Thursday, 24 May 2012

When it gets this hot...

school's out.  I mean, who has the heart to keep a healthy, lively child indoors when the weather is gorgeous?!  After math on Monday morning , I looked out of the window and decided that I would rather Tiger's memories of childhood be filled with many happy hours of digging in the garden, exploring outdoors, and being in awe of nature, than the number of books he has read or workbooks he has completed.

Therefore for the most part of this week, our homeschooling looks like this:
- many, many hours playing in the garden: digging, building structures and building 'dams', living out of his box-house, and generally getting muddy.

- staring at garden creatures and figuring out where they go and what they do.

Once Tiger has accumulated enough mud and dirt on himself, he comes indoors for a scrub-down and does more 'civilised' activities such as improvising on the piano with Daddy...

as well as writing and illustrating his own story.

I can foresee what our summer will look like, and I like what I am seeing -- a good balance of self-initiated work and play.

"Real play, which doesn't require any special equipment, comes naturally if children are allowed reasonable freedom to explore and engage with the world about them."
--- Sue Palmer, 21st Century Boys

This post is linked up to:
1) several blog hops, where you can see what other homeschoolers have been busy with;
2) the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival: Summer Holidays edition;
3) the All Year Round Blog Carnival: Summer edition.

It is featured in the All Year Round Blog Carnival: 7 Summer Things to do Outdoors edition.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

How animals find food

This week in vertebrate study we look at the topic "How Animals Find Food".  It is a fancy way of classifying vertebrate by the types of food they eat, i.e. whether they are carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores.  This is yet another revision class for Tiger so we worked through the lesson from this book very quickly then moved on to watching a few clips on how carnivores actually hunt for their food (e.g. how they move, which parts of their bodies are used, their hunting strategies).

This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can see what other homeschoolers have been busy with.  It is also linked up to the 350th Carnival of Homeschooling.  

Friday, 18 May 2012


Where nature study is concerned, we oscillate between being structured (i.e. using books, lesson plans, etc) and learning from the moment.

Just the other day, we drove around the corner and a bunch of blue just growing by the roadside caught my eyes: bluebells!

These gorgeous flowers are usually found in the woods, so we were surprised to see them by the roadside.  I had planned another topic for our nature study this week, but decided to seize the moment (bluebells only blossom for a few weeks at most) and do an impromptu study on bluebells instead.

We walked back to the location and examined the plant in detail, noting the strong fragrance of the flowers, their colour and shape, their size, the leaves' size and shape and texture.

Then we came home and added an entry into our nature journals:

We then learned more about this lovely plant from BBC Nature's bluebell page.  The videos there are very informative, and we finally understood why the ones we saw by the roadside were bigger and 'fatter' than the normal bluebells we had seen in the woods previously: these were Spanish bluebells!  Apparently the native, British bluebells are 'daintier' and more blue in shade, while the Spanish version is bigger and more purplish in colour.

British bluebells vs Spanish bluebells

Another very interesting fact we learned is that Britain has more than 50% of the world's bluebell population!  What we have learned certainly helped Tiger to go through the quiz quickly and accurately.

When the sun came out, we decided to do a few more activities from the Bluebell pack.  Armed with his camera and a spotter's sheet, Tiger was tasked with finding all things in nature that are blue, including bluebells of course.

We decided to see whether we can find bluebells in the woods nearby.

No luck with seeing a bluebells in the woods, but Tiger found a stream which fascinated him for over an hour with jumping over it, watching it, playing pooh-stick, looking for any living organisms in it, generally just gazing and losing himself in the flow of water.  Perhaps the greatest gain in nature study is to develop a love and curiosity for the natural world around us.


This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can see what other homeschoolers have been busy with.  It is also linked to the Homeschool Showcase #103.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Turner's light

When it comes to studying British artists, JMW Turner's name always comes up amongst the top list.  With him being labeled as part of the Romantic movement, and after our study of John Constable, we thought we were going to see pretty much similar styles -- countryside scenes, detailed paintings, etc.  I am very glad we decided to study both artists separately as both of them could not be more different from each other.

Picture Study
Once again, I had a few postcard-sized reproductions of Turner's work on the door, as well as on my computer screen.  These were on display all the time so that Tiger was able to see them each day.  By now, he knows that he is expected to discuss/narrate any one of the pictures he sees on the door at some point.

We used several sources to prepare for our discussion on Turner's style, his influences, and his most notable artistic achievement:
1) BBC Your Painting's Turner page was our first stop.  We looked through the slide show to familiarise ourselves to Turner's different works, and also listened to the audio clips.

2) We then took a visual tour of Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight here, followed by activities in the Inside Scoop - Tuner.

3) Bringing our focus back to England, we listened to the relevant parts of the National Gallery's podcasts (episodes 60, 65, 66, and 67) about Turner.

4) We also used the following book, with its short introduction and questions, to kick start the discussion:

However, we found the following documentary to be most enlightening about Turner's life and his creative process (note: parental guidance needed due to a few scenes of nudity relating to life drawing):

Hands-on Project
Turner's work is very difficult to replicate at a child's level, for the simple reason that his style is one of romantic-realism.  Without years of practise and developed fine motor skills, it is extremely difficult to create a piece of art work at a child's level and to call it "Turner inspired", in contrast with some of the more expressionistic or abstract styles.  Nonetheless, we gave it a try. First, we looked through one of Turner's sketchbooks to get inspiration from his looser, watercolour work:

Once Tiger has had some idea of watercolour sketching, we decided to attempt an atmospheric watercolour painting based on Turner's Rain, Steam, and Speed - The Great Western Railway.   We listened to the short discussion here before starting on the project. First, the preliminary pencil sketch...

followed by a wash...

Tiger had fun laying in the details as he learned to use create different marks using a combination of different brush strokes, toothbrush, and the back of his paintbrushes.

The final result:

Field Trips
We went to the V&A's Room 87 to look at Turner's work, as well as Constable's work.  Nothing compares to looking at the original artworks up close!

Tate Britain happens to be the best place to learn about Turner this time.  There was a lot of renovation going on when we went there, with the Turner collection being moved to another location.  The curator and workmen were in the process of moving the collection on the day we were there but they were nice enough to let us look slowly at the paintings without being disturbed.  I spent a long time standing in front of Fishermen at Sea.  Once again, Constable's and Turner's works were displayed in the same rooms.  As a quick 'test', I asked Tiger to identify Turner's work amongst all the paintings in the various rooms.  He faired very well in that. At Tate Britain, there is a special display about Turner's Experiments with Colour and Line in another room, so we spent another hour there learning all we could about Turner's techniques. 

This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can see what other homeschoolers have been busy with.  It is also linked up to the Carnival of Homeschooling 349th Edition.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Life cycles and eggs

This week we look at life cycles of the different groups of vertebrates.  We worked through this section of our study very quickly since Tiger is familiar with the concept of life cycles, having done it before in his preschool years.

At the beginning of the lesson, I wanted to make sure that he knows what a life cycle mean, so I asked him to draw me that of a chicken:

To cement our knowledge of this topic, we read the following books.  We found a few interesting facts from them, especially on the growth of sharks and salmons:

Although we knew about life cycles and that animals change as they grow, especially amphibians, we have never seen a live birth.  Watching the following clips about live mammal births made us appreciate how miraclous the process is: (note: parental guidance needed for graphic content of birthing process)

The topic of birth brought us to consider why a hen sits on her eggs, and why her weight does not break the eggs.  Tiger did a quick experiment to verify the spread of pressure on the egg by holding it in his palm and trying his hardest to break it by squeezing the egg:
We also rolled the egg on the table to see whether it would roll in a steady, straight line.  When the egg rolled in a wobbly, roundabout way, we discussed what caused that to happen and how the shape of the egg helped the hen to protect it.
Finally, we cracked the egg to look inside.  Tiger identified the parts of the egg and their uses from the 3 levels of identification exercise (easy, medium, hard) , then examined a real egg and labeled the worksheet for review.
The hands-on exercises and observations found here are quite interesting so we did them as well.  Tiger felt the texture of the different parts of the raw egg, smelled it, and did the same with a hard boiled egg.
We ended the learning session at home with a few online egg-related games: 1) Which animal lay eggs? 2) Counting eggs 3) Egg jokes - page 1 and page 2 The most interesting part of the lesson was probably live handling of the different vertebrates.  Apart from the frog that we found in our garden, all the other animals (a chicken, a corn snake, a salamander, a rabbit, and a goldfish) came from an Environmental Education Centre that we went to for half a day's lesson on vertebrates, which became a revision session for Tiger since we have already covered all the concepts taught there.  Nonetheless, being able to handle the live animals was well worth the trip.
This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can see what other homeschoolers have been busy with.  It is also linked to the Homeschooling Carnival: September 12, 2012 edition.
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