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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Art : Limbourg Brothers I - Clay Animal Figurines

After reading another fellow homeschoolers blog on their artist study, I was inspired to restart ours. For the next few weeks we will be studying the life and works of the Limbourg Brothers. They are three Dutch brothers Herman, Paul and Jean. They were well-known for their richly illuminated Book of Hours.

A short description of the Limbourg brother can be found here. I was very attracted to this site because it has little fun puzzles and worksheets corresponding to various artists. My boys enjoyed solving and filling up these during their free time. I will be filing these sheets up in their art file together with their brief outline about the artists and whatever related drawings or paintings they did during our study of the Limbourg Brothers.

One of the projects in our Artistic Pursuit book was to make animal figurines of possible animals that the Limbourg brothers would see in their patron's (Duke de Berry) castle. We thumbed through the books we have that had clear photographs of animals. We each chose an animal to replicate. B wanted to look at our Neon Tetras in our aquarium instead. D chose a seal and I, an owl.

We started a new pack of clay. This time I bought a small pack of clay (500g) so that we can finish the whole pack in one sitting (solves the problem of having to keep the unused clay properly so that it won't harden). We managed to make another owl, a grizzly bear, a frog and that last little bit of clay was conveniently transformed into a snake. Every bit of the clay was used up. I liked it this way and would probably do the same next time.

It took us 2 sessions to complete our figurines. One session of two hours to mould and another session of slightly less to paint them.

After completing the animals, we sat down to constructively evaluate our work.

D didn't like his seal. We all agreed that the shape was not right. I however praised him for his effort in mixing just the right colour for the seal (He used up SO much of our paint in the process!! Ok... never mind about that ;-)). He was proud of his bear :-)
(I have taken pictures of our clay models together with the photographs we copied from.)

B wanted to make another owl after seeing me complete mine. But he wanted his owl to turn its head to face the back. He have read that owls can turn their heads almost 180 degrees to the back. After realizing that this might look funny, he decided it will turn its head to the side instead.

I joined in the fun too! Here are my sea turtle and frog.

We all enjoyed ourselves so much!!! We unanimously agreed that we need to have more regular clay model-making sessions. I am not sure how realistic this plan is though :-b

Visit Rumphius Webpage Art to learn more about how we approach Art in our homeschool.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Science - BFSU : A4 Particulate Nature of Matter

We continued with learning more about the properties of matter. We had previously learned that
1. Matter takes up space.
2. Matter has mass.
This time, we learned the particulate nature of matter.

Part 1 of the lesson involves showing that all matter are made of particles. Specific examples and experiments were given to show the children that matter whether solid, liquid or gas are actually made up of particles. We broke several types of material down to smaller bits and talked about the most fundamental particle that is still the same material. I thought the concept was very clearly demonstrated with all the examples given. I love the systematic methodology and thinking questions in BFSU.

Part 2 of the lesson aims to show the effect of temperature on particles. Discussion also led to the understanding of how particles are packed in the different states of matter.

In the above picture, the children get to see that particles move faster at a higher temperature. The glass jar on the extreme left had cold water, the one in the centre had lukewarm water and the extreme right one had hot water. It was obvious that when we release a small amount of food colouring at the bottom of the jar, the food colouring in hot water dispersed a lot faster.

One of the activities involves us pretending to be particles. Moving about whether holding hands with arms locked (as in solids) or loosely held (as in liquids) , or bouncing in straight lines off each other or off whatever that is in our way (as in gases). We had fun! So much so that the boys continued that game as we made our way to the supermarket; walking in straight lines and bouncing off walls. LOL!!!

A chance to "test" their understanding came when we were talking about the difference between melting sugar and burning sugar. I am glad to announce that they passed the test. :-)

Visit Rumphius Science Webpage to learn more about how we approach Science in our homeschool.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chinese Recitation

In the Well-Trained Mind, Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer recommended memorization and recitation at the Grammar Stage. "...It exercises the child's memory, stores beautiful language in his mind, and gives him practice in speaking aloud..."

Having this in mind, I have thus added another component into our Chinese curriculum. The Charlotte Mason method that we are using has read-alouds, narration and dictation as its main components. At the moment, I have decided to omit dictation because we are barely coping with the word lists given in the Singapore Textbook. Dictation is now replaced with recitation.

My target for now is to let my boys memorize a few sentences that are picked from our read aloud books. In the evenings when Daddy gets home, they will recite their sentences to him. If Daddy understands them and feels that they are proficient enough, they get rewarded for their efforts.

I like this arrangement so far for 3 reasons.
1. They get an independent evaluator (Sometimes I feel that my boys think I am overly critical about their intonation. I need somebody else to tell them their mistakes!)
2. Daddy gets to know more of where our boys are for Chinese. (So he will start speaking to them in Chinese!!! Before this, he thinks they wouldn't understand him at all!)
3. Boys get a chance to build up their public-speaking skills (which is FAR from good *sigh*)

I am a little excited because the random sentences that I have picked from various books we have seem to be some how related, progressive and in line with the theme of the week or even day. Let me show you what I mean.

I have started an engaging chapter book called 一年级的小蜜瓜. This is the sentence I picked from the chapter 装满秘蜜的树洞 I was reading that day. Just one sentence for a start.

I know that Daddy (or you) would not understand the context of this sentence so I made the boys give a narration of what happened in the story leading up to this sentence. Aren't I brilliant??!! :-)

This sentence introduces the phrase 保守秘密.

The next day, we read from 蚯蚓的日记. This time I decided to let my boys choose the sentences they wanted to memorize. They chose this passage:
我长大以后想当秘密情报员。 蜘蛛说我得非常小心,因为忠统可能一不小心就会踩到我。“这个工作很危险,”我告诉他,“但是总得有人去做。”

The term 秘密 is used again! So that sort of build up from the previous day's work! Moreover, we were starting the topic of growing up and ambitions in our Chinese textbook (chapter on 长大后) What a coincidence!

The next day, we read 忙忙碌碌镇. This book is a translated version of Richard Scarry's Busy Town. We liked the English version. I thought this was a good book to introduce some specific terms relating to different professions. From the chapter 每个人都要工作, I chose 3 sentences that turned out to be quite a challenge for them.
农夫种了各种粮食和蔬菜,其中一些是留下来给自己家吃的。 其余的呢,就卖给了杂货店的杂货猫,换回一些钱。 杂货猫再把这些商品卖给忙忙碌碌镇上的其他人。

The boys struggled with this one. :-( We had a tough time getting this right. We were feeling quite defeated at the end of it. It is funny how sometimes when I have something all planned out, it ended up not turning out as well as I hope. But when I let "nature takes its course", everything just seem to fall in place. Anyway, I decided to lighten up for the next passage.

The next day we read 可爱的宝宝 (a book from the Chinese Science series that I have mentioned here before). I allowed the boys to choose their sentences again this time. (Learnt my lesson!) Thankfully, they have forgotten the bad experience the day before and were very eager. This is what they chose:
在世界上的每一个地方,都有小宝宝在出生。 你是在一个温暖的房间里出生的。如果你是一只北极熊,那么你会是在雪洞里出生的。

I thought it was quite a good choice because that day happened to be my birthday! 世界was also a term that was introduced in the current chapter in the textbook! They had lots of fun learning this one and even chose another paragraph from the same book, insisting that they learn it the next day! Wow! I am so happy to see such enthusiasm!!!

So you see... I am just amazed that the unplanned passages we have selected somehow just fitted the occasion. SOMEONE up there must have already done the planning for me ;-) It is liberating to know that somebody is there to take over the steering wheel. What's more?! He is likely to have a better idea of where we should be heading!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wild Hour #1

This is the first (and I hope of many more) of our Wild Hour report. We plan to work through the Outdoor Challenges laid out by Harmony-Art Mom at her blog site Handbook of Nature Study. (Read my previous post on Rethinking Nature Study to understand why and what I am doing)

Our task, in brief, for Outdoor Challenge #1 are as follows:
1. I am to read p1-8 of Handbook of Nature Study(HSN) and underline points that I agree with or is helpful to me.
2. Take a nature walk (10-15 min). Enjoy being outdoors. Come inside, sit the children down and ask them what they SAW. Examine whatever they have picked.
3. After the discussion, come up with 2 things to investigate further.
4. Refer to HNS myself on the items the children were interested in. Relate any interesting facts to the children sometime during the week.
5. Post an entry on my blog!

1. I am to read p1-8 of Handbook of Nature Study(HSN) and underline points that I agree with or is helpful to me.

Here are some phrases that struck a chord in me:

When we no longer care about anything except our own interests, we are then old, it matters not whether our years be twenty of eighty....

Nature study does not start out with the classification given in books, but in the end it builds up in the child's mind a classification which is based on fundamental knowledge; it is a classification like that evolved by the first naturalists, because it is built on careful personal observation of both form and life...

... it is safe to assume that the pupil's lack of interest in nature study is owing to a fault in the teacher's method. She may be trying to fill the child's mind with facts when she should be leading him to observe these for himself, which is a most entertaining occupation for the child...

It might be better to give it a regular period in the day, for there is strength and sureness in regularity...

The nature study lesson should be short and sharp... should not be repeated...

2. Take a nature walk (10-15 min). Enjoy being outdoors. Come inside, sit the children down and ask them what they SAW. Examine whatever they have picked.

We headed to Jurong Lake Park for our first "official" Wild Hour. I brought everything we needed to do bible devotion at the park as well. We were seated on a bench working through a day's worth of discussion in Our 24 Family Ways by Clay Clarkson. We had a hard time concentrating because we could catch glimpses of things waiting to be discovered! Nevertheless, we had a very fruitful Devotion Time before we tramp around the area.

Here is our little naturalist, perched triumphantly above the remains of a fallen tree. He was tracking an army of ants prior to this shot.

We were excited to see a monitor lizard, ...

... disgusted by this carcass of a dead fish ... (obviously a bottom dweller- Boys were making up all sort of hypothesis as to how this fish got out of the water and remained relatively intact...)

... intrigued to find a section of a bee hive (Smelled of honey!!! Collected this home of course!), ...

and amazed to spot quite a number of birds (more than what we saw at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve!). Amongst those we saw were the cattle egret, common iora, and I think this one below seen circling above us is a type of kite.

While we were sitting on a bench discussing, B suddenly shrieked and said something wet just hit him on his head. On examining him closely, I realized that a bird has just pooped on his head! And that led him to ask with all sincerity the question, "Why don't birds wear underwear?!" :-D

We have surely been rewarded with lots to see! The irony of it all is that the boys ended up collecting two items that we couldn't identify!

We have already started the habit of drawing in our nature journal so we did that. We were not sure what it was. It looks like a pod to me. We have looked around and couldn't find another pod nearby. We have no idea which tree it fell from.

Here are my boys' drawings. (See my post on the StinkingToe for how I used this as an art lesson on watercolour pencil technique.)

3. After the discussion, come up with 2 things to investigate further.

We decided to find out the identity of the two fruits the boys collected. I was a little nervous about this as I was not sure I could identify them!!

I flipped through all my little Science Centre guidebooks and found a fruit that vaguely looks like one of the fruits we collected. It is from the West Indian Locust Tree. On researching more, I found other interesting bits of information about this tree and its fruit. (mostly from these two sites 1 and 2).

I will give my boys the pleasure of telling you what we found out. You may visit D's blog and B's blog for that. :-)

We will definitely want to look harder for the tree that bore this fruit the next time we go to the park. Thankfully, I found a good description of the rest of the tree.

We could not identify or investigate on the second fruit we collected. :-(

4. Refer to HNS myself on the items the children were interested in. Relate any interesting facts to the children sometime during the week.

I used the index in HNS and found and conducted Lesson 100 on The Honeycomb.

5. Post an entry on my blog!

Just did!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Art : Watercolour Pencil Demonstration Using the Stinking Toe

I wanted to introduce , my boys to watercolour pencils as a painting medium for their nature drawing. I have been looking out for an opportunity to show them step by step how it can be done.

When we picked up the pod of the West Indian Locust Tree aka Stinking Toes during our Wild Hour, I knew I have a good subject to use. I have taken care to take a picture of each step of the way so I could post here. I wanted a subject that has a simple outline and one that also does not have too much colours (colours can be very distracting).

Step 1
  • Sketch the general shape with a pencil.
  • Colour using watercolour pencil the area with intense colour.
  • This is what you will end up with. (I know it looks funny at this point.)

Step 2
  • Wet a brush in clean water.
  • Lightly brush over the coloured areas. Use deliberate strokes. If brush is loaded with more colour than needed, wash brush before brushing light washes over other areas.
  • When most areas have been lightly brushed, wash the brush again.
  • This time, blend in colours where needed. This is the time to push colour around (but take care not to over do it otherwise you will end up with an even hue all throughout).
  • This is what you will end up with.
  • Let the painting dry.

Step 3
  • This step can only be done when the painting has dried COMPLETELY.
  • Use a black ink pen to stipple and shade where needed.
  • You may add in additional colour to change the tone a little (Here, I lightly coloured a brown over the painting.)
  • DONE!!!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Science : Botany - Stem

We finally found the time to do Science in the third week of January.

The boys learned about woody versus herbaceous stems, xylem, phloem, cambium, auxin, phototropism etc. Since there were quite a number of new terms being introduced, I asked them to make their own 3-part vocabulary cards for these new terms. These cards were then stored in an envelope (the black envelope in the picture below) that is attached to the rest of their lapbook pages for this chapter. D and B were always very eager to match these cards whenever we started our Science session for this chapter. (For some strange reasons, I could not get the picture in the right orientation!)

We also learned about phototropism and the role of auxin from our Botany book. Here is our lapbook page on phototropism:

The sun in this page can be moved while the retractable straw "stem" follows it because it is stapled on the transparency sheet below. They all rotate on eyelets. I had purchased a set of eyelet setters from a scrapbooking supply store but had no idea how to use them. I learned how to set the eyelets by watching this videoclip. I used the eyelets to hole two pieces of paper together. It acts as the axis in which I can rotate the papers. We were VERY satisfied with this page we created!!! My hope is of course that the boys can remember the role of auxin in phototropism.

I must admit that creating our own lapbook pages is taking up more time than I would like. I am looking forward to completing Botany soon (was suppose to be finished by 2008 :-b) so we can start on either Astronomy or Zoology 1. There are free lapbook pages created by other homeschooling mums for these other books so I am hoping our study can move a little faster then...

We performed the suggested activity in our Botany book.

After about 3 hours, the leaves of the celery stick in the orange water was more orange in colour. The most obvious were the orange tips (which isn't in focus in this picture).

This picture shows the cross section of the celery sticks clearly showing the xylem (stained orange) in the celery stick on the right. The one on the left is the control.

Visit Rumphius Science Webpage to learn more about how we approach Science in our homeschool.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Our Winged Visitor

Thanks to the help of my little gardeners, who have been faithfully watering my plants in the balcony, my flowering plants are blooming lusciously! I LOVE to peer out at our mini-garden from our "school-room".

Sometimes when we are hard at work, we would hear the familiar twittering sounds of our winged visitors. We would abandon our work and creep noiselessly toward the glass door to observe their nectar-collecting sessions.

They are the Olive-backed sunbirds. These sunbirds have been visiting our flowers but this is the first time I manage to take a picture of one. Still, it isn't as clear as I would have liked. Since we live in a concrete jungle, these surprise visits are moments that we get excited about.

Boy! Am I glad I have a balcony?! Wished I had a garden. I'd plant vegetables, fruit trees and of course lots of flowering plants that I can harvest for the table and for floral bouquets. Here I go dreaming again... ... ...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Aristophanes and Greek Writing

One of the the great Greek figures we read about as part of our History studies was Aristophanes. A little paragraph in the book The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky has a short paragraph that tells of his contribution to mankind. He was apparently the one who introduced spaces between words. What a clever guy!

I wished Chinese sentences also have spaces in between words. I often have to pre-read Chinese story books not just to make sure I know how to read the words, but also to draw brackets around names and terms. It gets very confusing reading especially when the names are translated from another language and each name can be 3 or 4 or 5 characters long! I really don't know, at first glance, where the name starts and where the name ends. Or maybe I am the only person who have this difficulty!!

A book that I found in the library called Spend the Day in Ancient Greece by Linda Honan has very interesting projects. I like the short informative write-ups before each project. We have attempted quite a number of the projects from this book. This time, we decided to try some calligraphy in Greek! First, my boys had to figure out some Greek names. They were thrilled to see the characters in The Illiad appearing here in Greek. They then wrote their own names in Greek. With the phonetic chart provided, they formed English words using Greek letters. You can take a look at the their end products in D's and B's blogs respectively.

Visit Rumphius History Webpage to find out more about how we approach History in our homeschool.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Draw Squad Lesson 4

Here are some of my boys' drawings for lesson 4. The key drawing word for this lesson is SHADOW.

I just read a blog post that gave me some new ideas to work on... Harmony Art Mom shared about how we can relate what is learnt in Draw Squad (the lesson on Foreshortening) to Picture Study. Neat!! (I will not explain it here. Read her post directly!) I am going to try it with my boys when we come across a suitable masterpiece!!

Visit Rumphius Webpage Art to learn more about how we approach Art in our homeschool.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

My Blogging Secrets... ... ... Revealed

I haven't posted much in the last week. I feel sorry for not posting but in the overall picture of my life, this blog is not my top priority. Having said that, I am still committed to updating it. And it continues to serve as a record of what we have done for school. Most importantly, I enjoy blogging!

I noticed, since this is not a personal blog, few readers are actually concerned with the "newness" of my posts. Most are here purely to get information and it really doesn't matter to them whether what I wrote was done/happened yesterday or a month ago. So with this knowledge, I am not pressured to report our latest endeavours!

What a load off my shoulders! It is a good thing I didn't start out giving a weekly school report. I really take my hats off those who are doing that. For me, it will bring back those bad memories of my own teaching days in school... filling up the Teacher's Record Book for the Principal to check... Errrhh!! :-D

I thought I would share here how I approach blogging in general.

I write as and when ideas come to me. As such, I always have a few drafts going at any one time. I post when any of them is completed.

For example, at the moment, I am working on a post on our chapter on Stem/Trees for our Botany lessons. But it takes us more than 5 sessions to complete the topic. Every time we do something on this topic, I will record it in my draft for Stem/Trees. I am not posting yet because I have not found the time to put the pictures in... and I think I need one or two more sessions to wrap the chapter up...

There are also times when I have a few posts ready to be published. I don't like posting more than one post a day. So what I do is I schedule them to be published at a later date. Blogger automatically publishes these posts. So when you see a new post being published at a particular time, it really doesn't mean I am sitting at my computer blogging at that time!

There are times when I do post some more personal stuff and those are as recent as I can manage.

Ha!... I have just revealed some of my blogging secrets! I hope this will serve to encourage more homeschooling mothers to blog and share their homeschool days. It really isn't that tough!!! Own time own target... ... ... ;-)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Lessons From and On the Harvestman

One of our read aloud chapter this week was The Cheerful Harvestman from Among the Meadow People by Clara Dillingham. I really love how Dillingham weaves in moral issues in each of her chapters that also gives accurate information about the animal she is writing about. Her a"not-so-modern" phrases are a delight to my ears.

In this chapter on the harvestman, we learned the benefits of being good-natured even when teased by other, not to look down on others, how clever it is to "look dull" when others are gossiping, and be cheerful despite misfortune. The harvestman is really MY kind of guy!

For our "English lesson", this read aloud was followed by an oral narration and copywork.

And since we haven't any idea what a harvestman was, we went on the Internet to check it out. We learned that a harvestman is also known as a "Daddy-Long-Legs". Many people mistakenly consider them to be spiders. They are in fact not true spiders. Their head, thorax and abdomen are grown together; having no "waist". They are not venomous. They neither spin webs nor build nests. Instead, they lay their eggs in the soil or under rotting wood. Unlike spiders, they can feed on dead or living prey. Vegetable matter and even juices are also part of their natural diet.

I found a website that gave information that is simple enough for my boys to understand. (Many others had too many scientific jargon.) We read this webpage together and created a table that shows the differences between a harvestman and a spider.

Tabulating information from a given narrative is in my humble opinion a very important and necessary study skill to hone. As such, this little exercise, although quite unrelated to our other studies (We have not gone into zoology yet!), was nevertheless a valuable one.

At the very least, we SHOULD be able to tell a harvestman from a spider... IF we ever encounter one in the future.
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