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 :)