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