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Monday, November 24, 2008

Year-End Exam Fever

The time has come for me to administer our Semestral Examination for the purpose of updating the Ministry of Education on the progress of my boys. The grades of three subjects are to be submitted. They are English Language, Mathematics and Chinese Language.

I have decided to allocate 50% of their scores for each subject to Continual Assessment done under test conditions. These are either self-designed work that I set or exercises taken from store-bought assessment books.

The other 50% comes from the the boys' scores on the Semestral Examination papers of well-known local schools that I obtain from this site.

I spent a week to concentrate on drills, reviews and generally more seat-work assignments in preparation for the actual papers I intend to give them under test conditions. This is not exactly the most fun part of school but necessary nonetheless. Aren't we glad its over now?!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Science : Roots

We started out our study of roots by reading from Exploring Creations with Botany. After that, it was intensive work producing mini books and notebook pages for this chapter. Look at our work zone...

Here are some notebook pages that we added into our botany file. This page shows a flap book where the boys narrated what they have learnt about roots; their functions, development and morphology.

Our attempts in trying to make a mini tab book on geophytes (as mentioned in our Botany book) led us to google search for pictures. We found useful diagrams for our geophyte mini book here.

We chanced on a wonderful blog that has an interesting root word search that the boys insisted on doing. There were terms in this word search that were unfamiliar to us. This led us to google search for what these terms mean. In the process we learned about adventitious roots and the various types of adventitious roots. (Good information on adventitious roots can be found here.) We decided to make a notebook page on adventitious roots.

This site clearly explains how a fig tree starts off having aerial roots and how it gradually takes over its host with its strangling roots.

As we read up more on adventitious roots, we noticed that mangrove trees have specialized roots to adapt to their unique environment. This site has some good information on this.

At this point, I was getting excited because in a few days' time, the boys will be attending a Naturalist Camp in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (a mangrove area). All these readings about mangrove trees will serve to gear them up for the camp. What perfect timing!

Visit Rumphius Science Webpage to learn more about how we approach Science in our homeschool.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

History / Mathematics : Parthenon and the Golden Rectangle

We first read about the Parthenon in our Histroy core book Story of the World vol. 1 by Susan Wise Bauer. Subsequently, we learnt more about this ancient ruins from the travels of Richard Halliburton in his Complete Book of Marvels. Two paragraphs were used for copywork and dictation. (See my post on Parthenon for copywork)

We started making a model of the Parthenon when we first read about it. It took us several session of cutting and pasting to complete the model. It actually took us almost 10 hours to complete it! With 14 internal and 46 external columns to roll and glue, I don't think the boys (and I) will ever forget the Parthenon!

Here is D cutting away... look at the tray of columns ready for gluing.

Here is B with the half completed temple beside him...

We had to weigh the columns down with books while we let the glue set.

Here is the completed model. Impressive? (I'll have to arm-twist you to say YES in any case!! :-o)

This project is about the most labour intensive one we have ever embarked on. Of course we didn't know it will be like this when we started. I kept spirits high throughout by setting small achievable goals at each session. So some sessions were not more than an hour long. We enjoyed ourselves in the process. I am just not sure we will try something similar again though ;-)

In a related reading from Penrose the Mathematical Cat by Theoni Pappas, we learned about the golden rectangle and its fascinating characteristics. The golden ratio was mentioned but what was more obvious to my two boys was the ability to draw in infinite number of squares within the golden rectangle.

We were intrigued that the golden rectangle can be seen in many natural things around us like the butterfly or dragonfly. And if you draw aches within the squares, you get equiangular spirals that were supposed to be similar to that found in some snails.

Many a man-made objects also have the golden rectangle eg. credit cards and the Parthenon! Apparently, artist and architects incorporate the Golden Rectangle in their art works. You can read more about the obsession with the Golden Ratio at this site.

My original plan was to just read through the chapter on the Golden Rectangle, but just when we finished my boys enthusiastically asked if we could construct a Golden Rectangle (Penrose showed us how to do it - This site has a similar approach). Before I even had time to answer, they were off the sofa running to fetch paper and pencil.

We did try to construct Golden Rectangles. Then it daunted on us that we need to know a way to check if a rectangle was "golden". We managed to figure that out after some thinking. So we tried to check if my credit cards were Golden Rectangles. To our disappointment, it was not! Oh well... it just goes to show we mustn't always believe what we read. Ha ha... It was enlightening nonetheless.

Visit Rumphius Mathematics Webpage or History Webpage to find out more about how we approach Mathematics or History in our homeschool.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Preparation for Young Naturalist Camp

I registered my boys up for a Young Naturalist Camp at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve where they will get to earn badges after accomplishing specific tasks. In preparation for this camp, here are a few things I plan to do:

1. Read One Small Square: Swamp by Donald M. Silver (Pictures are very well-drawn. I am inspired to do the suggested activities!)

2. Read the mangrove chapter in our Chek Jawa Guidebook by Ria Tang and Alan Yeo. (Has detailed photographs with annotations.)

3. Read The Sea, the Storm and the Mangrove Tangle by Lynne Cherry. (Living picture book about the mangrove. We always read this book before we go Sungei Buloh. I am thankful it is always available at the library.)

4. Review the names of shore birds and other common birds that would possibly be seen at Sungei Buloh by matching our bird cards. Here is a file of the birds sighted at Sungei Buloh. We don't have all of these on our bird cards. I am in the process of making more to cover at least the common species found.

5. Browse through A Guide to the Mangrove of Singapore (published by the Singapore Science Centre).

Visit Rumphius Wild Days Webpage to learn more about how we approach Nature Study in our homeschool.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Draw Squad Lesson 3 / Geometry Session 4

How did he get from this ...

To this?...

Can you spot the difference?

This was one of D's Draw Squad drawing this week. In the book, each lesson explains the concept to be grasped and the concept is demonstrated as one copies the drawings in the lesson.

Copying is a skill that requires a great deal of one's power of observation. And power of observation has to be honed. Notice the first attempt at drawing the house has lines tilting in the wrong directions. Of course the lines were right in the book but were copied incorrectly.

I noticed that my boys do not employ reasoning and logical thinking when they draw. I decided to help them by introducing 2 concepts: parallel and perpendicular lines, and vanishing point in perspective drawing.

The time was ripe for me to introduce parallel and perpendicular lines in the context of our Mathematics / Geometry sessions (See my post on our Geometry Sessions 1, 2 and 3). After a short review of how to construct an equilateral triangle, I taught my boys how to construct perpendicular lines using the compass and ruler.

We then constructed parallel lines with a ruler and square.

I gave my boys time to construct as many perpendicular and parallel lines as they wanted.

I proceeded to teach them alternate and corresponding angles as described in this site.

This site has a helpful mnemonic system.

The letter X can help us find opposite angles.
The letter F can help us find corresponding angles.
The letter Z can help us find alternate angles.

This is when I brought out the book The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky again. We have read it some time ago (See my post on Erathosthenes). I started this series of Geometry session just so I can explain what we have read in this book. Now I could finally wrap everything up. My boys FINALLY understood how Erathosthenes measured the circumference of the Earth. (See my post on Geometry Session 1) Their reaction was a jaw-dropping, "Wow! Erathostenes was SO clever!"

Now back to D's Draw Squad drawing... Perpendicular and parallel lines are just all around us. We cannot escape these when we draw. We talked about these lines in real life (corners of walls, windows, boxes, tables etc.). We talked about what things really are and what we perceieve them to be. That is to say lines that are in fact parallel may not appear to be so because of perspective.

This is where I showed them the "magic" of the vanishing point in 3 dimensional drawing with a simple rough sketch of a street scene on our white board. B was excited when he saw this. He was inspired and drew his own street scene. Here it is...

With all this information, I then asked D to correct his first sketch of a house.

What a BIG detour we took?! Nonetheless a necessary one.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Homer's The Iliad

We have read about Homer and his two famous works The Iliad and The Odyssey. I had planned to read a retelling of these two stories. We own the book Children's Homer by Padraic Colum so it just seemed natural to start with that. However, I was disappointed that my boys couldn't quite understand it as it was pitched at a higher reading level. I decided to put the book aside for now and try another. I checked my classical book lists and selected another retelling called Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff.

I was glad to see several copied of this book in the library. This is helpful because we usually read a chapter or two a week and will normally take longer than 3 weeks (that's the library loan period) to complete the book. In this case, we can borrow the other copies when our first loan period expires.

Black Ships Before Troy is our current "on-the-go" book. That means I bring it wherever we go and read to my boys whenever we have time. This normally happens during our commute in trains or when we are early for classes and have some time to kill (I hate to say that especially when I always feel I am so short on time!).

We are enjoying it thoroughly. My boys are always begging for more. In fact, I like it so much I might consider reading The Wanderings of Odysseus by the same author at a later date. This is a re-telling of The Odyssey by Homer.

I am not sure if this is an overkill since my boys have just started reading a series about The Odyssey by their favourite author Mary Pope Osborne (author of the Magic Tree House Series). We'll see...

Visit Rumphius English Webpage and History Webpage to find out more about how we approach English and History in our homeschool.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Kings of the Divided Kingdom

We are reading through The Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos. Our read aloud chapter today was Chapters 88. We are getting a bit overwhelmed and confused with the many kings that we are reading about. (P is the son of ??? and Q is the king of ??? and R is the king of ??? who killed S the king of ??? and is S a bad or good king? and is Q the one who reigned for only one year? ... ARHHH!) I should have charted them somehow when we started reading about them.

Well, better late than never. This week, I decided to do something about it. I set an assignment for the boys. They were to read a chapter at a time from chapter 78 (that is at the point of Solomon's death). Their task was to make an index card for each king, indicating whether they were king of Judah or Israel and whether they were good or bad kings. They were also to include any interesting facts about that king that can help jog our memories.

We decided on a colour code for the cards so that some information can be obtained at a glance:
Green left margin for King of Judah
Blue margin for Kings of Israel
Red right margin for bad kings
Blue right margin for good kings.

B's entry for King Asa went like this:

Green left margin = King of Judah
King Asa

- He destroyed all the idols he could find.
- He prayed to God when enemies came.

Blue right margin = Good King

This is what B came up with so far... more to come. (Sorry for the blur picture. Just to give you a rough idea of what I am talking about.)

I hope that this will help them remember the stories better. The cards can also be used for reviews and to arrange in chronological order if we ever get that proficient(!).

MY "homework" would then be to make timeline cards for each of these kings (or at least the more well-known ones ;-)) for our wall timeline.

Do you have any suggestions as to how to better tackle the historical aspect of this part of the Bible? I will be glad to hear them :-)

Visit Rumphius Bible Webpage and History Webpage to learn more about how we approach Bible and History in our homeschool.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bird Riddles

We noticed last week that there was a big flock of birds that have nested on a row of trees in front of our block of apartments. We could hear their noisy chirping. From out of our windows, they look black with a tinge of shimmering blue. We couldn't make out what birds they were. So on Thursday, we decided to check them out.

Here in Singapore, the common birds we see around our estate are sparrows, mynas, crows and black-naped orioles. Higher up at 15 floors above ground, we see swallows fly by and occasionally, olive-backed sunbirds will visit the flowers in our balcony.

True enough, the birds perched on those trees turned out not to be the usual birds we normally see. They were the Asian Fairy Bluebirds. They are dark blue (well at least in the shade they look dark blue) with red eyes. There were so many of them!

We came back home, inspired to relearn the names of the birds in Singapore. I have previously made a set of Montessori 3-part cards of common birds here. These are so handy to just pull out for reviews!

As we were matching our bird cards, D suddenly got excited and blurted out a riddle that he had just composed. Subsequently, more riddles rolled out. He decided to make up 10 such bird riddles so that he could post them on his blog.

I helped by pointing out birds with interesting names. HE did the thinking. Some he came up with were dead giveaways. So I just said so plainly. He would then think of another.

I think he did a pretty good job! I have asked him for permission to post them here. Enjoy.

Bird Riddles

1. Which bird is the richest bird?

The Dollarbird.

(Me: Will you be rich with a dollar?!

D: Well, at least it has a dollar. The other birds don't even have a dollar.)

2. Which bird hates to chew its food (the most)?

The Swallow.

3. Which bird can turn very well?

The Tern.

4. Which is a miner's favourite pet bird?

The Myna.

5. Which bird has 102 eyes?

The Peacock.

(You will have to read up on some Greek Myths to know how THAT came about ;-) )

6. Which bird loves to eat Oreo biscuits?

The Oriole.

7. Which bird makes a good postman?

The Pigeon.

8. Which bird loves to play badminton?

The Racket-tailed Drongo.

9. Which bird do you go to if you want a tuxedo?

The Tailorbird.

10. Which bird can turn its head all the way to the back?

The Owl.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Mathematics : Addition ++

Are your kids practicing their simple addition and subtraction sums and getting a wee bit tired of it? Here are two not so conventional looking sums that might make them sit up like they did to my two:

Try to solve for H, E and A if


What is C if

These are guaranteed encores! ... I am off hunting for more!
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