Wednesday 16 December 2020

Project 162: The Trumpet of the Swan

All the children have enjoyed E.B. White's novels (see Project 153: Stuart Little and Project 128: Charlotte's Web), so we wanted to read The Trumpet of the Swan before the big two got too big. 

The Trumpet of the Swan is the story of Louis a trumpeter swan who can't trumpet, and whose father steals him a trumpet which he learns to play, and how Louis earns money so his father can pay back the shop he stole the trumpet from. 

Alongside reading the book, which took up most of the week, the children also drew their own swans, completed the quiz in the back of the book, and watched the film. 

It was also a good opportunity to introduce them to the music of Louis Armstrong and (as the film names Louis's sisters Ella and Billie) Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. 

Next week: Rocks and Minerals

Wednesday 9 December 2020

Project 161: Preparing for Christmas

This week's project was all about preparing for Christmas, starting a day early with an advent wreath, some Christmas wreaths, and some salt-dough decorations for the tree:

The children made some Christmas crackers:

And made gingerbread Christmas trees and 'reindeer bark' for eating with the decorating. 

Finally we watched a couple of Christmas films: It's a Wonderful Life (which they thought was a bit long), and The Star, a retelling of the Christmas story from the donkey's perspective:

Next week's project: The Trumpet of the Swan.

Sunday 6 December 2020

Project 160: Wassily Kadinsky

We decided it was time to look at another artist. We hadn't focused on a single artist since Project 136: Leonardo da Vinci, and while we did Project 88: Painting, the only time we've solely focused on a single artist was Project 79: Art and Mondrian

We started by learning about Kandinsky and his work, looking at a PowerPoint on Twinkl, reading about him in the art books we have, and watching a YouTube video. 

We did a Twinkl cut and stick activity and colouring sheets

We looked at the colour wheel, got the children to mix their own colours, and created Kandinsky-style concentric circles.

Finally the children created their own abstract masterpieces by rolling a dice to pick geometric shapes and lines for inclusion. 

Next Project: Preparing for Christmas.

Sunday 22 November 2020

Project 159: Photography

 After Solomon rediscovered his v-tech camera at the back of the cupboard, we decided it would be a good time to do a project on photography. 

The week started with a presentation and videos on photography and the history of photography.

The children then helped making their own pinhole camera, following instructions from the National Geographic's Guide to Photography

The children were also given three photographic assignments:

  • Self-portraits with composition and framing (not for the blog!).
  • Monochrome and shades (following this week's BBC Your Photos theme)
  • Textures, curves and patterns.

All the children enjoyed getting out and taking photos, although special mention for Sam who won the household photography competition for his monochrome graffiti. 

Next week's project: Wassily Kandinsky

Project 158: More Cooking!

 We don't do as much cooking with the children as we would like to, in fact the only project specifically on cooking was over a year ago (see Project 87: Cooking), so we decided to have another project on cooking. 

Each of the children were expected to help with a breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as make a dessert. 

Solomon made a pizza, a golden syrup cake, added some scotch pancakes to the lunch, and pineapple with breakfast. 

Monica made a korma curry, added some pancakes to the breakfast and cheese straws to the lunch, and made some homemade ice-cream. 

Sam wanted to help make a lentil curry, added some melon to the breakfast and chipolata wraps to the lunch, and made some gingerbread men. 

The children all enjoyed the project, and we're working on cooking becoming more a part of their regular routine. 

Next project: Photography

Thursday 12 November 2020

Project 157: Knights and Fantasy

We wanted a relaxed project for this week's project as it coincided with Solomon's birthday, so we settled on knights and fantasy, focusing primarily on the tales of King Arthur. 

We made use of numerous online videos to explore what it means to be a knight, and some of their literary depictions. 

We also read knightly tales in the form of Morpurgo's Arthur: High King of Britain and McCaughrean's George and the Dragon. Morpurgo just about manages to safely skirt some of the more salacious aspects of the King Arthur stories, although as a parent you do find yourself concerned throughout about what might be coming next!

There are obviously also a lot of King Arthur films and we watched two: the classic Sword in the Stone, and the modern interpretation with The Kid Who Would Be King.

Finally, as a craft activity the children designed their own heraldic shields (the elder two had previously designed shields back in Project 100: The Middle Ages).

Next Project: More cooking!

Sunday 1 November 2020

Project 156: Mushrooms and Fungi

 As it was half-term this week, and the school children were expected to be filling the local parks, we decided to get some exercise a bit further afield with a mushroom hunt. 

We started the week with the usual raft of videos exploring the fungi kingdom, and by the time we went on our mushroom hunt the children had a far better idea of what fungi were and the important role they have in the local ecosystem. 

We spotted a wide range of fungi in the local woods, and Sam was particularly enthusiastic about the hunting process. 

Once they'd seen a few of the wide varieties available, they made some Play-doh models (using pictures from a book) and drew some mushrooms.
We also did three different mushroom science experiments. Using guidance from Twinkl we collected spores from a mushroom:

Monday 26 October 2020

Project 155: Light and Space

After the children enjoyed Project 146: A Wrinkle in Time we thought it would be a good idea to look at some theories about light and space a bit more closely. Although we have done projects on light (see Project 107: Light) and space (see Project 8: Space and the Planets) previously, this was a project more about our understanding of space and light, and the change brought about by Einstein's theory of relativity. 

It was a project that made use of a lot of videos and a lot of books, although we did finish with a some practical gravitational experiments at the end of the week. 

There were a number of different strands to the week's work. 

1) We looked at the lives of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein with two accessible biographies aimed at children: Isaac Newton; The scientist who changed everything, and Albert Einstein. As well as an online BBC introduction to Einstein

2) We explored the theory of relativity and some of its unexpected behaviours as you near the speed of light with The Time and Space of Uncle Albertmultiple online videos, and the classic 1980s film The Flight of the Navigator.

3) We explored alternative perspectives on higher dimensions with Edwin Abbott's classic Flatlands.

4) And finally we read about, and did some simple experiments on, our more usual experience of gravity with Usborne's Junior Illustrated Science Dictionary and 100 Science Experiments

In the back of The Time and Space of Uncle Albert there was a quiz on the theory of relativity, and the  children's combined efforts achieved a score of 15 out of 18, so we can rest assured they picked up something over the week. Obviously with children aged 4, 6, and 7, we don't expect them to remember everything, or come up with a theory of everything, but we do like to put certain ideas and concepts on their radar for future reference.

Next project: Mushrooms and Fungi. 

Monday 19 October 2020

Project 154: More Board Games

 Like a lot of people we've ended up with far more board games than we generally have time to play, so we decided to have a week of playing board games. We last had a board game project back in Solomon's first year of home education (see Project 32: Board games), so it was a good opportunity to introduce some games to Sam, and hopefully clear the cupboards of some of the most childish games. In the end, however, the project stretched over two weeks, we still didn't have time to play all the games we wanted, and only managed to persuade the children to give one game to the local charity shop. 

Week 1

We set off at at good pace in the first week, and managed to play 41 different games, from simple snap card games suitable for everyone to more complicated strategy suitable only for the big two. 

  1. Mousetrap
  2. Tummy Ache
  3. Mr Men Card Game
  4. Guess Who
  5. Snap (animals)
  6. Snap (numbers)
  7. Dominoes
  8. Hare & Tortoise
  9. Operation
  10. Pass the Word
  11. Frozen Memory Game
  12. Paddington
  13. Rummikub
  14. Pass the Pigs
  15. Memoir '44
  16. Rockin' Robot
  17. Wall Game
  18. Junior Scrabble
  19. Upwords
  20. Destination Norwich
  21. Mastermind
  22. Pop Up Pirate
  23. Connect 4 Flip
  24. Monkey Business 
  25. Picture Tri-onimoes
  26. Don't Rock the Boat
  27. Countdown
  28. Where is Moldova?
  29. Frozen Labyrinth
  30. London Underground Game
  31. Top Trumps (Marvel)
  32. Monopoly (Despicable Me)
  33. Ants in the Pants
  34. Spinergy
  35. Around the World in 80 Days
  36. Timeline
  37. Hungry Hippos
  38. Dobble
  39. Ticket to Ride First Journey
  40. Catan
  41. Mario Match

Week 2
We found we couldn't quite keep up the pace in the second week, and only managed to play another 28 different games, partly due to playing pandemic three times. 
  1. Shopping List
  2. Mario Monopoly
  3. Carcassonne
  4. Snakes & Ladders
  5. Pandemic
  6. Kerplunk
  7. Picture Lotto
  8. Scotland Yard Jnr.
  9. Tell the Time
  10. Backgammon
  11. Loopin' Chewie
  12. Stratego
  13. Fortnite Monopoly
  14. Ramses Pyramid
  15. Downfall
  16. Staying Alive
  17. Scrabble
  18. Ticket to Ride
  19. Robochamp
  20. 3 in a Row
  21. Flag Dominoes
  22. Cubeword
  23. Boss Monster
  24. Bugs in the Kitchen
  25. Othello
  26. The Peterborough Game
  27. Risk
  28. Subma-Fight

Pandemic was the only game we bought specifically for the project, and everyone enjoyed it. We think Monica was particularly attracted to the collaborative nature of the game, rather than having to face the competitive nature of her older brother, so we'll definitely look out for more collaborative games in the future. 

The children were asked to pick their favourite top 3 games out of the 69 played over the two weeks.

Monica's top 3:
  1. Frozen Labyrinth
  2. Mastermind
  3. Monkey Business*
(* mostly picked because this one was designated for donating to the charity shop)

Sam's top 3: 
  1. Risk*
  2. Subma-Fight 
  3. Marvel Top Trumps
(* also Solomon's favourite pick during the first board game project)

Solomon's top 3: 
  1. Pandemic
  2. Subma-Fight
  3. Memoir '44
Subma-Fight, picked by both of the boys, is a 2-player submarine strategy game that Solomon designed for his mum's birthday; it was high praise for Pandemic to knock Subma-Fight off the top spot. The Peterborough Game is another game you won't find in the shops, a game from 1992 that we picked up in the local charity shop; it actually turned out to be an interesting game with some novel elements, although it's a bit tricky to win, so now mostly being kept for historical reasons. 

Next week: Light and Space

Tuesday 6 October 2020

Project 153: Stuart Little

Our first book project of the school year was picked because it was suitable for all the children, from the youngest to the eldest, and they'd all enjoyed the author's work previously (see also Charlotte's Web). 

Most of the week was spent reading the book and watching the three films (Stuart Little 3 was on Amazon Prime).

As a small craft activity the children created their own little mice on sticks.

We also spent some time learning about mice and mouse-like creatures. Solomon particularly liked the sound of the grasshopper mouse, while Monica pointed out that jerboa appeared in Into the Jungle, so we read that section of that book too. 

Next project: More Board Games

Thursday 1 October 2020

Project 152: Autumn and Harvest

It didn't feel particularly autumnal at the start of the week, whatever the calendar said, but it nonetheless seemed a good time to bring together topics covered in previous projects for the younger members of the group.

The children started the week by putting on their autumnal shorts, t-shirts, and sun hats, and doing a nature walk:

They learned about the seasons (see also Project 12: Time and Calendars), the harvest (see also Project 105: Harvest Festival), revisited the different food groups (see also Project 6: Nutrition) and even watched a bean start to grow (see also Project 80: Plants and Flowers). 

By the end of the week it had turned a bit colder, and the children helped make a stew and some bread rolls (see also Project 50: Bread!), which they all enjoyed. 

Next project: Stuart Little

Monday 21 September 2020

Project 151: Abominable!

This week's project was prompted by some resources on the Into Film web site, and the availability of Abominable on NOW TV. 

The film focuses on a Chinese girl helping a yeti get back home to the Himalayas, so we used it as an opportunity to learn about mountains, cryptozoology and a new aspect of Chinese culture. 

The children watched a video about where mountains come from, and looked at a PowerPoint about Mount Everest

They learned about cryptozoology, and drew their own mystical creatures:

And we also introduced the traditional Chinese game of Mah Jong:

It turned out there has been a bit of a run on yeti films in recent years, so the children also watched Missing Link, and Smallfoot.  

Next project: Autumn and Harvest

Tuesday 15 September 2020

Project 150: Pirates!

Pirates! was picked for this week's project by our youngest child, Sam, as it was his first week of home education. There were quite a few pirate worksheets on Twinkl, and to try and make the week as fun as possible (and without much possibility of a big trip out) we also included a number of films and finished with a pirate tea party.

We started the week by reading the abridged Usborne Treasure Island, and bought two new pirate books for the big occasion. The big two were also expected to read the full version of Treasure Island in their own time (a book they had struggled with in Project 56: Treasure Island). 

The children designed their own flags and composed their own sea shanties (using a TES worksheet). 
They did some pirate science experiments:

And a treasure hunt and a treasure dig: 

Over the week we watched three films: Muppet Treasure Island, Hook, and The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! Sam's favourite of the films was Hook:

The pirate themed tea party was also a big hit.

Next project: Abominable.

Monday 7 September 2020

3 Years of Home Education!

Our 3rd year of home education has been very different to the first two thanks to the coronavirus, with a few more book projects and a few less trips out (2 Years of Home Education and 100 Projects!; Reflections on 1 Year of Home Education). In comparison to the traditional school system however, our education journey can be said to have emerged relatively unscathed!

Monica and Solomon's Progress

We have broadly continued with the same project-based structure we introduced in the first year, and it seems to be working. Both the children continue to do well on reading, writing, and maths; especially maths, with Solomon starting key stage 3 and Monica working her way through key stage 2. 

Their favourite projects of the last year have been Project 149: Don Quixote for Solomon, and Project 140: Presentations for Monica. Over the whole of the three years Solomon's favourite project has been Project 1: History of Computer Games and over the past two year's Monica's project has been Project 50: Bread! (mostly because it was her first project).

And then there were three!

Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus has not persuaded us to look into more traditional schooling, although as we will now be home educating all three of our children there will undoubtedly be new challenges for the year ahead. The most noticeable of which will be that we now have to come up with projects that are suitable for children from the ages of 4 to 7.  

Project 149: Don Quixote

Another week of the coronavirus pandemic and another book project, this time the all time Spanish classic: Don Quixote.

We read the abridged Usborne version, and the children loved it with plenty of laughter all around. 

They also created their own Don Quixote silhouettes:

And country fact sheets on Spain:

Next project: Pirates!

Sunday 30 August 2020

Project 148: Shooting a Video!

During Project 145: Starting a Business, Solomon set up his own YouTube Channel, so we thought we would do another project looking more closely at video production. 

We bought a book on making YouTube videos, got  a camcorder and an action camera, and set the children the task of making a video about one of their home education projects from the last year. Solomon picked Project 143: Basketball, and Monica picked Project 112: Refugees

After an introductory presentation on filming, the children had to create their own storyboards for their videos. Solomon included lots of action shots, with trips to the basketball court, as well as playing on the PlayStation. Monica's film included a retracing of her trip to the museum and acting out a scene from the book. 

The rest of the week was then spent filming and editing the video. Although as they included lots of shots of the children, they're not being shared online!

Next week's project: Don Quixote

Sunday 23 August 2020

Project 147: Sculpture

With trips out still restricted by the coronavirus, we decided to make use of the local sculpture trail and have a project on sculpture. 

We started the week by looking at some of the work of Antony Gormley. The children have seen the Angel of the North, Untitled (for Francis) at the Tate, and Peterborough has it's own series of Gormley statues. 

The children also made their own clay models, following an Antony Gormley Twinkl activity sheet

We went to the local sculpture park and the children had to draw pictures of the sculptures and write what they did or didn't like about them

We also looked at a wider variety of sculpture and statues, from Michelangelo to the Fourth Plinth,and gave the task of designing their own statues if materials and money were not an issue. Solomon's was 'The Great Evil', while Monica's was 'Motherhood'.

Next week's project: Shooting a Video!

Monday 17 August 2020

Project 146: A Wrinkle in Time

Unsurprisingly during the coronavirus we have done a lot more book projects (see our big list of books), and this week we decided on a classic we knew nothing about: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.

It is a science fiction story of children tessering across the universe to save their father from the evil IT. Combining science with the age-old battle of good v. evil. 

The children read the graphic novel, and we read the original together. 

We watched the recent Disney version (2018):

And also the 2003 version:

We explored the themes of the book, and the differences between the book and the film using discussion points provided in the graphic novel, a teacher's guide at, and some activities on the BBC

Everyone enjoyed the story, so we've started reading the sequel A Wind in the Door

Next project: Sculpture

Sunday 9 August 2020

Project 145: Starting a Business

One of the problems with children is they are always coming up with quite impractical business ideas:
"I'm going to start a shop selling my drawings [scribbles on scrap paper]"
"I'm going to charge people five pounds to look at my museum [a tin of bits and pieces]"
"Sell flowers [i.e., daisies and dandelions they've picked]" 
So after Solomon declared he wanted to earn £1,000 for a new games computer, we decided we'd do a project on Starting a Business.

We started the week with a big presentation on different types of business, the advantages of starting your own business, and activities on the sort of business they might like to have. We made use of three books, with particular attention to the activities in Starting Your Own Business: Become an Entrepreneur.

Monica decided on a dog-walking business (despite her fear of dogs!), and Solomon decided he wanted his own Fortnite channel on YouTube. 

They then had to make their own business plan, including costs and profits, and come up with a marketing strategy. 

Solomon designed a number of logos for his Fortnite channel:
And Monica designed a leaflet for her dog walking service: 

They were also expected to give a Dragon's Den style presentation asking for any investment they might need:
  • Monica wanted £120 for insurance, a lead and collar, poo bags, leaflet printing, and ingredients for dog biscuits. 
  • Solomon wanted £80 for a PS4 camera so he could record videos of himself playing video games. 
Both were refused (for now): Monica until she could show she could actually go near a dog and not scream, and Solomon until he showed he would stick at creating Fortnite videos in the long term. 

Solomon's YouTube channel is now up and running - and (for now) he seems to be enjoying editing the videos as much as he does playing the game!

Next week's project: A Wrinkle in Time.