Sunday, 30 October 2011


Our science study appears to have morphed into unit study, even though I did not set out to do it this way.  Nonetheless, at least science is being done on a regular basis these days.

We are still using MSNucleus curriculum but we seem to be using it now more as a springboard for further exploration, or for ideas of themes/topics that are interesting to explore.  Having said that, I still find the curriculum's sequence useful as a guide.

We are still exploring the topic of Organism (which essentially is very basic Zoology).  This time we are learning about mollusks.  After explaning the six main subgroups of mollusks, I pulled out a box of shells that I had collected over the years for Tiger to sort them into those groups.  Not surprisingly, the shells we have mainly fall into the Gastropods or the Bivalves categories, although there were a few that we are not quite sure where they would go...

As we pondered about the classification of mollusks, Tiger noticed that the Nautilus (in the category of Cephalopods) reminded him of the ancient Ammonites from prehistoric life.  We wondered whether they were related, and whether nautilus still exists, so we did a quick research on the internet and found the answer: Yes!  Next, we became more curious about this ancient looking creature and we wanted to see an actual footage of it:

Then I remembered I still have a few resources that I had made and used with Tiger in his preschool years so I took those out as well.  The first was a set of nomenclature cards that worked as revision for shell identification, the second was a set of shell dominoes.

The supplementary books Tiger read for this unit were:

Tiger was inspired to emulate the movement of snails after reading about them in this book, so he moved around on the floor with a cushion on his back for 15 minutes while I read bits and pieces of related information to him.  After a while he concluded that sliding around on his stomach without any aid was too tedious for a human being to do.  Therefore, now we share a new-found respect for the slugs and snails that we see in our little garden.

The book also has an activity listed at the end that explains how and why snails use slime to move about.  It is a simple experiment using corn flour (corn starch) and water to make slime, then compare the difference between sliding your finger along a piece of sandpaper with and without slime.  Obviously it would be easier to move along with slime due to reduced friction.

This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can visit to see what other homeschoolers have been busy with.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Medieval Stained Glass

As we move along in our study of the Middle Ages, we inevitably come across aspects of the church and its influence on many parts of medieval life, including art.  One of the most iconic aspects of the Middle Ages is the stained glass in large abbeys or cathedrals we can find in this country.

Medieval stained glass is not only colourful, but its making is more complicated than what we thought.  Before we spent an entire day at The Stained Glass Museum at Ely Cathedral to learn all about this art form, we had thought that stained glass was made with one big sheet of glass painted in various areas following a design pre-drawn on that single glass sheet.  Well, we were quite mistaken.

The first thing we learned that morning was that stained glass is not one piece of glass being coloured in.  In fact, it was a lot more complicated than that.  Stained glass windows are actually put together by fusing individual coloured glass pieces together by lead (the thick black lines you see on stained glass windows).

Usually the stained glass windows are way too high up in the cathedral to get a close look at them.  At the museum, there were a few smaller windows on display so that visitors could get a really close-up look at them.

We were then given a guided tour of the museum where we saw many of the pieces on display, while the guide gave us a good summary of: (1) the period in which each piece was made, (2) where they were made, and (3) the story behind the pieces.  The museum has quite an extensive collection that ranged from the 12th Century to 20th Century, and these pieces were collected from different places (mostly Europe, but some from North America and Asia).  You can see the museum's collection here.

The second part of the workshop was conducted by a re-enactor dressed as a Benedictine Monk.  He gave us a very interesting explanation of: (1) the purposes of stained glass, (2) who made them, (3) how the craftsmen were paid, (4) how the craftmen were trained, (5) ingredients used to make the different coloured glass, (6) the process of making glass, and (7) the medieval stained glass making process.

Demonstrating how to blow liquid glass into a dome.

In the afternoon, the children got to work with glass.  The actual stained glass process is way too complicated for this age group, so the children got to do a fused glass project instead.  This part of the workshop was led by a glass artist who explained to the children: (1) what the project was about, (2) how to use the different materials, and (3) what to consider in their designs in terms of spacing, layering and how the materials might change after firing.

Tiger's design before firing in the kiln.
Tiger's fused glass, after firing.
We were fascinated by the construction of the cathedral, so we read up on it in the following book.  Not many children's books talk about how the stained glass is made, but I found one page in this book that does so accurately.

I was also inspired by the stained glass project I saw done by an older homeschooled child here, so I asked Tiger whether he'd like to make his own stained glass panel at home and he said yes!  He had to want to do this since I wouldn't want to take over the project, although it was very tempting to do so.

Once he was keen about the project, I showed him the instructions that we would be following from here.  Tiger then looked through a few medieval patterns from this website before deciding upon the knight.

The picture frame was bought at a charity shop for £1!
Tiger watched as I showed him how to scale up the original A4 sized pattern into one that will fit the 51cm x 40 cm frame.  To make the pencil lines more visible, I went over them with a black Sharpie pen.

Once the outline was done, I put it in the frame and handed the project over to Tiger.  I kept the glass in its frame for safety reason.   The first thing to do was to go over the outline with the black acrylic paint thickened with PVA glue.  The wobbly lines show that it was quite difficult to control the outflow of paint from the tube.  We had to wait 24 hours for the black paint to dry.

The next day, while waiting for the paint to dry, I asked Tiger to think about the colours he wanted to see on the stained glass and to colour them in using the original A4-sized printout.

After the colouring in was completed, it was time to put the paint on!  We thickened the acrylic paints using PVA glue since I did not have clear glue at hand, but I think clear glue would have worked better to provide the luminosity of the colours.

It took about 24 hours for the paint to dry completely.

Tiger's stained glass panel in its frame.
The same panel removed from its frame and held up against the light.

This post is linked up to:
1) several blog hops, where you can visit to see what other homeschoolers have been busy with;
2) the Carnival of Homeschooling - Saintly Edition;
3) the Homeschool Showcase #84
4) the November 2011 Edition of The Hands-on Homeschooling Blog Carnival; and
5) the Classical Homeschooling Carnival #21.

Monday, 24 October 2011

You can't get away with that!

So said my son, about my making the Irish Stew as our hands-on project when we studied the Celts.  Apparently, he was not happy that we did not try to do more than eating, so he insisted that we actually make something!

Alright, it's his education so I'm more than happy if he wants to do additional work on a certain topic.  I let him choose a project from the same project book that was used in the previous week.  He wanted to make a Celtic dagger and scabbard, so we got to work.

The original instructions in the book suggest using card to make the items, but I used cardboard instead, for a stronger weapon.  A card dagger will be too flimsy.

I drew the patterns on the cardboard and cut them out.  Tiger did the rest.

Now he is happy.  We can move on to the next topic.

This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can visit to see what other homeschoolers have been busy with.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Bubble Science

Before the sudden change in weather this week, Tiger discovered a big bottle of bubble solution in the shed so he decided to spend some time outside blowing bubbles.

Meanwhile, I found the following book from the shelf and left it on the table for Tiger to read when he came in:

There are a few simple activities at the back of the book, which Tiger headed out to do after reading them, even though he already knew what the expected results would be based on observation.  For example, one of the questions asked in the book is: are bubbles always round?

Tiger knew that the answer would be a yes, since he has blown bubbles lots of times before, but he could not explain why.  The answer is clearly more complicated than I had expected -- even I could not answer it!  Nonetheless, he still had fun trying out the different wands.

Tiger also tried the other activities suggested in the book to see: (1) whether the speed of blowing would affect the size of the bubble, and (2) how big he could get his bubbles to be.   He did both, but what Tiger found to be more interesting was to see how he could alter the shape of the bubbles by blowing at them. 

We then continued to spend more time with bubbles, by making bubble prints.


We also experimented with Antibubbles (first time I hear of this).  This one is harder to see but we managed to make the antibubbles by trickling the sugar solution into the glass using a teaspoon.

The antibubbles are the sinking bubbles in the solution.
The most interesting experiment for Tiger was the Lemon Fizz project.  It is basically the same concept as the homemade volcano project that most of us are familiar with, but Tiger did learn that (1) the bubble he saw was carbon dioxide produced by the chemical reaction between lemon juice and baking soda, and (2) what other citrus fruits there are.  Since we added food colouring to it, we conducted the experiment at the kitchen sink to minimise the cleaning-up afterwards.

This post is linked up to several blog hops, where you can visit to see what other homeschoolers have been busy with.  We are also linked up to Carnival of Homeschooling issue 304 here

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