Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Woodland activities, polar craft, jelly, peacocks and leaf preservation

Last week (was it last week?) we managed to get some fresh air with friends in the woods.
Some of the kids tramped down stream and came to a mini waterfall

where the minerals in the water had solidified on branches and twigs and stones, giving them a hard casing. We concluded that it might be calcium carbonate (like the stuff that gunks up the kettle), but haven't looked into it yet. I'm thinking of putting some vinegar on it to see if it dissolves, but at the moment the mummified branch is sticking out of my jar of oversized kitchen implements. (We don't do houseproud.)

Of course a fire and marshmallows were compulsory. Ds1 had seen on Ray Mears that in survival cases where it was difficult to light a fire because of damp kindling it was possible to use plastic. So he took apart a blue connector rod pokey stick thing that for some wierd reason ds2 had brought along and set fire to it. Result.

Roasting marshmallows in molten plastic fumes...must be a bit like smoking bacon I assume.

More woodland activities on Monday this week, as we ventured to a local arboretum with a bunch of sweet little mostly-interested-in-what-we-were-doing girls and mildly thuggish feral boys (two of whom were mine). We discovered lots of clusters of hibernating ladybirds under the fern leaves (girls were interested; boys wanted to spear them)

Because I didn't want small child to fill my coat pockets with chunks of rotten wood and acorns, I'd supplied dd with a Tescos carrier. Thankfully the peacock was sensible enough to refuse to step into the bag.

and here she is with something she was determined to relocate to our garden.

After much negotiation I finally persuaded her that large unidentified fungi are probably more comfortable living in woods than in a back garden where a not-very-bright King Charles Spaniel will first pee on them and then eat them. And I definitely put my foot down when it came to taking the Fly Agaric home. Anything that looks like something a gnome would sit on it has got to be a BAD thing.

Ds1's culinary experimentations this week stretched to raspberry jelly with overcooked chocolate topping. Like me, he got impatient with the microwave and found out that if you heat chocolate high enough and hard enough, after the melting stage comes the solidified gunk stage (fractionally before the setting off the smoke alarm stage). I thought the fresh raspberries from the garden were a nice touch. I didn't ask how much he'd touched them before he put them on the top...particularly when I looked at his black fingernails.

At our monthly home ed group last week we made plaster cast fossils (which tied in quite nicely with our polar project fossil craft). Incredibly my kids sat through the whole of a geology talk, although ds1 was doing a good impersonation of a teen (it was the slumped body and spaced-out look that gave it away). I only had to hiss at smallest child once. I did have to hiss at a few adults who were chatting away, oblivious to the fact that their chatter made it impossible to hear the poor woman at the front who was doing her best to educate us about - er - rocks and things (I was listening, honest).

Meanwhile here are the decoupaged natural history boxes that the kids finished off this week for our ongoing polar theme thingy. It should look a bit like this and ours look like this:

Which I think is pretty good, don't you? I thought only ds2 would participate, so wasn't expecting to make three boxes, but the results are great. We haven't blown the eggs to go inside yet. I'm waiting for a good time to be enthused about egg-blowing. But perhaps there never is a good time to be enthused about egg-blowing...

The past few days ds1 has been taking weather measurements for his geography group. He's testing for wind-speed using a home-made anemometer, and rainfall using a home-made rain gauge (an empty lemonade bottle with bottle funnel and jelly in the bottom to make the bottom level). It's taken him two days to realise his anemometer is so stiff it wont turn even if he blows it. Or even if there is a gale. And particularly if he stands with one foot in the conservatory while sticking his arm out with the apparatus and says 'maybe I'm a bit close to the building, but it'll do'.

I suspect an over-enthusiasm for gaffa tape may have contributed to the non-turning design fault. But hopefully fixed now. But, like most science, it's all about experimentation, isn't it?

And today, after two hours of fencing classes with other home edders (that's the sword-sport, not the activity of trying to sell on nicked stuff) I persuaded at least one of my children to the cluttered conservatory table to try preserving some of the junk - I mean leaves - that we'd collected in our Tescos carrier on Monday. Following the instructions here on the ordinarylifemagic blog we bought some glycerin from the chemist and had a go. It was at this point I was particularly glad we hadn't brought home

a) the enormous fungi and

b) the peacock

as the glycerin was about £2.90 a small bottle and it would have taken a good few gallons to cover a peacock and a giant mushroom.

Apparently the leaves have to sit in the glycerin for two days, so watch this space...

As you may have noticed among all these activities, there's not alot of writing going on.

Or alot of maths.

Funny how the two main subjects that most home edders worry about just happen to be the two that all my kids do their best to avoid.

But, hey, who needs times tables and good grammar when you can rampage through a woodland stream, overheat chocolate in a microwave, start fires in damp weather, and preserve leaves - and potentially peacocks - in glycerin.


Pip said...

oh now i am off to hunt for that blog post on preserving leaves.... looks like fun!
Oh an i was probably one of those mums you hissed at on Thursday lol. We relocated to another room so they could tell me everything Home Ed and answer my 3billion questions! Sorry lol!!

Loving the woods too. is that the arboretum near notcuts? i drove past it the other day and thought it might be a nice place to go.

Anne B said...

It sounds great, and I'm also fascinated by the leaf preservation. Really envy you all the craft.

As for Maths and writing - why do we worry about them? Because they don't want to do them. Each of mine has as their 'subject of doom' one of those. When I started having 2 of them at home it took me a good month to realise that one child was doing all the maths and the other all the English. To my knowledge, that has not happened since!

Big mamma frog said...

no prob Pip. Do introduce yourself to me next time. I'll be the unkempt one with the dazed look on her face accompanied by 3 equally unkempt and anarchic children :)

Anne - I think anything that involves pen and paper equates to 'subject of doom' in this house. After many years of attempts to rectify the situation, I've learnt to just go with the flow :)

homeschool family said...

Hello, as usual your wonderful posts make me laugh. Those polar region boxes are amazing, I want to make one myself :)

Ruth said...

I love the boxes. They are brilliant.

Big mamma frog said...

Yeah they look really good.

We tend towards doing this sort of creative stuff and that's why our house looks the way it is and there is no surface uncluttered.

I mean, when do you throw it all away? lol.

Jennifer Williams said...

Laughed my socks off at this post - thanks, read bits out to my husband who is doing his best impression of a teen also - slumped posture, glazed look in his eyes - by the way, him and the girls have also incinerated cvhocolate in the microwave - but waaaaay past the edible stage!!
jen x

Anonymous said...

Absolutely! Grammar and times tables are no comparison to this learning life your kids are having. It is irreplaceable. You can add the English and Maths later. But the foundation of a love of learning which you're providing has value that's immeasurable! You're making me miss my HEing!

Henry Cate said...

Please consider submitting something about homeschooling to the Carnival of Homeschooling. If you are interested, here are the instructions.

If this week is bad for you, you are always welcome to submit to future carnivals.

If a "blog carnival" is a new term, this might help.

Here is the archive of previous carnivals

Participating in a blog carnvial is a good way to get more exposure for your blog.

Thank you for your consideration.

Pip said...

hi,just noticed your reply to me.... I will introduce my self next time. But not sure when I will next go. I am not officially starting home ed till Sep 2013.... I like to plan ahead lol!!