Thursday, 17 April 2014

Fibonacci and an Algebra game

We have spent the last week exploring Fibonacci. As we love 'living math' we first turned to a couple of really good books,

 then we attempted to draw a Fibonacci spiral (much harder than it looks), we started by drawing the squares on a piece of graph paper (which turned into 3 stuck together) before attempting the spiral - it went wrong but rather than start again we came up with the great idea to cover in tracing paper to draw the spiral (which worked on the 3rd attempt).

We looked at the two spirals in a pine cone,

cut apples and lemons in half and explored the segments (they are both supposed to be Fibonacci numbers although our lemon was a freak and had nine segments not eight),

and attempted a modelling of the rabbit problem.

The girls were quick to point out that Fibonacci may have been a great mathematician but he wasn't a good biologist, in their words " if you tried to bread loads of rabbits from just two they would be sick and die from genetics".

We then explored the Golden ratio (if you divide a number in the Fibonacci sequence by the number immediately before it - i.e 21 divided by 13 - your answer is a number close to the golden ratio) and examples of the Golden Spiral in nature.

I also downloaded the 'Dragon Box' math app this week and I can't get the kids off it : )
If you haven't seen it then it definitely worth a look - it claims to secretly teach algebra to your kids. Mine are addicted and after playing it myself I can see why, it's simple to play and really does hammer home the process much better than a page of drills ever would.

I also read a great measurement book with Rose.

It has encouraged her to 'measuremeter' everything she could find this week : )

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Rock Cycle Unit. - Earth/Volcano/Mountains

We've been looking at the rock cycle again but more detailed than last time (you can see our previous activities here)

We started by looking at the structure of the earth. As we'd previously done the playdoh earth, I decided to do the boiled egg version this time (also I couldn't find enough playdoh) along with some 3 part cards and discussed how the rocks around us originally came from the molten rock within the earth that had cooled.

I got the girls to do a drawing to show earth's structure

Next came Volcano's. We made a plaster volcano with a length of plastic tube in for our 'exploding volcano'
and attached a bottle filled with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda to the other end of the pipe.

The girls also made a paper mache model of half a volcano
which they painted and labelled it to show the structure of a volcano. We also read a number of books and looked at our old 'lift the flap' drawings.

We revisited the different types of lava (again with icing sugar)

and discussed how when the surface of lava cools the underneath can still be soft and moving

Then looked at mountains, how they are formed and the parts of a mountain - I made a mountain in the front room and got the girls to write a label and definition for each part of the mountain (peak, base, slope, face, ridge etc)

before getting them to draw their own.

We also looked at the highest mountains on each continent - they made playdoh representations which they had to place correctly on the map while naming them.

we finished by using some types of mountain cards from Montessori Print Shop

 next week we move onto types of rock, weathering etc.

Monday, 31 March 2014

March round up

I've really felt 'mad as a march hare' this month.

We visited our local museum for our field trip as we wanted to have a look at the weaving history of Yorkshire 

prior to our loom making craft day.

The girls have been to rock climbing,

archery and little ninjas.

Rose has worked on blob mapping the world and naming the continents

and her pink words.

As well as helping Dh dig the foundations for our new extension.

Lilly, Sunflower and Tulip have been working hard on their Rock unit which I'll try and write up for next week.

We've also managed to rehouse a couple of our chickens, build some new veg beds, experienced a not so pleasant stomach bug and attended three birthday parties. The girls sewing lessons are coming on in leaps and bounds - they are currently working on gardening aprons and needle purses which should be finished in the next week or so (keep your eyes peeled).

Friday, 21 March 2014

Myths and Monsters

Our local Ed group organised a Myths and Monsters activity day.

They was a museum display of monster toys (carefully roped off so the kids couldn't touch),

'make your own' mythological monsters,

a sock monster table,

and a reading corner.

Additional activities included making a 'Monster Book of Monsters', making Monster Fact cards, a quiz game and some dressing up.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Mango Languages - TOS Review

I have no language strengths, the girls far exceed my capabilities, so when we were offered the chance to review Mango Languages I though it would be a useful programme. Little did I know how much of an understatement that would be : ) 

Mango are probably best know for the Library lessons available in most US libraries. They have created a new programme specifically for the Homeschool community which aims to create a collective of language learning, where you interact with others working on the same language as well as providing additional languages and levels.

We were given access to the Mango Homeschool Edition for a year. We are using the beta version as Mango Languages are improving the scope of what they offer however the beta format alone is an amazing program - you wouldn't realise its a beta when you are using this programme as its so advanced - but they are looking to add to the programme. They are hoping to have added (by the summer) the ability to translate hours studied to an equivalence of high school credits, visual tracking system for parents to view work, a testing program and a pre-test so that students with previous experience can know where they should start in the programme, personal lesson plans, personal goal setting and a portfolio builder.

The first step was to create our account  - parents are responsible for setting up the child’s account, and you have custodial privileges to oversee what your child is learning, how they are progressing as well as testing results. 

Once the account was set up it was time to choose our course from the current 61 languages offered - these include the 'classic' languages like French, Italian, German and Spanish as well as more exotic languages like Dari, Haitian, Farsi, Yiddish and more. For classical students there are even options to study ancient Greek, Hebrew and Latin. I wanted the girls to study Spanish, Castilian (yep - you can even choose different dialects) then asked them what they would like to use, they opted for Latin as they have already studied some and for Chinese, Mandarin as they thought it would be interesting.

Once you've picked your 'passports' (languages - your subscription has no limits on the number of languages you can learn) you go various 'Journeys' through the language. For example, Spanish has two units - People and Travel . People has 5 chapters, each containing about 10 lessons. During your lesson you learn via virtual flashcards with a narrator asking the questions and a native speaker pronouncing each word or phrase. They introduce a phrase then ask you to say a specific word from that phrase (you can opt to hear the answer immediately or wait until the 15 secs has elapsed) before moving onto the next phrase - they use a number of repetitions but mix the words up so you really have to think about what you are doing. They also ask you to guess how you would say a new phrase based on the previous words you have learnt.

 In addition there are grammar notes throughout the lessons, cultural insights, conversational tips, phonetic spelling on demand and (my favourite aspect) a voice comparison tool - you can use this to check how you/student pronounce words or phrases and see a graph of how closely they mimic the native speaker’s pronunciation - providing immediate feedback on pronunciation and hear (as well as see) exactly where they are going wrong so they can correct it and have a proper accent.

Latin is slightly different - it consists of  learning while translating various works like Gallic Wars, Phaedrus - the frog that burst, Cicero - Pro Archia etc. There are 10 chapters in the Latin programme each containing a number of lessons which again teach you via virtual flashcards, narrator and 'native' speaker for pronunciation.

Each lesson lasts approx 10-15  mins and is simple enough for the girls to log in and do on their own (I've loaded this onto their tablet and set it as the homepage on the Internet so they just add the password and they log into their lessons each day by clicking on the class they joined. The programme keeps a record of which lessons have been completed and takes them automatically to the next lesson in their queues). Many of the languages also have pdf lesson files that may be downloaded and used for further study.

In addition to the language lessons there are additional features like progress assessments, collaborative learning spaces, calendars, groups, blog space, and you can even email people within the system (don't panic - you can opt to get all emails sent to your email as well so you can easily track what you kids are doing and you can link accounts giving you the ability to log into their accounts to oversee everything. The programme also has a number of safeguards in place and moderators). There are Forums you can join, these offer an easy way to answer any questions you have about the languages you are studying. They also provide students the opportunity to quiz other students who have progressed further in their studies and give them the chance to practise talking to others in that language.

The girls have seemed to enjoy using this, once the account is set up it's easy to use and they have retained Spanish and Latin really well - the recommended age is 6 to adult but Rose (5) has joined in and enjoyed herself.  Chinese has been more difficult to learn but Lilly (11) has managed to learn a number of greetings.
I love this programme because it balances out all my weaknesses - both the girls and I have learnt loads and I'm happy to say that I no longer fear language lessons : )

My favourite aspect is the Voice Comparison Tool - it's like having a personal tutor in the comfort of my own home at my convenience - If I want to learn at 2am, it's there ready and waiting for me. I can honestly say this has been a real blessing to add to our homeschool curriculum.

Mango Homeschool Edition offers a free 14-day trial so you can see how it works for you. Monthly or yearly subscriptions are set at the following prices: 
1 subscription (or one student) is $18/month or $125/year total
2 subscriptions (or two students) are $28/month or $175 /year total
3 subscriptions are $38/month or $225/year total
4 subscriptions are $48/month or $275/year total
5 subscriptions are $58/month or $325/year total 
Anything over 6 subscriptions is a special group rate that will depend on the number in the group.

Subscriptions can be purchased at Mango Homeschool Edition.

You can see what my crew mates thought over at the TOS Blog

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