Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Our Island Adventures: Of Bygone Times

Dotted around the Isle of Wight are many historic places.  We visited a few while we were there.

(1) Bembridge Windmill

This is a very well preserved windmill with all its machinery and interior intact.  We were able to have a very good look at everything inside on its four floors and learned quite a bit about how the mill worked.

Even JMW Turner had visited it and was inspired to paint what he saw then.

(2) St. Catherine's Oratory
This unassuming-looking oratory has quite an interesting history.  Situated on a prehistoric burial mound, it was once used as chapel with an adjoining lighthouse.

Only the one tower is left so there isn't really much else to see at this site.  However, since it is situated on top of a huge mound, it took us quite a while to make the steep climb.  The surrounding scenery, as we saw on our way up, was breathtaking.

(3) Hanover Point
This is one of a few places on the island where we were told we could find fossilised dinosaur footprints.  I was slightly skeptical as to whether we were going to see any by ourselves, since you really have to know what you're looking at to identify a genuine dino footprint from a clump of mud and stones.

We were there towards the end of the day and were able to catch a very beautiful sunset on the beach.  The sign boards on the beach have very clear instructions and examples of how we can look out for fossils and dino footprints.  The place is certainly rugged enough to have existed in prehistoric times.  While Tiger spent his time digging on the beach, I spent my time looking for fossils.  I managed to find a few fossiled seaweeds on rocks, and a few fossilised dino footprints.  Wow, that was really amazing.  What is really good about the experience is that people have followed the instructions on the sign boards and left the fossils on the beach, instead of taking them away, so that other people (like us) can enjoy the discovery for ourselves.

This post is part of a series about our summer holiday on the Isle of Wight.  You can read the entire series here.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Hobbies and Handicrafts - August 2
  2. Collage Friday - Planning, Reunions, & Deals
  3. TGIF Linky Party #87
  4. Country Kids - Missing Family Members
  5. Weekly Wrap-Up: The One Where Life Went Back to Normal
  6. The Homeschool Mother's Journal {August 3, 2013}
  7. Hip Homeschool Hop - 8/6/13

Friday, 26 July 2013

Our Island Adventures: Needles

One of the most famous landmarks on the Isle of Wight is The Needles.  No cars were allowed to park near it so we had to stop some way off and walk up up and along a cliff.  It was quite a way up but the view of the surrounding landscape was well worth it.

Soon we reached The Needles Old Battery and New Battery, a Victorian coastal defence built to defend the country against invasion by sea by France.  Fortunately, it was never used for its intended purpose.  The site may not excite everyone, but for a military history buff like Tiger, everything at the site from its history and its infrastructure to its construction and equipments are extremely interesting.

We looked at all the exhibition rooms there and saw many detailed models of how the site was constructed.  The model that shows a cross-section of the cliff on which the site was built, which explains how the cliff was tunnelled through and led out to the sea for transporting equipments, is especially instructive.

From the site, there are several different points to have a good look at the Needles.  We saw it from the underground tunnel at the Old Battery, from the lookout point at the New Battery, as well as from a viewing point further up the cliff.  It is truly one of nature's marvellous piece of work.

This post is part of a series about our summer holiday on the Isle of Wight.  You can read the entire series here.

This post is linked up to:
  1. History and Geography Meme #84
  2. Hobbies and Handicrafts - July 26
  3. Collage Friday - From the Mountains
  4. TGIF Linky Party #86
  5. The Homeschool Mother's Journal {July 27, 2013}
  6. Hip Homeschool Hop - 7/30/13

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Our Island Adventures: Lord of the Castle

Where have we been this past week?

We were out at sea very briefly, on board a ferry to the Isle of Wight, an island off the south of England.

The day we set off was glorious.  I even saw a hovercraft!  Tiger and I had made model hovercrafts for a science experiment a few years ago but I hadn't seen an actual craft before so it was very exciting for me to see one.

We were on our way to stay at Carisbrooke Castle!  Yes, you've read it correct.  We didn't just visit the castle, we actually lived inside the castle for the entire duration of our stay on the island.

Everyone was really excited about our stay in the castle.  For Tiger, it was a dream come true.  Eversince his fascination with knights and castles started a few years ago, he has been wondering about the possibility of actually living in one.  Now he was going to stay in one for a few days!

Throughout our stay Tiger volunteered to be the "gatekeeper" who locked the gates each night and opened them each morning.

The castle is significant in many ways, with a very long history.  It has changed hands many times, from being a Saxon fortress to the summer residence of Queen Victoria's daughter.  I suspect that is why most parts of the castle have been kept in a very good condition.

Not only the outer buildings were well kept, much of the inner parts of the castle was also well preserved.

There were many guns positioned at different parts of the castle, signifying its use as a fortress for defence at different times in history:

Other than the very impressive structure of the castle, there is also a very well organised museum within the castle grounds, in a house that part of a series of buildings that were formerly home to lords and governors of the island.

Part of the museum was dedicated to the English Civil War, showing the causes of conflict as well as the different armours worn by soldiers on both sides of the conflict:

The relevance of the English Civil War to this castle is due to Charles I being imprisoned at the castle for a short while during the conflict.

The bedroom in which he slept in was preserved:

It seems that Charles I wasn't treated too badly during his imprisonment at the castle, as he had a bowling green built especially for him during his stay!

Charles I was later executed in London, following his defeat at the Civil War.  A chapel was built inside the castle as a place of remembrance for him.  A copy of his death warrant, signed by Oliver Cromwell, was on display on the wall in the chapel.

As we were staying in the castle, we had the run of the grounds after it was closed to public after 6pm.  During our stay we spent every evening walking the grounds, just to feel the atmosphere of being in a castle after dark.   We had close-up looks of a few interesting nocturnal creatures:

The most fascinating creature we saw must have been the common glow worm.  Tortoise noticed them first along the castle walls but Tiger was the one to identify them.  We had not seen them before in the open, so this was another exciting first for us:

Being the ever-curious homeschoolers that we are, Tiger and I felt compelled to learn more about the  common glow worms from the BBC Nature website and from reading a short article about them.

The common glow worms can be found just about anywhere in the UK, but I have never seen them before this -- probably because we don't go looking for them after 10pm, which is the time that their glow is most obvious.  While we were at it, we also learned a little about bioilluminescence

It has been a fantastic stay at the castle for all of us, but we also spent much time exploring the Isle of Wight.  I shall share about our other island adventures in later posts.

This post is part of a series about our summer holiday on the Isle of Wight.  You can read the entire series here.

This post is linked up to:
  1. History and Geography Meme #84
  2. Hobbies and Handicrafts - July 26
  3. Collage Friday - From the Mountains
  4. TGIF Linky Party #86 
  5. The Homeschool Mother's Journal {July 27, 2013}
  6. Science Sunday: Snakes
  7. Hip Homeschool Hop - 7/30/13

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

(My) Ideas for Summer

It has taken me about two weeks, since I first mentioned our summer plans, to put my ideas into words.  Here they are.

My vision for this summer consists of four parts, in no particular order of importance or timing:
  1. Lots of time outdoors, taking part in sports and being in nature
  2. Theme: The Wind in the Willows
  3. Theme: Mystery
  4. Art
1.  Outdoors, Sports, and Nature
When you live in the UK, you have really got to make the most of the weather, especially when it gets warm and dry.  For us, summer doesn't count unless we have spent time on the coast so heading out to the beach is a given.

I also intend to consciously make sure that we don't spend too much time indoors because we have a lot of indoor time to look forward to in winter and spring.

My inspirations for nature activities come from these sites:

I have resisted signing up Tiger for classes this summer.  Having run around a fair bit in the academic year, I would like us to have a restful summer rather than spending too much time running to and from classes.  However, Tiger has begged to do archery lessons so he will be taking two classes at the local sports centre.

2.  The Wind in the Willows
This book is on Ambleside Online's Year 2 booklist.  Tiger has read it a few times on his own but I think we can get more enjoyment out of the book by doing a few activities loosely based around the theme of the book.

What I have in mind for this theme are to:
  • share the read aloud together
  • start looking at the literary elements using the corresponding back issue of The Arrow
  • learn about river as a geographical feature as well as a habitat
  • learn about the four main characters of the story - toad, badger, rat (water vole), and mole
  • learn about the water cycle
  • do some "wet science" experiments
  • grow cress to put in sandwiches
  • have a picnic by a river
  • make a model boat and a model car
  • play a board game
  • go on field trips

3.  Mystery
Tiger has enjoyed mystery stories for a long time, starting with the Famous Five series.  He read these several times over, then proceeded to do the same with The Secret Seven series, and the excitement of solving mysteries.  So, he has also read through The Adventure seriesThe Five Find-Outers Mystery series, and The Barney 'R' Mysteries series.

Two years ago, we did a Famous Five Summer Adventure Week where we basically just had fun doing activities based on the series.  Since then, Tiger has been looking for mysteries to solve eversince, even writing a few scenarios of his own to solve.

What I have in mind for this theme are to:

4.  Art
After looking around and working out the true cost of attending a week-long art summer school to be around £400 (totalling fees, travel and food costs), I have decided to do it in-house using the following book:

The book is has five distinct sections, which works out nicely to fit a five-day summer school format.
  1. Drawing
  2. Painting
  3. Printmaking
  4. Paper
  5. Mixed Media
Each section has 10 to 11 activities or "labs" so there is plenty of variety to choose from.  Rather than assigning specific number of activities each day, I am thinking of focusing on one section per day and see how much we get to do by the end of each day.  My goal is for us to explore and enjoy the process of making art rather than to produce a certain number of output each day.

So, that's my plan for the summer.  Most UK schools start their holidays in the final week of July so we are going to beat the crowd to it by starting our summer now and going somewhere to escape the current heatwave.  In fact, we have already started last week with rockpooling!

Have a fun summer, everyone!

This post is linked up to:
  1. Hip Homeschool Hop - 7/16/13
  2. Hobbies and Handicrafts - July 19
  3. Collage Friday - Accomplishments and Interests
  4. Weekly Wrap-Up: The Share Your Curriculum Edition
  5. The Homeschool Mother's Journal - July 20, 2013

Friday, 12 July 2013

Rock Pools are Cool

It seems that summer has started for us as we found ourselves by the coast.  Since it was low tide, we had a good look at the rock pools.

Can you guess what we found?  Lots of life!  As this was an unplanned find (I hadn't planned for us to go rockpooling), our 'field work' consisted of finding the creatures, observing them, and taking many photographs.  The specific identifications were done later at home using the following book:

1.  Sea anenomes, specifically, the beadlet anenome.

2.  Common starfish

As the tide had just gone out before we arrived at the rockpools, most of the starfish we saw were still alive and trying to stay moist.  If you look closely at the clip below, you can see the starfish moving very slowly.

3.  Seaweeds (mostly kelp, but also red and green seaweeds)

4.  Shore crab

5.  Limpets and acorn barnacles

6.  Common periwinkles

7.  Mussels


8.  Evidence of lugworms

Excited by what we saw, we watched the following clips to learn from a marine biologist:

We also hopped on to the BBC Nature website to learn all about rockpools, then read a few books related to the subject.

We didn't see any hermit crab, but it seems to be the most exciting subject to be found in the rockpool, as shown by the clips about:
  1. life in a rockpool,
  2. rockpool animals,
  3. what you can find in a rockpool, and
  4. rockpool villains.
The following documentary also spends some time on the hermit crab:

We then decided to make an entry into our long-neglected nature journals.  I have always envied natural journalists who are able to record their sightings on the spot, so I tried to replicate that plein-aire experience by limiting the time we spent drawing and painting from the photographs.  Each drawing/sketch was done in five minutes, afterwhich each painting took about 10-15 minutes.

We also read a few more related articles from a nature magazine that is unfortunately no longer in publication.  The purpose of reading these articles is to give us some idea of what to write in our journals.  It works a little bit like a narration, in that I asked Tiger to recall and write one or more interesting facts about each drawing.

To motivate Tiger to stay with the project, I made my entries alongside him.  I find that he is more motivated and interested to draw and write more when I am participating in the same task.  It also gives me an opportunity to model research skills, attention to detail, page design, and patience (although the last skill is very much work-in-progress for me as well).

Another benefit of making journal entries together is that we learn loads together.  For example, when we were writing about the common starfish, we discovered that the starfish larvae floated freely in the sea.  Since we had no idea what a starfish larva looked like, we looked it up and found this fantastic page that tells us all about how a starfish grows.  Absolutely fascinating.

Tiger's journal entries:


If you live in the UK, you might consider going to one of the many great places for rockpooling this summer.  There is a lot to discover!

This post is linked up to:
  1. Hobbies and Handicrafts - July 12
  2. Collage Friday - Music Camp
  3. Weekly Wrap-Up: The One with the First Week of School 2013
  4. Science Sunday: learning how to use a microscope
  5. Hip Homeschool Hop - 7/16/13
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