Monday 30 December 2019

Project 115: Christmas and The Pilgrim's Progress

It was our third home education Christmas (see also Project 15: All about Christmas!, Project 65: Christmas and the New Year), in addition to a recent project on Christmas crafts (Project 110: Christmas Crafts), so this year we decided to couple our usual round of Christmas carolling, crafts, and cooking, with another classic Christian story The Pilgrim's Progress. 

Despite everyone managing to fall for various illnesses over the Christmas period, we nonetheless managed to go to a number of carol services, a Christingle, a live nativity, and of course Santa's grotto.
Carols, Christingle, more carols, and two donkeys.

Santa's Grotto
We followed a recipe for some Reindeer and snowman bark:

Reindeer and snowman bark
Created some Christmas cards:
Christmas cards
They designed their own Christmas jumper with a template from Twinkl and completed a colour by calculation Christmas jumper:
Twinkl Worksheets
The Pilgrim's Progress has stood the test of time, and Geraldine McCaughrean's version for children is highly recommended. While we were unimpressed with Blue Peter Book Awards 2019 winner (see Project 112: Refugees), the fact that McCaughrean won the prize for John Bunyan's A Pilgrim's Progress redeems the prize's reputation somewhat. We were less impressed with the quality of the recent animated version, as it is a story that we felt was worthy of something better.

Next week: Winter and Snowy Habitats

Monday 16 December 2019

Project 114: Art and Nature

This week's project was prompted by a home education workshop at Ferry Meadows on Natural Art. It's the first time we've had a project based on a Ferry Meadows workshop for while as something invariably goes wrong or the children get very very wet (see Project 89: The Romans).

This time, however, the workshop all went to plan, and the children explored colours in nature, ephemeral art, green man masks, and making a natural object.
Natural Art at Ferry Meadows
We also went out collecting berries, pine cones and greenery to make our own Christmas wreaths, adding some dried oranges for variety.
Christmas Wreaths
Finally we looked more closely at the work of Andy Goldsworthy, following a PowerPoint on Twinkl, and got the children to create their own artworks with coloured matches and shells.
Matches and shell art works
Next weeks' project: Christmas and the Pilgrim's Progress.

Monday 9 December 2019

Project 113: The Victorians

This week there was 'A Victorian Christmas Celebration' workshop and trail at Peterborough Museum, so we decided to make the Victorians more generally the topic of the project. 

We've previously visited a Victorian prison (Project 3: Medieval Castles), a Victorian  row of shops (Project 91: The Seaside), and Charles Dickens' museum (Project 75: Charles Dickens & World Book Day), so besides the trip to the museum our study this week mostly made use books and videos. We watched the Horrible Histories 'Tricky Queen Vicky' and 'Queen Vic's Home Vids' and read a selection of books from the library. 
A selection of Victorian resources
The great thing about the project is there are so many books and films written or set in the Victorian period suitable for children., although, with the grandparents visiting for a few days,  we barely had a chance to scratch the surface. We have been wanting to watch Zulu since Project 52: Battles!, but unfortunately didn't have the chance. We did, however, start watching the old BBC adaptation of 'Five Children and It', which they are all enjoying.

The trip to the museum included making a Christmas garland and Christmas card, going into a Victorian kitchen to learn about Victorian food, and learning about the Victorian influence on our Christmas traditions. 
A Victorian Christmas Celebration!
We also explored a Victorian Christmas PowerPoint on Twinkl. 

Next week's project: Art and Nature. 

Monday 2 December 2019

Project 112: Refugees

We picked 'Refugees' as this week's project as there was an exhibition and home education workshop at the local Peterborough Museum.
Refugee exhibit
The workshop introduced the children to the subject of refugees, and there was a mock tent set up to show the children the kind of space refugees have in a typical refugee camp. The children also had to think about the sorts of things they would pack if they had to leave their homes in a hurry, and they also created their own travel logbooks. 

Workshop crafts
We also looked at some books about refugees from the library, and did some Twinkl worksheets.

Finally we read The Boy at the Back of the Class, a fictional story about a refugee from Syria who loses his family, and his new friends attempts to help him. It won the Blue Peter Book Award 2019, although we are at a bit of a loss as to why it won. It struck us as badly written with some very odd messages: words are worse than violence, it's acceptable to attack people who are mean to you, and the national shaming of a 9 yr old who has the wrong opinions is to be celebrated. There are books that tackle difficult subjects well (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas), and books that help you engage with the plight of a refugee (When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is a family favourite), but The Boy at the Back of the Class is neither.

Next week's project: The Victorians

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Project 111: Geometry

Both Solomon and Monica have been speeding ahead with their maths work, but as there isn't a lot of geometry included in the workbooks we use (Schofield and Sims), we decided to make geometry this week's project.

In addition to the daily ration of maths, we've done one previous maths project: Project 86: What is Maths? And we revisited some of those general maths videos - rewatching Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land and finishing the mathXplosion series. We also watched a range of geometry videos from an Introduction to Geometry, through Pythagorean theorem, to  Euclid's postulates:

One of the biggest challenges with geometry as a topic is the disparity in maths ability caused by the 18 month age difference between the two children. So we bought a geometry build kit and some activity books they could both make use of.
Some 3D Geometry Shapes
"Dive into Shapes" was £30 on Amazon, and although it says 6+, it's definitely more suited for Monica (5) than Solomon (7). Nonetheless they both enjoyed building the models.

Geometry activity
The geometry activity books, however, were great. They included a wide range of activities, from drawing golden spirals through to parabola with straight lines.
Freehand & Compass Circles
While we only managed to cover half-a-dozen of the activities, we will definitely return to the books again. Surprisingly, geometry turned out to be one of the projects the children have found most interesting!

Next project: Refugees.

Tuesday 19 November 2019

Project 110: Christmas Crafts

Christmas crafts was chosen as this week's project as we had a busy week of groups and meetups, so we didn't want a huge project, and one of the home ed groups had suggested giving the children an opportunity to sell some Christmas crafts at one of the meetups.

We got ourselves in the Christmas spirit with some Christmas films, and then focused on making some Christmas tree decorations. We took inspiration from for our 3D Christmas trees, and did some laced-trees following some examples on Pinterest.

Christmas tree decorations
Next week's project: Geometry.

Monday 11 November 2019

Project 109: World War 1

World War 1 was chosen to coincide with Remembrance Sunday. We last touched on World War 1 in Project 52: Battles, unsurprisingly this project was a bit less Fortnite centred!

World War 1 is one of the few subjects that the local library actually has books on, so there was plenty of reading material for this week's project.

Reading material from the library
We watched Sgt Stubby (the most decorated dog of WW1), which the whole family enjoyed, and the Horrible Histories Frightful First World War Special.

We visited the Imperial War Museum, which had an extensive WW1 exhibition,
including a tank and a bi-plane. The children particularly liked the computer game where you had to protect the cargo ships, and the trench with the periscopes.
First World War at the Imperial War Museum
We looked more closely at some WW1 war poetry, with particular attention to In Flanders Field using a Twinkl worksheet, and the children created their own poppy pictures with pastels and their own poppies with another Twinkl worksheet
Poppy Crafts
Next week's project: Christmas Crafts.

Sunday 3 November 2019

Project 108: Great Fire of London

This project was chosen because we had both a children's book on the Great Fire of London and an opportunity to visit The Monument.

As well as reading non-fiction books on the Great Fire we also read Fire! Fire! by Stuart Hill, a short historical fiction story about Samuel Pepys servant boy during the fire.

This Week's Reading
We also watched a classic time-travelling episode of Magic Grandad where they travel back to 1666.

Of course the advantage of home education is that you are not restricted to books and videos, but can go out and about. We climbed to the top of the Monument (all 311 steps), built to both commemorate the event and act as a science lab, and were pleased that even the 3 year old managed the climb without making a fuss (which is more than can be said for some of the other puffing and wheezing tourists!).
The Monument
We also visited the Museum of London which has an exhibition on the Great Fire (although the diorama accompanying the video didn't seem to be working properly on this visit).
Museum of London
Finally we got them to create their great fire pictures with black paper and coloured tissue paper.
Solomon (top) and Monica's Great Fire scenes
Next week's project: World War 1.

Monday 28 October 2019

Project 107: Light

This was one of the few projects where we've broken from our usual one-project-per-week approach, and spread it over two weeks. This was because we had a six day trip to the kids' grandparents planned, and wanted to make use of some more of the North East museums. As Joseph Swan, one of the inventors of the light bulb, came from Sunderland, we decided to make Light this week's project. 

As well as the usual pages from the encyclopaedia and science dictionaries, and watching YouTube videos we visited two museums with light related exhibits. The Light exhibition at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle provided an interactive area for engaging with the properties of light, including an infinity mirror, a black mirror, a polarised light spinner, prisms, and cabinets showing the evolution of the light bulb. 
Light at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle
The miner's safety lamp display at the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens provided another, more practical, perspective on our changing relationship with light over the years.
Safety lamps in Sunderland
The project also provided us with the opportunity to do our own experiments with the reflection and refraction of light:
Refracting light with a glass of water
By far the most visually impressive experiment was splitting light with the prism we bought:
Prism splitting sunlight

Finally, for the craft part of the project, the children followed a YouTube video to make their own kaleidoscopes
Solomon's Kaleidoscope
Next project: The Great Fire of London.

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Project 106: Boy -Tales of Childhood

Every now and again we like to do a project focused on a single book*, and for this week's project we decided on one of the few Roald Dahl books for children that the children hadn't read yet: Boy-Tales of Childhood. The book is a series of anecdotes from Roald Dahl's childhood almost 100 years ago, and with tales of caning, fagging, and boarding school, it is a very different world to our children's home education.

As well as reading the book, we introduced them to a few of the more traditional sweets they hadn't come across before from the Sweet Barrels in Loughborough (including aniseed balls, liquorice and pear drops):

Some old fashioned sweets
We filled out another country profile on Norway (where Roald Dahl's parents came from), and got the children to write some anecdotes from their own childhood: Monica wrote about our summer holiday in Great Yarmouth (Project 91: The Seaside), while Solomon chose to write about a trip to the London Transport Museum he went on with his Dad:

Worksheets and anecdotes
Finally, we made our own sugar mice, in honour of the real mouse Roald Dahl put in a sweet jar when he was a young boy:
Sugar mice
There are also plenty of lesson plans for Roald Dahl books on the Roald Dahl web site, although unfortunately we didn't get to do as much as we would have liked as Solomon was a bit poorly for a couple of days. We will have to revisit one of his other books on a future occasion. 

Next weeks' project: Light.

* See also:

Sunday 6 October 2019

Project 105: Harvest Festival

As it had been the Harvest Festival service at the cathedral at the beginning of the week (Sunday 22nd September), it seemed a good opportunity for a harvest project: being thankful for the food we have, thinking about where it comes from, and how plants grow.

We considered where some of the foods we have in the cupboard came from, and marked them off on a map. Unsurprisingly, following the recent project work on the environment (Project 99: The Earth), there was a lot of discussion of food miles. The children were far happier than the adults with the suggestion that we should stop buying coffee!

Mapping some of our food miles
We also looked more closely at the growing of plants and the topic of DNA, following some videos and worksheets on extracting DNA from some strawberries. We had first tried extracting DNA from an onion, back in Solomon's first year (Project 35: Biology), but the strawberry experiment was much more successful.
Extracting strawberry DNA
We worked through the Junior Illustrated Science Dictionary and the KS1 Science Revision Guide on the parts of plants and pollination, revisiting some of the work that had been covered in Project 80: Plants and Flowers. Finally we dug up some of the carrots and parsnips that had been planted in the plants and flowers project.
Harvesting our own vegetables
Next week's project: Boy -Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl.

Monday 30 September 2019

Project 104: The Georgians

This week's project was prompted by the local Stamford Georgian Festival (although we didn't quite make as much use of the festival as we had planned).

We started the week with the usual collection of videos and readings about the Georgians, including our Ladybird Histories: British History, which gave a nice overview, and some of the Great Stories of British History. We also watched two 'films' associated with the period - the Gulliver's Travels mini-series (starring Ted Danson) and Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times.

Gulliver's travels was picked as it was written at the start of the Georgian period. Both the children really enjoyed the mini-series and Usborne's abridged version of the Lilliput part of the story, but unfortunately the unabridged version is a bit beyond them for now (although Monica was game enough to give it a go). With so much to the book, beyond that of a simple adventure, we will definitely return to the full version when they are a bit bigger.

While Modern Times is not a film set in the Georgian period, it nonetheless reflects the impact of the industrial revolution that was heavily discussed during the week. It's always good to watch non-Disney films with the children and broaden their viewing habits, and they both really enjoyed it (although admittedly the 'nose-powder' drug scene isn't typically classed as family-friendly viewing these days).

We also explored Joseph Wright of Derby's 1768 An Experiment on A Bird in the Air Pump, using the book Old Masters Rock: How to look at art with children, and then got the children to write a short piece about the picture.

Old Masters Rock
Unfortunately, towards the end of the week everyone came down with a bug, so the only part of the Georgian festival that we managed to attend was The Georgian Sense-O-Matic Show, which according to Solomon's scathing review was about "1% Georgian" and repeated much of the work we had done the week before in Project 103: The Five Senses.

Next project: Harvest Festival

Sunday 22 September 2019

Project 103: The Five Senses

We don't restrict ourselves to the national curriculum, but we do occasionally flip through the revision guides to check that we've covered the sorts of things that should be covered. Looking through the Key Stage 1 revision guide we realised we hadn't done an explicit project on the senses, so that became this week's project.

We restricted ourselves to the five traditional senses for experiments and activities (although we did include a brief discussion of other senses such as proprioception), and started the week with an exploration of the senses in Usborne's Children's Encyclopaedia and Usborne's Junior Illustrated Science Dictionary

We started our experiments with 3 taste experiments from the Usborne 100 Science Experiments, exploring whether different flavours taste better on different parts of your tongue, how your smell and taste are connected, and how taste is dependent on saliva when it comes to dry food.
Taste and the Tongue
To emphasis the importance of using multiple senses we also explored how things that look the same can smell different, and how things that look different can smell the same.
Jars of similar smelling and looking liquids. 
We explored the sensitivity of touch on different parts of the body with a two-point discrimination test.
Two-point discrimination results
Finally, we did a 'touch' craft activity, incorporating materials that represented the touch-based adjectives the children came up with.
Solomon (left) and Monica's (right) touch hands. 
Next week's project: The Georgians.

Monday 16 September 2019

Project 102: China

We decided to pick a country for this week's project as it provided the opportunity to bring together a wide variety of different themes - from food and culture to geography and climate. The only problem is there are so many countries to pick from, and there always seems to be as many reasons not to do a country as do it: Would Italy be too close to the previous Project 89: The Romans? Can we study Germany without first doing World War II? and should we wait for Chinese New Year before looking at China? Finally, after much umming and erring, and despite reservations, we finally settled on China. After all, as the world's most populous country we can probably return to it in the future!

We mostly introduced the topic through the BBC's resources. Their useful (albeit archived) introduction to the language and a nice series of videos with children showing their lives in parts of China.

One child, when discussing the Chinese New Year mentioned the story of Nian, which Solomon remembered had also been on the CBeebies Storytime App, so we revisited that story too. 

The children also tried writing their own names in Chinese. As Solomon means peace, he opted for the Chinese symbols for peace. Monica went for the more literal transliteration of the 'Monica' sounds.  
'Solomon' and 'Monica'
We created our own blank 2-page factsheet that can be used for future country projects: 
Our first country factsheet
It was particularly nice that Journey to the West was identified for the literature question, which to people of a certain age is better known as Monkey! We watched both a cartoon version on Amazon Prime (in Chinese with subtitles) and the classic 1970s version:
We bought a nice activity book introducing the first 100 words of Chinese, that includes stickers, a CD and supposedly an app, but that is seemingly no longer available. Unsurprisingly there wasn't time to finish it in a week, but the children have agreed to work through it in exchange for more episodes of monkey. 
Fun and Easy Chinese
Of course you can't finish a project on China without some Chinese food, and although the local takeaway was a bit thin on stinky tofu and chicken feet, the children enjoyed their first Chinese (although unfortunately this does bring an end to their parents guilt-free late night Chinese takeaways).
Their First Chinese Takeaway
Next week's project: The Five Senses. 

Tuesday 10 September 2019

Project 101: Politics

When the mother of parliaments is having its first home education day, in the middle of the Prime Minister proroguing parliament, it would be churlish not to have politics as the week's project!

We started the week with the usual videos, readings and discussions about parliament: how it works, who can vote, and (most importantly) what laws children would vote for if they could vote.
Some reading material...
The big event of the week, however, was the visit to the Houses of Parliament. Obviously a visit to the Houses of Parliament would have be noteworthy enough in any week, but with a showdown between the government and parliament and protesters on the street, we began to worry whether the day would be cancelled. As it was, it all went ahead without a hitch - although this did mean it was necessary to give the children a potted history of Brexit from the financial crash of 2008 to the election of 2017 and why the PM's got a problem of parliamentary arithmetic.
UK Parliament
The visit was split broadly into two halves: the first half in the education centre was learning how elections work and how laws are made; and the second half was the tour of parliament. Unfortunately you're not allowed to take pictures in the Lords and Commons, but the children nonetheless got to see a quiet House of Commons as Phil Wilson discussed a fenland project in County Durham, and a bustling House of Lords as the Brexit legislation was discussed there. The children almost got to see their local MP, Shailesh Vara, at the end, but he was stuck in a meeting so his assistant came along instead. It probably didn't matter anyway, as it was always going to be a long shot that they would be future Conservative voters.

Solomon announced on the way back that he was a bit like Boris Johnson, as he doesn't always know what to do...but he is only six and not in charge of a country, so that's OK.

Next week's project: China.

Sunday 8 September 2019

2 Years of Home Education and 100 Projects!

Last week's project was our 100th (Project 100: The Middle Ages), and marked the end of our second year of home education. It therefore seemed an appropriate time to look back on all the projects we have done, and reflect on how we are finding the experience.

The First 100 Projects
We all sat down as a family and looked back over the blog and the projects we have studied. The first thing that hits you is how much you can cover in two years, how much you forget, and how long it takes to look back over this blog! This was not made easier by the fact that every other blog post seemed to include at least one video the children wanted to watch again.

The children were asked to pick their favourites projects, and after a lot of whittling down they eventually settled on their favourite five.

Solomon's top five:

Monica's top five:
It's quite nice that three of Monica's picks are actually from before she was officially being home educated - it emphasises the fact that home education is something that you do as a family rather than revolving around one-to-one teaching. 

In many ways the five 'favourites' felt quite arbitrary: they initially marked so many of the projects as favourites that the term was virtually meaningless (with the possible exception of Project 1: History of Computer Games which in Solomon's opinion we are destined never to surpass).

The Second Year is Easier and Busier!
Our approach to home education in the second year is the same as the first: writing and maths every day, afternoon rest time/reading time and a weekly project (see How We Home Educate). The writing and maths tends to be done on a one-to-one basis, so now having two children to home educate does mean it takes longer than in year one, but as they get bigger they inevitably need less supervision during other parts of the day, so it balances itself out overall.

If there is one noticeable difference from our first year of home ed, it's how many more activities there are now. This is not just within the home education community, but also with other groups such as music lessons, Beavers, and Rainbows. As a home educating parent you inevitably worry about the social aspect, school may not be natural but it is considered normal, and when you start home educating the relationships and networks don't all naturally spring into being on day one. They will, however, build up naturally over time and by the end of the second year you are more likely to have too many rather than too few social commitments.

Not Stopping Yet
When we first discussed the idea of home educating our children, it was based on the idea that school in the UK started at too young an age, and we agreed to home educate for a couple of years before reassessing the situation. Two years on and school is further from our mind than ever: we are all enjoying the home education experience as a family, and the children are thriving academically.  Of course 'thriving academically' is difficult to quantify outside the increasingly test based culture of the school environment, but as our five year old happily reads Mary Poppins on her own, and our six year old is coming to the end of key stage 2 maths, we can happily risk a few more years of home education.

Sunday 1 September 2019

Project 100: The Middle Ages

The Measly Middle Ages segments on Horrible Histories prompted Solomon to suggest 'the middle ages' as a project, which just so happened to coincide nicely with trips planned for Norwich and York this week. 

We started the week with the usual plethora of videos and readings, including watching the Horrible Histories special on the Magna Carta (we saw one of the original documents back in Project 3: Medieval Castles) and The Worst Jobs in History: The Middle Ages

The trip to Norwich included a visit to the Norman castle, although unfortunately the Norman gallery in the castle keep had been moved as part of an upgrade. There were, however, some unexpected viking galleries relevant to the project, with a viking trail and a hands-on table. 
Vikings at the Castle Museum
Unsurprisingly the Yorkshire Museum also touched on the medieval period (and also had a hands-on table). The exhibit that really caught the children's imagination, however, was the medieval dinner table, or rather the blackboard next to it on which they wrote a menu for the time. This descended from the sensible to the farcical; from venison to 'rat pie' and 'plague pie'. It seems unlikely that 'plague pie' would have been a popular dinner choice, but the children nonetheless managed to find themselves hilarious for about 30 minutes before being dragged away!
Medieval Dinner Table
For a more practical activity the children designed their own coats of arms, using templates from a book we bought at the Castle Museum, Norwich. 
Solomon (left) and Monica (right) Coats of Arms
Finally we finished the week by watching The Secret of Kells, which they all enjoyed. 

Next week's project: Politics