Thursday, April 28, 2016

Birds of Yokosuka--updated links

This is an older post, but I noticed that some of the links are broken.  I am unable to update the original post, so here is a new one. 

I remember that one of the first things I saw out the window of the Navy Lodge our first morning in Yokosuka was a pair of cormorants flying just above the water. It seemed like something out of an exotic children's story. Then when my husband walked us around to show us the base, I couldn't keep my eyes off of the huge raptors that were perched on poles and buildings around the base. But identifying the birds here can be a bit tricky. 

The library has a couple copies of Birds of Japan, which is sadly out of print and hard to find used. Birds of East Asia is a newer book, but it is both big and a little expensive for casual users. But I have found a nice website, created by a local geography teacher that includes a section on the Birds of Yokosuka 

One of our friends printed the bird ID section as a handout for scouts who had to do some bird watching. It was nice to only have a few pages instead of a huge book. I have seen some other birds out at the campgrounds at Ikego, notably Common Kingfishers and Spot Bill Ducks. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Winter 2016 Co-op Opportunities

KPHS is currently offering the following co-op classes and activities:

On Wednesdays in Ikego, we meet for Karate. Starting on February 9, 2016, we will begin to offer a Little Learners Playgroup at 0915-0945. There will be more information on this opportunity soon! This will be an activity based, interactive craft and story time for the preschool to 2nd grade age range.  A group will be created on Facebook to keep you informed!

On Friday afternoons we gather together for Zoology, Chemistry, Chess Club and Shakespeare. The meeting places will vary so it is important to check the KPHS Members page each week for the location details.

You are welcome to participate in all, some, or none of these classes as you see fit for your family. We have so many talented members who are willing to give their time to our kids and it's really exciting. If you have talent or class opportunity you would like to share, please let us know. As you know, we are not a school, so parent involvement and presence is something we rely on.

Membership is required prior to co-op participation and membership must be renewed every year, $20 per family.

Other base-wide activities available:

At the community center on Main Base and Ikego Base there are many classes offered from piano to taiko drumming and Kumon math to Japanese. Please visit their site for up to date information:

On Fridays in Yokosuka the homeschool community has been offered an exciting opportunity at Purdy Gym called Swim and Gym for ages 5 and up.

There are many other activities for ages 4 and below. For example there is Library Storytime on Monday in Ikego; on Wednesday and Friday on Main Base. There is a Facebook group for playgroups, Stroller Warriors and many more. The Purdy Gym offers Child Watch on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. There is also various Youth Sports Activities starting age 3 and up. We ask you to please use the Kanto Plains Homeschool group on Facebook to gather more information as these opportunities are constantly changing.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book List

KPHS is taking on a new project.  What started as trying to find some books on a particular subject, has become a spreadsheet of books on various topics dealing not only with Japan, but also other parts of Asia too.  I see this being a fantastic resource and would love to hear your ideas and suggestions to add to it. Perhaps we can expand it to other areas and subjects as well.  Please contact us with your additions or comments.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Are you prepared?

March 11 marks the 4th anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake. It's hard to believe that day was four years ago. I remember it all like it was just a few weeks ago, not years. My son had just come home from school and was telling his brother about his day. I was on the couch reading a book when I felt the first vibrations. The boys didn't believe me when I said there was an earthquake. Unlike other earthquakes though, this one didn't stop. Instead it kept picking up, getting stronger and stronger. We had already been living in Japan a couple of years and are from California, we’re familiar with earthquakes. This was SO different. The power went out and cell service was out. We stayed inside and rode out the aftershocks. Several minutes after, my husband finally came home—he had just left work when the shaking began. Meeting the neighbors outside, we heard the tsunami sirens. Such a scary time, but at least we were all together. The following days were full of unknown, rolling blackouts, and mass confusion.  Would we stay in Japan? Evacuate somewhere? A couple weeks later, we found ourselves on a plane to the US.

Are you prepared for an emergency situation? Japan is home to not just the earthquakes, but also typhoons. Last winter was unseasonable cold and we had a couple rather large snowstorms--one of which shut down nearly all transportation. There were some people walking miles in the snow!

Living overseas, we are a community that travels often. Our children probably have more airport experience than most adults. Odd hour flights, long layovers, delays. How do you spend your time in airports? We then find ourselves in countries where we don't know the language.

Last week I was talking to a friend and fellow homeschool mom. We somehow got on the subject of being prepared, and I was so impressed with what she does that I thought it needed to be shared. It just made sense! (And I'm sorry to say, even after our experiences, we haven't changed anything.) Each of her children have backpacks with a ziplock that contains contact information along with personal hygiene items and small snacks.

When flying they include an additional ziplock with changes of clothes should there be delays or lost luggage—that would have helped when our baggage took a side trip to a different airport from us.
List of Bag Contents

All of this seems so simple and easy. It's something to get our children in the practice now. I do carry a small bag with me wherever I go that contains medications, lotion, and sunscreen, but I never thought to make sure my kids carry something similar should they find themselves in need. That will be changing.

How have you prepared your family? What things do you do when you travel? PCS season and summer travel is approaching, please prepare.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Using PDF Files in my Home School

I'm really happy that so many texts are now available as PDF.  I love the freedom of being able to just print out the pages I need, as many times as I need them.  It's been especially useful now that I'm on round two with much of our curriculum. However, technology has started to change the way I've been thinking about using the PDF files.  For one, my child is forever losing the sheets I print out, or they become a wrinkled mess.  This leads to much frustration on the part of all of us.

Now that we have iPads, I've been looking into ways to utilize them more.  The kids never seem to lose their iPad or wrinkle it up.  So I've come across a few apps and I'm giving it a try.

App #1: Dropbox:  Dropbox is a fantastic file sharing app.  You can access your documents, files, or photos from just about any device.  It also makes it easy to share documents through its public folder.  You upload your file here and it creates a link that you can then share out.  You get two gigs of free storage, so it'll manage even your largest of files. We have found it useful for the kids to save their compositions into Dropbox so they can easily edit or print them from other computers.

App #2 Notability: Notability is another app that allows you to create notes and annotate those PDF files. It's not free, but at $2.99, and often on sale, it won't break the bank either--much cheaper than a ream of paper and ink!  It works along with Dropbox to get those files onto your iPad and make them more than just readable files.  You can use Notability to mark up and highlight, fill in blanks, you name it.  I recently uploaded my son's daily grammar work into Dropbox, and then used the import function on Notability to bring the file into the app.  Using a stylus, he can now use his favorite color to do his work, without all that wasted ink and paper.  No more loose pages anywhere! There will never be an excuse again for not knowing where his work is and if it's been done.

We are still working out the bugs, but I have great hope that these two apps will really help us out this year. To give some more instruction and insight, I've found this blog entry that really goes into detail. How are you using your iPads, tablets, or Kindles in your home school?  Do you have a clever way to utilize technology and school work?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

House Hunting in Yokosuka

It's that time of year again, PCS season! One of the first thoughts one has when moving is “where am I going to live?”  When you’re cramped in the Navy Lodge, it’s also one of the first things you want to take care of.  Last year, CFAY changed their housing policy and made it mandatory for all military to live on base, unless quarters were not available.  Civilians no longer have the option of getting base housing or living “out in town;” civilians are automatically out in town.  It’s also become mandatory for civilians currently living on base to move off base, once they've been in base housing for five years.

So how does the process of finding your Japanese house work? First, unlike the US, you are not faithful to just one realtor.  Here, houses are only assigned to one agency.  This means you’re better off working with several different realtors in order to see as much out there as you can. The housing office has books of listings, but it really is much easier to go and find someone to show you what they have available and meet your needs, rather than hunting through pages of what looks like a foreign language.  Have a list of your wants, must-haves, and go from there. Ask your friends, or KPHS, for realtor recommendations. Many of our members live out in town, or have lived out in town. As for fining the agents, just walk out either of the gates, you can't miss them! Look at the houses they have posted and see if any interest you.

What do you want? This is where it gets tricky.  What you consider “normal” in an American home, is often completely unheard of here.  Master baths?  Probably not going to happen.  Dishwashers, few and far between. Large rooms and living spaces, maybe.  To be honest, the houses you look at may not even have ovens.  But there’s always the exception and it seems most agents and landlords are willing to work with you.  Don’t be afraid to ask, as it could be negotiated into the lease.  Houses here do tend to be much smaller by American standards, but layout and hidden storage can make all the difference. Just remember, this will be your home for the next few years.

In the past few years there has been an increase in Western-style homes.  These tend to have better equipped kitchens and hardwood floors.  In the more traditional homes, the Japanese don’t sleep in beds, but on futons on the tatami floor. These are bed rolls that are folded up during the day and stored—not American futons that you’re used to seeing. Thus closets are also very different.  Some older houses have been “westernized” and have had the tatami replaced with hardwood or even carpet, but the odd-sized closets are still there.  This is something you’ll want to pay attention to.  Some houses may have one or two tatami rooms, others may be entirely tatami.  These need to be treated carefully as you’ll be responsible for any damage.  Many just put carpets over them.  Also be aware if you have serious grass allergies, as this could be a problem. When talking to the agents, they’ll talk to you about room size in number “tatami mats,” even if there is no tatami.
Japanese futons on tatami floors
Location, location, location.  How do you even know where you want to live when you have no idea where anything is? Where are the good areas?  Where are the bad?  Even if you don’t plan on using the trains, keep public transit in mind.  You may have friends who want to visit, but no extra parking. Your house may only have one parking space, making you a one-car family, or that parking space may be very small. Using the trains here is so easy and convenient, you probably want to be close to a train station or at least bus stop. How far is the walk to your nearest station?  Is it straight uphill?  Downhill? (There is very little flat land here.) What kind of shops do you have nearby?  Restaurants?  Will bicycling be a mode of transportation?  How will that ride be?  Again, ask around.  There are some heavily American communities close to base.  Further away, you may find yourself the only gaijin in the area.

After questioning KPHS members here are some things they suggested you keep in mind:
  • Is the house close to public transit?  Just don't take the word of the agent or what is listed, actually walk to the perspective house from the nearest train station.
  • What shops do you have near-by? Check them out, buy some goods. 
  • How long is your commute to/from base? A ten minute drive at one hour, can be much longer during commute times.
  • Don't jump at the first house you see.  This can be very tempting when you want to get out of that lodge and start really getting settled.  Go back and look again. Take time to make sure it's really what you want.
  • Make sure you understand your agent and they understand you.
  • How old is the house? Does it have adequate cooling and heating? Do you smell any mold? Feel any drafts around closed windows?
  • Any allergies that may affect your comfort? If you have grass allergies, living with tatami or up against a bamboo forest may have its issues.
  • Is there space for you to set up your homeschool? Where would you school?
  • If you see other Y-plates, go talk to your potential neighbors about their experiences.
  • Drop pins in Google Maps so you know where you were.
Part 2 will follow with more specifics on housing features and appliances.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

National Mythology Exam

There are several students in KPHS with a love and passion for mythology.  ETC, Excellence through Classics, offers the National Mythology Exam each year and our students were excited to take the test in March. This week we presented our seven participants with their certificates and medals.  We had two silver and one gold amongst the kids!

 The test is available for students in grades 3-12, and it’s the same test for all students.  How much they are required to take, depends on their grade.  Everyone takes the first 30 questions of the test dealing with general Greek and Roman mythology.  The next 10 questions pertain to the theme for the year.  Each year a new theme is assigned and for 2014, it was Transformations. This section must be done by students in 5th grade and up.

The third section of the test deals with the great epics: Odyssey, Iliad, and Aeneid. Again, only one book from each epic is assigned for the year so it’s not overwhelming. Each of these is also 10 questions each, and one is required for grades 6th and up.

Finally, there are several additional tests of ten questions each that pertain to different mythologies: Norse, African, and Native American.  One of these tests may be substituted for the epics for grades 6 and up..

Beyond your assigned tests, anyone can do as many additional tests as they wish.  The only restriction being once the test is started it is graded.  In order to be awarded a medal, one must score above 90%. Except at the 10th-12th grades, only gold medals are awarded.  Gold medals are only awarded for perfect scores. 

Next year we hope to have more participants and involvement with the DoDEA schools.  (We had one student from Sullivans participate and she medaled, missing a gold by one question, on a sub-test she didn't even need to do!)  Stay tuned in the fall for the syllabus and registration information for the 2015 National Mythology Exam.  We are also looking to start a Classics Club to help us prepare and share our love and knowledge of things Greek and Roman.

Birds of Yokosuka--updated links

This is an older post, but I noticed that some of the links are broken.  I am unable to update the original post, so here is a new one.  I...