Tuesday, February 23, 2010

All the World's a Bookshelf

We made this beaded spiders this morning; Emily's is the blue one to match her blue room, mine is red. We have this Beaded Critters book and also Lovable Beaded Creatures, with the latter being much harder than the former! Going to try to get into these properly over the next few weeks with all the beads Emily had for her birthday.

Emily's fascination with computer viruses continues apace -- she's been finding out all she can and wants to order The Giant Black Book of Computer Viruses from the library... it's very expensive!! With Gramps on Monday afternoons she's been working away too - one week they looked in depth at logic gates; with Gramps' help Emily's also written two programs in Just Basic... one is a random number game where the user has to guess a number between two parameters while being given "too high" or "too low" clues. The other one allows the user to input a list of (for example) animals and it will then sort them into alphabetical order :-)) They also started to look at assembly language but have dropped that for the time being; it was extremely difficult, I gather.

For one reason or another we haven't done that much formal work during this last fortnight, but among what we have done has been a fair bit of introductory Shakespeare work adapted from the Shocking Shakespeare unit I mentioned in the last post. We looked at elements of comedy and tragedy, working out why Bottom is funny and why Juliet is tragic, using quotations from particular scenes to back up Emily's ideas. We also looked indepth at the "All the world's a stage" speech from As You Like It and Emily wrote a piece inspired by it, tracing the ages of man from baby to school child to lover to ambitious hero to successful midddle age to early old age to eventual decline. I think it's superb :-))

All the World's a Bookshelf

All the world's a bookshelf
People are mere books
All have twists and turns
Everyone in their plots

First on the left, the picture book
A few pages in the chapter
Rapturous delight in bright colours

And then the tattered workbook
Ticks, crosses, doodles, misspellings
Reluctantly scribbled in tiredness

Next comes the lovingly thumbed romance novel
Seeking Cupid through rose scented paper
Heart adorned cover beckoning love

Then, the action thriller
Ticking bombs and super villains
Characters leaping out of battle ridden pages

Next to the right, the proud autobiography
Tales of rich and poor and ups and downs
Pages crisp and new - money well spent?

And then the photograph album
Memories trapped in a single frame
Wisdom embellishes the yellowing photos

Finally, the last book on the shelf, another picture book
Dignity lost in a second childhood
Helpless, frail and tired
Tired from a journey from page to page
This is the end


We've continued meeting up with Hazel, Romy and Tansy once a week for me to teach some history to the girls and for Hazel to do psychology with them. History-wise, we're still ploughing through Cromwell and the civil war. Jon has started to do some GCSE level law with Emily too, which she's enjoying. He was going to take her to visit the magistrate's court, but apparently they won't allow anyone under the age of 14 into the gallery. Sigh, moan, grouch. Wasn't very pleased about that. Jon has decided to apply to become a magistrate in any case, as our nearest town currently has four vacancies. He's been along to observe the court twice, as required by the application form, so now we've just got to send that off and see what happens.

Finally, we've bought a pattern for Emily to make herself a halter neck top; we're off to buy the material tomorrow before taking Romy ice skating :-))

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Psychology, Ecology, Sewing and Shakespeare

Started our weekly "study sessions" with Hazel and Romy this week in the library. Hazel did some psychology with Emily and Romy while I read library books to the adorable Tansy, then I took over and did some history with the big girls. Emily really enjoyed the psychology and learnt about conditional and unconditional stimulus and response. I think my history efforts were a little less fascinating, mind. We're going to work on Cromwell and the civil war, loosely based on a King Cromwell book I found in the This is History series, which has associated teaching resources from Hodder Education. Over the course of several weeks, the book leads up to kids writing a mini biography of Cromwell, an approach which I fancied us having a go at. I'm sure it will get better once we get into the meat of it. Actually, the page above has helpful teaching stuff for a number of the This is History books, including King John, Empire stuff and one called "Dying for the Vote".

At home, we started a sort of introduction to Shakespeare. I like some of the ideas in this "Shocking Shakespeare" scheme of work, so we'll have a go at some of those. That site does have a fair bit of good stuff for literacy; we adapted their Spooks & Spirits unit at the end of last year and turned it into a gothic literature-ish study and added bits about Edgar Allen Poe etc. I've only just realised the site is specific to Hertfordshire schools.....well, we're nowhere near Hertfordshire, but who cares?

In science (mainly just biology atm) we've also started a new topic, looking at ecosystems, food webs and adaptations. Emily created and sorted some food webs and investigated the desert ecosystem, finding out what the challenges of living there are and how camels and catci have adaptations to help. The plan is to do the same for the other major world ecosystems...investigate the habitat and then look in more detail at how two different animals or plants have adapted to it.

Found this BBC Learning Clips site which I hadn't realised existed; hundreds of useful video clips on there for all sorts of things. Emily watched a couple about cacti and desert adaptations there.

Emily has done more computer programming-y work with Gramps in her regular Monday afternoon sessions. Last week they had fun with an old Apple emulation thing and carried on their work with Just Basic. Emily's very taken with the idea of using one of Gramps' old, unused computers as a "sacrificial computer" for which she can try to create blue screens of death and other such evil nasties!

Meanwhile a pattern arrived for a halter neck top which Emily wants to sew. We'll go and choose some material for it next week and get started on that. I haven't sewn an item of clothing since needlework O level many years ago, lol, and Emily's never done a full size garment before, so that should be interesting! Next week we're also going to investigate Chinese New Year...we have our seasonal tree to decorate in that theme and we're also going to a Chinese New Year party next weekend, so that should be fun.

Ha - now this blog post has just turned into a long list of "we're doing this and we're doing that". Will have to take more photos to upload and find something more interesting to say!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Ice Princess & Academic Dithering

Ice skating has dominated the week. Went with Hazel and Romy to begin with, and after an initial problem with too-small skates, Emily spent a happy hour clinging to the rail at the side and slowly going round the rink. Emily and I went back for a second time later in the week - the rink was full of big teens going very, very, very fast and hanging around in groups at the edge chatting, bless 'em, but Emily gathered up her guts and spent another hour and a half pottering around, gradually getting more and more confident. She's now able to do a little bit without holding on, albeit still within hand distance of the rail. Lessons are very expensive, but I'm wondering whether we can stretch to just a couple, enough to get her really moving and away from the edge. She doesn't want lessons - Emily says she'd rather figure it out herself. She did that with swimming too - took a very long time, but she did eventually teach herself to swim well :-)) We shall see.

Work-wise at home, we did some more biology, finishing up the end of our work on cells, cancer, cell division etc. More computer programming with my Dad, which is going down very well indeed. Emily presented him with a long list of what she wants to learn, computer-wise, over the next few months (!):

• I want to learn how viruses spread and how they work.
• I want to learn to create applications that work inside a webpage.
• I want to learn how to fix windows when it *Dies*
• I want to learn how to make actual software- things like maybe a file converter, a video player, anything. And make it look professional as well.
• I want to make some kind of an anti virus program. (Loads of people have done it. Why not me?)
• I want to learn about how the system registry works.
• I want to learn how to edit programs (exe files ) (if that’s possible)
• I want to learn html.
• I want to learn more about what you can do in cmd.
• I want to learn more about how windows itself works.
• I want to make a program run every time the computer starts. ( I know its to do with system registry…)
• I want to learn what a computer is like without windows… MWAHAHAHA
• I want to learn what all the F buttons do (F1, F2, F3 ect)
• I want to learn about how worms work.
• I want to learn about rootkits
• I want to cram as many programming languages into my head as possible!!!!

OK....well, that will keep both of them out of mischief for a while!

At one point during the week, I was preparing some work on glaciers for Emily to do, following on with our mountain theme in geography - and then I hit another doubting session. She's not really interested in glaciers. She knows what they are. However, according to "those who decide what our children should learn" she ought to be able to label diagrams of a glacier and know the terminology associated with it. Great, if she were interested. She's not. So, why? I failed to find on the net or invent a way to make it fascinating for her. In the end, we didn't do it. And that set me thinking again about what she "should" be learning, why, how, when and what the point of most of it is. I learnt all about glaciers at school. Other than a general knowledge of what one is, I didn't retain any of that information and have never since needed it. Because geography wasn't "my thing" and so far, it doesn't appear to be Emily's thing either. But then again, she is interested in environmental science. So who knows? And does any of it really matter, aged 11?

And then that set me thinking again about the whole exam issue and whether or not it's important for Emily to do bloody GCSEs. Half of me thinks they're all pretty pointless. The other half of me thinks that, since Emily's not the most confident child in the world, being able to tick a few boxes might be worth it to save her the future stress of having to jump through different hoops to get onto the course of her choice, or having to "perform" in an interview with the odds stacked against her. But then again, another half of me (I'm good at maths) thinks that the Open University courses etc might well serve the same purpose but at less expense and less hassle. Yet another half of my schizophrenic home education personality thinks that it would be good for Emily to knuckle down (in due course) to serious study and examination in subjects which do delight her such as psychology, biology and law. And another half nags at me, pointing out that possibly having (say) three GCSEs, none of them in maths, is worse than not having any at all. If you're going to have them, hadn't you better have forty seven all at A****** grade? Otherwise people will pay more attention to the ones you *haven't* got or the ones where you only got a B or a C. Won't they?


For now, we've decided not to decide, again. Emily's only 11....but then again, I don't want to be faced with her doing loads of exams crammed into only a couple of years - don't think we could afford it and I don't think we could handle the organisational stress either. So if she were going to do any, I'd rather she staggered them over quite a few years, which doesn't really leave all that much time to make those kinds of decisions.

So, I'm sticking my head in the sand again. We're going to carry on doing the subjects Emily enjoys, probably scale down the efforts with the subjects she doesn't enjoy and....wait and see. My heart says a huge NO! to any kind of school related hoop jumping. My head says that's fine for a confident child who can blag their way onto any course or into any job they please by sheer force of personality...but possibly cruel or irresponsible for a child whose confidence level varies so greatly. We've opted out of the system thus far. Why on earth would we want to opt back into it for GCSEs or A levels? Conversely - why would we want to put unnecessary obstacles into Emily's path? Sand. Meet head.