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.)

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.