Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Professor Snape's Potions Panic

Emily's had a fantastic day today and she's learnt absolutey masses about the properties of liquids and basic chemical reactions. We set up a huge day long role playing thing for her - Professor Snape's Potions Panic - and she LOVED it. I spent a while yesterday mixing various "potions" in secret and working out the premise of the day - basically, Professor Snape's first years had mixed up his potions bottles and removed the labels and he needed Harry's help to work out which potion was which. Emily and I spent virtually the whole day "in character", lol, her as Harry and me as Snape. I shall go a bit potty (ho ho) with photos here as we've had such a great day and I want to remember it on future bad days!

Here's the collection of potions which awaited a fully costumed Emily when she arrived in the dining room this morning ;-)
I'd created some prinouts for her telling the story of what was going on and with a great big table to fill in with her results as she tested the potions one by one for lots of different variables. She had to figure out what order to work in and how to conduct the various tests for: freezing point, density, acid or alkali, glucose present or not, residue when evaporated, flammable or inflammable, main ingredient water or not and what happens when you add acid to it. Very sensible, she decided to start on the freezing point experiment first and got out the batches of frozen potions Snape fortunately had left over from last Halloween ;-) During the morning she recorded the freezing point of each and noted which order they melted in.Next up came the test for flammability, which Emily decided to do by heating up pieces of toast, pouring a small amount of potion over each and seeing if they would light, Xmas pudding style.Next each potion was tested for the presence of glucose using Daddy's (oops, sorry, Hagarid's) diabetes blood tester, ROFL!! Next test was density - was each potion heavier or lighter than water? Emily remembered something we'd learnt before about 100ml or water weighing 100g so using a calibrated 100ml tube and Hagrid/Hedwig's postal scales, samples of each were duly weighed. For the "is the main ingredient water?" test we used the inventive idea of plopping a soluble aspirin into samples of each - if it fizzes, there's water, if it doesn't, there isn't. To test the PH and establish whether each potion was acidic or alkaline, Emily used two types of ph paper, the type with three colours and a scale on it and the pinky one that goes red in acid and blue in alkali (whatever the darn stuff's called, I've forgotten). Then it was onto the acid reaction test - what happens, if anything, when you drip lemon juice into the potion? And the final experiment - what kind of residue does each potion leave once evaporated? Time to get out my Dad's old store of tobacco tins, plonk them directly onto the gas light and find out! Will it be a caramelly goo, a white powder, a yellow powder or nothing?
So, with the results table now complete, Snape gave Harry Part B of the Potions Panic - it was all very well knowing the properties of each potion but we still didn't know what they were! I'd written a sheet of funny descriptions for each of the seven potions - Muggle Mind Reading Potion, Healing Potion 14: Broken Bones, Catmalia Potion, Birthday Wishes Potion, Pesky Pupils Punishment Potion, Dark Lord Cough Remedy Potion, Extra Strength Polyjuice Potion - which mentioned various of the properties Emily tested for and she had to use the descriptions from this extract of Snape's Top Secret Potions Manual to work out which numbered potion was which. The one Snape was particularly looking for turned out to be the Birthday Wishes potion which had the following properties - does not freeze even after being overnight in the freezer, has a neutral PH, is less dense than water, was highly flammable and contained no water - it was actually vodka, lol. The other potions were made of plain water, sugar water solution, sugar water and vinegar solution, salt water solution, salt water and vinegar solution and bicarb solution. The whole experiment/role play took practically the whole day but Emily learnt so much from it and we had so much fun!!

I must just say a huge thank you to my Dad who came up with most of the potions ideas last week (ingredients and experiments both) and was a great inspiration :-))

At the weekend Emily spent ages making shell crafts using some of the tubs and tubs of shells we have gathered from various beaches. She made a load of things including my favourite, the Grandmother Shell Fairy:
In other news, today (half way through Potions Panic) we took Merlin to the vets for advice about his failing health. He's lost a LOT of weight recently and now has clumps of fur falling out too :-( The vet thinks it's either diabetes or a thyroid problem. They took some blood tests (£70!!!) and will get back to us in a few days. Whichever it is is going to be expensive...better look out how to claim on the hugely costly pet insurance he has.

We've had to cancel our plans to go away to the caravan next week, due to pressure of work. We do still intend to go, though, but we've moved it until the end of September. Have also been thinking a lot about Emily's 8th birthday. We've given up on the Disney world idea - simply can't afford it. We were going to go away for a few days to various places we've been meaning to visit as a birthday treat - but I've now discovered that all except one of the places we want to go to close at Xmas and don't re-open again AT ALL in January. Sigh. So it looks like we'll be staying put. I do have a germ of an idea swirling around in my head for a Harry Potter Sleepover Party but it's only an idea t the mo....and sssssh! It's a secret!

And so we progress towards September. Emily would be starting year 3 in September - no longer an infant, this would be first year of Juniors. Quite a startling thought, really. We're extremely confident that she's getting a far higher quality education here at home than she would be in school - but the social side of things is always a worry. Emily did admit the other day that she sometimes wishes she had more friends. That was a very sad, heart tugging moment :-(( Without a doubt I'd say the hardest thing about home education is the social thing. Unless you're a naturally gregarious parent, it is hard to find friendship opportunities out there. Emily now does loads of weekly activities where she gets to mix with other kids - football, yoga, tai chi, drama, ballet and karate and after January we can add riding in there too - but it's hard for her to break into a "proper" friendship with school children unless we happen to be friendly with the parents to begin with. Perhaps she is missing out socially - but then again, I don't think she'd have masses of friends (not real friends, anyway) if she were at school. She has a similar personality to me in that respect and I certainly didn't have any close friendships at her age. She has a great friendship with Romy so she's ahead of me there. It's a difficult one to call but generally speaking Emily's very happy.....so for the moment we'll carry on as we are and Jon and I will get our thinking caps on to ensure that she doesn't become lonely. We do have old friends coming round to play this week, which will help :-))


Ruth said...

I think your potions experiments is brilliant and the shell craft is really lovely.

Elle at Ellesfuntimes said...

Wow, however did you think up all those potions experiments - I probably wouldn't know where to start in solving them! My ds, B, would be starting year 3 in September too, although he's just turned 7! I can't believe how much we've covered this last year. Neither children made firm friends at school but since leaving and meeting up with other local HE families on a weekly basis, both have made lovely friends. My nephew, the same age as B, is here playing at the mo. I am shocked at the stuff he comes out with (and know it's all from the playground) and feel pleased my two aren't part of that anymore. My m-i-l would say they should experience all this to cope with life - I just don't understand how they can benefit from it! Emily seems to do lots of activities and is certainly socialising. She always looks so happy in the photos. Elle

Amanda said...

The potions!!! Brilliant!!! Love the shell crafts. Socialising is tricky, we've been h.e-ing for 18 months, dd has a few close friends, I've come to the conclusion that a few good friends are better than a lot of bad friends.