Thursday, 31 January 2013

An evolving story

I read the original writings of A.S. Neill a few years ago, and had mixed views about the Summerhill School that he founded.  I especially don't agree with his view of sidelining the parents, except maybe he was reacting against 'Tiger parents' of his days and the post-Victorian era discipline imposed on English children.

As we gravitate increasingly towards the autonomous approach in our homeschool, I am finding the following 12-part film rather refreshing in terms of clarifying how that school works.

I was surprised to find the atmosphere of the school (as portrayed by the film) to be very similar to that of our homeschool on most days.  More interestingly, the sign-up sheet that the children in the film use to decide what they want to learn is almost identical to what we use at home.

Without consciously thinking about it, we have arrived at a very similar approach towards educating children.  It is very interesting to see the similarity between the school's education philosophy and what is broadly known in homeschooling circle as 'unschooling', autonomous, child-led, or delight-directed education.  Summerhill's environment is as close as any Ofsted-registered school can hope to get to what many autonomous homeschooling families around the world are already giving their children -- the freedom to be themselves and to know themselves.

I found a 1964 interview with A.S. Neill here, so you can watch it for actual school footage and listen to what he said.

We don't usually see or hear about pioneering homeschooling families in the UK, but I found one here whose views sum up the general idea in this country.  Got to love that woman's quiet, determined defiance.  Things haven't changed very much since then.

This post is linked up to:
1) Hearts for Home Blog Hop #2
2) Homeschool Mother's Journal: February 1, 2013
3) TGIF Linky Party #61
4) Share it Saturday
5) The Sunday Showcase - 2/2/13
6) Hip Homeschool Hop - 2/5/13

Monday, 28 January 2013

How did he do it?

We resumed lessons this morning with maths.  Usually we do a little bit of mental warm up with me asking Tiger to solve a few maths equations just to start his cogs turning, especially after last week's cold and total absence of any form of formal lessons...

This morning's warm up question was: what is £9.87 x 32?

I asked the question verbally while Tiger wrote it out in his exercise book.  He wrote it out below:

And stared at it for a minute (I don't have the patience to wait for more than a minute for a maths answer) before I suggested to him that maybe it would be easier to write the question out vertically and use the long multiplication method.  He accepted my suggestion and dutifully wrote it out as requested:

As you can see from the above, my suggestion didn't go very far to help Tiger.  After another 30 seconds of staring at it, he gave up on my suggestion and said he wanted to 'think about it'.  He took 30 seconds before telling me the answer: £315.84

I had to double check the answer with a calculator.

When asked how he did it, Tiger couldn't explain his mental process to me, although I could guess it from the way he gave me the answer.  He gave me the answer in two parts.  First, he told me it was '£315 and something', then in the next few seconds, he had worked out the rest was 84p.

Tiger was very pleased that he got the correct answer, but quickly told me that he doesn't want to do anymore today since his brain is 'worn out from all that calculating'.

If he were in school where everyone is expected to show their maths workings on paper in a step by step manner, Tiger's unusual mental process would probably be labeled as some kind of 'learning difficulty' or 'special need', whereas being taught at home means that he is in an environment with a parent who recognises and supports his unique way of learning.

There has been much debate in the UK about how maths is best taught in schools.  There doesn't seem to be any consensus yet (I don't expect there to be), but Tiger has seldom been taught to memorise anything (we tried to do that with grammar following the WTM recommendations and we both found that to be excruciatingly dull and ineffective), not least learning time tables by heart.  I don't believe in rote learning.  We are more inclined towards gaining an understanding and appreciation of how things work, including mathematics.

This post is linked up to:
1) Math Monday Blog Hop #84
2) Hip Homeschool Hop - 1/29/13

Friday, 25 January 2013

Our winter week: snow fort, warm cookies, and games

This week there hasn't been a lot of academic work going on.  I blame the snow.  For most of the week, schools in England have been shut because of the weather, so I let Tiger play in the garden while the snow lasted.   I discovered that my boy is not into making snowman.  He's more interested in making a snow fort, which shouldn't surprise anyone, really.

While Tiger was working hard outdoors, I stayed indoors to make him some ginger and oat cookies to come in for:

Unfortunately, Tiger then caught a cold and the rest of the week was spent indoors.  Luckily we have games to keep us occupied.

This post is linked up to:
1) Look What We Did: January Link-Up
2) All Year Round Blog Carnival: Winter
4) Weekly Wrap-Up: The One with the Renewed Motivation
5) Homeschool Mother's Journal: January 25, 2013
6) Collage Friday - Feeling Like a New Person
7) It's a Wrap
8) Hobbies and Handicrafts - Jan 25
9) TGIF Linky Party #60
11) The Sunday Showcase- 1/26/13

Monday, 21 January 2013

Snowflake maths

Just for the records, we have had non-stop snowing over the weekend, so it looks like we are not going anywhere far for a while.

With the examination of the properties of snowflakes from our previous science lesson on snowflakes, we followed naturally onto the mathematical aspects of this interesting phenomenom: symmetry.

We have previously touched upon the idea of symmetry so we did a quick revision with a ruler and the snow crystal prints to determine the number and types of symmetrical lines we could find in each snowflake print.

Using a protractor, we explored a little about the 60-degree angle that were very prominent in the snowflakes we examined.

Once Tiger grasped the basic understanding of the protractor and angles, he used it to mark the location of the lines of symmetry in a circle before cutting it into a hexogonal snowflake.

Next, we learned about three types of symmetries: vertical, horizontal, and rotational.

There was a lot of cutting involved in this series of lessons, as we learned about different ways to fold and cut our papers to achieve design we wanted.

One way to think of the line of symmetry is to regard it as the line where a mirror would be placed. With that in mind, we used a mirror to prove that the reflection in the mirror was the same as the symmetrical pattern we made.

Still working along the concept of the mirror-image/reflected image, Tiger did more excises which comprised of:
1) cutting out letters that can be formed from mirror images (capital letters A, C, E, H)

2) drawing a symmetrical figure

3) constructing symmetrical figures using T-square and different-angled triangles, then colour them in.

The ideas for this lesson come from these books:

Besides the hands-on activities, we also watched a clip about the application of symmetry:

This post is linked up to:
1) Look What We Did: January Link-Up
2) All Year Round Blog Carnival: Winter
3) Share it Saturday
4) The Sunday Showcase 1/19/13
5) Math Monday Blog Hop #83
6) Hip Homeschool Hop - 1/22/13
7) Hearts for Home Blog Hop
8) Weekly Wrap-Up: The One with the Renewed Motivation
9) Homeschool Mother's Journal: January 25, 2013
10) Collage Friday - Feeling Like a New Person
11) It's a Wrap
12) Hobbies and Handicrafts - Jan 25
13) TGIF Linky Party #60 

Friday, 18 January 2013

A Snowy Day

It has been sub-zero temperature here in England where we are for the past two weeks, and we were warned by the weather man yesterday about the coming snow, so we have all been watching out for the first sign of snow with eager anticipation.

We saw the first flurry of snow at 10am.  Tiger was all excited but he managed to stay indoors until he has had his lunch before going out.  During the wait, we managed to get some maths problems and Chinese done.  Tiger also spent some time making paper sculptures of castles as part of his battle scene.

After lunch, we went outside to catch some snowflakes on a piece of black card to look at them under a magnifying glass.

After that, I didn't have the heart to keep Tiger indoors anymore so he spent most of the afternoon playing in the snow.

The snow is expected to go on for 12 hours, and we are expecting more snow over the weekend.

The boys have already made plans to go sledging and do other fun things in the snow tomorrow.

This post is linked up to:
1) Look What We Did: January Link-Up
2) All Year Round Blog Carnival: Winter
3) Weekly Wrap-Up: The One with Sunshine
4) Homeschool Mother's Journal: January 18, 2013
5) Collage Friday: It's Raining, It's Pouring!
6) It's a Wrap
7) Hobbies and Handicrafts - Jan 18
8) Share it Saturday
9) The Sunday Showcase 1/19/13
10) Homeschool Science Share & Tell - January 2013

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The tallest spire in England

The most famous thing that King John did was to sign the Magna Carta, which formed the basis of the English Law.  We watched an episode about the circumstances surrounding King John's signing of the charter from this DVD.

There are only four original copies of this document in England, one of which is held at the Salisbury Cathedral, where we visited to see the actual document.

While we were at the cathedral, we had a good look around to admire its history, architecture,

and effigies of many medieval characters.

The Tower Tour was well worth it, as we went to up the spire (the tallest in England) under the guidance of a very knowledgeable guide.  On the way up, we went through various sections of the cathedral that were otherwise inaccessible to normal visitors, and saw the buttress close up, complete with a full historical account by the guide of how various sections were put in place in the medieval period.

13th century wood nails not completely nailed in by workmen back then.

The tour has been very useful in bringing to life all that we've read about in the following books about the structure and construction of a cathedral in the Middle Ages,

as well as the documentary below:

You can find all our study related to the church in the Middle Ages here.

What about the Magna Carta?  We did see the actual copy there:

But the actual study was done at home, which I shall blog about in another history-related post next week.  Stay tuned!

This post is linked up to:
1) Look What We Did: January Link-Up
2) All Year Round Blog Carnival: Winter
3) History and Geography Meme 58
4) Weekly Wrap-Up: The One with Sunshine
5) Homeschool Mother's Journal: January 18, 2013
6) Collage Friday: It's Raining, It's Pouring!
7) It's a Wrap
8) Share it Saturday
9) The Sunday Showcase 1/19/13
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