Monday, 27 May 2019

Project 86: What is Maths?

Solomon and Monica do a lot of maths, diligently working their way through workbook after workbook However there's more to maths than arithmetic, and we felt it was time they had a better understanding of the wide variety of interesting things that maths includes.

We started by showing the wide domain that is maths, including Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land and the drier (but equally interesting) Map of Mathematics.

More practical mathematical activities were based around ideas from MathXplosion, a child-friendly maths series they watched on Amazon Prime, and Maths on Toast, a UK maths education charity.

Along with other more ephemeral activities, they created hexaflexagons:
Explored the power of triangles in building sturdy structures to hold a bag of sugar:
Midget gem and cocktail stick structures (with Dad's winning structure!)
And created their own tessellations:
Tessellations with a cereal box template
Next weeks project: Cooking!

Monday, 20 May 2019

Project 85: Revisiting Programming

In his first year of home education Solomon programmed in both ScratchJr and Scratch:

Unfortunately programming is one of those activities that all too easily gets overlooked on a week-to-week basis. When programming does appear, it is more likely to appear as a programming language associated with a specific technology (e.g., WeDo Lego, or Minecraft) rather than a full programming language. It therefore seemed a good idea to 'Revisit Programming!', and start Monica on her programming journey.

This week Monica worked her way through The Official Scratch Jr Book, while Solomon did a Code Your Own Pirate Adventure and tried a text-based programming language for the first time with Coding for Beginners Using Python.
This week's course books!

Monica really enjoyed programming in Scratch Jr on the tablet, and while Solomon really enjoyed the Scratch pirate games it is possibly a bit too simple for him now.

One of the criticisms of Scratch (and it may be equally applied to Scratch Jr) is that the ease with which you can make bright colourful games makes more formal languages seem dull in comparison. This means there is a real onus on the educator to emphasise the long-term advantages of Python in comparison to a block-based language.

While Solomon was not overly excited by his fist experience of Python, he nevertheless understands it's potential, and has agreed to stick with it. This was probably helped in part by the fact that the 1980's Usborne programming books are available online, and Solomon could recognise the similarity between him learning Python and his father having learned BASIC, but mostly he's just a child who's very good at delayed gratification - four weeks later and he's still eking out his Easter eggs!!

Next week's project: What is Maths?

Monday, 13 May 2019

Project 84: The Emergency Services

We had planned a trip to the National Videogame Museum in Sheffield for this week, and as Sheffield is also home to the National Emergency Services Museum we decided to make that the week's project.

There are plenty of resources for the ambulance and fire services online, with many of the services around the country having outreach programmes. In particularly we made use of the North West Ambulance Service worksheets for how and when to call for an ambulance,  and the Cheshire Fire & Rescue worksheets for making a family emergency escape plan for the house. For the police we focused on their relatively recent history, and both the good and bad points of having a police service:

The National Emergency Services Museum is a nice museum mostly covering the police, fire, and ambulance service, with smaller exhibits on the coastguard and mountain rescue service. The museum has a wide range of exhibits, including a large collection of historical emergency vehicles, a number of reconstructions, and even a climbing wall. There was also an opportunity to go for a ride on a fire engine! The children all enjoyed the museum, and we spent about 2.5 hrs there in total. If I had one criticism of the museum it would be the one-sided view of the police.
Emergency Services Museum
Next project: Revisiting programming.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Project 83: Music!

This week's project was prompted by the fact that we want to get the new Nintendo Labo VR kit, but first we had to finish the variety kit we already had and the last piece to be made was the piano.

Nintendo Labo Piano
The Labo piano is the biggest of the builds in the variety kit, with an estimated build time of 2.5-3.5 hours, so we spread it over a couple of days. The suggested age range is 6+, and while Solomon (6) kept his focus during the build, Monica (4) had a tendency (understandably) to get a bit bored after an hour. As with the previous Labo builds, they're fiddly to make, but the kids love playing with them:

Similarly, there was a guitar build in the LEGO Boost set that we hadn't made yet, so we decided to build that this week too. 
LEGO Boost  Guitar
In this case, the guitar links to a tablet which plays different chords depending on where you place the capo on the fret board and how you 'strum' the lever. The recommended age range for the LEGO Boost is 7-12, but whereas the Labo requires a lot of supervision, they can work through the Boost on their own. 

Of course we also looked at more traditional music and musical instruments. They watched  brief history of  (Western) music, that provided some nice context to modern music. 

They watched the BBC House of Sound videos about different types of instruments, explored Handel's Zadok the Priest, and learned how to read music

They also played some musical instruments themselves, playing recorders at home, and then the ukulele at the Peterborough Centre for Young Musicians. They really enjoyed the trial session, and we plan for the ukulele lessons to become a more regular thing. 

Next week: The Emergency Services