Friday, 27 March 2015

Hello? Hello!

The Victorian era was a time of rapid social change, not least due to the Industrial Revolution which carried with it much scientific innovation and inventions.

One of the inventors from this period is Alexander Graham Bell, who is most famous for his invention of the modern telephone.

Surprisingly, I cannot not find a suitably interesting documentary about Bell, but we did manage to hear a recording of his voice when it was transmitted successfully over the first telephone.

Tiger then read another biography of Bell's and I had him write a short narration of what he has read, which he completed dutifully (meaning: he was less than keen at the idea but did it anyway).  On hindsight, I am not sure that making Tiger write a report proves anything other than that the action created a paper trail of what we did; I am not even sure that it shows evidence of real learning!   I suppose it provided me with some comfort to know that Tiger can write a short report when it is required of him.

We then moved quickly onto the more fun, hands-on part of making paper-cup phones by joining two cups with a piece of string.  Tiger was amused at the result when we were able to communicate to each other from different rooms through our homemade "cup-phones", and he soon forgot the pain of having been made to write a report to allay his mother's momentary, unfounded anxiety with regards to his writing ability.

We are also very lucky in our learning environment to be able to attend a sound workshop with fellow homeschoolers,

where we were treated not only to a wide variety of learning opportunities, from the history of broadcasting to the basics of how sound translates to hearing,

the workshop leader was also very engaging with the children and she was able to demonstrate the basic principles of sound variations using equipment that would be slightly challenging to find at home, such as the one below which demonstrates the relationship between the frequency of sound and vibration:

What the children enjoyed most was being able to get their hands on the numerous exploratory equipment that helped them discover the principles of sound in action.

Even though many of the basic principles of sound can be demonstrated successfully at home with simpler homemade apparatus, I still appreciate opportunities like this where Tiger is exposed to more sophisticated equipment.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Hip Homeschool Hop - 3/24/15
  2. Finishing Strong #48
  3. History and Geography Meme: What You Have Been Doing This March
  4. Collage Friday: Some Homeschool Weeks (Years?) Are Just Like That
  5. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one with all the review
  6. My Week in Review #30
  7. Science Sunday: Experimenting with Model Rockets, part 3

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Dances With the Daffodils

It's that time of the year when daffodils are in blossom again.

It is interesting to note that, since we are recording our sightings into our Calendar of Firsts (by learning to draw the daffodils from here),  we have noticed that the daffodils are blossoming earlier this year.

Drawing the daffodil put me in a poetic mood, so we listened to a reading of William Wordsworth's poem, Daffodils (otherwise known as I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud).

I was oohing and aahing about the beauty of this poem read wonderfully by Jeremy Irons when Tiger announced, "If you think I'm going to copy this poem into my book, YOU'RE WRONG!"

To which I replied, half amused, "That's absolutely fine.  You don't have to do anything if you don't want to, but I'm going to add it to my Calendar of Firsts because I think it'll go very well with my drawing."

I started copying the poem into my book using a green pen when, less than 15 seconds after I started, Tiger picked up his pen and started copying it too!

I'd like to think that, at that moment, I was a shining example of inspiration for my son, but that is hardly true.  The poem speaks for itself, and my boy knows a good thing when he sees or hears one -- he always has a love for language -- otherwise nothing will persuade him to copy four stanzas of poetry for its own sake.

Last year we did a detailed study of the daffodils, so this year I thought we would be a little more crafty in our approach.

We tried our hands first at a simple craft of making daffodils out of foam.  The result turned out quite well.

Encouraged by our success, we continued with a more involved, more complex project of making egg carton daffodils.

This project certainly took much longer than the foam project but we think the effort was worth it.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Keeping Company: March Link-Up
  2. Hip Homeschool Hop - 3/17/15
  3. Finishing Strong - Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years #47
  4. The Virtual Refrigerator
  5. Collage Friday: The Hidden Benefits of Homeschool
  6. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one with the taste of spring
  7. My Week in Review #29 
  8. Science Sunday: Experimenting with Model Rockets part 2

Friday, 20 March 2015

What Came Out of the Crimean War

Even with the relative calm at home in the UK during the Victorian Era, war was still being waged by British troops overseas, the most well-known being the Crimean War and the two Boer Wars.

Between the two significant wars that took place in the Victorian period, we choose to focus on the Crimean War as it seems to have more far-reaching effects on the social and medical fronts than the Boer Wars.  The first example of which is Lord Alfred's Tennyson's famous poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, that describes the heroic but tragic fate of the British calvary in the Battle of Balaclava.

We did not go into a full analysis of the poem but only listened to it a few times to hear its meter and rhythm, then briefly discussed the poem's content and background in relation to how war was fought in the Victorian times.  Tiger has already learned about the Battle of Balaclava on his own, so he is very familiar with the geographical and historical background to the poem and is able to put in context the fatal situation described within.  He did, however, have a little play with the poem by changing its title to "The Charge of the Lunch Brigade", and altering a few words to suit the new title.

Once we got past the horror of the battle, we turned our attention to the development of nursing care that took place as a result of this war, in the form of Florence Nightingale.

Florence Nightingale's story is a very interesting one.

Even as a child living in the Far East, I had heard of "the lady with the lamp",

and of her contributions to the nursing practice.

Naturally, we had to go and see for ourselves who this remarkable Victorian woman is, so we went to The Florence Nightingale Museum, which is situated by the St. Thomas' Hospital, the largest teaching hospital in London.

When we got to the museum, we first had the pleasure of an audience with Miss Nightingale,

where she told the children the story of her life and how she got into nursing despite her family's opposition and the prevailing social pressure of the time for her to remain an upper-middle class socialite.

The children then had a few worksheets to do, where they had to go to different "stations" located in different parts of the museum to look at some replica items (such as the Military Cross, the Victoria Cross, copies of Victorian paintings depicting the conditions of the military hospitals, Nightingale's photos from her pre- and post-nursing days) and note down their significance in relation to the Crimean War, as well as to Florence Nightingale's efforts at social change.

After the workshop, we had time to look around the museum at our leisure.

The museum is one of the smallest we have visited so far but we are very impressed with its layout and the amount of real artefacts (such as  Nightingale's actual nursing uniform, the medical supplies she first took to Scutari, the actual lamp that she carried on her night rounds).

The more I learn about the Victorians and the society at that time, the more I admire Florence Nightingale's determination and courage to break free from societal expectations to pursue what she felt was her calling and in the process, transformed the very notion and practice of nursing care.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Hip Homeschool Hop - 3/17/15
  2. Finishing Strong - Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years #47
  3. History and Geography Meme #156
  4. Collage Friday: The Hidden Benefits of Homeschool
  5. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one with the taste of spring
  6. My Week in Review #29

Saturday, 14 March 2015

To Mothers

Tomorrow is Mother's Day in the UK, so I thought it to be very appropriate to teach Tiger yet another classical Chinese poem from the Tang dynasty that relates to this theme, <<游子吟>> (Hymn of the Traveller) by Meng Jiao (孟郊). 

The best interpretation (in my personal opinion) of this poem can be found here, with the poem being sung in the traditional style accompanied by a wonderful dramatisation.

Mothers are traditionally revered in the Chinese culture for the love they give and sacrifices they make to bring up children.

While all this learning about mothers and the wonderful things they do and represent was going on, I also managed to persuade Tiger that it would be a very nice gesture to make a card of some sort for Mother's Day, so we sat down to draw a pretty flower.

We followed the instructions from this video, with mixed results.  Tiger is not entirely happy with how his flower has turned out, even though it looks fine to me.

I am guessing that perhaps having to memorise, recite, and translate the new Tang poem has fried his brain for the day, so compelling him to draw a flower when he did not initiate the project himself has proven to be a bad idea.

Fortunately, I was drawing alongside Tiger so at least between us we have one drawing that is more satisfactory, and that we are happy to dedicate to all the mothers we know, especially to my own mother and my mother-in-law.

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers!

This post is linked up to:
  1. Finishing Strong - Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years Week 46
  2. The Virtual Refrigerator
  3. Collage Friday: Faces of American History
  4. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one with the learner's permit!
  5. My Week in Review #28 
  6. Hip Homeschool Hop - 3/17/15

Friday, 13 March 2015

Victorian Arts and Crafts

While we seem to be very artsy lately, and having to continue with studying the Victorians, we decided to look more into Victorian art:

Of the many interesting artists who featured prominently in the Victorian times, we decided to focus on William Morris and the arts and crafts movement.

First, we looked through a book on Victorian Art that gave us an overview of how the arts and crafts movement developed in Victorian Britain.  Then we looked specifically at a few examples of Morris' wallpaper and textile prints to understand how and from where he got his inspirations from.

We learnt that William Morris got his inspirations mostly from nature, so I gave Tiger five pieces of post-it cards to design different patterns on.  Tiger was inspired by birds and the leaf patterns of a potted plant.

When the designs were made, we scanned each of Tiger's design onto the computer for him to work on each to create various patterns from each using the principles of either tessllation or overlaps.

Next, I asked Tiger to think of how he would create a poster for an exhibition of William Morris' work.  We brainstormed a few ideas together before Tiger decided that he wanted to have Morris' portrait as the main subject with a changing background to show Morris' versatility in various craft forms.

To achieve that, Tiger first traced the portrait of William Morris onto a sheet of tracing paper.  Then, he attached different sheets of nature-patterned craft paper behind the traced portrait.  Lastly, Tiger stuck a few Victorian-inspired embellishing pieces onto the tracing paper.  The end result is that there are three layers to the poster:
  1. the Victorian embellishments
  2. William Morris' portrait
  3. changeable nature-patterned paper

Tiger felt that the three layers are important to convey William Morris' style of work where Morris often used three different layers of patterns in his textile and wallpaper designs.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Hip Homeschool Hop - 3/10/15
  2. Finishing Strong - Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years Week 46
  3. The Virtual Refrigerator
  4. History and Geography Meme: Magyars and Bohemians
  5. Collage Friday: Faces of American History
  6. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one with the learner's permit!
  7. My Week in Review #28

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

A Brush With Colours

Recently we went to The Wallace Collection to take part in a Rubens-inspired, All Things Light and Beautiful: Colour and Painting Workshop.

The workshop started with a gallery session where the guide introduced the children to two of Rubens' paintings while discussing the artist's use of primary and secondary colours to depict light and darkness in the paintings.

The children were then asked to make a sketch of the Rubens paintings for ideas that they might want to use back in the art studio to create their own landscape paintings based on the principles they have learnt in the morning, of:
  • primary and secondary colours;
  • complementary colours; and
  • warm and cool colours.

The afternoon session of the workshop started with the a discussion of how artists in the 17th century would have had to find ways to create the colours they wanted either by grinding up natural materials such as earth and beetles, or through mixing primary colours to create secondary colours.

The children then had a chance to apply what they have learnt to create their very own Rubens-inspired, colourful landscape masterpiece.

We came home and learnt a little bit more about Peter Paul Rubens by ourselves by looking at a few prints.

I then looked around and found that the Royal Academy of Arts is currently holding an exhibition  that showcases Rubens' works alongside those of other famous artists (such as van Dyck, Cezanne, Turner) whose works and styles were influenced by him.

So off we went to see the Rubens and His Legacy exhibition.

After going round the exhibition, we took part in a workshop where we first looked at how Rubens positioned his subjects in The Lion Hunt, then we were to use pastels to quickly sketch the positions in two minutes.  The exercise was to give us a taste of the thoughts that an artist would have gone into in the compositional phase.

Following that, we were given copies of contemporary photographs as well as Rubens' paintings to make our own collage.  We were given time to position the photographs on a black sheet of paper before using pastels to enhance our composition.  Once we were happy with our collages, we were to use charcoal to draw our compositions out.

Here are our results.  Tiger drew his composition based on his collage.

I was happy enough with my collage to stop there and then.

**Update on June 27th, 2016:
I was contacted by Artsy, a website that collates artists' bio, high quality pictures of of the artists' works, exclusive articles, and up-to-date exhibition listings around the world.  As this is a Rubens blog post, I am linking to the Rubens page where you can learn more about the artist. The page even includes related artist & category tags, plus suggested contemporary artists.  Well worth a visit!

This post is linked up to:
  1. Hip Homeschool Hop - 3/10/15
  2. Finishing Strong - Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years Week 46
  3. The Virtual Refrigerator
  4. Collage Friday: Faces of American History
  5. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one with the learner's permit!
  6. My Week in Review #28

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Our Chinese New Year Week

The Chinese New Year ended on Thursday with the Lantern Festival (元宵节).  Compared to last year, my effort at this year's Chinese New Year celebration is somewhat lacklustre.  However, I console myself that we have at least managed to focus on having Chinese dishes this past week.

The recipes have been adjusted for our dietary requirements:
  1. Braised sweet and sour spare ribs
  2. Vegetable stir-fry
  3. Stir-fry pork with noodles
  4. Lemon coriander chicken
  5. Soy sauce chicken
  6. Slow cooker braised chinese pork

We also pulled out our copy of The Warlord's Puzzle to have a play with tangrams, a 7-piece puzzle from ancient China that Tiger had a go with nearly five years ago.

The appeal of the tangrams is its deceptive simplicity.  There are only three shapes and seven pieces.  However, as we have found, to solve the puzzles are not an easy task.  Tiger has been working through a tangrams puzzle book last week just for the fun of it.  At first, he was quite frustrated with hiimself for not being able to solve the puzzles immediately but after a few rounds, he started to be able to visualise how the different pieces can be combined together in numerous ways.  From then on, he was able to solve a few puzzles on his own.

I used the study guide that accompanies the book for activity ideas and the one that caught Tiger's interest most was that of writing a cinquain, which is a 5-line patterned poetry form that bears some resemblance to the nature poems written by ancient Chinese poets.

It appears that the patterned format of cinquains has a strong appeal to Tiger, so not only did he enthusiastically write three of them, he even went as far as editing and rewriting each one a few times before he was happy with the final result.  In the process of editing his various drafts, Tiger happily highlighted to me that he was employing the write-in-the-margin lesson that he has learnt from Tolkien not so long ago.

We had time to have another poetry tea with a Chinese snack (sesame cookies) in the week, so I taught Tiger to recite another Tang poem about spring: "Early Spring" (早春) by Han Yu (韩俞)

This poem describes the beautiful scene of a street in Chang'an (长安), the capital city during the Tang dynasty, in the early spring drizzle.  After having the meaning of the poem explained to him, Tiger was attracted to its sound and rhythm so he learnt the poem easily and quickily, and he even sang the poem alongside the clip above!  Poetry, regardless of the language it is written in, portrays a sense of linguistic beauty and mastery to its reader/listener.  I am very glad to see Tiger showing much joy and pride in reciting and translating classical Chinese poetry very well.  After all, having an intimate relationship with classical Chinese poetry is part of identifying with the soul of the Chinese culture.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Creaive Kids Cultural Blog Hop #24 
  2. Hip Homeschool Hop - 3/3/15
  3. Finishing Strong #45 
  4. History & Geography Meme #156
  5. My Week in Review #27
  6. Collage Friday: Refresh and Have Faith
  7. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one with winter and spring in the same week

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Time for Another Chinese Tea

Since it is the Chinese New Year, we have a good excuse to do another Chinese-themed tea.  As with the previous Chinese tea we had during the Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节), our Chinese New Year tea was filled with traditional Chinese snacks:
  1. Peanut butter mochi (花生米糬)
  2. Sesame mochi (芝麻米糬)
  3. Peanut dainties (花生酥)
  4. Mung bean patties (绿豆酥)
  5. Fuzhou cyrstal puffs (福洲水晶饼)
  6. Pandan rice cake (香兰叶糕)

Alongside enjoying the snacks and drinking rose tea, Tiger learned a new poem -- <<春晓>> (Spring Dawn) by another Tang dynasty poet, Meng Haoran (孟浩然).

This poem depicts the poet's contemplation upon a dawn in springtime.  Given that the Chinese New Year is also called the Spring Festival (春节) as it marks the beginning of spring in the Chinese calendar,  learning this particular poem seems very appropriate.

Besides memorising and reciting the poem, Tiger also learnt how the poem can be depicted as a painting and a song,

as well as a piece of music that is popular during the Chinese New Year.

This post is linked up to:
  1. Creaive Kids Cultural Blog Hop #24 
  2. Hip Homeschool Hop - 3/3/15
  3. Finishing Strong #45 
  4. History & Geography Meme #156
  5. My Week in Review #27
  6. Collage Friday: Refresh and Have Faith
  7. Weekly Wrap-Up: The one with winter and spring in the same week
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