Thursday, 27 March 2014

Focus on Crocus

We decided to extend our nature study from our nature walks by focusing on a few of the spring flowers.  We started with the crocus since it bloomed only for a very short time compared to some of the other flowers.

We followed the suggested observation points listed in the Handbook of Nature Study, pages 547-549.  This book is a very good place to start being closely engaged in nature observation as it provides much detailed background information on the topic/plant in question, as well as excellent questions and suggestions for study that we hadn't even thought to do before.  For example, prior to using the book, we had not thought to count the number of leaves of the crocus plant.  As it turned out, a crocus plant usually has four or eight leaves each.

After our outdoor observations, we brought one flower indoor to study it further.  We looked at the flower closely from different angles, looked at its various parts, measured its style, and cut it open to see what's inside.

I then asked Tiger to make an entry in his nature journal.  The crocus flower is a very simple design which makes it ideal for observational drawing.  After a slight protest, and seeing that I was making my own journal entry, Tiger got on with the task.

After Tiger has completed the first drawing, I asked him to draw a cross-section of the flower by copying the diagram from page 548 of the Handbook of Nature Study:

In my effort to get the most out of this unit, I made a pre-cursive handwriting worksheet by typing out an excerpt of the poem, The Crocus, by Harriet E.H. King (also found in the Handbook of Nature Study) and gave it to Tiger to practise his handwriting:

I know there are many points of view about the importance of handwriting.  It is fashionable nowadays to argue that in the digital age, handwriting or penmanship has become an obsolete practice.  My view is that handwriting is important for developing neuro-pathways, the process of which cannot be totally replaced by the act of typing.

I did not push too hard on handwriting while Tiger was little and was developing his fine motor skills, but as he gets older I expect him to write legibly and tidily, if not beautifully.  This is why I am insisting upon good handwriting from him from now on, with plenty of practice using the handwriting worksheets that I will be printing out for his copywork.

To show my support for Tiger's effort at journaling, I made an entry alongside him.  Somehow, having mum work alongside him makes the tasks of drawing and writing more tolerable.

This is part of our flower study series, otherwise known as:

This post is linked up to:
  1. Nature Study Monday: It's March! NSM! Link Up!
  2. Hip Homeschool Hop - 3/25/14
  3. Virtual Refrigerator - Obey
  4. Entertaining and Educational - Science of Light
  5. Collage Friday - Great Homeschool Convention Recap
  6. Weekly Wrap-up: The One with the Crazy March Snow
  7. The Homeschool Mother's Journal (3/29/14)
  8. Science Sunday: Science Activities for Kids

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Early Blossoms
There was so much to see on our latest nature walk that I have to split the post into two.  While the previous one was about the animals we saw, this post is about the plants we saw.  More specifically, the spring flowers.

1. Daffodils

2.  Crocus

3.  Plum blossom

I've always found the plum tree to be amazing.  Not only because of its beautiful short burst of flowers right at the beginning of spring, but also because it flowers before it bears leaves.  From what I remember of my primary school botany classes, I was taught that, in normal circumstances, leaves grow before flowers blossom on a flowering plant.  However, this is clearly not the case for the plum tree.

4.  Cherry blossom

I've also been confused for a long time between cherry blossoms and plum blossoms, as both flowers look very similar and they blossom at the same time.  Luckily I'm not the only one to have asked this question so someone very knowledgeable in this area has pointed out a good way to distinguish between the two: check whether the petals have a split end.  The one with the split end is the cherry blossom, the one without is the plum blossom.

5.  Blackthorn flowers

This is another to add to the overall confusion.  Its flowers look exactly the same as that of the plum blossom.  So how does one distinguish between the two?  The plum tree has been in my back garden for years, so I've seen its fruit and therefore knew for sure that it is a plum tree.  Also, the plum tree is a tree, while the Blackthorn is a shrub, which is revealed by the shape of the full-sized plant.

For the blackthorn flower, we were at first also confusing it with the Hawthorn flower (which again looks almost identical to the Blackthorn flower). Fortunately, we are again not the first to be confused by this, so here is a good explanation that helped us with identifying the flowers.

6.  Hyacinth

7.  Lesser Celandine

8.  Primrose

9.  Cyclamen

10.  Common Field-speedwell

11.  Garden Grape-Hyacinth

12.  Greater Periwinkle

We also saw a few types of flowers that are not strictly spring flowers, as we see them all through the summer and autumn as well:
1.  Common daisy

2.  Dandelion

3.  Lungwort

Since the spring blossoms last only for a very short time, we collected a few of them from our garden and pressed them in the flower press that I've been meaning to use for years.  We'll check the press in a few weeks' time to see how our collection turns out.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Nature Study Monday: It's March! NSM! Link Up!
  2. Hip Homeschool Hop - 3/25/14
  3. Entertaining and Educational - Science of Light
  4. Collage Friday - Great Homeschool Convention Recap
  5. Weekly Wrap-up: The One with the Crazy March Snow
  6. Country Kids from Combe Mil: Hunting for Frogspawn & Finding So Much More
  7. The Homeschool Mother's Journal (3/29/14)
  8. Science Sunday: Science Activities for Kids

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Look Who's Out to Enjoy the Sunshine!

The weather has been so good and warm that we were out for another nature walk with Tiger running around the woods in his short sleeve T-shirt!

Doesn't the woods look lovely?

While enjoying the quiet walk (there wasn't anyone else around in the woods that day), we observed quite a few things:
1) Blue tits

It's difficult to spot them in the trees because of the light and the branches, but their song is quite a giveaway.

2) Green woodpeckers
For several weeks now, we have been hearing the woodpecker drill holes in the woods so we were thrilled to finally see where it lives.

There are two species of woodpeckers in England but we've only ever seen the Green Woodpeckers around our way.  Normally we have one regular green woodpecker that visits our garden each spring and summer, so we were especially thrilled to see three all at once.

3) We also heard some unusual (for us) birdsongs.  The birds were too far away for us to identify so we still don't know what they are. 

Update on March 25th:
After watching the following episode of Springwatch 2013, we've identified the mysterious birds above as the Meadow Pipit.

4) Bumblebee

The bumblebee seemed quite dozy, probably confused by the sudden warmth that has come unexpectedly this year.  Judging from its size and the timing of its appearance, it probably is the queen bee looking for a new site.

5) Apart from the bumblebee, we also saw other delightful insects such as the Seven-spot ladybird.

There is something very endearing about the typically red seven-spot ladybirds, isn't there?  They are often spotted in the summer, so this particular one is the first we've seen this year.

6) Butterflies
We were very pleased to see a few different types of butterflies on our way, and were able to get very close to them while they were basking in the sun.

Since they remained quite still for a while, I was able to get a few photos that helped us identify them when we got home.  Other than the Brimstone butterfly that fluttered by too quickly and didn't stop for a photo, I took some of:
i) the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly,

ii) the Peacock butterfly,

iii) the Comma butterfly

It was a very fruitful day of nature observation!  But the best part happened when the sun went down.  As we were preparing to go to bed, we heard some eerie noises that sounded like a mixture of grunting and screeching:

We have heard various animal noises at night but not like this, so we were all trying to figure out what it could be.  Tortoise was quite sure it came from some kind of deer, but he didn't know exactly which type.  Tiger immediately identified it as the call of the sika deer -- you can hear him whispering his answer in the following clip:

The next morning we looked on the BBC Nature website and verified that it was indeed the call of the sika deer.  How did Tiger know this?  I have no idea.  Moments like this make me wonder what else and how much else he knows.  It's hard to tell with this boy.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Nature Study Monday: It's March! NSM! Link Up!
  2. Hip Homeschool Hop - 3/18/14
  3. Entertaining and Educational - Musical Sidewalk
  4. Collage Friday - Dreams, History, and LEGOs
  5. Weekly Wrap-up: The One Where My Kid Came Home and My Car Got Grounded
  6. Country Kids from Combe Mill: A Day at the Races
  7. The Homeschool Mother's Journal (3/22/14)

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Signs of a Very Early Spring

Much to our delight, we are currently experiencing a very warm March this year.  As a result of the usually warm temperatures, we have been spotting many signs of spring on our nature walks.

The song above was made by the robin.  Can you see it hiding in the hedge?

At the beginning of the month, the outside temperature was still quite chilly so we were still in our coats while we were out and about.

The signs of new life (plant-wise) were everywhere.

We didn't see or hear any baby birds on our walk.  As we observed some courting behaviour of the adult birds (for example, two very amourous pigeons), we suspected that it was still their courting season so probably we will see or hear baby birds in a month or so.

The great tit's courting behaviour was very interesting to observe.

First, the male (presumably) would try to impress the female by actively singing very loudly (more actively and loudly than normal) and then dart around back and forth among branches to (presumably) demonstrate their speed, skill, and flying prowess.

Back at home, we also started watching last year's Springwatch programme (this year's programme isn't out yet) to get a feel of what else is out there at springtime:

This post is linked up to:
  1. Nature Study Monday: It's March! NSM! Link Up!
  2. Hip Homeschool Hop - 3/11/14
  3. Entertaining and Educational - Art Masters 
  4. Collage Friday - Homeschooling Girls and Boys
  5. Weekly Wrap-up: The One with Cat Surgeries and Early Mornings
  6. Country Kids from Combe Mill
  7. The Homeschool Mother's Journal (3/15/14)
  8. Science Sunday: How to make a model of blood

Monday, 10 March 2014

The Other Scottish King: Robert the Bruce

England feud with Scotland started with Edward I's compaign against Scotland and continued into the reign of Edward II.

While Edward I was pitted against William Wallace, Edward II's nemesis came in the form of Robert the Bruce.

Robert the Bruce's rise to power wasn't straightforward, as he had to contest with his Scottish rival, John Comyn, for the kingship.  He eventually murdered John Comyn in the process.

Robert the Bruce's greatest victory against the English was at the Battle of Bannockburn.

After watching the videos, Tiger was inspired to make a Scottish armour out of a few pieces of red cloth, aluminum foil, and some masking tape.

Naturally, there has to be an epic battle to put the armour to good use.  This time Tiger took the role of  a Scot who was killed by the pike on the battlefield.  It has taken a few years of mock battles for Tiger to be able to take on the role of one who is defeated.  Compared to the previous few years when he felt absolutely invincible (or that he could never be wrong about anything), he is starting to show some maturity and awareness of his own ego, and is ready to acknolwedge that he, like everyone else, has some areas of weaknesses.

This post is linked up to:
  1. History and Geography Meme #107
  2. Hip Homeschool Hop - 3/11/14
  3. Entertaining and Educational - Art Masters 
  4. Collage Friday - Homeschooling Girls and Boys
  5. Weekly Wrap-up: The One with Cat Surgeries and Early Mornings
  6. Homeschool Mother's Journal (3/15/14)

Friday, 7 March 2014

A Royally Dysfunctional Family

The life of Edward II, son of Edward I, seems to be quite dysfunctional, as shown in the following documentary (from 16 to 22 minutes):

His close relationship with Piers Gaveston is a source of much speculation about both men's sexuality, although some scholars believe that there is no conclusive evidence to support it, since both men married women and had children in their respective marriages.

Nonetheless, the two men's closeness (and Edward II's comparative political incompetence compared to his father) incurred the wrath of the barons and Edward II's wife, Isabella of France (see the first 31 minutes of the following documentary):

The deposition of Edward II by his queen, Isabella (with the help of her lover, Roger Mortimer), was at that time, unprecedented and unimaginable, especially if one considers the position of the majority of women in the Middle Ages.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Fashionably Klimt

On the last day of 2013, Tiger and I visited the National Gallery to see The Portrait in Vienna 1900 exhibition.

Although it was not strictly a solo exhibition of Gustav Klimt's, I used that visit as a launch pad for us to learn more about Klimt and his work.

There isn't much information on Klimt for children, probably because the erotic nature of his most famous late period of work and his rather promiscuous personal life don't lend themselves to be deemed suitable material for young children to study.  However, I was inspired by the non-erotic portraits we saw at the exhibition to study about this man's unique artistic style and its influence on modern day fashion and design.

We used postcards and prints of Klimt's work for our inspiration, to understand his use of contrasting background and colours.


Then we proceeded to work.

Below is Tiger's work process for this project:
  1. We looked through a few magazines for Tiger to choose a pose which he liked.  Once he decided which pose he liked, he cut out the head and limbs of the model from the page
  2. The cut-outs were carefully glued onto a pre-selected piece of construction paper.
  3. Tiger drew the outline of the clothing on paper.
  4. Then he selected the patterned papers that he wanted to use.
  5. We looked at Klimt's prints again and talked about the interweaving patterns on his paintings.  This discussion made Tiger understand that he should think about variations in how he cut the patterned papers.
  6. The cut-out patterns were arranged onto the paper, within the outline that Tiger had drawn.  Once he was happy with how the patterned papers were arranged, he glued each piece on carefully, making further adjustments to the way each piece was cut accordingly.

Other than the proportion of the human body being really out of whack, I think the dress is really quite funky.  I would probably wear a dress with such a loud pattern if I were 20 years younger.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Hip Homeschool Hop - 3/4/14
  2. Virtual Refrigerator Blog Hop 
  3. Entertaining and Educational - Quotes and Strewing
  4. Collage Friday - We All Need Encouragement
  5. Weekly Wrap-Up: The One Where I Got Up Early
  6. The Homeschool Mother's Journal (3/8/14)

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