  Characterization
11. Exposition
12. Rising Action
13. Climax
14. Falling Action
15. Resolution
16. Plot Map
17. Subject
18. Theme
19. Genre

Writing Reflection 2:  Plot Summary
20. Nursery Rhyme
21. Fable
22. Fairy Tale
23. Folklore
24. Myth
25. Epic
26. Legend
27. Tall Tale
28. Fantasy
29. Adventure
30. Mystery

Writing Reflection 3: Book Report
31. Science Fiction
32. Romance
33. Horror
34. Historical Fiction
35. Thriller
36. Slapstick
37. Anime
38. Graphic Novel

Writing Reflection 4: Personal Narrative
39. Literary Analysis
40. Foreshadowing
41. Symbolism
42. Suspense
43. Mood
44. Irony
45. Drama
46. Tragedy
47. Comedy
48. Hero
49. Tragic Hero
50. Hero's Journey

Writing Reflection 5:  Expository Thesis
51. Tragic Fault
52. Dramatic Monologue
53. Narrator / P.O.V.
54. Author's Purpose
55.  Satire
56. Parody
57. Allegory
58. Picaresque 
59.  Bildungsroman
60. Dystopia

Writing Reflection 6: Essay that Defines a Process
61. Poetry
62. Rhythm
63. Meter
64. Rhyme
65. Repetition
66. Stanza
67. Imagery
68. Figurative Language
69. Metaphor
70. Simile
71. Personification
72. Hyperbole
73. Alliteration
74. Assonance
75. Onomatopoeia

Writing Reflection 7: Collection of Imagery / Sense Poems
76. Critical Thinking
77. Context Clues
78. Higher-Order Thinking
79. Bloom's Taxonomy

Writing Reflection 8:  Research Essay with Work's Cited
80. Literal Thinking
81. Inferential Thinking
82. Details
84. Experiential Thinking
85. Evaluative Thinking
86. Facts
87. Opinions
88. Summarizing
89. Paraphrasing
90. Transition Words

Writing Reflection 9: Personal Reflection Essay
91. Sequencing
92. Generalizing
93. Predicting
94. Concluding
95. Classifying / Categorizing
96. Compare / Contrasting
97. Cause & Effect
98. Analogies
99. Rhetoric
100. Persuasion

Writing Reflection 10: Persuasion Essay

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Story of the World Part II

My children mean everything to me, and like every good dad, I've created our own little world of just... us!  We do everything together.
 I mean... EVERYTHING!  (Living Room Spider-Girl is No Exception)
 Whether it's milking a cow or learning to weld, baking cookies or building a shed... my kids and I are creating our own little story of the world.
 Knowing the Story of the World is not just about knowing the history of timelines, special dates, important figures, and how eras and individual cross over and influence one another.  It's about making the stories of people from our past real.  Taking their creations, triumphs, failures, ambitions, passions, and mistakes... the whole bloody business of being human... and applying their stories to our lives.  It's about becoming a better person and finding a true happiness inside from this knowledge.
 Bookshelves never end.  They are long winding roads of discovery.  Over the past year we have read so many books.  The next few blogs will outline how I used books, movies, cartoons, and youtube clips and various texts and maps to teach the entire story of the world to my daughters in the span of one year.   

A lot of hours were spent in this room.  From Moses to Mohamed, Socrates to Jesus Christ, Alexander to Napoleon, Scheherazade to Shakespeare, Charlemagne to Hitler, Mahatma Gandhi to Chairman Mao.   The landscape that shaped us, the themes that drive and unite us, and finally how everyone's story, no matter how big or how small, matters to us all.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017



In China there is a saying, "读万卷书不如行万里路" which means: To Walk Ten Thousand Miles is Better Than to Read Ten Thousand Books.  Then again, to do both?  Now that's a life well spent.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Story of the World

"Trying to protect his students' innocence
he told them the Ice Age was really just
the Chilly Age, a period of a million years
when everyone had to wear sweaters,"  -The History Teacher, Billy Collins.

Ever try to teach someone the story of the world?
"And the Stone Age became the Gravel Age... 

Ever held a life so precious in your hands that it mattered? 
Named after the long driveways of the time,"  -The History Teacher, Billy Collins

Ever gone back and traced every line and step and significant event in history and laid them on a year's schedule for someone to discover, to read, to learn, to know?
"The Spanish Inquisition was nothing more
than an outbreak of questions such as
'How far is if from here to Madrid?' 'What do you call the matador's hat?'"  -The History Teacher, Billy Collins

Do you even know?
"The War of the Roses took place in a garden, and the Enola Gay dropped one tiny atom on Japan."  -The History Teacher, Billy Collins

So that the Story of the World has become real to you?
"The children would leave his classroom
for the playground to torment the weak
and the smart, mussing up their hair and breaking their glasses..." 
-The History Teacher, Billy Collins

What madness there is in teaching someone the past.  What heartbreak.  What sublime joy.
"While he gathered up his notes and walked home
past flower beds and white picket fences,
wondering if they would believe that soldiers
in the Boer War told long, rambling stories
designed to make the enemy nod off."  -The History Teacher, Billy Collins

It's taken me five years to plan... this year of discovery with my girls.
Five years... and we're just getting started!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Hike in the New Year's Fallen Snow

"He thought he kept the universe alone;
For all the voice in answer he could wake
Was but the mocking echo of his own
For some tree-hidden cliff across the lake."  -Frost, The Most of It

Nothing like an icy hike on New Year's Day.  Silver Creek Falls all frosty and forbidden.  Rocky steps covered in thick, sleak cold. A split cedar has unearthed, lays broken across the falls. Hold fast to your frigid perch, old friend.  Can't venture further... no safer than this.