Fun With Acids and Bases – How to Use Red Cabbage as an Indicator

Red cabbage acid base indicato original

Do kids want to learn about acids and bases? If they’re like my kids then probably yes in theory – but in practice, “Not right now, thanks Mummy, I’m just finishing this game on Grid Club/making this cardboard helmet/playing my guitar”.

Do kids want to play with colourful potions? Absolutely! And once you’ve ignited their curiosity, of course they’ll want to know all about it!

Bring on the red cabbage and those old faithfuls, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda…

What You Need

  • Red cabbage (we used half a head)
  • Water (the book says to used distilled water, but we used tap)
  • Saucepan
  • Stove Top / Hot Plate
  • Glass jars/glasses etc (to pour the cabbage water into)
  • Household substances to test eg vinegar, lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda, soap
  • Marker pen or dry wipe marker (optional) to label the jars
red cabbage acid base indicator homeschool science

What You Do

  1. Roughly chop the cabbage and boil it in water for about 10 minutes.
  2. Drain (and discard/eat) the cabbage, reserving the water.
  3. Pour the water into as many jars/glasses as you have substances to test, plus one as a control.
  4. Add one substance (e.g. lemon juice) to each jar of purple cabbage water. Label the jar so you don’t forget what you’ve added.
  5. Observe any colour change, comparing against the control cabbage water (to which nothing has been added).

What Happened

The water the cabbage has been boiled in is dark purple.

C and J both chose to add vinegar  to their first jar, which turned the cabbage water a pinkish colour. Then they predicted (proper science!) what would happen when they added lemon juice, and were happy to confirm their hypothesis that lemon juice also turned the water pink.

The effect of adding bicarbonate of soda was more subtle.  We had to scoop up a small amount of the liquid with a teaspoon to fully appreciate the change – the water took on a blueish hue.

Red Cabbage Acid/Base Homeschool Fun

Soap turned the water very slightly blue, and soy sauce had no noticeable effect.

What We Might Do Next Time

What we forgot to try (there’s always something!) is adding vinegar or lemon juice to our bicarbonate of soda water.  If you get the quantities right, this should turn the water back to the original (purple cabbage) water colour.

There are also lots of other substances we might test – orange juice, milk, Coca-Cola, tomato sauce…

How Does It Work?

Science Experiments Book

I’ll hand you over to the Science Experiments book here:

“An acid is a substance that produces positively charged particles made of oxygen and hydrogen, called hydronium ions, when dissolved in water…

A base is the chemical opposite of an acid.  Bases produce negatively charged particles in water, called hydroxyl ions….

Cabbage water [is an indicator, which means it shows] whether a liquid is acidic or basic. [It changes] colour because the structure of [its] molecules changes depending on the amount of hydronium or hydroxyl present.”

red cabbage acid base indicator homeschool science

Taking It One Step Further

For this you’ll need a pack of pH-testing litmus paper (£2.76 on Amazon).

red cabbage acid base homeschool science

I gave the children a book of litmus paper and they dipped a fresh piece in each of their cabbage water jars. They compared the colour the paper turned with the colour scale on the book, to obtain a pH value.

Red cabbage acid base indicator homeschool science

I explained that pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. (Bases that dissolve in water are called alkalis.) Acids have low pH’s, alkalis have higher pH’s.

red cabbage and litmus acid base indicator - homeschool science

C noticed by testing with litmus paper that our soy sauce solution was very slightly acidic.

Has anyone else tried this? Do leave a comment to let me know how it went or if you know of any other fun experiements with acids and bases!

More Hands-On Science Posts

How to Make Slime and Plastic

Fizzy Fountains

Copper-Plating a Nail

Thanks to Adventures In Mommydom for hosting Science Sunday!

Science Sunday
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Weekly Wrap Up – The One With The Snow

Homeschool weekly wrap up Navigating By Joy

We had our annual snow this week, so snow fun was top of the homeschool agenda. The highlight was hitting the sledging run on Monday morning when all the other kids had gone back to school (tee hee!).

We just about managed to  fit in some other types of learning around the edges, too. 🙂

History

We’ve been reading about the rise of Islam and the Islamic Empire in The Story of the World Vol 2: The Middle Ages. This has sparked some interesting questions and discussions about Christianity, Islam and other belief systems.

C and J are 9 and 7 so at the moment we’re learning history as an exciting story without much detailed examination of complex causes and motivations. But I love, love, love it when I notice them making spontaneous connections.

It happened this week when we learnt about how the Visigoths who had settled in Spain invited Tariq bin Ziyad over from North Africa to help them deal with internal conflict. I was so excited to see C’s eyes light up as she exclaimed, “That sounds like when the English invited over the Anglo-Saxons and ended up being conquered by them!”

Geography

This term I’m bringing maps in wherever I can. We use the WonderMaps software which lets you view and print maps showing as much or as little detail as you require.

The WonderMaps package also includes historical maps, so to complement our history study this week we’ve been looking at a map of the medieval Islamic Empire, side by side with a map of the area as it is today. As we learn about each important place in history the kids find it and mark it on the map.

I try to select maps that show Britain on the same map as the area we are studying.  If that’s not possible, I have to hand a separate, smaller scale map showing where we are in relation to the area. I think this helps the children (and me!) form a joined-up mental map of the world.

This week we all enjoyed learning how the name of the British colony at the south of Spain is derived from Jabal Tariq (“Tariq’s Mountain”) – the rock of Gibraltar!

Maths

We use Life of Fred as our main maths curriculum, but from time to time we supplement with other materials, to consolidate learning, practise techniques and fill gaps.

This week we’ve used Maths Made Easy workbooks and Mathletics as our supplements. C has been learning about factors and J has been practising arithmetic. Workbooks can be fun when you don’t use them all the time!

English/Language Arts

The People In Pineapple Place

C and I have been enjoying reading our current Arrow book The People in Pineapple Place and doing copywork and dictation from it. We also restarted Spelling Power which had fallen by the wayside about a year ago. We’re going to try doing it once a week, instead of daily,  to try and keep it fresh.

Luckily I don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel when it comes to J’s language arts programme, which is progressing nicely.

I’m pleased to see him choosing to write a bit more.  One evening this week he produced a “magna carta” for the family to sign.  “How sweet,” I though,  adding my signature to his charter declaring that “Mummy gets to do what ever she wants” – shooing away cynical thoughts about the location of the small print.

Five minutes later a triumphant J reappeared, revealing the rest of the “magna carta” which he had written in invisible ink before we signed – “Jasper gets to do games all the time”! (Honestly, you’d think we kept him in chains!) It’s so true that a child will write if the desire is strong enough!

Music

Appreciating classical music is so easy with You Tube! C chose our current composer, Chopin.  We’ve all enjoyed listening to the pieces she’s selected this week.  Sometimes we have the music on in the background, other times (especially if it’s a funny clip or original instruments are being played) we watch the accompanying video via Apple TV.

Science

We made an acid/base indicator with red cabbage! I’ll be writing a separate post all about the fun we had with that.

Red cabbage acid base indicato original  2

We hope you’ve had a great week too.

We’re appreciatively linking up here…

Homegrown Learners

How To Make Slime and Plastic

Home Made Slime - Homeschool Science
This week we made our own biodegradable plastic and had hands-on (literally!)  fun with sticky slime.

Slime

You have to feel this stuff to believe it.  The children had way more fun playing with it than they’d expected.  Best of all, it’s so easy – five minutes to make, a whole afternoon of fun!

Home Made Slime - Homeschool Science

What You Need

  • Cornflour (cornstarch)
  • Food colouring
  • Water
  • Cup, bowl, spoon

What You Do

  1. Put a cup of cornflour (cornstarch) into a bowl.
  2. Slowly add water, stirring all the time, until the mixture becomes a sticky paste (add up to about half a cup).
  3. Add food colouring and stir to blend.
  4. Have fun with your slime! Notice how it both flows like a liquid and sticks together like a solid.

The Science

Slime is a “non-Newtonian fluid” because it doesn’t conform to Sir Isaac Newton’s rules about how liquids behave. It’s made of polymers – long chains of simple molecules.  When the chains are stretched out the liquid flows, but if you apply pressure the chains stick together.

How to Make Slime Collage original

What We Might Do Differently Next Time

This really is so easy. The only thing we’d do differently would be to be less concerned about the exact amounts of cornflour and water. You can always add more of either (or both). Cornflour is our new favourite science ingredient!

Home-Made Plastic

What You Need

  • Starch (eg cornflour/cornstarch, potato flour)
  • Glycerine
  • Vinegar
  • Food colouring (optional)
  • Aluminium foil
  • Wooden spoon/spatula
  • Old saucepan

How to make plastic - homeschool science

What You Do

  1. Mix together 1 tbsp starch and 4 tbsp water in a saucepan.
  2. Add 1 tsp glycerine and 1 tsp vinegar.
  3. Stir until blended.
  4. Put the saucepan on a low heat, stirring constantly.
  5. Observe the mixture change from a cloudy liquid to a clear gel.
  6. When the mixture is completely transparent and starts to bubble*, use the wooden spoon to spread it out on a sheet of foil.
  7. Wait a day for your plastic to set.
How to make plastic - homeschool science

What Happened

Watching the mixture turn into a gel was very cool. *Ours never became completely transparent or visibly bubbled (we made three batches) but the plastic turned out fine. (For our purposes! We weren’t planning any industrial applications.)

how to make plastic - homeschool science

I forgot to do step 6 for our first batch   (I’m not great at reading instructions) so our red plastic came out in globules that would do nicely as fake jam!

Then we made green plastic in the same saucepan, without washing it, which resulted in a gross concoction that might be given away with the Beano (I’ll spare you the photo). I had to make some nice fresh-looking blue in a clean pan after that experience. (The kids were out playing in the snow by this point but – hey – I was having fun.)

What We Might Do Differently Next Time

  • We might make some uncoloured plastic, to see if it turns transparent in the way the book describes.
  • We might experiment with different quantities of glycerine, which changes the rigidity of the plastic.
  • I wouldn’t use an ancient non-stick saucepan – bits of the non-stick coating came off in our plastic. The pan came completely clean after a soak so I’d use a regular, uncoated sort. Perhaps it’s time to invest in a dedicated science pan. 🙂
homemade_plastic_original (1) 2

The Science

Like slime, plastics are made from polymers. Their chain-like structure makes them flexible enough to mould while soft, then strong when set.

What Does Each of the Ingredients Do?

Starch contains polymers. Vinegar makes the chains stronger, and glycerine makes them more flexible.

The Book

Both these experiments come from Science Experiments: Loads of Explosively Fun Experiments You Can Do. We’re very much enjoying our journey through the book. A few of the experiments call for materials that are tricky or expensive to source (dry ice, powdered alum) – we’ll skip those for now – but most are inexpensive household items. I love the way the materials and instructions are clearly laid out with plenty of pictures.

More Hands-On Science

Fizzy Fountains – Diet Coke Geysers and Home-Made Lava Lamps

Copper-Plating a Nail

Science Sunday

We’re linking up with AdventuresInMommydom’s Science Sunday – thanks Ticia for hosting!

Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum – Grade 3

Homeschool language arts grade 3 at navigatingbyjoy

Our Grade 3 (UK Year 4) language arts programme is centred around Brave Writer’s The Arrow.

We love how The Arrow exposes us to new literature and inspires us to use language in new and exciting ways.  I say “us” because part of the Brave Writer philosophy is that parents learn alongside their kids – I probably get as much out of The Arrow as Cordie does!

Goals

Our language arts goals are for Cordie (9):

  • to enjoy using language to express herself
  • to improve her written communication skills so as to enhance her self-expression
  • to appreciate great literature, and
  • to learn in a fun way how to spell accurately and use good grammar

Curriculum

The Arrow

Books

This term we looked at the “hero’s journey” plot structure as we read the fantasy story Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.  We also enjoyed Frindle, a funny and thought-provoking story about a ten year old boy who makes up a word.

Copywork and Dictation

Each Arrow contains four passages from the month’s book to be used for copywork and dictation. These simple practices help teach punctuation, grammar and spelling and  and introduce concepts like paragraph indentation and how to write dialogue.

Grammar

In my heart I know that The Arrow probably provides all the grammar practice Cordie needs. But sometimes I get to wondering why, then, do schools and most homeschool curricula spend so long teaching the mechanics of grammar? My compromise was to look for a grammar book that Cordie would enjoy using independently.

Nelson Grammar is an old school book that was donated by emigrating friends. Cordie loves it.  Each unit is nicely set out over a double page spread. Cordie’s using Pupil Book 4 which is apparently for Year 6 (Grade 5) students. You can preview the inside of each book at Google Books if you’re not sure which level would best suit your child.

Nelson Grammar

Spelling

Our shelves also contain a number of spelling books collected over the years. We selected CGP  KS2 Spelling (Book 3) because Cordie can work through it independently and the wordlists were pitched at about the right level.

Each list of 23 words is designed to be read, copied, then covered and written again, and finally clues are given for each word so that the student can test herself.

In theory Cordie learns one wordlist a week; in practice she doesn’t do it that often. I don’t insist – I’m not convinced spelling programmes are the best way to learn to spell.  But I like knowing that one is available to Cordie should the mood take her!

Language Arts Websites

There’s lots of practice available on subscription websites like Grid Club, Education City and Study Ladder, and free websites like BBC Bitesize. These sites make learning good English so much fun – incomparable with the mind-numbing reading comprehensions I endured at primary school!

Poetry Teatime

Last term we celebrated poetry tea every Monday afternoon with local homeschooling friends. Sadly our friends have now moved to the other end of the country, but the poetry tea habit is firmly in place and we have several other friends keen to join us.  We even held poetry tea with Daddy over the Christmas break!

poetry tea

Other Writing

I never set Cordie writing assignments other than those we work on together using The Arrow, but she writes spontaneously and often – comic strips, a diary, recipes, stories, songs, letters and poems and posters (usually aimed at her brother).

She also from time to time writes “mini essays” (her description) about aspects of her project work, like this one about electrons.

electrons mini essay

When we have time, Cordie creates history notebook pages. I like the way notebooking helps organise thoughts on a topic.  It also develops planning and organisational skills which will be increasingly used later on.

Writing Mentor

Finally, Cordie is going to be having a few creative writing sessions with a home-educating mum friend who is also a homeschool tutor, an arrangement which came out of a casual conversation between us. Cordie loves the idea.

I think it will be a great opportunity for her to have the benefit of someone else’s perspective and will add some positive accountability to inspire her to write.

Reading

Of course, no language arts curriculum would be complete without a mention of reading.  Luckily, this requires very little planning in Cordie’s case as she reads (or listens to) everything book can find. (I have to warn her off certain books in our shared Audible account.  I’m not sure she’s quite ready for Stephen Fry’s autobiography!)

Recent family car-listens have been The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and Gerald Durrell’s wonderful My Family and Other Animals (part of his Corfu trilogy). We’re just starting on the Narnia series which Jasper (7) hasn’t read – Cordie made me read them to her back-to-back a few years ago, but we’re both more than happy to re-experience C.S. Lewis’s magical fantasies.

Other Posts You Might Like

Grade 2 Language Arts: Brave Writer’s The Arrow

Our Homeschool Curriculum: English (Language Arts) – Grade 2

Grammar Land: A Living Book about the Parts of Speech

Shakespeare for Younger Children in 3 Easy Steps

End of Term Homeschool Curriculum Review – English (Language Arts) Grade 1

Poetry Tea

Homeschool Language Arts for the Dyslexic and Dysgraphic Child

Homeschool Language Arts for the Dyslexic and Dysgraphic Child

handiwriter - homeschooling dyslexia & dysgraphia at navigating by joy

Our homeschool language arts curriculum has changed a little since we discovered that Jasper (7) has mild dyslexia, dysgraphia and fine motor delays. We’ve always had a fairly relaxed homeschooling style, but knowing more about how Jasper’s brain works has allowed us to use the most appropriate tools to bring out his best.

Assessment and Diagnosis

Jasper rarely reads books for pleasure or writes voluntarily. I’ve never been too concerned – he’s only seven, and I know enough about the development of boys’ brains to trust that this will change with time.  In the meantime, I knew he was busy developing other other skills.

Dyslexia and Dysgraphia

We took Jasper to see an educational psychologist because we wanted to know how best to leverage the small amount of time we spend doing structured homeschooling with him. The psychologist gave us useful insights into his relative strengths and weaknesses. (I see these as a snapshot of his current development, not set in stone.  The brain is more like plastic.) She assessed Jasper as having “mild dyslexic and possibly dysgraphic markers”, and recommended a number of resources specifically tailored to his learning needs.

Sensory Processing Disorder

I had suspected for a few months that Jasper had Sensory Processing Disorder, and this was confirmed in September by an assessment with a paediatric occupational therapist.  Sensory Processing Disorder has many manifestations – the biggest challenge Jasper faces is emotional self-regulation. But SPD also tends to bring with it with motor delays – mostly, in Jasper’s case, fine motor delays.

General Approach

The psychologist and occupational therapist recommended a little-and-often approach to help improve Jasper’s reading and writing. He is having occupational therapy (daily, at home, and weekly with a therapist) to help with his sensory integration and motor function. Because these skills act as a foundation to all higher level functioning, including academic learning, it makes sense for now to focus most of our efforts here.

Curricula

Reading

Despite his mild dyslexia, Jasper’s reading comprehension age was assessed at more than three years ahead of his chronological age (thank you, Dennis the Menace and Zelda!). This type of dyslexia is sometimes described as “stealth dyslexia” because it so often goes undiagnosed in bright kids.


Toe by Toe - homeschooling dyslexia at navigating by joyToe by Toe
 describes itself as a “highly structured multi-sensory reading manual”. It requires no preparation, you just sit down together and follow the format each day. The pages are black and white, clear, and un-busy, and as it’s designed for all ages (including adults) it doesn’t patronise. As a visual-spatial learner with a good memory, Jasper has always relied on sight-word reading. I knew from hearing him read aloud at poetry teas that he lacked the skills to decode more complex new words, but he’d always strongly resisted any phonics coaching. That is, until we found Toe by Toe.

Phonics rules are introduced and thoroughly practised, and each word has to earn three ticks over three consecutive sessions before it is considered mastered. Phonics concepts are practised using both real and nonsense words – it’s the latter that seem really to cement the learning.

homeschooling dyslexic child - navigating by joy

Toe by Toe suggests sessions of up to 20 minutes a day. We do six minutes. I might increase this as Jasper gets older, but we’ve been using the programme for just a few months and are already a quarter through so that may not be necessary.

The other day I snapped this picture of him not only reading a book, but doing so on a car journey next to a bag of electronic games devices!

Handwriting

Thanks to several years of Handwriting Without Tears, Jasper’s handwriting is neat and legible.  The problem is, outside of his handwriting sessions, he never writes! The process is just too effortful for him. The occupational therapist told us that because of his sensory processing issues and fine motor delays, he’s having to use big, tiring muscles to write, whereas those of us who’ve developed what’s known as automaticity in writing use smaller muscles.

One of the ways we’re addressing this is by using a handiwriter to encourage Jasper to hold his pencil in the correct position. Although I had shown him how to do this many times, I had come to wonder if maybe there was no “correct” grip and that children should be left to hold a pencil however they please.  But if working on a new grip is going to make writing easier for Jasper, I’ll do what it takes to encourage him.

Write from the Start - Homeschooling the Dyslexic and Dysgraphic ChildThe educational psychologist we saw recommended Write from the Start, “a unique programme to develop the fine motor and perceptual skills necessary for effective handwriting”. The books are full of simple exercises like drawing the spines on a dragon’s back, which Jasper does with enthusiasm. Write from the Start leads onto cursive handwriting so we’ve skipped ahead to Handwriting Without Tears – Cursive Handwriting.  Jasper happily does a page a day, after Write From the Start.

Typing

The psychologist emphasised the importance of Jasper learning to type well and recommended Nessy Fingers, an inexpensive programme designed for dyslexic students. Cordie (9), (who does not have dyslexia) also enjoys using Nessy more than the other typing programmes we’ve tried (Type to Learn 4 and the free BBC Dance Mat Typing).

Creative Writing and Other Subjects

Of course, there’s more to language arts than reading and writing.  One of the many advantages of homeschooling is that delays in reading and writing don’t have to hold a child back in other subjects or from having fun with language.

Jasper can dictate stories, poems and emails to me, and ask me to write down or spell search terms. I don’t put pressure on him to write or spell for himself outside our dedicated sessions. I want him to feel the joy of expressing himself, of seeing his words recorded, unhampered by the fact that other skills haven’t fully developed yet.

I act as Jasper’s scribe when he writes history or science notebooking pages. His French teacher (who has two dyslexic sons) lets him to play or draw in their lessons while his sister writes. He learns the parts of speech playing Mad Libs.  He relishes participating in poetry tea, a superb natural opportunity for reading aloud to an audience. He grabs pencil and paper to writes plans, treasure maps and notes to himself, uninhibited by worries about what other people will think. His favourite game is Consequences; it didn’t bother any of us that for years every character he invented was called “poo” 😀 . He’s listened to many, many audiobooks, including the complete Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games trilogy, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. He’s enjoying language; the skills will come.

How has a Dyslexia Diagnosis Changed Our Homeschooling?

Having Jasper assessed and diagnosed with mild dyslexia and sensory processing disorder hasn’t much changed how we homeschool. When you spend every day with your child, you understand him better than anyone. I’ve always known it was important to trust Jasper to develop at his own pace.

Each of us comes as a unique package.  The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain offers an incredible insight into what the dyslexic mind is capable of (I can’t recommend it highly enough).  We don’t try to make babies to sit, crawl or walk before they’re ready.  We trust that they are born with everything they need to develop at the exact right pace for them. Let’s trust our older children to do the same.

What we’re Doing for Grade 2 and 3 Maths

arithmemouse_grade 2 and 3 homeschool math curriculum

Multiplication Practice with Arithmemouse

I last wrote about how we found our perfect math curriculum back in March, so I thought it might be time for an update…

Jasper (7, Yr3/Gr2)

Life of Fred

Life of Fred Farming - grade 2 and 3 homeschool math curriculumMaths is still Jasper’s favourite subject, thanks to Life of Fred.  This term we finished Life of Fred (Edgewood) and began Life of Fred (Farming).  I love the way the Fred series mixes up basic fundamentals (such as subtraction with borrowing) with more sophisticated concepts (like union of sets, median averages and simple algebraic equations) in a way that introduces young children to advanced mathematical vocabulary in a very natural way. And, of course, we all love “Fred’s” delightfully quirky story and offbeat humour.

Games

Because we’re not doing a traditional curriculum, I make sure Jasper gets plenty of extra opportunities to learn his maths facts. Luckily he loves games, which are a great way of getting the job done.  Recently we’ve played Yahtzee  and War . (My favourite maths website, Let’s Play Math has lots of ideas for maths games. I’ve just noticed Contig, which looks great – we’ll be playing Contig Jr next week!)  We also play games like Tug Team Addition  at Math Playground, and Jasper practises multiplication using Arithmemouse and Timez Attack.

One benefit of working with a child one-to-one is that you get instant feedback on how easy or challenging he finds each concept.  So in Life of Fred (Edgewood) I noticed Jasper was a bit confused about the differences between rhombuses, trapeziums and parallelograms, so I set him some exercises on Study Ladder.  He loves working online, especially on specific exercises (rather than working his way through an online curriculum in a linear way – for example, Maths Whizz didn’t work so well for us for any length of time) so this is win/win.

Cordie (8, Yr4/Gr3)

math mammoth division 1 - grade 2 and 3 homeschool math curriculumCordie recently decided to take a break from Life of Fred (she was on “Farming”) to explore some other resources.  She did a few exercises from a Schofield & Sims KS2 workbook we had on the shelves and asked me to set her some “surprise” Study Ladder exercises.  One day she asked me to make her a page of clocks so she could brush up on telling the time, and another day she wanted a page of multi-digit subtraction sums.  She played around on Khan Academy for a while, watching videos on decimal place values and then setting herself some problems to solve. And she dipped into Math Mammoth’s Division 1 (filling in the answers on the iPad using the Notability app).

Following her explorations, Cordie says she’s ready to go back to more of a maths routine with Life of Fred.  Before that, though, we’re doing some times tables practice using Maria Miller’s structured drill system from Math Mammoth Multiplication 1.

I’ve looked ahead at all the Life of Fred elementary level books (up to “Jellybeans”) and they seem to cover everything on the English KS2 curriculum. As with Jasper, if Cordie needs or wants extra practice on a particular topic as we go along, there are plenty of other resources we can dip into.

Writing this post has also reminded me how much we all like Primary Grade Challenge Math which teaches mathematical thinking and problem-solving in a fun way.  We haven’t used Challenge Math in a while but I’d like to get back to using it regularly, perhaps once a week.

Isn’t it great how many fabulous homeschool maths resources are out there? There really is something to suit everyone, at every age and in every mood!

How a Homeschool Schedule Works for Us (Sometimes)

how a homeschool schedule works for us (sometimes) at navigating by joy homeschool blog

We started puppy training classes this week with Harvey, our four month old cavalier spaniel/bischon frise cross. The classes are on a Wednesday morning and take out (for the next few weeks) one of the six half-days we actually spend at home.  Of course all of us, not just Harvey, are learning at the classes, but it is putting a bit of a squeeze on our week!

The solution, it occurred to me, was a schedule! (Colour-coded, naturally.) Don’t you just love the beautiful dance between structure and free-wheeling that is homeschooling?!  At the start of September (all those many – er, weeks – ago) I happily shared with a good homeschooling friend that we were taking a fairly autonomous approach this term.  She said that her family were doing the opposite, and had begun the new school year with a very structured timetable.  At the time we laughed, and said we’d each probably be doing the opposite before too long.  And so here I am, colour-coded schedule proudly in hand. 😀

I wrote a few weeks ago about how we’ve been using the big rocks time management system to prioritise project-based learning around the good maths and English habits we already have in place, and that’s still working well as a guiding principle. But recently my left-brain had begun to get a bit antsy about how weeks were slipping by without Cordie doing any copywork or dictation, and then she decided to try a new approach to learning maths, which was great but required a bit more planning …  and my free-wheeling right-brain decided it was time to take a back seat for a while.

And guess what? Just like when I move around the furniture to the exact same position it was in 6 months earlier and declare joyfully that it looks “So Much Better!” – we’re getting so much done!

On Thursdays we only have until 1130am at home, but by the time we left the house this morning we had done a stack of English and  maths, Cordie had had her project time, the children had enjoyed plenty of time playing in the garden, and we’d even done some history notebooking and had the paints out making Anglo-Saxon coins!

anglo_saxon_coins_

Here’s how a schedule works best for us:

In short bursts. Once it’s helped us find our groove, I’ll happily let the schedule itself  fall by the wayside.  It’s served its purpose.  “Tools, not rules” as my friend Sarah and I say. I can always create a new schedule when the need arises again. (And that colour-coding is so much fun :-D)

A schedule saves time spent arguing about “who goes first” with mummy in the morning. Even though both Cordie and Jasper enjoy their one on one time with me, tearing themselves away from their book/lego/trampoline and  getting around to actually starting is a different matter.

I see a schedule as a set of goals rather than a strict timetable. Although there are times written on our schedule, I rarely look at the clock. The timetable just serves as a rough guide to who does what next.  There’s plenty of leeway for following rabbit-trails and spending a whole afternoon doing  projects or partnership writing a long story if the mood takes us (right brain satisfied), but the timetable helps me remember what else I’d like us to cover in a week (happy left brain).  Win win. 🙂

Where are you at right now in the scheduling/free-wheeling dance?

Field Trip to Benjamin Franklin House

field trip to benjamin franklin house at navigating by joy homeschool blogWhenever I write about a field trip I  feel like I’m back in infants school writing in my “news” book on a Monday morning: “We went to a museum.  It was fun.” (Though back then apparently all I ever wrote as “news” was that we’d been to the rubbish dump.  Easily pleased we were, back then.) (I might get out my crayons to draw a picture to go with this post.)

So.  Last week we visited Benjamin Franklin House, and it was fun, as well as educational.

Where is Benjamin Franklin House?

benjamin franklin house at navigating by joy homeschool blogBenjamin Franklin lived at 36 Craven Street, London, for sixteen years on the eve of the American Revolution (between 1757 and 1775). Franklin first came to try and negotiate with the British, so the building was really the first US embassy.    The house was built in 1730 and is the world’s only remaining Franklin home.  It has been carefully architecturally preserved. So when we were told of the “air baths” Franklin would take – standing naked at tall windows of the very room we sat in – it was easy to imagine ourselves back in time and giggle as we wondered what the folk sitting in the house directly across the narrow street must have made of the sight!

Before our Visit

Our visit fit in perfectly with Cordie’s electricity project.  In preparation, she read aloud to us How Benjamin Franklin Stole the Lightening, a wonderful living book about Franklin’s life and inventions, including how he harnessed lightening in his famous kite experiment.

how ben franklin stole the lightening

Electricity in Action

At the house, we saw a demonstration of the kite experiment, as electricity (generated using a Tesla coil) jumped down a (miniature) kite string into an attached key. A model church next to the Tesla coil showed us how lightening is attracted to tall buildings, and how a metal lightening rod protects the building by grounding the lightening (while a plastic rod has no effect).  A great opportunity to experience the sight, sound and smell of electricity up close!

benjamin franklin house lightening rod experiment at navigating by joy homeschool blog

lightening experiment at benjamin franklin house - navigating by joy homeschool blog

A Trip Back in Time

The museum’s educational team enthusiastically engaged the children in a number of activities throughout the house.  There was even an actress playing the part of Franklin’s landlady’s daughter, Polly Hewson, to take us on a guided historical tour!

benjamin franlin house historical experience at navigating by joy homeschool blog

Polly’s husband ran an anatomy school from the house, so there were hands-on anatomy-related learning activities, including an exhibit of human bones recently found in the basement of the house.

anatomy activities at benjamin franklin house - navigating by joy homeschool blog

Planning Your Trip

The Benjamin Franklin House Historical Experience is open to the public from Wednesdays to Sundays (£7 for adults, children go free).  On Tuesdays the house offers pre-arranged educational visits (including to homeschool groups), taking in the Student Science Centre, at no charge.  Check the website for up-to-date information.

Big Rocks Homeschooling – How to Prioritize What’s Important

project based homeschooling at navigating by joy

One of the many things I love about project-based learning is that it can fit into any homeschool style. This term I have a much more relaxed approach to curriculum – I’m using it as the tool I always intended it to be, instead of being a slave to it – leaving a bigger space for more natural, child-led learning.

The Call of the Familiar (it’s Easiest to Do What You’ve Always Done)

But starting something new – no, sticking with something new – takes commitment. Now that our intense start-of-term enthusiasm has subsided, cold viruses are doing the rounds, and wet weather has kept us indoors for days at a time, there have been mornings when it’s felt so tempting just to snuggle up with the children for quiet English, maths and read alouds. It’s not that I don’t love seeing the children caught up in a wave of passionate creativity; it’s just that the lure of the familiar, the comfortable path of doing what we know, is sometimes hard to resist.

“Big Rocks” Time Management

you can have what you want at navigating by joy homeschooling blogIn his book You Can Have What You Want, supercoach Michael Neill  tells this story about a seminar leader who placed a large jar on the table.

By the side of the jar he placed a bucket of gravel, a bucket of sand, a bucket of water, and three big rocks. He then challenged his participants to  find a way to fit everything on the table into the jar.

After numerous attempts, it became clear that the only way to fit everything in was to start with the big rocks first.  The gravel filled the space between the big rocks, the sand filled the gaps in the gravel,  and the water filled the gaps between the sand.

When it comes to what we choose to make important, it’s pretty easy to get caught up in the daily gravel, ground down by the sand, and swept away by the water. What can be tricky is finding ways to prioritize the ‘big rocks’ – those things in your life that matter most. 

Over the summer (using a fantastic process I’ll share in another post) I identified what are the biggest “rocks” that I want to fit into my life. One “rock” was doing more natural (interest and child-led) learning with my children, and project-based homeschooling has been the perfect way to do this. Of course maths and English are important, but (I’m happy to say) doing them has become a comfortable habit – they get done easily without needing to be prioritized.

How to Prioritize Something

Michael Neill suggests that there are three ways of prioritizing something: (1) Do it first (2) Do it now (3) Do it often. Common sense, but a good reminder nonetheless.

And that is how, as well as practising multi-digit subtraction and discussing the beautiful metaphors in Where the Moon Meets the Mountain, last week Cordie experimented with home made light bulbs, and made kites and tepees from wood and hot glue, and Jasper began to learn computer programming with Scratch in between practising his spelling, handwriting, and learning about the differences between rhombuses and trapeziums. 🙂

What are your big rocks?

Learning How To Start

project based homeschooling at joy homeschooling blog

In her blog this week Lori Pickert has quoted one of my favourite paragraphs from her book, Project-Based Homeschooling:

“Many adults, let alone children, stall in the information-gathering stage of a project.  They keep collecting inspiration and ideas without ever moving forward to the point of making something of their own.  Forget about finishing – they can’t start.”

Lori’s post is actually about the difference between good and bad persistence, and in particular how “you’re not teaching the kids persistence forcing them to complete something *you* want them to do.”  But the quote about not being able to start totally resonated with me (in quite an uncomfortable way!) when I first read it in her book, and one of the many beautiful and unexpected benefits I’m getting out of project-based homeschooling is that my kids – unhampered by years of formal schooling – are showing me how to start!

Since I’ve let go of trying to control every aspect of the learning process, something magical has happened around here. My kids are learning so much more!  Cordie (8) has always been an independent self-starter, so it’s in Jasper (7) that I’m noticing the biggest changes.   We have lots of creating space around our home but it wasn’t until I read Project-Based Homeschooling that it occurred to me that Jasper didn’t have his own desk space in our main living area. We have a large craft desk but that has pretty much been colonised by his prolifically-creative big sister, whereas Jasper had made his own a tiny table housing our desktop computer and – guess what – he wanted to spend all his time on the computer!

As part of our reorganization  he has his own desk and – wow! – is he using it. He’s initiated and completed more creative and science mini-projects this week than I would probably have got round to doing in a month (term??)! All thanks to that little space of his own and the magical power of “project-time”. I think the highlight of my week was when he sighed contentedly in the bath one evening and told me, “when I grow up I want to be a scientist (and a quadrillionaire)” – the millionaire/quadrillionaire bit always comes up, but this was the first time I’d heard Jasper talk about wanting to do anything apart from design/test computer games.  Not that I have anything against him working in games, but it made my heart sing to think that he’s beginning to like science (anything!) as much as he enjoys computer games!

Here’s what my children have taught me this week about “starting”: don’t over-think, over-plan, wait for the perfect moment or worry about the mess – just do it!  And when you do, you learn heaps, have stacks of fun, and – when you’re surfing a wave of  authentic, happy enthusiasm – the preparation and clearing up doesn’t take nearly as long as you thought it would.  🙂

project based homeschooling at navigating by joy

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