You know how we homeschoolers are always looking for the best label to describe ourselves? I recently came across my favourite one yet at Ed Snap Shots: Us-Schoolers. I love her story of how she thought up the phrase.
Us-schooling perfectly describes our homeschooling style.
During November we visited Seville and El Puerto de Santa Maria in Spain. (El Puerto is the town near Cádiz where we’ll be spending February learning Spanish.)
November in Seville and on the beaches of El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain
Two weeks later we we slid down rapids, biked through the forest, and zip-lined through tree tops at Center Parcs with my mum and nephew.
Tree top adventuring at CenterParcs
How is Us-Schooling going?
Since we got back I’ve managed to rein in any schoolish “We’ve got to get back into the swing of things!” tendencies (yay me). As a consequence we’ve had a really happy week, full of spontaneous learning. The best thing about having a routine rather than a schedule is that we have plenty of time to follow our interests.
1. Snowflake symmetry
I haven’t posted much about maths lately, mainly because our buddy maths routine is continuing to work so well.
The best thing about not following a curriculum is that we have plenty of time to do any other maths activities catch our interest. This week we were inspired by the An Ordinary Life‘s exploration of symmetry when they made snowflakes using isometric grid paper.
Instead of drawing straight onto our grid paper, I stapled clear binder covers on top. When we detached the paper, we were left with pretty Christmas decorations to put on the windows.
We found that creating symmetrical designs requires a lot more concentration than we’d expected. (My spatial skills were certainly challenged!)
2. Skating at a 16th century house
On Monday we skated at Somerset House, a beautiful neoclassical building on the north bank of the River Thames. On the journey into London we learned some interesting facts about the history of the house:
– Somerset House was built in 1547 by Edward Seymour, who was the brother of Jane Seymour (Henry VIII’s third wife, and mother of Edward VI).
– After Henry VIII’s death, Edward Seymour manoeuvred himself into the position of Lord Protector, ruling England during the reign of the boy king Edward VI. During this time Seymour bestowed on himself the title “Duke of Somerset”.
– Lord Somerset’s power was not to last, however. In 1549, before he could finish his magnificent house, he was overthrown by a coup d’état.
– Somerset met a gruesome end in 1552 when he had his head chopped off at the Tower of London. Somerset House was then seized by the Crown. Its most famous resident was the future Queen Elizabeth I, who lived at Somerset House during the reign of her half-sister Mary I.
– During the English Civil War, Parliament tried to sell the house. Fortunately for us, they couldn’t find a buyer.
Ice skating at Somerset House
3. Hands-on history at the Imperial War Museum
After skating at Somerset House we hopped on a double decker bus to the Imperial War Museum. The bus ride turned out to be the highlight of J(9)’s day (which is saying something, because he loved skating and the museum). Both children have requested that we now travel everywhere in London by bus, instead of by underground train.
The museum’s World War I exhibition was fascinating. The kids were shocked by the weight of the rifles soldiers had to carry, and they tried their hands at running a naval campaign.
My favourite part was the propaganda posters aimed at persuading men from Commonwealth countries like India and Australia to fight for Britain. How times have changed!
C(11) trying out a WWII Anderson Shelter at the Imperial War Museum (bottom right)
4. Watching a NASA rocket launch
We spent much of Thursday and Friday tuned to NASA, watching the launch, orbit and re-entry of deep space capsule Orion. When the launch window closed without take-off on Thursday, we hoped things would go smoothly the next day so we could catch the launch before our skating lesson.
Fortunately, both the weather and the technology co-operated, and Friday’s countdown ended in a very exciting lift-off.
Watching NASA’s livestream
We were back in time to watch Orion’s re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere and its smooth parachute descent towards splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
5. The Mystery of the Periodic Table
We learned about the inner transition elements in the last chapter of The Mystery of the Periodic Table. I can’t praise this book highly enough. It’s the perfect family science read-aloud – we all learned something from it. I now understand, in a way I never did in my school chemistry classes why the periodic table is structured the way it is.
J(9) may not retain everything he heard, but for him it was a solid introduction to chemistry, told in an exciting way through the eyes of famous scientists from history.
I’ve been searching for a similar living book about physics. We loved the Uncle Albert and the Quantum Quest series, but I wanted something that covers concepts like optics and fluid mechanics. Secrets of the Universe: Waves: Principles of Light, Electricity and Magnetism looks like a good start. If the children like it, I’m pleased to see there are several others by the same author.
I’ve also bought Touch This! Conceptual Physics for Everyone, which has lots of pictures and ideas for hands-on experiments. Leafing through just now, I noticed this, in the section on gravity and tides:
“If the moon were too near the earth, the moon would be pulled apart. This has been the fate of moons too close to other planets – Saturn’s rings being the best example.”
I hadn’t know that Saturn’s rings were what remained of some of its moons!
6. Christmas stories
In the car this week we listened to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. J(9) was pleased to be listening to the original, on which so many other stories he likes have been based.
C(11) loved Dickens’ language, which reminded her of her favourite book series, Gerald Durrell’s Corfu Trilogy.
We also listened to a lovely telling of The Nutcracker by Jenny Agutter.
Next week we’ll listen to A Child’s Christmas in Wales read by its author Dylan Thomas, and then Lost Christmas. C(11) and I are also going to listen to The Christmas Doll.
At home we’re looking forward to re-reading some of our favourite Christmas stories, including The Sneezing Christmas Tree and The Legend of the Poinsettia, not forgetting of course The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and J(9)’s favourite Christmas book last year, Christmas According to Humphrey.
On Wednesday J(9) asked me to play chess with him. He hasn’t played for over 18 months, and before that only a handful of times.
He easily checkmated me, confirming my belief that computer games teach excellent strategy skills. (Not that I’m a great chess player, but I’ve played a few more times than him!)
When we haven’t been busy following rocket launches or skating in historic houses, the kids have been making speed art videos, writing stories over afternoon tea and translating the next exciting instalment of Minimus Secundus: Moving on in Latin.
It’s been a great us-schooling week.
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I’m appreciatively linking up here:
The Hip Homeschool Hop at Hip Homeschool Moms
Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers
Collage Friday at Homegrown Learners