Thursday 29 November 2012

Making a periscope

Seeing over objects and round corners is a fascinating concept so today we made a periscope. In reality, I did most of the making as the cutting and measuring wasn't easy for the younger children. Miss Belle did the decorating and she and Middle Son have been busy looking at ceilings and over sofas.

 Two 7x7cm safety mirrors
Carton-we used a UHT milk carton but a juice carton would also be ideal. A taller narrower carton will work better than a shorter broader one.
Ruler and biro
Scrap paper and stickers for decoration

Wash out the carton carefully.
On one side of the carton, draw and then cut two parallel lines the same length as the mirrors. It is better to make these cuts too small and have to enlarge them than to make them so big that the mirrors fall through. The cuts should be at 45 degrees to the side of the carton.

On the opposite side of the carton make parallel cuts in exactly the same places. This is where the ruler is very important.

Place the mirrors in the slots. The top mirror should face down and the lower mirror should face up-the periscope won't work unless they are placed like this.

Make a large square hole just beneath the top mirror on the front side of the carton (the side at right angles to the slits for the mirrors). My square isn't square!

Make a small hole just above the lower mirror on the opposite side.

At this point the periscope will work but needs decoration.  So we set to work with paper and stickers.
 The periscope is ready for spy missions!

A periscope works by light entering by the square hole reflecting off the top mirror onto the lower mirror and then into the eye of the observer.

Monday 26 November 2012

Home made Kaleidoscope

With our set of mirrors, making a kaleidoscope was too good an opportunity to miss. It has provided Middle Son and me with some design challenges and, I'm sure, there are further improvements to be made.

3 or 4  safety mirrors- ours are 7x7cm
brown parcel tape
greaseproof (waxed) paper

Tape the mirrors together-shiny side inwards
We experimented with having the mirrors as in the picture and as a ring structure.  In the end the ring structure was probably best. We have experimented with a triangular prism and with a cube. We ended up with the triangular prism although via several cube versions.

Cover one free surface with card and tape this down securely. Make a hole in the card using a pencil or scissors.
 Place the sequins between the cling film and the greaseproof paper. Secure carefully over the remaining side of the cube with the clingfilm on the inside and the greaseproof paper on the outside. Do be careful with this as if it isn't secured properly you will end up picking up sequins off the floor-voice of experience!

Hold the greaseproof paper side to the light or shine a torch through this end. Look at the sequins through the viewer.

Shake and look again.

 I had hoped that the images would be as dramatic as a commercial kaleidoscope. There are some rather different designs around using plastic rather than conventional mirrors. I would be fascinated to know if anyone has made these as I wonder how well the plastic works as a mirror, as it must for this design to work.
I guess that the best design would use a flexible mirror in a tube.

Have you ever made a kaleidoscope? Any thoughts about the design?

This is linked to the Home School Scientist share and tell.

Friday 23 November 2012

Of art and cells

In our home education this week
I loved seeing Middle Son get involved in his research for an essay on the Mariana Trench. He was so keen to tell us about the pressures and the the sea creatures deep, deep under the sea.

We've made another jelly cell model. The first was some time ago when Middle Son was learning about cells. This was good revision for him and hopefully, consolidated what the younger children learnt. I do have doubts about this though-it can lead to a sugar rush! This version was rather rich in ribosomes.

Places we've been
We've been to the library and found Julia Donaldson's Highway Rat. The younger children acted this out with the aid of soft toys and a little rocking horse. The children were a bit vague about echoes-I need to find somewhere that they can hear them.

We had a Home Education group outing to the Tate Britain. Miss Belle loved this and came out with a picture which she had made which incorporated coloured transparent paper, pen and Plasticine; it wasn't easy to carry home. Middle Son found a few paintings that he enjoyed.
We always like walking near the Thames and as the Tate Britain is right by the Thames, on Millbank, we had this as an added extra.

Mr Exuberance was too young to go on the artist led visit but had a great time scrunching leaves in a playground right by the Houses of Parliament.

What's working for us
Books and more books for Mr Exuberance. I don't count how many I read him but it is a fair few. He really likes the Finger Phonics books that I brought for his sister. In addition, he has just started listening to audio books too which is convenient at times. The library provided us with a little collection of audio books, this week.

Things I'm working on
Those Tot trays. I made some this week but they didn't really capture Mr Exuberance's imagination. I need to do some more work on this and add in some things that he already enjoys. This probably just needs a bit more thought.

Thoughts I have
Miss Belle enjoys reading a few Bible verses far more than the rather forced early readers. This was how people used to learn to read for many generations. I've got a really large print Gospel of Matthew that one of my aunts gave me and we have been using this as well as readers.

Wednesday 21 November 2012


Middle Son has been studying light and co-incidentally, I picked up five small mirrors at a recent sale, for the princely sum of 50p.

The younger children set up this activity and I used it to get Middle Son to give explanations.

First, they set up three mirrors at right angles to each other using blue tack and tape. They put a triangle of paper on the horizontal mirror and observed how many images they could see. They put other objects on the horizontal mirrors. There appeared to be four triangles,  and four of everything else, as the reflected image was reflected.

The next step was to add in the final two mirrors to make a cube with a side missing. We tried to count the number of images. At this point, there should be an infinite number due to multiple reflected images reflecting. My camera doesn't give the number of images justice but gives an idea.  You are looking into a cube of mirrors and it is possible to see at least nine images of the camera.

This activity was good for us as it worked, at different levels, for the children. The younger children learnt about reflection and Middle Son had to give explanations.

I may well repeat this, for the little ones, as they enjoyed making patterns with the mirrors.

Monday 19 November 2012

November Inspiration

This November ,we've had some wonderful mellow sunshiny days. Walking outside through the leaves in the cool sun is a wonderful gift.

November always seems a hard working month so the first three links are about learning.

Debbie has produced an amazing resource in her geography book list by country. This is worth book marking.

Claire, at Angelicscalliwags does the most amazing work with her children. I loved the Simon Says for angles and modified it for numbers, using fingers, for my little ones.

She also has a fascinating post on Viking runes.

Annie Kate has inspired me with her reading week. I'm not sure that my voice is up to reading aloud all week but once the younger children are independent readers I don't think I can imagine a more pleasant way to spend a week at home.

Naomi is a friend whose third child was diagnosed with leukaemia, last year. She has written Lessons in the darkness about this. She shows how God has been with them in the trials and talks about the "Why" question.

This term, I've needed to find many, many occupations for my youngest. Of course, I read and play with him but he does need activities whilst his sister has her reading time or help with her maths or when his older brother needs to be taught a new concept or go through work with me. I've been reading about Toddler Trays. I've looked at this concept before and even got some vaguely suitable drawers but never quite incorporated it. Probably now is the time!

Happy Thanksgiving to my US readers!

Saturday 17 November 2012

Pinterest board for home educating older children

Pinterest is a great way of collecting ideas and keeping them in one place.

There are a plethora of boards with ideas about toddlers, preschoolers and younger school aged children. I've found fewer for home educating older children although there are some great ideas to be found. I have started a Pinterest board Home education for older children. It would be great to have some collaborators. I've deliberately been a bit vague about older children but this would generally be children of secondary school age although if you have ideas for children who are almost this age I am very happy to add you.

If you would like to be added to this board please leave a comment with your e-mail or leave a comment on the Delivering Grace Facebook site. I won't publish comments with e-mail addresses and will delete them once I've added you to the board.

Friday 16 November 2012

Ned-Barnardo boy

Ned was "nobody's child". He turned up in a poor alley, in the East End of London sometime in the late 1870s,  and was given food and a space on the floor by the women of the alley but he had to earn a living. Ned's job was carrying parcels for the middle class and wealthy people arriving at stations. Life was hard: there were bullies, little work, little food, difficulties with accommodation and certainly not a home.

Barbara Coyle has written a children's novel around Ned whose adventures lead him to a Ragged School, then Dr Barnardo's home in Stepney, before emigration to Canada, via the Barnardo's scheme. This book would certainly qualify as a living book-it is full of history, geography and a very clear Christian message. It led us into interesting conversations about icebergs, Barnardo homes, poverty, food banks and tapping for maple syrup. There is plenty more that could be explored.

The story has a satisfactory and happy ending although it is clear that that wasn't the case for all the boys sent to Canada. I find the ending a bit of a tear jerker much to the annoyance of my children. Does anyone else find that tears or laughter interfere with reading aloud?

There were serious issues around the emigration schemes to Canada and the book covers this as well as notes at the end covering this as well as the dreadful conditions for lone children in Victorian London. Whilst the book is a great read aloud from about age 6, I have chosen to omit these notes when reading this book aloud to younger children. They might form discussion points for older children.

My six year old loved me reading this book to her and kept requesting further chapters. There is enough in this book to appeal to older children and I have enjoyed rereading it, for the fourth time now, I think! Warmly recommended!

Ned is obtainable in print or for kindle.

Ned is a book that we have owned for some years. I was involved in a little of the background research around London but have no commercial interest in the book.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Learning about the British Isles with postcards

Over the last couple of months, we have been exchanging postcards with friends around the British Isles in order to start a project about the country.

This was a bit two pronged in that Miss Belle wrote a fair few of the postcards from us as part of her writing practice. Kind friends then sent us postcards of their local area. We've now arranged these round a map. This involved Middle Son locating the venue of each card.

So far to add to this project, we've made a gingerbread map and looked at some terms around physical geography as well as locating the high points in each country. We hope to explore more of the geography of our country over the next few weeks.

We've used these books:

Beautiful Britain by John Burke
Usborne First book of Britain
The Dairy book of British Food

Friday 9 November 2012

November week

In our home education this week,
we started back after the lovely half term break and yes, this has been a solid working week.

 Middle Son finished his current English curriculum (Little Arthur) before going back to the UK based Galore Park as an outline guide. There are other things planned to go alongside this.

We started work on the timeline that has been on the agenda for ages. It is very long with a metre per millenium.

What's working for us

We've been using the Usborne First book of art. This book has been inspiring and I loved the elephant Miss Belle made.

Questions I have

Miss Belle loves history. We have been working through ancient history but at a group we attend, she is learning about the Battle of Agincourt and Joan of Arc. Should we carry on with both or should we drop the ancient history for now so she can give her full attention to the group work? There are some interesting background activities for the group. I don't want to confuse her.

Things I'm working on

As usual, I'm looking for sufficient activities for Mr Exuberance. This week, we brought out Daddy's old fort which Mr Exuberance had never seen before. This was a great success and many knights were sent to the dungeon!
There was a less successful episode with paint while I was working with Miss Belle on phonics. Lesson learned by Mummy!
Other activities that have worked have been
games-the Shopping List game especially
read alouds-as usual
stacking bobbins and counting how many could be added
drawing round shapes

Realistically, I ought to plan about 4-5 things to do each morning and well, I'm not planning enough. The afternoons are easier as he can usually join in.

I'm reading 
Joel Beeke's book Parenting by God's promises. I've been reading this for a while although quite slowly. It has some helpful pointers and covers children of different ages.

I'm grateful for
time with my children and sunlight in autumn.

This is linked to the weekly wrap-up and Homeschool Mother's Journal.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Home education and anxiety

I'm a worrier and always have been. Of course, starting to home educate didn't end this-not at all. Home educators are prone to plenty of worries especially if they are rather anxious perfectionists!

Anyway, here are a few of the favourite worries and some thoughts about them.

I'm not teaching the way that schools teach. 

This is almost certainly true. Most home educators have small numbers of mixed age children.
 Does it matter? It may and it may not but it is easy to feel intimidated by really silly things. Soon after we started, a kind teacher friend gave me some books which included complex sample lesson plans including plenary sessions. I gave some thought to plenary sessions with a nine year old, two year old and a baby and gave up plenary sessions. I also had a wobbly moment after watching the young glitzy teachers in the government phonics DVD-does it really matter to my children's education that I'm going grey?

Textbooks are bad

 This worry seems to come from two sources: primary school teachers and unschoolers. I'm not necessarily saying that textbooks are good but they can be a helpful way to guide a busy mother through a subject. Yes, they probably aren't necessary and we don't use them rigidly. I've tried doing without-making lists of topics to cover and working with these but why re-invent the wheel? For me, often having a text as a backbone and going for "added value" items works best.

My child might be falling behind.

 It often seems that every  home educated child, and most children in school, can read by age four. This is more than a bit worrying. Does it matter? Well sort of-having children who can read is one of the primary aims of our education. We want to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and that includes being able to read His Word. But not being able to read by four, or even five or six, doesn't mean a child will be illiterate just that there will be hours spent over synthetic phonics making slow, steady progress and a humbled mother-no bad thing.

I'm no good at ... so I can't teach it to my children.

This has actually worried me less than I ever thought it would. As someone who has science/maths A levels, I always thought that teaching these subjects would be easy but teaching languages and art would be well nigh impossible. In many ways, this has been true but it hasn't meant that my children haven't done modern languages or art. I remember at the start of our journey, spending time praying about these subjects and there has been amazing provision.

Art has probably been the biggest surprise. There have been art lessons from an art student and in a local centre. People have pointed out to me guides to learning about art and artists. Strangely, I've enjoyed art, and learnt far more, with my children than I ever did in school.

 In some ways, explaining concepts from subjects that I find easy has been far more challenging.

What if they fail academically?

 We don't home educate for academics but they certainly are important to me, very important, probably far too important. We are charged to Provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Yes, we need to give them as good an academic grounding as we can but more than that to teach them of the Lord. It is easy to lose the wood for the trees.

Ultimately, I, and any other worrying home educators need to remember

Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 4 v 6-7

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Bits and pieces

Half term is over and we are back to the satisfying routine of term time. There isn't always much to show for this in terms of new and exciting things but the regular repetitiveness of learning.

The younger children have been laminating autumn leaves

and painting is fairly constant.

Sometime ago I reviewed a lovely book about Lady Jane Grey. It is now available in the UK from the Christian bookshop Ossett.

We've also been having fun with some new books. Miss Belle had I want to be a chef around the world for her birthday. We haven't done much more than scratch the surface so far but this book is what it says and is likely to keep us busy for much longer! An ideal accompaniment to studying a country.

Last week, I flicked onto the Homeschool Post site and to my surprise found that I had been nominated for Best Homeschool Mom Blog. Do pop over to the site-there are loads of blogs to explore in several different categories. Of course, I would be delighted to have your votes!

The Homeschool Post

Friday 2 November 2012

Saving and spending

We've just had a great half term.

Now, we are in the run-up to Christmas when prices go up anyway on a background of general price increases. So, just a few thoughts on how we try to spend less.

  • Home made soup is cheap, nutritious and tastes good. Left over end of casserole can be used as stock or make your own

  • Those enormous carving pumpkins can be halved, roasted (bottom of the oven when cooking something else) then the seeds removed and used for soup. Pumpkin soup is best pepped up with  onion, garlic, cumin, coriander and a chilli-yum. One large pumpkin will give enough flesh for for three soups for our family.
  • We have saved so much making our own bread. Most of us think this tastes better than shop bread although there is a minority opinion! We use a bread maker which pays for itself after 100 loaves.
  • Drying clothes outside, even in November this means less time on airers or in the tumble dryer.
  • Turning sheets sides-to-middle. I need to do this soon. This prolongs the life of sheets which are thin in the middle but have had less wear, obviously, at the sides. Old sheets are good for cutting up and making into cot sheets too.
  • Cheap tin openers work as well as the expensive and in my experience also last as long. I don't know whether this is me but my tin openers only seem to last a couple of years.
  • Try economy brands. We don't like value cornflakes or washing powder but other products aren't much different beyond the packaging. 
  • Electricity is expensive. We have an electricity monitor which came free from our then supplier. They seem to be around £10 at present. This device tells us how much electricity is being used. It jumps up when the tumble dryer, kettle or oven go on. It has made me much more careful to try to use the oven full, not to boil more water than needed and to avoid using the tumble dryer as much as possible
  • Be thankful-we have so much more than our forebears and so much more than many people alive today. 
Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.    1 Timothy 6 v6-8

Frugal Family 2013