Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Halloween: Pumpkins, we're ready!

The pumpkins are carved and are now sitting nicely outside the front door to lure the trick-or-treaters to our lair.... and the glass lanterns we made the other day have come in good use tonight.

This year, we decided to do it "properly" by watching a very short and useful video about how to carve pumpkins.  In the previous years, the lids of our jack-o-laterns kept falling in.  Not any more!

We started out this morning with all the equipment ready.  The witch template was printed off of here, while the face template was from here.  Both pumpkins were too small for the size of the templates so I copied them onto the pumpkins using a permanent marker.

This was what they looked like when the carving was done:

Tonight's dinner was... maggots!  Hee hee.  The "maggots" were actually spaghetti.  Adding green pesto to them helped to add the greenish colour, which made them look quite realistic.

Tiger attended a Halloween-themed river cruise in the day.  We cruised up and down a river with adults and children who were dressed for the party, played games, made a simple toy, and did some nature activities.

Wish everyone a safe Halloween!

This post is linked up to:
1) All Year Round Blog Carnival: Autumn
2) Enchanted Thursdays Blog Hop #36
3) Homeschool Mother's Journal: November 2, 2012
4) Collage Friday
5) TGIF Linky Party #54
6) It's a Wrap
7) Weekly Wrap-Up

Monday, 29 October 2012

Halloween: the light

This is the easiest craft ever.  All you need are:
  • clean, empty food jars
  • glass paints
  • black felt
  • garden wire
First paint the entire jar in the chosen colours.  Let the paint dry for at least 24 hours.

Cut some themed shapes out of black felt.  We have a witch, two bats, and two jack-o-lantern faces.

Stick the felt shapes to the jars.

Cut some garden wires to use as handles.  There you have it!

They look pretty when they are lit up.  Just drop a tealight candle into each glass.

Hope everyone in the east coast of the US is staying safe!

This post is linked up to:
1) All Year Round Blog Carnival: Autumn
2) Hip Homeschool Hop - 10/30/12
3) Enchanted Thursdays Blog Hop #36
4) Homeschool Mother's Journal: November 2, 2012
5) Collage Friday
6) TGIF Linky Party #54
7) It's a Wrap
8) Weekly Wrap-Up

Friday, 26 October 2012

Halloween: the sweets

We had a bit of fun looking at how different types of sweets are made, as well as investigating the colour coating of sweets and their solubility.  The idea was taken from here.

At the start of the experiment.
At the end of the experiment.

I thought we could extend the activity above by going into an inquiry-based chemistry curriculum (I much prefer to have some kind of structure going, if I can help it), so we went along and did chapter 1 of this curriculum.

The curriculum itself is well designed and attempts to inspire questions, rather than being a fact-based textbook.  However, very soon I realised that it does not work for us because the questions that the curriculum is guiding the student to ask are not the questions that Tiger is interested in.  Hence, we stopped after stuggling to maintain our interest beyond chapter 1.  Yet another example of a well-intended curriculum plan that does not match the way my son wants to learn.  He is the child who is interested in learning but who is not interested in being taught.  One thing I've learnt from going through the one chapter in this inquiry-based curriculum with Tiger is that he wants to find the answers to his own questions, rather than answering the questions that someone else has set for him.

This post is linked up to:
1) All Year Round Blog Carnival: Autumn
2) Enchanted Thursdays Blog Hop #36
3) Homeschool Mother's Journal: October 26, 2012
4) Collage Friday
5) Favourite Resources: October 26, 2012
6) TGIF Linky Party #53
7) It's a Wrap
8) Weekly Wrap-Up
9) Science Sunday

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Halloween: Investigations

Do you know how the festival of Halloween came about?  It has an interesting historical beginning going all the way back to the pagan rituals of the Celts, which were adopted by the Christian church, followed by its development into a major festival in America:

Following the historical investigation into the origins of Halloween, we undertook a Halloween-themed mathematical investigation.  The maths problem looks deceptively simple, but it is a good training for logical, systematic thinking, and is the beginning of the concept of combinations and permutations.

Mathematics at the elementary school stage is a lot about common sense, so Tiger has no problem visualising what the solution is.  In fact, he could work out in his mind (some call it intuition) and tell me the answers to the different parts of the problems - and they were correct answers when we checked later using the spreadsheet.  When I asked him to explain how he got the answers, he couldn't tell me why.  This was not a new phenomenom and I used to let that pass.  I was happy as long as he consistently arrived at the correct answer.  However, as Tiger grows older, I think it is important for him to develop different ways to communicate his solution.

With me acting as his scribe, Tiger started to narrate how he would go about solving the problem.  The process soon became a discussion as we determined together the best way to represent his solution.  We started with working out the solution on paper, but soon realised that if we were to answer all the questions in the problem, we would have to find a more efficient way to work it out.

As Tiger has been playing around with Excel spreadsheet on his own for a while, he has some idea that the spreadsheet can be used to represent and solve maths problems.   We then spent an hour or so on Excel, with Tiger learning software user skills that include:
  • how to represent data in a table
  • how to format tables
  • how to cut and paste
  • how to use simple spreadsheet formulae as short cuts to represent the logic of the solution
Tiger was fascinated by the spreadsheet's ability to represent his solution visually, so he did not mind spending an hour to work out the answers on the computer when he could have given the same answers in a few minutes in his mind.  I am also not convinced that it is necessary to show step-by-step procedures to every maths question therefore we will only do so for the following reasons:
  • to train Tiger's communication skills
  • to learn a new skill, e.g. how to use spreadsheets

This post is linked up to:
1) Math Monday Blog Hop #71
2) Hip Homeschool Hop - 10/23/12
3) All Year Round Blog Carnival: Autumn
4) Enchanted Thursdays Blog Hop #36
5) History and Geography Meme #47
6) Homeschool Mother's Journal: October 26, 2012
7) Collage Friday
8) Favourite Resources: October 26, 2012
9) TGIF Linky Party #53
10) It's a Wrap
11) Weekly Wrap-Up

Monday, 22 October 2012

Halloween: the scuttlers

With Halloween approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to try to get into the mood of things by studying something related to the festival.  So, for nature study we have just learned all about spiders.  The link to Halloween?  Well, they often associate with witches' brew and spider webs are linked to creepy old houses, right?

Anyhow, autumn is a great time to study spiders.  They, or their webs, seem to appear everywhere, especially indoors as the weather gets colder outdoors.

To our great "joy", we didn't have much problems finding one big house spider living in the crevis of the bathroom wall.

Luckily almost all spiders in the UK are harmless to humans so we were able to enjoy looking at them without feeling too threatened.  It also helps to learn more about them here.  The house spider that we observed has spun a nice web that Tiger has replicated in the lounge using yarn:

We were lucky enough to find an obliging, sizeable house spider that made its way to the kitchen, so we scooped it up and observed it for about 10 minutes before letting it go.  The details on its body are astonishing!

The next most common spider in the UK is the garden spider, which spins the iconic orb web that everyone identifies as a 'typical' spider web.  We were able to observe one spinning its web just outside the patio door.

Tiger didn't feel like drawing spiders or their webs, so we concluded our spider study by reading a related Greek myth:

He did, however, spend the rest of the week making an increasingly elaborate web in the lounge....

Someone's got to make an entry in the nature journal, right?  That someone is me, ever the conscientious, rule-abiding student:

Drawing the spiders made me look really hard at them, and realised that their legs are really interesting, in that there are several joints to each.   The orb web took a long time to complete too.  Spiders are not the most attractive creatures that exist, but they are certainly fascinating under close observation.

This post is linked up to:
1)  All Year Round Blog Carnival: Autumn
2) Hip Homeschool Hop - 10/23/12
3) Enchanted Thursdays Blog Hop #36
4) Homeschool Mother's Journal: October 26, 2012
5) Collage Friday
6) Favourite Resources: October 26, 2012
7) TGIF Linky Party #53
8) It's a Wrap
9) Weekly Wrap-Up
10) Science Sunday

Friday, 19 October 2012


It was a lot of fun for Tiger, but to call it educational would be a push.  We basically spent a day at a theme park going on each ride multiple times.  However, the day wasn't totally 'wasted' because I saw some benefits from being there with Tiger:
  • Tiger enjoyed the day tremendously;
  • I regained my role as his mother instead of being his teacher;
  • I was reminded that Tiger is still just an 8-year-old boy, even though he may be intellectually capable of doing some tasks that are expected of older children.

What I find to be more useful though, is the story being the creation of Lego:

This post is linked up to:
1) Homeschool Mother's Journal: October 19, 2012
2) Collage Friday
3) It's a Wrap
4) Weekly Wrap-Up
5) Enchanted Thursdays Blog Hop #35

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The egg that didn't bounce

As with everything else academic this term, science has gone truly "experimental" in our new interest-led approach.  First of all, Tiger has been reading many books on his own absorbing a fair bit of general science knowledge:

When Tiger came across something that looked interesting, we carried out an investigation:

The instructions for the "bouncing eggs" experiment were simple enough.  Just soak an egg in vinegar for 24 hours, then it is supposed to be able to bounce.

3 minutes into the experiment.
24 hours later.
We took the egg out and dropped it gently on the floor....

It didn't work!!!  How annoying!  After we got past the initial shock of the unexpected result, we found the reason why from this website that has a more detailed and clearer explanation to the same experiment: the egg has to be left in the vinegar for 72 hours or longer, until the outer shell has been totally dissolved.  Wrong instructions from the initial book, then. 

This post is linked up to:
1) Homeschool Mother's Journal: October 12, 2012
2) Collage Friday
3) Favourite Resources: October 12, 2012
4) TGIF Linky Party #51
5) It's a Wrap
6) Weekly Wrap-Up
7) Science Sunday

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