Friday, 30 March 2012

It depends on how you see it

Towards the end of chapter 1's lesson plan for Marguerite Makes a Book, there is an entire section about the eye -- anatomy of the human eye, labelling the parts, ... all the works.  I was wondering how I would enhance this part of the lesson to be more hands-on when my glass broke.

Wow, I couldn't have timed it better!  So off we went to the optometrist.   Tiger was involved in the whole process of selecting a new pair of frame for me, seeing how the eye test was done, asking the optometrist many questions about how the presciptions for glasses are made, and waiting days to collect the new pair of glasses.

Having learned about the human eye, we then moved on to animal vision.  We followed the link in the lessonplan and watched a fascinating cow eye dissection video.  Maybe a few years down the road we will embark on actual dissection, but for now we are happy to just see how it is done.

We attended a workshop about animal vision at the Natural History Museum where we learned about:
- how scientists at the Natural History Museum uncovered the earliest known eye;
- how eye adaptations allow individuals to escape predators and locate prey;
- how bees and butterflies can detect ultraviolet light, which helps the process of pollination.

This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can visit to see what other homeschoolers have been busy with. 

Thursday, 29 March 2012

The Islamic World

The past few weeks in World History we have been exploring the Islamic World, starting with learning about the Prophet Muhammad and the rise of Islam.  Our initial introduction of the topic came from chapters in SOTW2, and from reading the following books:

When we felt that we wanted to know more, we watched the following documentaries as well:
1) Biogaphy of Prophet Muhammad:

2) Islam: Empire of Faith:

As we learned about the Five Pillars of Islam, we were able to concentrate on a specific one: the Hajj, by attending a drama workshop at the British Museum.  The workshop was run by a professional theatre company where the children participated in role-playing to understand the rituals and roles of Muslim pilgrims at Mecca, as well as the significance of other religious prilgrimages.

After a preliminary preparation, we also visited the Hajj Exhibition at the museum where we saw many historical artefacts related to the Islamic pilgrimage while working through this trail, and learned much about the different ancient routes taken by the pilgrims in order to reach Mecca.  As part of this special exhibition, we also saw an embroidery demonstration of how the Arabic calligraphy was hand-sewn onto the cloth that covers the Kaaba.

The Islamic World gallery in the museum is full of beautiful treasures and artefacts to admire and learn from, so after a very informative 45-minute gallery tour where an expert on the Islamic art and culture taught us much about the subject, we stayed behind to look at the exhibits slowly by ourselves.


Coincidentally in our maths lesson we are starting a section on geometry (which is very much related to patterns found in Islamic art), so Tiger has been working on identifying multiple shapes "hidden" in the bigger and most obvious one on the page.

Sometimes it is easy to forget the scientific inventions from a culture that is more associated than religion than science, but watching the following documentary reminded us of how Islamic scholars in the past have contributed and influenced the development of science:

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 Carnival of Homeschooling: Frost and Forcythias edition.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

He's still alive!

For the first time in our Artist Study we learned about someone who is still alive and well -- David Hockney.  To me, Hockney is a very interesting artist, in the sense that people either love his work or hate them; there is no in-between.  I went to see his current exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, which sparked my interest to introduce him to Tiger.

With Hockney being hailed as "Britain's Greatest Living Artist", I have been surprised that I could not find any book in the library with a generic introduction and/or biography about him that is made accessible to young children.  Hence, I used the information found on BBC-Your Paintings as an introduction, as well as the clips found here.

Since I had bought a few postcards and materials from my own visit to the exhibition, I used these as well, just to give Tiger a sense of the variety of genres that Hockney has worked in and to prepare him for the visit to the Royal Academy where he would see the scale of the actual work for himself.

Field Trip
We are fond of the Royal Academy of Arts.  All the staff here whom we have come into contact with so far have been very helpful and friendly, so it is not hard for us to be persuaded to attend another one of their family workshop tied specifically to the Hockney exhibition.

The format is the same as the previous Degas workshop that we attended.  It started with a 45-minute slide presentation about Hockney's life and work, the significant influences to his work, and his methodology.

Hockney in the Swinging 60s, when he was best known for his Pop Art.
Showing the scale of his latest work.
Looking at the 9 screens that show 9 different perspectives captured on 9 cameras.
The second part of the workshop was a 40-minute visit to the exhibition, guided by a friendly volunteer who shared with us her enthusiasm and knowledge of the major pieces of work on display.  I think it is important for Tiger to see actual pieces of art work, whenever possible, to see for himself the actual size of the work and how they are being done.  So far, the scale of Hockney's work in this particular exhibition is the largest that Tiger has actually seen in person.  There were also a few large-scale photocollage on display, which gave Tiger yet further ideas on the possibilities of manipulating visual images.

The final part of the workshop was another 45-minutes of hands-on activities, guided by instructions from the workshop leader.

The first activity was to work in charcoal to make landscape sketches in the style of Hockney.

The next activity was to use a combination of marker pens and chalk pastels to draw a landscape.  The twist to this simple exercise was that the workshop leader gave verbal 'instructions' in the form of a short poetry for the participants to follow and interpret in their own ways, using a variety of different marks.

The final exercise at the workshop was to create our own iPad paintings, as seen in the exhibition, by layering sheets of tracing paper on top of one another to create a multi-layered drawing.

Hockney is obviously a fan of iPad art, but I am not so sure about using the technology for anything more than quick sketches.  Then again, I tend to hold a more conservative view when it comes to art so make your own minds up about this.

Hands-on Project
After we got home, I asked Tiger what he found most interesting in the exhibition and he replied that he was fascinated by the photocollage he saw, specifically the Pearblossom Highway.  An image of this piece of work has been printed on the exhibition guide that I have, so we looked at it more closely to examine how it was done.

Once Tiger has understood the technique, I let him choose an image from the back issues of the National Geographic magazine we have.

Once he has decided on the image, he proceeded to cutting, arranging and gluing the various pieces.  This project took careful planning and execution so as not to mix the pieces up.

Tiger enjoyed putting the photocollage together.  It gave him a new way of looking at things.  He said looking at the collage made him feel dizzy:

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.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

It's all about timing

When it comes to formal writing lessons, Tiger has never been a big fan.  He tolerates them but will not do more than what is absolutely necessary for each lesson.  He finds the act of writing tedious on the physical level, and he often thinks much faster than he can get his ideas down on writing.  However, he loves to write short notes, messages, and lists so he does write something everyday outside of our formal lesson time.

In the past few months, Tiger has been writing in a notepad that he keeps by his bedside every morning.  On the few occasions when he showed me his notepad, I saw that he has been writing out one to two sentences about what he planned to do each day.  It was done entirely on his own account, so I was very encouraged to see him doing it.  In order not to squash his budding interest in writing, I did not correct any error in his notepad.

A few days ago, Tiger was in a particularly restless mood.  He was bouncing off the wall for the entire day, not feeling satisfied with any activity that we did.  By late afternoon, both of us were exhausted by his restlessness so I left him to entertain himself while I cooked dinner.  He got into his "time machine" (Tiger has been very interested in the concept of time and on the topic of time travel lately), and decided to keep a travelouge of his 3-day adventure in what he calls his "time car".

Title page: Adventures in the Time Car

When Tiger showed me what he has written, I suddenly had a brainwave: art journal!  I had thought about doing art journals with Tiger before, but it never came together because he was not ready for it.  Perhaps part of the reason it did not happen was because I might have turned it into an academic exercise -- I am much more relaxed these days about how Tiger learns.

After dinner, I asked Tiger whether he would be interested to try out art journaling.  I gave him a journal book that I had bought for him a few years ago when the journaling idea first came to me, but since that never happened the journal has been in the cupboard until now:

Tiger is a big fan of the Winnie-the-Pooh characters.
I then took out my own journal and said we would work alongside each other.  I think having me work together with him on this, at least at the start, has been very useful in a few ways:
  • Tiger does not see this as being yet another academic exercise that his mum-and-teacher is making him do;
  • he gets to see one example of how art journaling can be done;
  • he sees and experiences for himself that art journaling is a liberating and enjoyable activity.
So we got started.  In order not to overly complicate the process at the beginning, I just set out the dry materials (felt tips, markers, coloured pencils, and ballpoint pens).  I explained that there are basically no rules (yay!!) to art journaling, but to get us started I laid down a few simple guidelines:
  • use any materials;
  • write, draw, doodle, scribble, do whatever you fancy in the art journal;
  • it can be about anything, everything, or nothing at all;
  • it can be about feelings, facts, records, anything that you feel you want to put down on paper.
Once Tiger got started, he carried on page after page, and did not stop until he had completed 8 pages in his journal.  That took 45 minutes.  Wow, compare that with the 15 minutes of daily coaxing that happens in our writing lessons!  More importantly, he enjoyed the process so much that he did not want to stop and wanted to do it again the next day.

Our first session has been a huge success for us and we intend to do more of it together.  There is certainly a lot of potential to explore and much scope to expand into in this area.  For example, we might try a themed session next time, or include other media..... the possibilities are endless!

I have done very little mixed media work in the past, but trying out art journaling has sparked my curiosity and interest in this area.  Hence, for my own development, it would be very interesting to try out something new.  Even if it does not change my style (which I am sure it will, in some ways) it will at least give me a break from my own art making and training, which tend to lean towards the academic/serious side, and allow me to experiment and have more fun in art making.

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 #94.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Who goes there?

When there was still snow on the ground, we spotted some mysterious footprints in the garden.

Very mysterious indeed.  Who could it have been?

The following morning, we ventured out to make some new prints of our own:

and to look for more interesting prints.  It was fascinating to see the different prints and trying to guess who/what else was around.

Most of the above were tracks of: foxes, rabbits, dogs, birds, roe deer, muntjac deer, fallow deer and red deer.

The most interesting tracks were the following, which we still cannot figure out how they were made.  At first I thought they looked like claw marks (from a badger?) but Tiger noticed that there were no footprints nearby.  Tiger thought they were whisker marks since they were so faint, almost weightless.  Mystery marks!

Other than making "wild guesses", we did some real work at home, using the really useful guide here to learn about the characteristics of tracks of animals from the same family group, as well as the types of trail that would be left behind by certain animals:

We found a related book to read.  Tiger also did some rubbing from a set of animal tracks plates that we have from a few years ago.  The book was interesting, but I am not sure of the value of doing those rubbings.  I guess we can glue them into the nature journal.

This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can visit to see what other homeschoolers have been busy with. 
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