Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Veg printing

I found an interesting book in the library last week, which I got out for Iona: "Getting Into Art: People" . It combines information on various famous artists with suggestions for children to make their own similar art. I remember a year or so ago we had an art day at our fun club and I ran an activity on Arcimboldo, making portraits using photos of fruit and vegetables. This book suggested an activity using fruit and veg to make prints, in the shape of faces, so I suggested on Monday that Iona might like to do that. She was very keen, so I set up her painting things outside, with florets of broccoli and cauliflower, carrot sliced both longitudinally and transversely, the green part of a spring onion, a slice of celery, a mushroom sliced in half, and half the skin of a passion fruit. I would have liked to offer more options, but we were a bit short of fruit and veg to eat ourselves, which I thought took priority!

I demonstrated first to Iona what to do by printing my own veggie face.

Iona started to copy me, but then decided that a paint brush was easier to use and just turned hers into an ordinary (though quite good) picture of Smurfette.

I then used the vegetables to paint my own version of Smurfette, to give her a better idea of how it was meant to be.

After this Iona got into the swing of it a bit better and made a picture using the vegetables to print, although she forgot to do it as a portrait.

Overall, I think this could have gone a bit better, but am pleased that she did at least do a version of what I asked her to. Her painting skills are getting better all the time, and she uses the paints to make proper pictures now rather than just splodge paint. I'd like to do more work based around Arcimboldo, as I find his work amazingly modern for the 16th century, and it's such a fun, surrealist idea.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

School Time

Yesterday Iona decided that she wanted to play schools with her toys. It always amuses me how even home educated children who have never seen the inside of a school want to play it, but I guess it's just the number of TV programmes and books which feature it. Anyway, she told me I had to be the teacher, and told me exactly what to say to her toys, while she observed and moved them around. After a while of her toys being told off for being late for school I saw the perfect opportunity for a bit of impromptu learning, so brought down her cuddly toy clock with the hands set to 9:00 and asked her what time this was for the start of school. She insisted on changing the time, so after telling her the new time I drew this for her:

(the name of the village was Iona's idea). I then suggested we write a register of the toys' names to mark if they were there or not. She didn't quite get the idea, and insisted on writing a separate page for each toy, but it was all good practice in writing.

After a couple of hours of "school" I was tiring, so when Iona mentioned that she'd watched "The Mr Men Show" with Daddy in the morning (while I nipped to town to buy my brother's birthday present) I had another brainwave. I asked what Mr Man or Little Miss Iona might invent. She suggested Mr Food, so I explained that almost all the Mr Men have names which describe them, i.e. are adjectives. I drew my own invention:

(red cheeks courtesy of Iona) then Iona came up with her own, Mr Hungry:

I was pleased because, off the top of her head, Iona decided he would have an open mouth and crumbs on his chin, and then drew a tongue in too. She also quickly drew Miss Sun:

She copied "Miss" from my picture, but figured out "Sun" for herself (she still reverses z and s fairly often). She then drew another figure and told me it was Miss Bossy:

I think this comes from having read "How to Be a Friend" over lunchtime; we got it the other day from a charity shop and I've left it lying around, as Iona is currently struggling with whether she wants friends as she has to share with them! This "strewing" worked: I think Iona would have rebelled if I'd suggested she read it but she picked it up herself and let me read it all through to her, leading to some good, if short, discussions.

Finally, Iona decided to again write me a few notes in the evening. The first said this:

It took me a lot of time and miming from a silent Iona to finally figure out that it said "I've lost my voice"! OK, so there's room for work on spelling and separating words, but I love that she sees writing has a point and she's keen to try it all the time.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Going autonomous

As you can tell looking back at this blog over the years, my approach to home education has tended to be based around unit studies / projects, with lapbooking seeming to be a very good way to present the work done (mostly by me in the early years, it has to be admitted!). After we finished doing the Letter of the Week (or fortnight!) studies a couple of months ago, Iona said she wanted to know how people lived in other countries, so I jumped in with trying to study a country a week with her. We learned about Iona's choice of countries (although the last couple were the ones from her list that they had resources about at our home ed group library) - Brazil, Italy, France, and India. I could tell, though, that she was beginning to lose interest by India, and didn't even try to get her to do a lapbook about it, as I had for the others. When I asked her which country she wanted to do next she said she didn't want to do any, so I think I may have overdone my enthusiasm for project work.

In an attempt to avoid putting her off learning I have now decided to pull back a bit more and let her learn even more autonomously than before. There have been mixed results with that this week, although in this heat I defy anybody to work very hard! On Tuesday morning she got out the stencils that she started using the day before, and all on her own produced this:

Apparently it's 2 robots saying Hi and something else (not sure if it's "What are you?"), a cat saying Miaow, and an apple saying Help, as well as a rather nice tortoise. I think the ladder-like thing to the right is supposed to be a path. I explained about speech bubbles in comics (she's still very keen on animation), and we haven't looked back since!

The next picture shows how keen she became on speech bubbles:

Unfortunately the picture is not too clear, but there are numerous speech bubbles with exclamations such as "Aaa", "Help", and "Imcumin" [I'm coming]. After this I showed her the exclamation mark in some print sentences and explained its use. The next picture, which I can't find, showed 2 robots, one with a filled in eye (like Zommer on Moshi Monsters), and the little robot is saying (in her own inimitable spelling) "Aaa a zombie robot Mummy!". She also added lots of other exclamations, complete with exclamation marks.

Her next picture featured 2 new characters that she's started drawing a lot: Tom and Abbey. In this picture they were singing ("Lalala"), and joined by her and me. Unfortunately she refuses to accept that the sound at the start of words like "the" and "this" is "th" rather than "d", so writes "this" as "dis". She has also decided that "is" should be "iz" (fair point!), although she does sometimes spell it correctly. My favourite misspelling in this picture is my name, Angela, which she always puts as "Anjl"! I do sometimes, while praising any words spelled correctly, and the effort made, point out how to spell the sentences correctly; at the bottom of this photo you might be able to see my correct writing of "This is Tom" and "This is Abbey". However, I try hard not to quash her enthusiasm, and I am beginning to notice some improvement in both her spelling and her reading.

Iona's drawing day wasn't yet over, and she drew several other large (all today's pictures are on A3 paper from the scrap store) pictures, including a self portrait and some pictures of her Pumpkin P family for the animated film she's working on:

She was so engrossed in her drawing that we didn't make it to the library for the 2:15 story time as planned, finally leaving home at 4:30 to visit the library and choose some books of her own choice (rather than mine for whatever project I had planned), then play in the nearby playground.

For a few days she seemed largely uninterested in drawing or writing, preferring to play intricate games with her small figures and dolls' houses. Today, however, she showed me this note which she had written in bed last night to her Ben 10 toy:

Apparently it says "To Ben Ten I hop[e] yoo [you] hav[e] a luvle [lovely] bsta [birthday] Luv [love] Iona". I was quite impressed as I could read it without much difficulty, and she can obviously now spell CVC words, at least. I have, however, reminded her that you is spelled "you"!

Overall, I am reassured that the more autonomous approach is not going to lead to her neglecting reading and writing, although I have found that some days I may need to remind her that doing something a little more academic that playing with her toys might be fun too.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Litter picking

Since seeing children picking up litter in a park on some TV programme a couple of months ago (I have been reliably informed it was "Big City Park"!), Iona has been desperate to pick up litter in our area "to look after animals". I was less keen, and conveniently kept forgetting to take a carrier bag and our grabber when we went out. However, yesterday I finally thought of it when planning to pop around the corner to our nearest Co-Op and offered Iona the chance to come with me and pick litter. Although not really having the motor skills to use the grabber properly, she really enjoyed it and worked quite hard at it during our 10-minute walk there. By the time we got to the Co-Op we had quite a full bag, and decided to put it in the bin outside the shop, so I didn't have to carry a rubbish bag as well as the shopping going home. Although I found it a little embarrassing to do a task normally associated with people doing "community service", I am immensely proud that my daughter cares about nature enough to do something to help it, and hope that this continues.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Viking and lichens

Last week and this we have been learning about the letter V. Iona has been aware of the Vikings for a while now, since seeing them on Mike the Knight on CBeebies, and we already had them on our hallway timeline, so I suggested we learn more about them now. We looked through some books from the library: Vikings (Read It Yourself), Vikings (Children in History), and DK's Eyewitness Vikings, although Iona sometimes found the pictures a bit scary. Consequently, I emphasised the more peaceful aspects, such as clothes and children's games. I also decided yesterday to help her make her equivalent of a Viking warship, decorated with various craft items to look as scary as she could to any enemies (in Iona's case, the Moshi Monster baddies, C.L.O.N.C.). In this way I thought I could emphasise why the ships might have looked so scary, i.e. to try to scare off enemies without having to fight. This approach seemed to work, as she threw herself into the task with enthusiasm, even creating quite a scary figurehead:

Iona doing her "scary Viking" face for the camera!

Then in the afternoon we went off to our local library for storytime. Iona has taken an interest in lichens on the path and walls for about a year now, so when I saw that Handbook of Nature Study was doing a Lichen and Moss study this month I decided to focus some of our walking time on that. We found a couple of different mosses on walls, and Iona enjoyed stroking them:

We also talked about the differences between moss (cushiony and make spores) and lichen (flat and no spores).

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Letterland and arty pursuits

It's been a long while again since my last post, partly because I've been too busy with Iona to put anything on here, and partly because of work I've been putting into the small charity I founded and run with my brothers (Chreda). Iona has been busily working through her letter of the week curriculum, and is now keen to suggest things we can study beginning with certain letters, e.g. sweets when we were doing "s"! I've found the Letterland series of books particularly useful to "introduce" her to each letter (although she's very confident with the main letter sounds now), and I've been able to both borrow them from our home education group's resource library and buy some from charity shops, as well as getting some (like this) from Amazon. Iona has the sort of brain that loves to work in stories, so this system is ideal, giving her a story behind why, for example, s and h together make a sh sound. She is slowly getting more confident at sounding out words, and recognising more words, although she does not do much writing and when she does prefers to do it her own, artistic, way!

We hadn't put in much work until recently on her wish to make an animated film. However, I had downloaded the Android app Clayframes Lite onto my Samsung Galaxy phone a couple of weeks ago, so I told her about it on Monday and asked if she'd like to try it. As she was very keen,  I made some playdough, using the recipe here, She wanted to make an animated cartoon hippo like Harry on Abadas, so I gave her some help to do so. The biggest problem was that the dough, though a very nice texture, doesn't stick to itself very well, and was also a bit soft to support a large, fairly heavy model. I think next time we do claymation we'll have to use one of the other recipes on the site. Unfortunately the lite version of clayframes only gives you 50 frames, so it had to be a very short animation, but it was sufficient to give Iona a feel of how we create the illusion of motion, and she managed to get in her favourite "bottom dance", as well as a bit of a story, with the crocodile attacking the hippo then apologising and making friends. Apologies for the fumbling around at the start of the film: the lite version of the app doesn't allow for sharing (and my account won't let me buy the full version), so I had to film my phone.
The message on the hearts at the end was Iona's idea: Love is great!

Once we had finished making our little film Iona decided to turn the rest of the playdough into a very tasty-looking white chocolate chip cake, using chips that I'd got left from an experimental soap carving session the other week:
A little later the same day Iona spontaneously decided, while I was cooking, that she wanted to make a scene like she had seen on Mr Maker earlier in the day. She found an old receipt which she scrunched up to make a mountain, asked me for a piece of blue paper, collected some greenery from the garden, and ... hey presto! ... a landscape!
It may not look much, but I was impressed as it's the first time I can remember Iona trying on her own to copy any craft activities from the TV.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

"I do not want to go sledding ever again!!"

We had a good fall of snow during the day yesterday, which Iona loved, although she got really upset at getting her hands too cold when we were first out in it. She was thrilled this morning to see her snowman (mostly made by me!) was still there, and really wanted to go out in the snow again. I suggested she and I take the dog out to a nearby park, 15 minutes walk away, and combine it with a bit of sledging on a metal tea tray, like she first tried on a shallower slope last year. It was a bit slippery walking to the park, but we got there with no misadventures, and Iona loved crunching through the thick(ish) snow. She tried sledding on a really shallow slope, but it didn't go anywhere, so I suggested a steeper slope along here:
Although I set the tray near the bottom so she didn't have too far to go, it was a bit too successful and she shot across nearly to the trees on the left of the photo, getting a tiny scratch in the process. She was brave enough not to cry, but stated with great dignity "I have had enough for today!". This was shortly followed by the emphatic comment "I do not want to go sledding ever again - it's too hurtable!". She wouldn't even get back on the tray on the level for a posed photo, or even pose standing anywhere near it!

 However, she did come back to put her toys she'd brought with her onto the tray to have a go

and also enjoyed watching me take a couple of turns (my first time ever - what can I say, I had a childhood deprived of thick snow, coming as I do from Surrey!). We then had to negotiate the walk home, which was difficult as it was accompanied by a constant chorus of "I'm going to fall over" and "I'm not going to walk on the snow - it's slippery", but thankfully we both made it in one piece. We're going through a really difficult phase in our household at the moment, with Iona over-dramatising everything and dissolving not merely into tears but into the most piercing screams! I'm finding the best way of dealing with it is to acknowledge her upset, state calmly what I can or can't do about it, then leave her to calm down in her bedroom until she's able to be distracted (today by the offer of a hot water bottle for her icy feet), but I just hope this phase ends soon.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Welcome 2013

Happy New Year, as Iona insisted on saying to everyone she passed in Asda yesterday! We had some discussion just before the New Year about New Year's Resolutions (or goals, as I prefer). I decided Iona was now old enough to have some input into her own goals, so I asked her what she wanted to do this year. She came up with the following list:

  1. Make magazines every day! (She got very "into" doing that last year.)
  2. Make a film.
  3. Learn to read and write. (She wasn't sure about this one at first, but I pointed out that she's already started, and it would be easier for her if she could play on Moshi Monsters without me having to read everything out to her.)
The second goal was prompted by a suggestion from me, as she has invented a character to tell stories about and has already made a set of "puppets" by drawing on lolly sticks. I figured a film would make a nice project for her, although it'll be a learning process for me too, as I know next to nothing about film-making. It will cover a range of skills and knowledge, so is an ideal home education activity.

Step one began today, with showing Iona how to make a simple animation by drawing on consecutive pages of a notepad. It wasn't too successful from my point of view, as it was hard work both knowing what to draw (my idea of her character waving, winking and walking from one side of the pad to the other), and having the patience to do lots of small steps. However, Iona was really taken with the result and although she couldn't really flick the pad correctly herself, insisted on me keeping on doing so. I did take a photo of the first page, which she coloured in very carefully and colourfully, but am unable to post it here, as she informed me that then people would know about her character and it wouldn't be a surprise when the film is made, so you'll all just have to wait for the finished product!

I explained that the video we had watched at her request earlier today, "Classic Christmas Cartoons" (featuring 1940's cartoons such as this), was made using a similar technique, with individual cells photographed then playing very quickly one after another to look like movement. I told her that several of her other favourite works, "Frankenweenie" and Wallace and Gromit, were made using a different technique, called claymation, and tried to explain how that worked, while other films are now animated using computers. We then had a lucky coincidence that Blue Peter today was a special about animation, so I watched that with her, which explained claymation far better than I had been able to. By this time she was busy playing on the computer and didn't pay the TV too much attention, but did look at particular bits when I pointed them out to her.

Overall, today seemed a fairly successful start to her film project. As I'm not allowed to show today's picture, here, instead, is a photo from over Christmas to show how much Iona has grown up over the 6 or so months since I last posted:

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