Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Nature study in November

Last day of November!  I want to squeeze this post in for November's nature study, because we are going on a new theme in December.  Nature study has been a bit of struggle for us, and I am not proud about that.  I honestly believe that children (and adults) benefit greatly by being in nature.  Admittedly, we do nature walks on a weekly basis as a family but I am not sure I would count that towards 'nature study' simply because it is done very informally, casually, and with no specific purpose other than just being out in the nature and being together.

After attempting different ideas since September, I am now inclined to have a monthly theme as a basis of our nature study.  I think having a theme to work on each month will help us to have a more focused purpose in our nature exploration (well, for the ones that I do with Tiger anyway), and for me to organise learning materials more efficiently.

Our November theme was Evergreen.  My jump-off point these days has been a nature book by Enid Blyton.  It is one of the rare living books about nature written for children in the UK.

This book is written has 12 chapters - one for each month of the year.  Each chapter contains descriptions of two nature walks that three children take with their very knowledgeable uncle.  There is a surprising amount of detailed and well-observed nature notes being woven into the stories, so that makes a very good pre-walk reading for Tiger and I.  I read the first part of the November walk at the beginning of this month, afterwhich we went out for a walk to observe what we had just read about: fog and mist.  It was certainly very damp that day!

Our second walk in November, according to the book, was to observe evergreens on a sunny day.

This was easy to do, since by now most of the deciduous trees have shed their leaves.

We didn't have to go very far to find numerous evergreens.


Observating and identifying evergreens is a good start.  We went a little further by taking some samples home to learn for ourselves why and how evergreens have leaves all year round.  The answer is in the texture and shapes of the leaves, compared to those of deciduous leaves.

Along the same theme of evergreen vesus deciduous plants, we did an experiment to see whether we could 'trick' a deciduous plant to hang on to its leaves a little longer than it would have if left out in nature, by placing a branch with a few remaining leaves in a glass of water indoors with good light.  As this experiment was done after our second walk, it took us a long time to find a branch with any deciduous leaf left since nearly all the decidous trees have shed their leaves by then.  The idea for the experiment came from yet another Janice vanCleave book.

Day 0
Day 5 - leaves still intact but going more brown and brittle
Day 13 - leaves are turning very brown, but still hanging on to the branch!

The best part of our nature study efforts this month has been seeing Tiger reading more of the Enid Blyton book by himself after our formal lessons were done.

This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can visit to see what other homeschoolers have been busy with.  It is also linked to the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival: Music and Composer Study edition.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Spicing up math

I have no complaints about our math curriculum.  We are using RightStart Level C at the moment.  It meets Tiger's needs as a visual-spatial learner with its manipulatives and math games-based lessons, and has kept Tiger's mathematical interest up since day one.  While we are using still this as our main math curriculum now and will continue with it for the next few levels, I feel the need to add another dimension to how Tiger is learning mathematics.  Specifically, I would like to incorporate more real-life applications to the math concepts that he is learning.  It is going to sound very similar to the 'living math' idea that is very popular among many homeschoolers (which even has its own curriculum to be followed).  However, by now I have realised that I like to mix and match different materials and resources to suit Tiger's learning requirements, so a boxed curriculum will not meet our needs.  I suspect I might be a closet unschooler who's giving my son a Classical Education.  Can the two seemingly opposing educational philosophies work together?  Well, who cares?!  All I know is that regardless of the labels we put on ourselves in terms of educational approach, we are enjoying what we do and how we learn.

I've digressed.  Coming back to hands-on math, my approach is to pick a math topic, find relevant materials that are interesting to us, then apply them!  Our first hands-on math topic is place value.  I don't have any particular reason why this is our first topic (you'd think fractions would be our first topic, given that Tiger is working through it at the moment), except that: (1) we are in the 'Middle Ages' period in our history study, which is our spine for the most part; (2) I happen to have the relevant materials at hand; and (3) we need to have a successful first session to want to continue doing this, so place value is an easy topic to start.

I used the lesson plan here to go with the book, Sir Cumference and All the King's Tens.   All the additional printouts can be printed off there as well to support the lesson.  Since we had already covered place value in our main math lesson, Tiger zoomed through our first hands-on math session successfully.  It also helped that Tiger loved the quirky humour in the book.

The main idea to get across in the lesson is that each digit has a different meaning when put in a different place in a number.  This was the first time Tiger had thought about the difference between a digit and a number, so in this sense he has learnt something new from this session.


After we have gone through the lesson plan, we did a bit of improvisation with the materials.  Tiger played with the digit cards for while, but he quickly realised that to make the biggest number he possibly could, he had to place the digits in descending order.

The other new thing that Tiger learnt from this session was how to read 6-digit numbers correctly.  I hadn't realised, until this session, that although Tiger knew what a 6-digit number represent mathematically, he did not know how to read them in words.  That did not take long to sort out, especially when we were taking turn 'testing' each other at reading random 6-digit numbers.

It has been a successful and enjoyable way to reinforce a math concept.  We will be doing more of this.

This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can visit to see what other homeschoolers have been busy with.  It is also linked to the December edition of Math Teachers at Play Carnival.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Yucky-cillin and 3 mouldy experiments

The past few weeks had been a rather slow period in our homeschool, primarily because Tiger was ill with a very severe viral infection, which saw him taking three different dosages of penicillin just to keep himself going in the day.

This was the first time Tiger has taken penicillin in such huge dosages.  He called it 'yucky-cillin'.  I don't blame him.  The medicine had such awful taste that I thought Tiger did really well to swallow it.

Even though he was lethargic most of the time, he was still keen to do science experiments, so I looked through Biology for Every Kid for Zoology experiments (so as not to deviate too far from our current science topic - organisms).  Lo and behold!  The first few experiments in the Zoology section are about moulds, which were very relevant to Tiger's experience with penicillin.  He was not too pleased to learn that penicillin is actually a type of mould. 

Experiment 1: To grow bread mould

Materials we used

Adding drops of water to the bread

Day 0 - damp bread sealed in ziplock bag

Day 1 - no observable change
Day 2 - still no observable change
Day 3 - moulds are becoming visible
Day 4 - obvious moulds!

Experiment 2: Effect of yeast on sugar solution

Materials for this experiment

Making yeast + sugar solution

Day 0

Day 0 - 2 hours later
Day 1 - balloon was smaller than Day 0 but not totally flat
Day 2 - balloon was the same size as Day 1

Experiment 3: Effect of preservatives on bacterial growth

Materials for experiment 3

Day 0

Day 1 - no obvious changes

Day 2 - 'control' was most cloudy (indicates mould growth)
Day 3 - clear vs cloudy becomes more obvious
Day 4 - 'control' (in the middle) is the cloudiest
Day 4 - birds' eye view.  Mould is seen in the middle 'control' glass.

This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can visit to see what other homeschoolers have been busy with.  It is also linked to the December edition of Hands-on Homeschooling Blog Carnival.

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