Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Ellen McHenry Brain hats and St George's Day dragon puppets

Tomorrow I'll be running a session at our local home ed group on The Brain, so today we ran through a prototype 'brain hat', just to make sure everything will go as planned.

You can print the free brain hat templates here at Ellen McHenry's Basement website 

Meanwhile, I was trying to get around to doing something - *anything* -  for St George's Day. 

We're not great at doing anything for special days or festivals. I always have good intentions, but the date comes and goes and even though I know lots of great resources for all these excuses to do a themed something, somehow we never get around to it. 

Finally, today we had a brief stint on St George. Of course, being an independent-minded child, dd did it *her* way. She flatly refused to colour in the wonderful picture from Activity Village here and barely skimmed a read through the Scholastic St George's Day resources here . But she did get excited about making a dragon sock puppet here 

These were once my favourite pair of stripey socks, many years ago, and I can't think of a better way to reuse them :)

Friday, 18 April 2014

Rearing and observing tadpoles

About a month ago, dd took this photo of our pond frogspawn.

Now the tadpoles have 'hatched' and we've decided to make use of our enormous fish tank to observe the changes in the tadpoles over the coming weeks.

Previous attempts, many years ago, to keep tadpoles in small tanks were unsuccessful. I suspect the main problems were keeping a uniform environment and preventing build-up of wastes. However, there was also the problems associated with having other carnivores in the tank - for example great water diving beetles. If you get one of these in a small tank, they'll eat everything (including tadpoles). We know he was the culprit because one morning he was still chewing on a bit of tail!

There is some useful info on rearing tadpoles on the CLEAPSS website here and there are some suggestions for experiments/ investigations that the kids can do. I'm not sure I should tell my bunch about the 'how fast does a tadpole swim' experiment as it might bring out their competitive side and lead to weeks of tadpole-in-a-tube races.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Chain reactions

Ds1 showed me this video recently and it reminded me that my kids went through phases of doing a lot of this kind of thing, albeit on a much smaller scale!

If you search you can find a series of behind the scenes vids of how they made the video.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Make your own pH indicator paper

Using the instructions here at Wikihow, we made our own pH indicator paper.

We used the 'recipe' for eldeberries as we had a stash of them in the freezer. Ds2 defrosted them in the microwave and then crushed them in our metal orange juicer (a potato masher would have done just as well) to get the juice.

We cut up strips of art watercolour paper (acid free) that we happened to have in our cuboard and dipped them in the juice before hanging them outside to dry.

Testing them with lemon juice (acid) and baking powder solution (alkali) produced the following results. Acid = red, alkali = blue/green

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The crystals that time forgot

Dd found an experiment in a science book and declared that she wanted to do it and I nearly fell off my chair.

This is the child whose only suggestions involve eating crackers and playing on the PC or having friends over. She is the child whose favourite phrase is 'can I go now' and who constantly asks 'what are we doing tomorrow' (because obviously today just isn't floating her boat).

So, despite having no brain cells after all the stress of art exams (see previous post), and therefore resistant to anything that required my interaction or attention, I felt compelled to say 'yes'.

The experiment, thankfully very simple, involved pouring in loads and loads and loads of salt into a glass of hot water until no more of the salt dissolved. Salt is one thing we have in our house since I over-purchased materials for making salt dough just before Christmas.

Sing along
Ba Ba home edder have you any salt?
Yes sir, yes sir, three cupboards' full. 
One for the salt dough, and one for the crystals,
and one for the future when we come up with some other vaguely educational idea and I go 'I've got just the thing for that'...

I decided to label the glass on both sides. Two reasons.
1) So no-one was tempted to think it was fruit squash and drink it and
2) so we could display the experiment on our windowsill for all passers by to see and wonder at the educationally educational education my kids were getting that theirs weren't. (Not that I'm smug or anything. I just like to wind up the neighbours.)

For anyone who hasn't seen previous photos posted on here, our lounge windowsill is a bit like Emily's shop window in Bagpuss. Except that in all these years no-one has ever come and claimed their items back.

You see, everything in that shop window was a thing that somebody had once lost and Emily had found and brought home to Bagpuss

Yep. The crystals are going the way of the potatoes. A few more weeks and they'll have climbed their way out of the glass and be half-way across the lino to the front door.

Friday, 11 April 2014

The potatoes that time forgot...

We have been far too busy here. 

Ds1 has been doing art prep for his art and design exam.

The dining room table - no, let's get this correct, the whole dining room - has been piled high with assorted art materials for two months. It has been near impossible to circumnavigate the table without being maimed by mirrored plastic, a sack of sand, piles of paper and paints and pencils, lamps (for late-night work), printed photos, sandpaper and saws, glue guns, boards and blocks and ,well, just about everything you could imagine doing something creative with. Or something ds1 could get creative with. Personally I'd just go with pen and paper, myself.


What you do when your prep board is the wrong colour

The Art and Design Exam. The dreaded Art and Design exam. It is almost a swear word (swear phrase?) among my fellow parent sufferers. Why? Well...

...the stress associated with changing syllabus only a couple of weeks before starting the prep, not knowing exam dates until 5 weeks before the exam... the difficulties of following a very woolly syllabus, with even woollier exam instructions... having little tutor direction about the exam requirements (and zero knowledge of art or art processes myself)...

...has meant that our - ok, my- every waking hour for the past 10 weeks has been occupied with moderate and sustained panic. Panic is something you should do for a few minutes, sometimes up to a few hours. A day of panic is extreme. Eight weeks of panic is really not good for the soul. When you find yourself baking chocolate cookies at 5.30am because you've already been awake an hour staring at the ceiling wondering what 'a student's personal response to...' actually means, you know this is neither good for longevity, or hair retention. 

A neutral photo of one corner of the table. I would post up photos of artwork, 
but feel safer to wait until after the exam marking, just in case, you know.

Of course, like all these things they do eventually pass, and you wonder why on earth you made such a fuss. It's a bit like having a baby...all that stress and anxiety and 5 years later when you are so over it all, you wonder what it was all about. Yes, eventually the art exams came and went. We had a marathon session of clearing the table. i.e. redistributing the c**p to other areas of the house. I am proud to say that we now have a dining room.

Meanwhile, during THE LONG WINTER of art prep, all other things have been abandoned, deserted, gone unnoticed, left to...

...grow roots in cardboard boxes.

Our 'Grow Your Own Potato' kit, grew itself...through the netting...and out of the box. I swear it was heading for the front door.

We buried planted the sorry-looking specimens in the sacks provided. Over the next few weeks we will pay them some guilt-attention, lovingly water and watch them, before resorting to complete neglect, like last year's batch. 
No doubt, like last year's batch, they will lean and lurch all over the patio, occupying valuable space with their monstrous green foliage and smelly yellow flowers and tripping up anyone who dares to venture near the water butt. I will curse them many times, attempt to tame them, but secretly be please that at least something that's not a weed is flourishing in the garden.

Some time in autumn when I've blown the food budget because all three kids need fencing trainers, I will suddenly remember that we planted things in the garden five months previous and that maybe I should go take a look. 

I will hack my way through the patio jungle and pull out two sacks of soil and a lot of woodlice. I will nag the kids to Come! Look! Peter has fun! Jane has fun! And when they can't be bothered to come to  the much-anticipated 'unveiling of the potatoes' event I will say that either they come and fake some enthusiasm, or there will be two-week old aubergine on their plates for dinner tonight. 

Cameras will be at the ready, trumpets will sound. And at the end of it we will be seriously underwhelmed with a few miserly potatoes, smaller and more pathetic-looking than the ones we planted. Not even enough to make mash.