Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Paper and truffles

Today has been quite a productive day. Yesterday, when Iona was getting up and I was talking with her about what we could do during the day and the week, she said "I want to know how paper is made", quickly followed by "I want to know how pens are made, I want to know how mirrors are made", as if she was just trying to come up with as many silly things as possible. However, I treated it as though she was genuine and suggested we start by making our own paper. I got out some of the credit card slips, prescription request slips and other confidential things waiting to be shredded and began tearing them up fairly small into an old bucket. Iona occasionally helped me with this, then I added water and left it to soak overnight. I planned to colour it with food colouring, but Iona added a little colour to it by stirring it with one of her green pens. Using the historical outline in funsci.com I discussed with Iona what was used in which cultures before paper and when and where paper was invented, then put a couple of dates on our timeline.

This morning I made the soaked paper into a pulp in my liquidiser, which Iona couldn't help with as she is noise-phobic. Initially I tried scooping out all the soaked paper and pulping it with just a little of the soaking water, but I had to add more and more of it to make the liquidiser work, until I had added it all. Following that, I laid a spare splatter guard, which had been too big for me to use for cooking, over the soaking pail, in the garden, and carefully spread the pulp over it, squashing it down to squeeze the bulk of the water out as I went. Iona helped a little with this, then became very enthusiastic when I described how Mulberry paper had flowers dried into it. She really enjoyed picking flowers and leaves, scented and unscented, and placing them into the paper:

I've yet to find out how good the final product will be, as the paper has not yet dried.

In the afternoon I suggested Iona make Rainbow Truffles from her Moshi Monster magazine. She had brought it down a couple of weeks ago to show me, and the next day asked if we had any condensed milk, as she'd read that was in the recipe! I'd bought the ingredients the other day, so suggested she might like to make them to share with her new friends up the road. She initially agreed, then after I'd weighed the coconut and mixed it with the condensed milk she decided she couldn't be bothered! I left it for an hour or so, no pressure, then told her I was adding the cocoa (I'd hoped to get her to do that herself). She raced in, wanting to do it herself, so I let her stir it. I then showed her how to break up the digestives in a bag, using a rolling pin, and she did almost all of that herself, too, as well as mixing the 2 together. She helped put the hundreds and thousands and other sugar decorations on a plate, then I showed her how to roll the mixture into a ball then roll it in the decorations. After doing it alongside each other for a while (I initially wanted to do the messy bit myself but she said "They're mine, so I want to do it!"), I decided to trust her and let her do it all herself:

Surprisingly, I don't think much of the mixture ended up in her mouth, and they taste delicious!!!

Friday, 23 May 2014

The National Museum of Minibeasts

Iona is still as keen on animals, and particularly minibeasts, as ever. She keeps trying to make snails, ladybirds, etc. into her pets, and gets most disappointed when they decide to leave! She has lately been finding empty snail shells, and on Monday found a dead woodlouse. This motivated her to create what she called a "National Museum" of minibeasts, collecting them into a coconut half-shell. She said she wanted people to visit, although wasn't bothered about charging for entry. I helped her find a few more dead minibeasts, such as a worm and a moth:

I suggested she make a poster to advertise her museum, though I suggested she change its name to a rather less ambitious one(!), and suggested she could give tickets to neighbours we knew. This was a great opportunity to help her with her writing and spelling (the latter tends to be, how shall I say ... "creative"!!), helping her to use it for something she really wanted to do, rather than trying to impose my ideas of what she should be learning.

(For the tickets I pencilled in the writing, based on how she had written her poster, to ensure that it all fitted on legibly, then she wrote over it.)

Iona got really "into" setting up her museum in our front garden, and was so proud of it that she insisted on wearing one of her dad's ties to look "smart".

We went visiting all of our neighbours that we know, giving them tickets to invite them to the museum. A couple of them, who know each other, came to visit at the same time, and Iona told them about her collection. She whispered to me proudly that "They like each other now", although I tried to explain to her that they already did!

We have done a little reading around the subject, too. I have borrowed a library book about snails, which we have read a little of: Snails Up Close, although Iona is still more of a hands-on learner at the moment.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Back to the Blog

Well, here I am again after another long break. However, the home education has not been on a break (hence not really enough time to keep up with the blog). Iona is getting on well with her reading and writing, although she claims not to be able to read. She has learned a lot of phonics from Alphablocks, especially the later episodes featuring graphemes such as "ai", "ph" and "ea", although sadly this is not so easily transferred to her writing, which uses a large amount of creative spelling!! She has also learned a lot of sight words, as she demonstrates when I ask her to read chapter headings in books that are new to her. Mostly she refuses to read herself, preferring me to do it for her, but occasionally she can be surprised into reading a few words or even short sentences, very often correctly.

We haven't been doing a great deal of maths lately, just talking about it as it comes up. Iona loves using our retracting metal tape measure whenever she can to measure things, especially the heights of ceilings. She also occasionally asks me to help her to count up beyond 20 - she is still getting stuck on the multiples of tens. I am hoping this will improve now that we have bought an abacus from a charity shop. We also sometimes discuss addition and subtraction (and more rarely, multiplication and division) as story problems, which I then translate into more standard arithmetical statements, mostly verbally but sometimes on paper with the appropriate symbols, and she is definitely starting to get the hang of this. Until recently I would have said that she didn't understand the concepts of odd and even, but this changed a couple of weeks ago. When possible, I had been pointing out how house numbers on one side of a road jumped up in 2's, and explaining about odd and even numbers. Then, one day, she was playing with her set of number skittles (1 to 10) and I found she had arranged them perfectly in 2 rows, odd and even! She has also been learning coin value, from being allowed to keep any coins we find on the ground, providing she can identify them, and saving up money to make small purchases. Occasionally I find myself worrying a bit that she isn't learning as much maths as her schooled peers, but on the positive side, she is getting a feel for why maths is as it is, rather than just having to learn seemingly random facts, and she hasn't learned to fear maths, as I did at primary school.

I think Iona's greatest learning has occurred in her area of greatest interest: art. I'm sure I wasn't as good at drawing and colouring at her age as she is. She is a great fan of the Studio Ghibli animations of Hayao Miyazake, and was thrilled to get 2 of his DVDs and 2 of the story books from her uncles for her 6th birthday last week. She has borrowed a how-to book on drawing Manga from the library, and occasionally works at copying it, although is handicapped by wanting to do her own thing rather than following instructions. She has also become very keen on Spongebob Squarepants, and has been drawing very good, detailed pictures of the characters and settings on this. Her biggest problem in this whole area is a lack of concentration; otherwise she could easily win colouring competitions. I am currently considering, having recently bought a couple of historical era craft books, how I can teach her history using as many crafts as possible, as I think this may fire an interest in her. (I currently record Horrible Histories onto our TiVo box but she rarely wants to watch them.)