Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Christmas is coming! (Apparently)

After weeks of nagging from dd I concede and get the Christmas tree out of the loft. The boys dont care either way. No, correction, ds2 is a willing participant once the 20 year old tree is assembled, but neither of my boys are quite the magpies us girls of the house are.

" Ooo shiny thing!"
" Ooo, another shiny thing!"

 It's no wonder three sets of our 'christmas lights' have remained hung in our house all year round for the past 4 or 5 years.

The shock of being removed from the box is, as usual, evident in the tree's response. I'm always surprised to find it still has needles each year I unbox it.

The gearbox on the van fails and I make Christmas decorations with dd. (There is probably some denial psychology going on there. )

Frugality (is that a word?) rules. Free fabric (from sample books thrown out of shops), buttons from our button jar, stuffing from an old pillow, ribbon from a tat shop at £1 a roll. Looking cute, even if I do say so myself.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Suli Breaks "I will not let an exam result decide my fate"

This was sent out on Facebook and struck a chord with me. So much so that I wanted to archive it here, on my blog, so I wouldn't forget it. If you search on YouTube for Suli Breaks 'I will not let an exam result decide my fate' you'll find several versions. But I love the graphic quality of this one :) Anyhow...I'll let you judge for yourself.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Biology: Eyewitness Science - Experiments on bones

We've been working through the Eyewitness Science Guide: How the Body Works by Steve Parker (Ours is  this edition from 1994). Like many of the Eyewitness guides it's heavy on the pictures and text-boxes, but we like that. 

Some of the suggested experiments in the book are ridiculously involved. I don't mind a trip to Wilkinsons to buy balloons, but I don't want to have to have to learn carpentry. At least not now. It's stuff like this that makes me balk at the more interesting books on my shelves. Was there ever a time when I might have attempted an experiment that required lengths of dowel and marine plyboard sawn to precise measurements?

Right now anything that takes a lot of prep, requires hard-to-obtain materials or requires a huge amount of parental input or time, is unlikely to get done. Sad, but we have slipped into the open-and-go-just-get-'er-done stage.  

We haven't done deliberate, intentional science for ages...For a science-focused household this is a bad state to be in. It needs to be rectified. 

To make the book more manageable I have scanned through, chosen one or more 'do-able' activities from each chapter for the first half of the book. I did draw out a rough schedule, but most importantly I put all the materials necessary for each session/activity in a zip-lock bag, labelled with the session number. Eight sessions' worth of labelled bags and a ready-to-go book with small text-boxes with lots of pictures has meant that for the first time in ages we actually get around to science.

 These are the photos of our 'bones' experiment, looking at how the tightly-packed, stratified inner of the bone adds to its strength.

When the inners (straws) of the bone are splayed, they are weak:

When they are tightly packed and linear, they are much stronger:

Friday, 19 September 2014

East Head Spit: Checking out the geography of the South Coast, August 2014

A few weeks back we took a field trip to the south coast to check out some seaside geographical features. Ds2 will be taking IGCSE Geography next year, so I took him to the same place we took ds1. East Head spit is a great place to see firsthand, a sand and shingle spit, salt marsh and sand dunes.

I confess it was nice to grab my old camera back from ds1 for a while and play with the black and white feature.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

THAT MAD YEAR. A long break from blogging and here we are again.

I notice that my last post was sometime in June and related to World Cup activities. The World Cup? Oh how long ago that seems! There we were at the start of Summer trying to fire ourselves up for some hands-on learning and hours of fun in the sunshine.

Well. Good intentions and all that....

Summer has been and gone and we don't seem to have made the most of it, but that's ok. No, really, it's ok. I'll keep telling myself that.  Truth is, by June we were totally. burned. out. Despite a faint glimmer of strained enthusiasm not a lot of anything happened after that. We ate from the corner shop. I put diesel in the car. I stressed over my credit card bill.  I put more diesel in the car. I apologised a lot for forgetting things and being late and for missing stuff that I was sure I'd made a note of, but that somehow in the chaos had got lost. I put more diesel in the car. I fell over the piles of stuff in the dining room. Piles of stuff fell over me in the lounge. I climbed over the piles of stuff in the bedroom. I thought about writing hate mail to The Fly Lady and telling her to stop sending me stupid adverts for her feather dusters and come and spend her time more usefully cleaning at my house instead. I drank the homemade wine I'd intended saving for Christmas.

Actually, thinking about it, quite a lot happened.

So...needless to say we didn't get far with those World Cup activities. Was I really that optimistic? We did manage to get the world map up on the wall and find some of the participating countries before they got knocked out, so I guess that's geography ticked for 2014.

September 2013 to June 2014 I think should be known as That Mad Year by our family. A combination of having a child studying for IGCSEs (the international equivalent of GCSEs), alongside all three children doing competitive sport and two doing competitive robotics was the sort of 24/7 crazy life that you really shouldn't sign up for. Add in working part-time, running home ed workshops and trying to keep some sort of home and family life and it's not surprising we were all a bit loopy by the end of it. I now understand the term "work/life balance" more than I want to.

But...some good things have happened. Just in case I don't get to post about them in more detail, here's a summary of achievements. Please excuse me just a little bit of smugness.

  • After a humungous amount of work, Ds1 achieved two more IGCSEs with good (one was ridiculously good) grades. He now has 4. This is the boy who two years ago couldn't write a sentence and had to seriously concentrate to even sign his own name. He can now spell photosynthesis, though I'm not sure how useful that's going to be.

  • Earlier in the year Dd won the girls under-11 England Youth Championships, an amazing feat, particularly as she hadn't fenced for 3 weeks prior to the competition due to an injury. She's holding the coach to his previous year's promise of a year's worth of Haribo if the unlikely event of her winning.
  • Ds1 and ds2 with their LEGO robotic team won the regional LEGO League competition, came in the top 8 of the Nationals (winning an award for innovation) and were one of only 4 UK teams invited to the European Championships in Spain. It was their first year doing LEGO robotics, their first year giving presentations in front of large groups of people, the first year ds2 typed, not just one, but three (three!) whole sides of A4 (for the research project) and the first time my boys had been on a plane or abroad :) Lots of achievements there!

  • And as for my achievements...I spent the year running regular workshops at several home ed groups, got some lovely feedback, made new friends and learned a lot from all the children I've come in contact with. That's pretty good, I think :)

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The World Cup as a geography project: Part 1 Resources and Links

Not being a fan of football, I've resigned myself to the fact that for the next few weeks I will be bombarded by football-themed *everything*.

But...a nifty home educator would never let an educational opportunity slip past them.

Here are some educational links which we are planning to use to turn the World Cup into an educational geography project. (Thanks to Sarah from alittlebitofstructure for some of the links)

World Cup chart (free download) 
(There are lots of these on the internet to pick and choose from, but this one seemed fine.)

If you want the poster larger than A4, save the PDF file from the link (click on the little floppy disc icon in the bottom right hand corner). Reopen the file in Adobe from wherever you have saved it. Click on print and under the heading page sizing and handling you should have the option to print it as a poster. Click on the 'poster' option. You can fiddle with the settings, but basically you'll end up with four sheets, each with a part of the poster on that can then be stuck together.

World Cup Group bookmarks from Activity Village
We wont be using them as bookmarks, but they make great headings for displays. We'll most likely use them alongside a world map (see below)

Megamaps - world maps to print out - poster size if you want
If you don't have a world map, this is a great place to print out outline maps. There are lots of options for different sized maps - from a single A4 sheet to maps spread over 64 x A4 pages!

World Cup for Kids (Activity Village)
Lots of football and country-themed activities and printables. We wont be using the football ones, but there are plenty of different things to choose from.

Country Passport (Activity Village) and My country passport study printables
For writing basic info about the countries studied

Alternatively, to save time, you can download Activity Village's World Cup flags bundle for the small price of £3.95 here which has all the 390+ free PDF files in one zipped file.

Brazil-themed activities for World Cup
Click on the link on the page above and it will download a PDF with lesson plans. Links within the lesson plan take you to various resources, including a powerpoint presentation about Brazil.

Brazil- issues about homelessness
More geared towards classroom activities, but might have a few useful ideas for discussion.

Brazil in the school
Brazil resources, PDFs and photos.

World Cup Project book (choose World Cup Project Book from the page of downloads)
Word document to fill in for each country.

A big year for Brazil
Not listing this particularly for the memorisation of maps, but rather for the mini videos that are here and because (if you scroll down) there are some good starting points for discussion about advertising, moral issues around the World Cup etc.

I'll be adding to these if I find any more geography-related links that will be useful. If you have any other ideas, please post them in the comments.