Tesseract Worldschool

Learning and growing as we go

Curriculum

Our education consisted of immersive and classroom learning.

The immersive learning emerged through daily exposure to other cultures, languages, historical sites, museums, and the like. The world was our laboratory. We invited curiosity, made observations, and talked about what we’d experienced.

The classroom learning was typically about four hours a day, and we tried to make each exercise as interdisciplinary as possible. In the beginning, we were prescriptive about how the kids would apply their time; increasingly, they began taking to making their own schedule for the day. We monitored their progress on key subjects like Math and English Language Arts, but otherwise encouraged them to do a little bit of everything each week while allowing flexibility to decide whether to give certain subjects more attention than others. The mainstays of our classwork were:

  • Math:
    • We used the Khan Academy app extensively to progress through math at their grade level; and then at one grade up (or beyond, as they advanced faster than they would at home). The app included instructional videos, followed by practice problems. Janet and I filled in with additional explanations and exercises when needed.
    • We also found the Varsity Tutors apps to be useful, as it’s full of practice problems to reinforce and measure what they’d learned. We found it important that they not simply move through their math education, but also that they practiced and mastered what they’d learned.
  • Social Studies
    • Walking through landmarks, museums and culture everywhere we went was social studies at its best. Over meals, we talked about what we’d seen, and the kids researched and wrote about some of those things for this blog.
    • Occasionally, we took up debates and wrote about such as controversies like whether the Cordoba Mezquita — which was a Christian basilica before it became an Islamic Mosque before it became a Christian cathedral before it became a secular UNESCO site — should be a house of worship, a museum, or some combination thereof.
    • We also conjoured up a project we call “History Journal”, where we printed photos we’d taken of historical things they’d seen, such as artifacts at the British Museum in London and the Moorish La Giralda in Sevilla. We wrote a brief caption for each of these photos and placed them in the corresponding page of a journal that runs chronologically from 3000 BCE to 2000 CE. Little by little, they saw how disparate events in disparate places combined to form the tapestry of civilization.
    • We really enjoyed Bill Wurtz’s wonderful “History of the Entire World, I Guess” video on YouTube. We watched it before travelling and several times since, each time assimilating a little more of what we’d seen and learned along the way.
    • We read E. M. Gombrich’s “A Little History of the World” together, reading chapters outloud and talking about them afterwards. The book is beautifully written, and makes the long arcs of history accessible to curious, young minds.
    • They also enjoyed the GeoExpert app, and quickly learned to identify a dizzying array of countries, flags, and capitals. They also enjoyed perusing Google Maps and Google Earth.
    • The World History Atlas is a phenomenal app that they took to for exploring history on their own, and cross-referencing what was happening in one part of the world with another.
  • Science:
    • We read “A Little History of Science” by William Bynum, which introduces scientific ideas in an intradisciplinary, historical context. The kids reflected and wrote on what they felt were some of the most important discoveries with the most significant impact on our world today.
    • We also used the ck12.org app to do Earth Science (per 6th grade NGSS standards), which came with quizzes and discussion questions.
    • The “ck12 simulations” app had bite-sized, interactive modules to explore various scientific concepts. We went through these together and talked about them.
    • Finally, we interspersed their education with the occasional scientific process of learning to question, science museums, and hands-on activities like a jellyfish discection.
  • Spanish:
    • We tried to do as much language immersion when in Spain and Colombia. It helps that we had Spanish-speaking family there, and encouraged as much conversation in Spanish while we are with them. “Mornings with Bita”, where the kids got one-on-one time in Spanish with their grandmother was especially effective.
    • In places where Spanish was not the dominant language, thirty minutes a day on the Duolingo or Babbel app helped them keep up with their Spanish education.
    • Occasionally, we assigned some reading in Spanish.
  • English Language Arts:
    • The kids took turns writing in this blog, and we used it as an opportunity to provide feedback on grammar and structure. We hope you enjoyed it!
    • We used englishlinx.com for some practice worksheets.
    • Janet also introduced the kids to interesting literature that enrichened the literary or historical context of their immersive education.
  • Coding: our favorite was Grasshopper, and have toyed around with TurtleDraw for fun.
  • Exercise: we did a lot of walking and running around. And the occasional beach soccer or 7-minute exercise routines.
  • Boardgames: we carried physical copies of History of the World, which is fun, strategic, and gave us a lot to reflect on as we learn about history. We also got the board game Civilization to further the fun and strategic thinking. We are fortunate to have kids who love boardgames as much as we do.
  • Movies: we made use of documentaries and movies to add context and depth to the places we visited. From a technical standpoint, we rented or purchased them off Google Play (Netflix and Amazon Prime were not readily available everywhere) and streamed them through a Roku that we carried with us. We usually watched the films just prior to visiting the country in which it is set or while we were there. Here is a selection of films we’ve watched, some of which required considerable parental guidance.
    • Europe: Agora, Gladiator (the scenes cut across Spain, Morocco, and Italy), Spartacus, Ben Hur, Joeux Noel, The Celtic World (The Great Courses)
    • Africa: An African Election (documentary), Shaka Zulu, The Lion King, Queen of Katwe, Black Panther (it flips the script on an an undeveloped view of Africa; and each clan is loosely modelled after a real African tribe)
    • Middle East: Lawrence of Arabia, The Ten Commandments,
    • India: Gandhi, Life of Pi, Arjun, Bride and Prejudice, Monsoon
    • Cambodia: First they Killed My Father
    • China: The Story of China (documentary), Hero, Red Cliff, Empire of the Sun, Mulan
    • Japan: Seven Samurai, Ran, Empire of the Sun, Day One, Tora! Tora! Tora! (pairs well with Day One)
    • Hawaii: Princess Ka’iulani, Tora! Tora! Tora!, Moana
    • Mexico: Mayans, Conquistadors: Aztecs (BBC)
    • Peru (Cuzco, Machu Picchu): The Incas Masters of the Clouds (BBC), Conquistadors: Inca (BBC), Pachamama (Netflix Films cartoon)
    • Peru (Amazon): Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Embrace of the Serpent, Rio, Amazonia
    • USA: Lincoln, Night at the Museum (in relation to Smithsonian visit), The West
    • Other/Philosophy/Science: Arrival, The Good Place (TV show), Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown” episodes relevant to places we visit, The Big History of Civilizations (The Great Courses)
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