Thursday, 25 June 2009

Between a rock and a nappy sack of dog poo via the valley of cryogenic fruit. Or 'Why scientists should bring the dinosaurs back'

I have so much news for you guys to catch up on that I don't know where to start. In fact it's been so long since I posted specifically about our home education (rather than Badman's Bad Report) that I've forgotten what I've told you about and what I haven't.

Anyway. I'll start writing and post the photos up a bit later at which point I'll remember more things to write about and if I repeat myself, well be a little tolerant. It's my age you know.

There's been a bit of a ROCK theme going on here recently.

Did I tell you about the David Attenborough DVD on fossils that the kids watched while we were doing 'Evolution and Darwin'?
Well, following on from the DVD we've strayed into more of the fossil subject area. Ds1 had already been reminiscing about fossil hunting in Lyme Regis and coincidentally I've been reading outloud to the kids a book on Mary Anning (The Dragon in the Cliff by Sheila Cole), who is famous for finding some amazing fossils on the Dorset coast when she was a girl in the 1800s. Anyway, it's a fab book, and absolutely the best sort for reading out loud. Ds1 has actually been begging for me to read it to him (my throat was sore today and he was gutted that I wasn't going to read the next chapter!).

[If you liked the Little House on the Prairie Series of books it has a similar 'feel' to it AND Mary is home educated for most of her childhood, which is a plus for our home educating family!].

On Tuesday we took off to do some fossil hunting in a local quarry, loaded down with picnic and hammers and dog and identification books and cameras and nappy sacks of dog poo (I'm sure traditional palaeontologists don't have the latter to contend with on their explorations). I'd never been to this quarry before and had no idea what to expect. Although we didn't find anything remarkable (no dinosaurs) in the limestone, there were certainly fossils and the kids were thrilled.

Orchids at the quarry. I think they are pyramidal orchids.[I suppose I should know all these things seeing as my final year dissertation was on plant colonisation of chalkpits and I spent the whole summer sat in a chalkpit identifying everything]

A moth, yet to be identified (a cinabar moth?).

I expected the novelty of 'another shell fossil!' to wear out after a while, but the kids were so reluctant to leave at the end of the day. I think this has something to do with the appeal of the 'treasure hunt' (it certainly appeals to me). It's that 'well just one more look, just in case I find something really good' feeling. Perhaps this is why people buy metal detectors; metal detecting probably has the same addictive qualities as fossil hunting ('Just one more field and I might find something really valuable!')

Ds2 doing a good impression of a mountain goat (I was at the bottom trying not to look and mentally banning myself from using the phrase 'be careful', while pondering how far it was to the nearest hospital )

A bivalve fossil. Cool eh?

The fossil-craze has taken off so well that we've booked a few days camping down near Lyme Regis soon. I'm not sure what we're going to do with carrier bag fulls of rocks (build a rockery?) in the tent, but I'm sure we'll have fun.

On the rock theme, here are some pictures of the boys doing some stone carving at an arts and crafts weekend. Ds1 wouldn't leave the block alone and spent most of the weekend chiselling away at it! Dh has promised to get him a couple of breeze blocks in the back garden and lend him a hammer and chisel. It's not like the neighbours think we're normal anyway...

Ds1 training to be a plastic surgeon (actually I think it's a penguin in progress)

Ds2 getting a lesson in pot throwing at the arts and crafts show. I was hoping for one of those 'Generation Game' moments with wobbly pots flying off into the audience, but alas he was far too good at it!)

The kids have also been watching repeats of 'The Fossil Detectives' on bbc iplayer. They only seem to be available for a week after showing on BBC4, (no.2 is on iplayer at the moment), but they are to be recommended! My boys really enjoyed them. Oh, and if you go to

there is a link where you can order a free 'Fossil Detectives' guide from the Open University. We've already got ours and it's a really useful start to fossil hunting. Not exactly comprehensive, but in some ways better than lugging around some huge tome on fossils that the kids wont want to look at anyway.

And on the evolution theme we were watching 'The Incredible Human Journey' on iplayer, except that the series must have ended now because it's all vanished off the website (poo). But we've managed to watch a few, and have downloaded a couple more. Maybe the BBC will repeat the series (they seem to repeat everything else).

Oh and that's just reminded me. We went to the Cheltenham Science Festival a few weekends ago. It was a long day out, but the boys went and saw the 'Evolution Revolution' talk by Dr Robert Winston and a talk about the satellite that Blue Peter are sending up (don't know much about it, but they seemed to enjoy the talk). They also got to play at all the hands-on stuff that was there, and pick up some freebies (always a plus!). The kids entered a competition and we were notified a few days later that ds2 had won a robot (he had a choice and chose the Roboraptor). We're still waiting for it to arrive nearly a week later and I'm hoping that it hasn't got lost in our appalling postal system, or that they've somehow changed their mind and sent it to someone else :( We don't often win things, so I'm cautiously pessimistic.

Dd checking out the 'science of balance' at The Cheltenham Science Festival!

And pretending to conduct an orchestra like the statue of the very famous bloke behind her whose name I can't remember.

Ds2 paints with mud to show how kind he is to plants (or some other earthy reason that the stallholder gave and that went straight over my head)

Dd draws a dog. Dogs are her current artistic theme. But it is a very nice dog...

Dd2 proves that autonomous education works. Not only did he teach himself to read, but it looks as if he can spell too (in mud)

AND...more evolution. I took the kids to an evolution event at our local museum of natural history. They kind of blanked out with info-overload (especially the woman who seemed determine to explain the differences and similarities in various animals' DNA to my 3 not-very-interested children), but it felt like one more tick in the box (sorry kids, I'm in control of the pen this time). And there was the usual Mr dynamic museum education officer, who is totally animated about everything (yes, I mean EVERYTHING - in a loud voice) and just the sort of person you need to make a dry subject interesting to kids. Why can't every museum have one of him? (I bet the anti-cloning protestors haven't thought of what they are depriving us home educators of - think how much better life would be if we could populate the country with excitable child-friendly museum bods!)

The kids look at some weird creatures in the museum. I think by this point they were flagging and a bit desperate to go home :)

Alongside the fossil theme we've been doing a timeline of evolution (simplified) using the books 'From Lava to Life' and 'Mammals who Morph' by Jennifer Morgan. There are actually 3 books in the series but I was too tight to buy the first one which I assume is about The Big Bang. You can see below some of the pictures that the kids drew to stick on the timeline. I know it's a sneaky way to get them to do a bit of writing, but - as I keep reminding them - if they were in school they'd be doing HOURS of writing. Though to be fair, even if my kids had hours to do writing in, they'd probably still only come up with one or two legible sentences in that time.

Ok, so what else have we been doing (on a non-evolution, non-fossil, non-rock theme)?

Well the strawberries are glutting. I don't suppose that's a verb, but I've just made it into one. Why? Because I'm worth it.

Do you know just how many fresh strawberries a family can eat in one day? We do. And it's less than I'm picking. I still have last year's strawberries in the freezer that I was supposed to make jam out of...and now I have another 3 tubs to add (on top of last year's blackcurrants, rasberries, sliced apple, elderberries, and weird things which may have once been damsons) . My freezer has become the valley of cryogenic fruit.

The mangetout are also glutting. One day they are tiny, the next day they are monstrously tough pea pods. Ok, well maybe not the next day, but the next day that I get around to going down the allotment, which is nearly the same thing. The only thing to do with all these is to dip them in humous. YUM. The kids don't like them, so I'm left trying to eat a bag full a day (and giving the leftovers to the rabbit which seems a shame). I think even neighbours' distribution outlets are overwhelmed (eggs, strawberries AND mangetout).

Shouldn't complain. But I will.

The courgette plants that were gifted to me (see last post) are still looking half dead. I keep forgetting to water them or feed them, or actually do anything with them.

Bad courgette mother.

Still, thinking positively, at least it will prevent me having a courgette glut in about 2 months time. I still have courgettes from two years ago preserved at the bottom of the freezer. Once a year (in that super skint month when I rummage in the freezer to feed the family to avoid hitting the overdraft limit) they resurface and I poke them back down to the bottom because they look so unappealing. One day I'll fee\d them to the chickens.

The horsetail is growing well at the allotment. As we have found out from our numerous fossil/evolution viewings and activities the horsetail - or tree-like forms of it - were around at the same time as the dinosaurs. I've been thinking about this (displacement activity no101)...if herbivorous dinosaurs were introduced on to my allotment I'd have no weed problems at all. Where's Jurassic Park scientists when you need them? Oi! Go get some of that dinosaur DNA and breed me a horsetail predator! But knowing my luck they'd probably be fond of carrots too...

[by the way it's taken me three attempts to finish this post, hence the date at the top is actually about 3 days ago]

1 comment:

lotusbirther said...

Thanks for an informative post and sharing so many ideas! Have sent off for the fossil hunters kit and am off to check out the bbc4 prog...
That cheltenham festival looked great and a bit different to the previous ideas I had about Cheltenham Festival.