Friday, 27 April 2012

Springtime in our garden

Continuing our efforts to be consistent with entries to our nature journals, we recorded the different flowers we saw blossoming in our back garden.  Our favourite spring flower seems to be the tulip.

We, or rather I, just could not get enough of it!  I was so inspired by all the lovely flowers that I made more entries than Tiger did this time.

Now that we are putting entries into our nature journals, I worry about whether we are doing it right.  We were certainly very happy when we were drawing and experimenting with the different medium and techniques, which has more of an artistic flavour than a scientific one.  Should I worry about the scientific accuracy in our botanical drawings?  Perhaps.  One step at a time for us here.  Once I get the consistency of entry underway, I'll worry about accuracy.

Meanwhile, I'm having a lot of fun just playing around.

We did eventually get some practical work done in our garden, besides just looking and painting.  We planted butternut squash, sunflowers, aubergine, and sweet peppers.

We are keeping our fingers crossed about these seedlings.  Hopefully in a few months we will have some interesting produce to collect.  Meanwhile, keeping track of the growth of our plants will keep us busy for a while.

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

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Mondrian Again

Mondrian-inspired abstract art is, by far, the fastest art project that Tiger has managed to do.  After the previous introductory session, we have been able to do two more projects this week.

The first project's instructions are from Discovering Great Artists.  It is a variation from last week's project in that we used black electrical tape for the initial grid lines on graph paper.

Once Tiger was happy with his black lines, he filled in the rectangles using a variety of medium: wax crayons, felt tip pens, and brush markers.

It took 20 minutes to complete Project 1, so we decided to do another quick one.  Tiger remembered a Mondrian spread from his doodle book:

There was one quick introduction to Mondrian in the book, followed by ready-drawn grids with colour-guide written in selected rectangles.  It was the child's version of painting-by-numbers.  Generally Tiger and I don't think painting-by-numbers or colouring books teach anything useful, but on this occasion Tiger was happy to use the brush pens so he did the exercise anyway.

We went to see the Mondrian Nicholson In Parallel exhibition at Somerset House.  It is a small exhibition so we were able to take our time to slowly go round and look closely at each piece of work.  The exhibition is interesting in that it shows the how Nicholson's work was influenced by his friendship with Mondrian, by placing both artists' works side-by-side.

As a final recap, we listened to both talks on the Smarthistory site on Mondrian.  I just discovered this site, and am very pleased with how comprehensive it is in terms of links and presentation.  We will be using it more in the future.

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 Blog Carnival.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Stories from Down Under

It is remarkable how little we know about the indigenous people of Australia and New Zealand.  We only realised this when we studied their culture and history very briefly (in one chapter).  It seems that these cultures were passed down in generations through oral traditions, hence there is not much written documentation found about their origins.  A lot of what we have learnt about them is through legends, myths, and stories.

Tiger was able to learn a little more through reading these books:

We also watched a few clips about them.  There are other more sombre videos about how these indigeous people were marginalised and persecuted by settlers, but we did not watch those as I do not want to get into such a grim aspect of history at this point.  Mostly probably we will be studying about it next year.

Australia clips:

New Zeland clips:

I must add that, after watching the clips, Tiger and I did not really know what to make of them.  I don't think I can claim to have a better understanding of their culture and how they lived.  I feel that we have a better understanding of the Celts than we do of the Australian Aborigines or the New Zeland Maoris.  I wonder whether this is because our understanding of the Celts has been aided by us living in the same land, where we have ready access to documentations, stories, and artefacts, and still see evidence of Celtic influence in our landscape and culture.  My guess is that an Australian family and a New Zelander family will have a totally different experience from us when studying this chapter.

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 #334.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Funny bones

We are seriously into bones lately.  Just branching off ever so slightly from what we have been doing in science, we are taking a closer look at the topic of vertebrates using this book specifically:

I am finding the book to be an interesting extension to our vertebrate study, in that it contains complete and very hands-on lesson plans, photocopiable sheets and mini reports to be written.  Each lesson (so far) has been easy to implement so that works for us.

The first lesson called for an examination of real animal bones, mostly to identify where the backbone is located in each.  That was a great opportunity for me (as the head chef of the family) to find out which types of animals we could cook and have all the bones intact after the meal.  We settled for haddock and quail.

Once we have played around with the bones and marveled at the unique skeletonal design of each animal, we went on to more backbone identification on paper - on X-ray sheets and worksheets.

The identification part was very obvious for Tiger, except when he was slightly surprised to see how complex the backbone of a snake is.  Although Tiger knew from previous lessons that snakes, being in the reptile group, are vertebrates, he was still baffled by how they are able to slide around and coil themselves up.  This point of misunderstanding was quickly clarified when I took a picture of Tiger's spine to show him that how the vertebral column is actually made of interlocking bones that allow for movements.

As usual, Tiger read some books that are related to each of the 5 vertebrate groups:

None of the books above pleased Tiger as much as the animal jokes books, which resulted in my having had the pleasure of listening to 50 different versions of "Knock, knock.  Who's there?"

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 #95.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Lines and space

We are definitely working through a theme of geometry here.  It's all about lines and shapes these days.

Picture Study
This is an introductory lesson I gave Tiger on Piet Mondrian.  At first glance, Mondrian's "grid work" is deceptively simple but obviously there is more to them than random lines and colours.  Once again, I could not find introductory biographies of Mondrian from the library, so I used a combination of the biography found here while looking through his paintings chronologically to give Tiger an idea of how Mondrian's style was influenced by the various art movements during his lifetime.  I feel it is important for Tiger to know that Mondrian was able to paint very well representationally before he turned to simplification and abstraction.

After looking at the printouts on the cupboard door for a while, I asked Tiger for a general narration of what he saw.  He struggled to say anything beyond "straight lines" and "primary colours", so I asked him to imagine how he would describe Mondrian's work to someone who is blind.  That helped.  Tiger managed to expand his description to include:
  • no diagonal lines
  • only rectangles
  • same tonal value in each piece of work
  • different spacing between grid lines
Out of all the printouts, Tiger was most attracted by the bright colours of Broadway Boogie Woogie.  He was tickled by its title and was intrigued by the story behind the name.  We watched the following clip to get a better idea:

The clip gave a good overview of Mondrian and his style, highlighting that both the space and the lines are equally important in Mondrian's work.  Tiger had to watch another clip to understand what a Boogie Woogie is:

We watched one more clip that gave a good overview of how Mondrian's style evolved from representational to abstract:

Hands-on project
I modified the lesson plan here slightly for the project.  First, Tiger planned his layout using the pre-cut black strips,bearing in mind the importance of spacing.

Once he was happy with his design, he glued them on and trimmed away the extra bits that were went beyond his white paper.

Next, Tiger had to decide where to put the colours.  I reminded him that Mondrian's choice of colours and spacing was done with careful planning and thought.  Tiger pencilled in his colours.

The final part was to measure the rectangles from the grid, transfer the measurements onto the corresponding coloured construction papers and cut them out.  I helped Tiger with transferring the measurements because this part was somewhat fiddly.  He did the cutting and pasting.

Here is Tiger's first Mondrian-inspired art work.

As he was doing the project, Tiger questioned why he was making a collage rather than painting (since Mondrian's mostly painted).  Good point.  Since he asked, I have other Mondrian projects lined up that will explore other aspects of his work.

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 up to the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival - Education is a Life! edition.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Restarting our nature journals

"We can't place a monetary value on nature journaling - the value is measured only by the soul."
-- Clare Walker Leslie, Keeping a Nature Journal

I was first introduced to the idea of nature journal about five years ago when I came across the concept of nature study as part of Charlotte Mason's philosophy.  The idea of keeping beautifully illustrated journals while having a peaceful, quiet afternoon observing nature appealed to me very much, so I tried to incorporate that into our days.  However, we never came anywhere close to the idyllic picture proposed by Charlotte Mason in our nature study sessions.  For a start, Tiger had no patience to keep still enough or quiet enough while we were out in nature to observe and/or draw what we saw -- he was more interested to be a knight wading through a thick forest (our local woods) ready to slay any imaginary monster/enemy that was hiding in the next corner.

After several failed attempts at getting him interested to just observe and put an entry into his nature journal, I decided to put away the idea of attaining any specific goals for Tiger and instead, just continue to take regular and leisurely walks and learn to appreciate nature myself.  I thought, maybe if I were to gain a genuine interest and appreciation of the subject matter (in this case, nature), my enthusiasm might rub off on my son eventually.  Truth to be told, my own feeble effort at nature journaling was not entirely inspiring either.

Something changed this spring.

On a slightly misty morning a few weeks ago, we saw a brown hare in a field.  We often see wild rabbits around, but that was the first time we saw a hare running in front of us.  Needless to say, we were very excited.  Somehow, seeing this rare creature (where we are) made me want to record it.  I did not have my camera with me that morning so I asked Tiger whether he thought we should record what we saw in our nature journal.  To my surprise, he was very enthusiastic about the idea.  On our way back, we saw a green woodpecker as well, so that was to go into our entry.

We spent an entire morning (about 3 hours) making our entries.  Since we are not at the level of sketching nature from life just yet, we consulted several books that we felt inspired by.  The session involved sketching in pencil, followed by colouring in using watercolour pencils and pan set, as well as some writing.  I pointed out some of the more obvious features of the hare -- such as long ears and legs -- to Tiger as he was sketching, as well as the different shades while he was colouring in.

I made a start in my nature journal as well.  It was a luxury to be able to spend an entire hour just sitting and painting.

Since we were not able to sit and observe the hare and the green woodpecker for hours, we learnt more about these two animals from the BBC Nature website, where we watched clips and read interesting facts about the hare and about the green woodpecker.

Both of us felt energised by this exercise, so it is strange that we don't do something we both find so enjoyable more often.   Sometimes Tiger just does not feel like doing it, sometimes there are more pressing activities to be done.  Whatever the reason might be for our lack of entries, I am wary of not turning the exercise into a chore by insisting upon having it done every week.  Right now Tiger sees his occasional nature journal entry as an interesting thing to do.  I want to keep it that way for him.  On the other hand, I might add a few more entries in my own journal on a regular basis.  Seeing me do it often might inspire Tiger to do the same, or it might not.  Regardless, he knows the option is open to him for more regular work should he chooses to do so.

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 Pioneer Edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.

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