Monday, 30 June 2014

It's been two months since my last blog entry. So, having moved house and settled in, blogging recommences today! 

Today. What does today look like for us?

L is at her monthly art school session; loosely guided, creating with a wonderfully encouraging professional artist, alongside some of her amazingly artistic friends, in a country art studio that is so stimulating and inspiring. Later we will have the joy of attending a Young Musicians concert, where she will be playing with the children's string group she is in.

J is working on his maths programme which he finds stimulating and challenging. He will also be making progress with the computer programming section of Khan Academy he is following. He's also attempting to start planning out the topic he wants to study in the Autumn. Not, to forget reading; Sherlock Holmes. There's also piano practice and musical theory.

Me? I am sat in a rather nice cafe overlooking a beautiful lake; thinking, planning, reflecting, writing, reading, whilst L is at the art studio. 

A month ago we decided to try out an approach to our home educating that is new to us: following a curriculum. I completed the "parent training" to learn about the curriculum and how to best follow it and we got the recommended "study areas" set up for both of the children. We were all rather excited! It sounded so easy and hassle-free. Open your box file each morning and all your "school work" is there, ready for you to use. Maths, grammar, science, social studies, word building and literature. We know loads of children who thrive, develop and learn really well using the curriculum.

The first couple of days went well. Quiet, almost silent studying. Self-marking and targets to reach. We still saw loads of friends and went to our usual groups.

But by the end of the first week, I realised some changes had happened. Less smiles, less laughter, more tiredness, more lethargy, very limited time to share books together. Most alarmingly, less motivation. There was no complaining, but the atmosphere of learning had changed. Less living and loving life.

During the second week, we all talked about it and continued for a few more days. We reassessed our reasons for home educating. To have spontaneity, freedom, flexibility, outside learning, exploration, questioning, self-motivation, creativity, emphasis on natural interests and passions. The curriculum was working against the majority of these. Our children have thrived, developed and learnt so much over the past 2+ years of home educating in a semi-structured child-led way, why change it?  So we've put away the curriculum and we're now back on track! 

We're learning again in a way which suits our family and our children. Children are like sponges; they soak up so much. A curriculum does suit many families, but not us at the moment. That's one of the beauties of home educating: you can change what you're doing at any time. You can choose to use whatever method suits you own individual children and lifestyle.

Our motivated, excited, happy learners quickly returned! They've been busy thinking and suggesting different areas of learning they want to explore: the history and geology of Minecraft, dancing around the world, the British political system, justice, the first and second world wars, animation techniques, the sky..........we're going to be busy!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Creating a mini water cycle

At the start of this week, we started learning about water. We brainstormed what they wanted to learn about on this theme over the next few weeks and decided to start with the water cycle. There are so many different resources on the internet and in the library to help us learn about this: they read some, watched some YouTube and BBC bite-size clips and completed a diagram. 

Then we decided to get a bit more "hands on" and create our own mini water cycles. How could we actually see the evaporation, condensation and precipitation in action?  Could we recreate the water cycle? Bear in mind that a fair few of our science experiments don't work as we expect them to; although a large fun part of the learning is to figure out what has gone differently than the outcome we had predicted to happen!

We gathered together a large jug, a small cup, cling-film and sellotape.

They then poured some water into the jug or bowl until it was about a quarter full.
They placed the empty cup carefully into the jug, being careful not to get any of the water into it.

A piece of cling-film was then stretched over the jug and sealed all the way around with sellotape. 

The jugs were then placed in the sunshine outside. The aim was to heat the water naturally and gradually. However, the sunshine was rapidly replaced with rain, so we placed the jugs in a warm cupboard instead. 

After a couple of hours we took the jugs out of the warmth. We could see that condensation had formed on the cling-film. The children then rather reluctantly went to bed, rather than watching the jugs all night!

In the morning, they raced downstairs to the jugs and we could see drops of water had formed under the cling-film. Over the course of the morning, the water dripped into the cups, until it was about 0.5cm deep.

Success!! A great, simple experiment to try out; loads of learning, loads of anticipation and huge fun.

For more ideas on "water" you can take a look at my Pinterest board.

My Pinterest link

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Salt dough maps

Every couple of terms we choose a different country to learn about. It's been a fantastic way of learning and we cover loads of different aspects of learning: geography, history, food, lifestyle, natural resources, human rights, clothes, culture, nature, wildlife, ecological factors, religions, politics, economics, and many other things. We've looked at Turkey, Brazil and Australia so far and this term we have been learning about Saudi Arabia.

Last week, we decided to have a go at making a 3D map of Saudi Arabia, in order to understand the country's terrain more and also to learn about physical mapping. This is our journey in salt dough mapping!

We went to a local pizza takeaway and they kindly gave us a couple of large pizza boxes which we used to build the maps in. This means we can move them and store them easily.
We printed out a map outline of Saudi Arabia and then drew around it in the base of the pizza box.

The children then made a batch of salt dough each: 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar.

They mixed the dough together well.

They then used a small amount of dough to cover the shape of the country.

Using a physical map of Saudi Arabia as a guide, they gradually built up the contours of the terrain.

They then left the map to dry for a couple of days in a warm place. 
Once dry, the maps were painted, starting with the lowest land areas. 

Using a physical map atlas as a guide, the differing land heights were painted different colours. This part took a lot of concentration!

Areas of water were then painted (no rivers, as there aren't any in Saudi Arabia!) The surrounding countries were painted a neutral colour.

Finally, a key was added which shows the varying height of the land and depth of the sea.

The finished maps! So much hard work and loads of fun went into this activity, with many different things being learnt.