Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Art of Hokusai

Following our study of Medieval Japan in history, we delved a little more into the cultural aspects of the country by studying the art of a Japanese master, Hokusai.

Art appreciation - preparation
As usual, I displayed a few of the artist's representative works up on our cupboard for Tiger to familiarise himself with them.

Since we did not know much about Hokusai and his work, we decided to learn more about him by reading the following books:

As with many great artists, Hokusai was a versatile artist in that he was very skilful in many different forms of art, the most significant ones being ukiyo-e and woodblock prints.  I could not decide which style to focus on for our study, so in the process of searching, we first looked closely at one of his works using the following book:

Art appreciation - focused study 
As we learned more about Hokusai's woodblock prints, we came across the The Great Wave documentary, and decided that we would focus on this particular masterpiece:

Once we have decided upon one single piece of work to focus on, we learned more about it through reading:

and completed the observational exercises from the lesson plan here, including mirroring our hand posture to that of the wave:

Field trip
Our timing to study The Great Wave could not have been better since we were able to attend a special exhibition on this work at the British Museum where we not only saw heard an expert lecture on the significance of and story behind this piece of work and saw one of the original prints on display,

we also learnt much about Hokusai's other woodblock prints, as well as the woodblock printing process.

Hands-on Project
We decided that Tiger would have a go at making his own prints following Hokusai's style.  Our project instructions are taken from this book:

First, Tiger had to decide on the pattern that he wanted to print.  After some discussion, he decided that he wanted to print a dragon in the oriental style.  We looked on the internet and found a simplified version of what he wanted:

Next came the transfer of the image onto the styrofoam pizza base.  Since Tiger was not confident about drawing freehand yet, he adopted my suggestion of transfering using the tracing paper.

Once the initial pattern transfer had been done, it was time to 'carve' out the indentation of the dragon.  We used the end of a teaspoon to press on the outline of the pattern.

The printing began after this.  Tiger chose different coloured papers for his base, then applied paint onto template with a roller.

After printing a few monotone copies, Tiger decided to change his output slightly by applying multiple colours to the template all at once.   While Tiger understood that the actual woodblock print process would have used one colour at a time, he did not want to repeat the process multiple times.  Therefore, Tiger's multi-coloured prints were each done at one go.

After the prints were completed, Tiger wrote an advertisement, complete with a web address and telephone number, to sell his prints for £4 each.  When asked to explain how he came up with the £4 price tag, Tiger explained his rationale: he did a quick mental estimate of the amount of effort involved to produce the prints plus the amount of paint used.

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 April's edition of the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival.

Monday, 27 February 2012

The other side of the story

So far, everyone who reads this blog has read about our homeschooling journey from my point of view.  Here is a glimpse of the other (Tiger's) side of the story.

When asked to describe our typical homeschooling day, Tiger drew the following pictures.  The first one is obvious:

"Do your lessons!"
The second one represents him:

"The monkey is very happy."

Ah, the joys of self-expression!  Personally, I think Tiger has caught the essence of his mother rather well, albeit not quite the 'Zen Mum and the angelic child' picture that I had hoped to see.  That aside, I am very glad Tiger feels no inhibitions when it comes to telling me what he really thinks.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Ohayou gozaimasu!

After a short study of the Korean history and culture, we spent a much longer time on Japan.  Last year's study of ancient world history has taught us that mythologies and legends can give us much insight into the cultural aspects of a civilisation, so that was where we started with our Japan study -- by reading stories from Japanese legends and myths:

It was fascinating for us to learn that the Yamato family has been ruling Japan for over 800 years.  To understand more about this unique situation and to know more about this family, we watched the following clip:

We then headed to the British Museum's Japan gallery to see artefacts for ourselves, while we learned more from joining a gallery tour.

Tiger, being fascinated for the longest time about warfare and warriors, stood for a long time in front of the samurai cabinet to admire the samurai swords and armour:

Naturally, this was followed by reading up on the samurai and comparing how they were different from the English knights (in terms of armour, training and culture) that Tiger is so familiar with:

The samurai seemed to have thrived in the Edo Period, which occurred a few hundred years after the Yamato family first took control of the country.  The following documentary helped us gain a better understanding of the samurai and the period they lived in:

When asked to choose a hands-on project for this topic, Tiger chose to make a samurai helmet.  Is anyone surprised at his choice?  I'm not.  We followed the instructions from this book:

Making the samurai helmet was no small feat.  It took Tiger a few days to complete it, and involved plenty of measuring, drawing, cutting, pasting, painting, folding, and assembling, as documented below:

Tiger's effort paid off in the end, as he now has a samurai helmet to add to his "armoury":

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 featured in TGIF Linky Party #19, as well as being linked to the Hands-On Homeschooling Blog Carnival for April 23rd.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Trying the unit study approach

We are currently working through Marguerite Makes a Book.  This book has been chosen because:
1) the story was set in the Middle Ages;
2) we wanted to learn more about illuminated manuscripts;
3) the lesson plans are available free from here.

While the unit study approach appeals to me for its wide coverage of topics based on a single source book, I was not sure whether the lapbook aspect would appeal.  We made a few lapbooks in Tiger's preschool years and I thought they were too much trouble to make since I was the one doing most of the cutting and pasting back then.  This time round, I approached the lapbooking slowly so as not to overwhelm Tiger with the amount of work involved.  Surprisingly, this time Tiger took to it like a fish to water!  I think the success with lapbooking this time is due to the following factors:

1) Tiger being more developed in terms of fine motor skills so cutting and pasting do not tire him as much as they did when he was little;
2) Instead of putting the lapbook together in one go, as I did before, we put each part together as we worked through the unit.  This way, the project became manageable components rather than an overwhelming whole.
3) Tiger has been more involved this time in terms of designing and organising the lapbook.  After I explained what the lapbook templates were for, he had full control over the project.

So far so good.

Working slowly through the unit, we have touched upon geography when we had to find out the meaning behind the flag of France.

An interesting discussion came up when we examined the feudal system as part of understanding how society was structured in the Middle Ages.  Using the diagram, Tiger finally had a visual understanding of where knights were placed in the social hierarchy.  That led to us examining how and whether social structure has changed as much as we would like to believe.  It was slightly grim when we realised that we were just a little better than the peasant class.

Peasant or not, we moved along to appreciate great art in the form of a child-friendly version of the Book of Hours.  The stunning illustrations were done by the Limbourgh Brothers, whom we had studied previously.  The book gave a detailed description of each illustration, which helped us appreciate the artist's skills and use of symbolism.  We also looked at each picture to find details that we had missed when we studied the artist in Year 1.

After reading through the book, I took out the copies of art postcards that we used in Year 1 for artist study.  The cards were used to match against the pages from the book.

We both watched an excellent interactive demo of how a medieval manuscript is made.  The demo helped to cement what we know so far about the manuscript process.

Another superb example of medieval manuscript is the Book of Kells which is currently held in Dublin:

Compared to filling out workbooks, this approach takes a long time.  We seem to get side tracked at every point as we follow our interest before returning to the lesson plan.  So far we are still working through Chapter 1 but the process of learning has been immensely enjoyable, especially when we are being led into fascinating areas which would otherwise have been missed.  If we were just using this approach for Language Arts, I would be worried about whether Tiger is covering enough grounds for his basic skills such as grammar, writing and spelling.  Since those areas are being covered at other times in our week, we can indulge ourselves by taking an interesting route to reading and literature.

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 Homeschool Showcase #93.

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