Saturday 30 March 2013

A journey through learning-Knights and castles

Lapbooking has been a word that has made me feel anxious so I wasn't too sure when we had the opportunity to review a lapbook with study guide from A journey through learning.
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 However, Younger Daughter loves history so was very enthusiastic to make a lapbook about Knights and Castles. She is a bit younger than the suggested age range of grades two to seven but wasn't daunted.

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First of all, what is a lapbook? This is simply, a way of displaying work usually in a card file folder. Often, the work is made up of smaller paper booklets which are glued onto the folder. These booklets can be arranged in different ways; some are typical books, others have flaps to lift or are folded in different ways.

We received the knights and castles lapbook as a PDF download. Reassuringly, the download starts with information about these mysterious folds: hamburger and hotdog. These turn out to be horizontal and vertical so not difficult, at all. There are clear explanations throughout about what to do with the various components. For example, where to glue:

There is also information about how to fold the actual lapbook folder. This is also on the A journey through learning website on videos. I had been dubious about finding the correct sort of file in the UK but it turns out that these are just common file folders. I would say though that it is important to buy card file folders. I doubt that plastic file folders would work so well. Knights and castles is a three folder lapbook which means that it uses three file folders glued together.

We printed out the download. This consists of the study guide written by Michelle Miller and the lapbook itself which was designed by Paula Winget and Nancy Fileccia. I read a section of the study guide each day and Younger Daughter filled in the lapbook. The lapbook does include a fair amount of writing. Younger Daughter did all her own drawing but she dictated some of the writing to me. We were able to complete the lapbook in a month.

The study guide covers the end of the Roman Empire, a fair amount about knights including armour, becoming a knight and heraldry, it also looks at castles, life and the church in the Middle Ages. It is written from a Christian worldview.

So what did we think?
Both Younger Daughter and I learnt a fair amount especially about heraldry and the process of becoming a knight. This was also a great topic for linking in with other resources. The guide suggests a few and also provides a reading log to document these and other books read. We finished up with a visit to a real castle.

The study guide itself was occasionally not easy to follow with some references to writing by a mysterious  Mr Tunis. I did paraphrase on occasion.

The lapbook was well designed and presented even for someone who knew little about this process. The different styles on the paper inserted makes for an attractive appearance. It would really help though, if the pages could be numbered. I managed to muddle ours and had to refer back to the PDF to sort this out.

I was also sent two other lapbooks:

and a study guide on astronomy and space for grades 2-7.

The lapbook on the Earth seems suitable for Younger Daughter to use next year so I had a careful look at this especially as she and Youngest Son have been asking questions are about what is under the ground.

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 This book states right at the start that if the child finds writing difficult in the small spaces in the lapbook then it is reasonable to scribe for them so that they still enjoy the process. We had taken this approach anyway for the Knights and Castles lapbook but it was good to see this confirmed.

The study guide for this book is in larger font so that a child could read along too or read for themselves. It is a shorter lapbook made up of two rather than three file folders but does have some craft activities and songs added. Having looked at this, I am very keen to use this with the younger children; the text is simple and accessible and again, the lapbook itself is well designed.

Overall, we have enjoyed this journey into lapbooking and hope to use the Earth learning lapbook as well as another historical lapbook from A journey through learning.

Knights and castles is available as an instant download at $13 (£8.55 at the time of writing), as a CD at $14 and printed at $21. Each of the other lapbooks/unit studies that I have mentioned are also available as instant downloads for $13. The earth lapbook is available in printed format at $21.

To read more reviews of A Journey in Learning, pop over to the Schoolhouse Crew Review blog.

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Friday 29 March 2013

Remembering and rejoicing

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Isaiah 53 v3-5

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Great Expectations

Part of Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations is set in and around Rochester and since we were in the area it seemed an ideal opportunity to see these places. Two of my older children are reading this classic and although they weren't on the trip, I wanted to have some pictures.

The first chapter is thought to have been set in the graveyard of St James' church, Cooling.

This, rather sad, set of graves is thought to have inspired the description of Pip's family graves.

It wasn't possible to read the information on the headstone but inside the church it stated that these are the graves of the children from two families buried in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Desperately sad for the parents.

The area around the church was flat although not quite as marshy as I anticipated.

Further on, we found some really marshy land. It is easy to imagine the escaped convicts on a December day.

Of course, the pylons, fences and litter are new although I think it just adds to the desolation of the area.

Do you like to see the settings of books?

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Rochester City and Castle

Despite living in Kent and London all my life, I had only been to Rochester once and never to the castle.  Younger Daughter has just finished making a lapbook about Knights and Castles so this was the right time to visit a castle.

Rochester is a walled city. Its cathedral dates from Saxon times although the nave appears to be the oldest part still in existence and dates from the times of the Normans.

Right next to the Cathedral is the Norman Castle. The main part still standing is the keep.

It was a bitterly cold and windy day. My children now have a very good understanding that living in a castle would not have been comfortable. 

The main walls are still standing but after years and three sieges  much of the interior is missing.

The walls have great slots which would have held floor boards.

It is easy to see why this castle was important: it guards the entrance to the river Medway.

Rochester, itself, is like many English cathedral cities, with a mishmash of architecture.

This house dates from the reign of Elizabeth I and is a charity for "poor travellers."

This is from the reign of another Queen, Anne.

Wonderful Victorian buildings.

Traditional weatherboarding.

Difficult to believe that we hadn't explored this historic city, so close to London, before.

Monday 25 March 2013

When science goes "wrong"

Some time ago, we tried putting white flowers in coloured water so see if the colour of the petals would change as water flowed up the xylem.
We failed but I had used carnations which were well past their best so perhaps that was why.

Recently, I saw this activity again and decided to have another go.

This time, I purchased a fresh pot of white chrysanthemums.

We cut off three long stems and immediately put them into

  • water
  • green food colouring with water
  • purple food colouring with water
Due to our enthusiastic use of food coloring for our ice activities these weren't full bottles and so had some water added to them.

After an hour and a half, nothing had happened so I started another stem using a whole bottle (38ml) of red food colouring.

Results after five hours:

Not any different. So what went wrong?

I suspect this is partly due to the ambient temperature. Our heating is set to 18 degrees Celsius but it is likely that the kitchen window where these are sitting is not as warm as this as we are having a very cold snap, here in England, at present. Transpiration will be slower at this temperature leading to a slower flow of colour through the xylem. If this is the case, my flowers should turn colour slowly.

An alternative explanation would be to do with the food colouring used. I used the Silver Spoon colours. It is possible that other manufactures produce more concentrated food colouring.

I'm fascinated about any other explanations. This is a well tried activity so why can't I get it to work?
The science hasn't really gone "wrong" just there must be another factor probably temperature.

Added a week later:

These are the rather sad flowers after a couple of days. Note how wilted the plant in the red, second from left, is. This is the flower in pure colouring. Once I read the bottle, it turns out that theses colour have as their main ingredient glyerol. This must be the reason why the experiment failed. Glycerol has a high osmotic pressure and will dehydrate the cells. It also explains why colour didn't seem to get to the petals. Moral is to try again with colouring with a different base.

Friday 22 March 2013

Our day in pictures

It isn't easy to define a typical day. In the last couple of weeks, we have had a play afternoon with a friend, a home education group visit to a Tudor day, a concert and another home education group meeting. However, these are pictures of time around home where the bulk of our work is done.

I'm really bad at pictures of the book parts of education. It might appear that Middle Son did no maths and English which wouldn't be true. It might also appear that Younger Daughter didn't read aloud nor do any maths, again, untrue. 

Thanks to Middle Son for creating this collage.
From top left round clockwise:
CVC words for Youngest Son, Youngest Son and the marble run, Younger Daugher spelling out words, Middle Son and his science, Reading Eggs and a read aloud.

We start our day with God's Word. We memorise a verse:

 Youngest Son and Younger Daughter have plenty of read alouds.

At the mid-morning break, we do a little fun science; this time rolling boiled and raw eggs as well as checking on the progress of the egg left in vinegar.

The brown colour is a thin film and not shell. The general comment was "yuck".

Later, Younger Daughter was completing a lapbook from a Journey through Learning(review coming soon)

and there was an Apologia experiment hypothesising about the amount of fat in different foods. 

We almost didn't go for our park run when we had finished as the weather was cold and drizzly. Still, I think it was worth going.

Mr Mallard fitted in well with our read-aloud
and it is sad to miss an opportunity to dig for treasure.

This is linked to the blog cruise at the Schoolhouse Crew.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Very last first time

Last week, we read The Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews, illustrated by Ian Wallace. This was published in 1985 but is certainly still worth a read and would be especially well placed in conjunction with learning about the Inuits and the Arctic.

This book features in the Five in a Row curriculum although we didn't follow the Five in a Row suggestions with this book.

This book is one of the most scary children's books I've read. The children didn't seem quite so bothered! The book tells the story of an Inuit girl who goes hunting for mussels on the seabed, under the ice, for the first time. The whole concept seems hair-raising! We watched a video clip showing this activity taking place. The children were so taken with this that we watched this every time that we read the book.

The story takes place in Ungava Bay in Canada so we found this on the map and listened to the Canadian national anthem.

There is plenty to discuss in this book including
  • polar bears
  • clothing for the ice
  • pointillism
  • safety
  • taking risks to obtain food
  • book titles.
We did the ice activities
ice blocks for building

 that I have already posted about to go with the book and made ice pictures complete with polar bear (idea from That artist woman.) I'm rather into substituting ingredients so having run out of white paint used white pastel for the polar bear which wasn't quite the same hence the rather faint bears.

We attempted to make an igloo from an egg box. All I can say about this activity is that it was a disaster-the pieces of egg box refused to stick and it looked nothing at all like an igloo.

We added a couple of  books about polar bears.
Big bear, Little bear by David Bedford and Jane Chapman

Ice bear by Nicola Davies

Very last first time is one of those books that we are likely to read again and again.

This is linked to Tuesdays Treasures.

Monday 18 March 2013

Mid-morning mini-science

We like having an afternoon of fun science but life has become busy of late. Now that my youngest child is four, it has seemed that we could make a little time mid-morning for a very short science activity. We've always had a 30 minute break half way through the morning. This was essential when we were home educating with a baby and two year old but now, there is a little space for a 10 minute science activity and enough time for my coffee!

This time is particularly useful for Youngest Son who loves these activities and something that is hands-on and especially directed towards him.
Balloon filled with ice-does ice behave like water?

The aims of this time are to

  • introduce some scientific principles
  •  use scientific terminology
  • encourage curiosity about science. 
We don't do any writing during this time although Younger Daughter has some more formal science, at another time, which sometimes involves a little writing.

My criteria for these activities is that they have to be fast and both easy to prepare and tidy up. I usually do the preparation the evening before. The ice activities all took place in this slot and now we are onto some duck related science to go with the book Make way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey.

Today's was looking at the effect of covering a raw egg with vinegar. The picture was taken after an hour but then we will leave it alone until tomorrow.

Any short science activity is suitable although they can be grouped into themes for continuity and to encourage learning. 

Ideas for short activities can be found in fun science, Science in the kitchen and Five ice activities. Of course, more ideas are always good!

Friday 15 March 2013

Hands-on projects

Having a busy four year old boy, hands-on projects go from being vaguely desirable to essential. I've been a bit nervous about hands-on projects as, in many ways, I would prefer to learn from a book but for active, little people there has been little option.

Here is a little about what I've learnt about hands-on projects.

The final outcome is less important than learning along the way

The learning comes from the process of doing the project not from a perfect end result which is just as well!
We recently made a "castle" from boxes. I've seen far more beautiful model castles but this provided an opportunity to talk about the structure of a castle as well as the deficiencies of our model, in particular, its lack of a dungeon.

Be realistic about mess
Hands-on projects and little children do involve mess. We use the kitchen table covered with an oil cloth for painting projects but some of the most messy projects have to wait for the summer when they can be done in the garden.

More than one child can be involved
Hands-on projects can be used at different levels. This particularly applies to hands-on science. Today, Middle Son did a demonstration to show that carbon dioxide will prevent a candle burning. He looked at the science but the younger children watched and heard us talk about oxygen being needed to support combustion.

Projects don't need to be long
Over-long, complex projects can be overwhelming. We've taken to doing a ten minute science activity mid-morning, mainly, for my four year old to enjoy but also for Youngest Daughter, aged 6. None of these projects take more than 10 minutes to prepare, many much less and 10 minutes to carry out.

Learning about ice and melting by making an ice tower.

Hands-on projects are an important way of involving younger children
Youngest Son has times when he has to occupy himself, for example, playing quietly with puzzles or toys while I hear his sister read or explain maths to his brother but hands-on projects are something where he is an active participant.
Investigating how to melt ice.

Do visit some other blogs talking about hands-on projects today.