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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wednesdays in March

March has turned out to be an activity-packed month. So much so I am finding myself not being able to keep up with updating my blog!

We don't normally head out on Wednesdays but in the month of March, we have been out consistently every Wednesday.

First Wed

An NTU lunch time concert gave the boys the opportunity to listen to an ancient instrument, the lute. This instrument is quite frequently used in the medieval period. Now, it is more often associated with middle eastern music.

Second Wed

We were at the Singapore Science Centre more often than usual this pass month to maximize on our membership which was soon expiring. (We did that for our Zoo membership too... in Feb.) Here is a picture of my boys attempting for the nth time to beat the record for the longest distance flown by a paper airplane. Their maximum distance was about 12 m.

Third Wed

Our homeschool group organized a trip to the Road Safety Park. It was more a fun time for the children to ride on the go-karts rather than learning traffic regulations. :-b

After that was playtime at East Coast beach; beach soccer, water polo, shell-picking... for the boys. I enjoyed the glaring sun and warm sea breeze...

Forth Wed

The last Wednesday in March, we participated in the Homeschool Curriculum Fair. This is an annual event where homschool mothers set up tables to share their resources and expertise with other homeschoolers. I benefited from the talks and sharing of the other homeschooling mothers in the fairs that I have attended in previous years. I am glad to be able to "give back" to the homeschool community this year. I set a table to "show-and-tell" what I do for our homeschool for Mathematics, History, Science and Art.

Despite being busy with my sharing, I caught glimpses of what my other friends were doing. I wished I had more time to look around. I am now inspired to try my hands on some bookbinding and making. (Thanks Y! for your detailed explanation!) Y's children authored their very own books and these were "professionally" bound up (they sewed the pages up themselves) to look like a regular hardcover book. (I should have taken a picture of her books!) I am sure my boys will be thrilled to make one because they have always asked me how they can make a "real" book that others can read from... Hmmm... time to think of what to put in the book. Haha...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Horse Riding Lessons - Our First!!!

Our kind friends invited us to join them in their day trip to Kulai Riders Lodge for some horse riding. It was a timely trip as we are currently in the medieval mood and horse riding is certainly an activity popular during that period. What's more?! That day happened to be my boys' birthday! I decided the horse riding lessons will be my birthday present to them.

We each took up horse riding lessons! Yes, I joined in the fun too. Horse riding has been one of those things on my "To-do" list so I wouldn't want to miss this opportunity.

We tried to read up as much as we could about horses and horse riding in general. We were thankful for the chapter on ungulates in our Apologia Zoology 3 book. We especially appreciated the section on the different gaits of the horses. In fact, we have gathered quite a lot of information thus far and might just make a lapbook on horses later, just for fun.

In the horse riding lessons, we learned to get the horse to walk, turn and stop. We were also taught the sit/stand position that is required during a trot. Trotting is challenging. Initially, I could not feel the rhythm of the horse's trot and just got bumped up and down. Ouch!!! I did get a better feel for it nearing the end of the exercise.

My boys loved the whole experience so much they immediately asked if they could have more lessons. Ops! Did I just asked for trouble?! :-b These lessons were expensive and is certainly not something we could do on a regular basis. I told them to pray about it and we will see if God opens up any doors...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Medieval Birthday Celebration

Preparation for the Medieval Party started about two weeks before the event. Invitation cards were sent out and details were planned. Actual gathering of material and making of things took place a week before. It was a nice departure from our usual school routine. This happened to coincide with the one week school holidays so we had "lighter" school days then.


We wanted a costume party but did not expect our guests to come with the appropriate costumes. In any case, we don't have costumes either. We figured we could make very simple ones. This is what I did. I used gray coloured cotton fabric, cut them into rectangular sheets and use a safety pin to pin the back and front flaps at the shoulders. I had initially wanted to sew / hem these but time did not permit that. I was glad the fabric we chose lasted one wear with rather minimal fraying.

D and B designed their own coat of arms. We read the book Coat of Arms by Catherine Daly-Weir. This book comes with templates so that made it easier. The symbols and animal designs were drawn or traced onto coloured papers and then cut out. These cut-outs were then glued with white glue on a shield shaped flannel. The completed crest was in turned glued onto the gray armour. (I am beginning to discover how useful white glue is!) This method required no sewing at all!!! What a time saver?!

Coat of Arms gives detailed explanation on the significance of the colours and symbols that are often used. These are my boys' final products. They each made crests for all the members in their group for the Dragon Hunt.

Welcome Table / Decoration

I found idea of giving fictitious names to our little guests from this site. We came out with ridiculous sounding names that are food related (Straw of Berry, Gin of Ger, Guard of Lick, Man of Gostin etc...) These names were written on ice-cream sticks that were decorated to look like mini swords. The idea was to let our guest draw a "sword" out from the "rock" like King Aurthur style. The illuminated letters we made were put to good use in a little poem I composed to explain what to do.


What is a party without music?! I hunted long for these and asked at forums to finally find a site that allows for download of MP3s! Gregorian Chants and other such church music (which are what most people know of music of that period) were much to solemn so I chose Medieval Dances instead. Here is a site of Medieval Dances. I selected the album from Anstrorran Dance Symposium for our "banquet".

Craft 1 - Glorious Goblets

I wanted to occupy the children while they waited for the food to be ready. I got the idea of decorating plastic wine goblets with sequins from this site. These are some that were decorated by the children.

These goblets were then used during the party for drinks. No problem with mixed-up cups ;-)


We have two wooden bows we bought long ago at Daiso. D and B love to play with these; shooting chopsticks along our corridor. We experimented and found that these bows could actually be used to shoot chopsticks into cardboard boxes!

D and B were excited to let their friends try their hands on some archery too. However, we were worried the bows might give way if they were pulled too hard so we decided to add a toilet roll core on our target board as the bull's eye instead. Accurate shots, regardless of the power of the shot, would lodge the arrow into the tube; the arrow should sit comfortably in the tube even if it doesn't pierce the cardboard. This set up worked pretty well :-) I think the children enjoyed this quite a bit.

Craft 2 - Medieval Arrows

Chopsticks as arrows don't look very pretty. We decided to dress our arrows up! I found how to make a medieval arrow from this video clip. I simplify the steps a little and tried to teach this to the kids. This craft required some fine motor skills so mothers were roped in to help. This project didn't turn out too well but I hope some interest was generated :-b

Dragon Hunt

I sent the children on a wild-goose-chase kind of Dragon Hunt. Each clue was written in a poem that played around with words. I composed these poems one day while my boys stayed over at their grandparent's place. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and in the process renewed my interest in poetry! The children had to decipher the clues. There was just a lot of scrambling around from place to place - all around my estate. :-D

I originally intended them to find the dragon and throw tennis balls into the eye of the dragon. But because we were running late, the final Dragon thrashing was skipped. :-(


We had medieval potash with bread. Traditionally, potash was marshy soup with potatoes, beans and various spices. I concocted one without the more unfamiliar stuff. I decided to have pizza as a supplement just in case people are not used to medieval food.

It has become a "tradition" for me to bake apple pies instead of birthday cakes for my boys. (They are two of those weird kids who dislike cakes.) So I did bake two apple pies. Unfortunately, I didn't time myself properly so the baking time extended into the time for preparation of the other party food. As a result, my poor guests had to wait patiently for their lunch.

My dear husband was such a great help in the kitchen that day with assembling the pizzas while I got the children organized and prepared the other stuff. In our original plan, he was supposed to be the jester - juggling and entertaining... haha. Well, thankfully we don't have grumpy guests to cheer up and the children were left to entertain themselves most of the time.

All in all...

We all had fun!! Fun during the preparation as well as during the party itself. I am just super exhausted after that! I truly think it was well worth it though.

I kind of like this sort of themed party. May consider doing a Greek /Roman themed party next time... but without the food. Haha... Cooking is really not my forte :-)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Most of the poems we read are in two of these usual forms:
1. couplets (aabb)
2. quatrain (abab)

My boys obviously enjoy poems that rhyme. They will always "complain" when we read a poem that doesn't rhyme. But recently, we came across a few that we rather liked. They were from a poem book called Butterfly Eyes and Other Secret of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman. (Thanks tjm! for the recommendation!) Quite a number of the poems are free form, and one particular one uses the cinquain form (unrhymed: 1 word, 2 words, 3 words, 4 words, 1 word... or 2 syllables, 4 syllables, 6 syllables, 8 syllables, 2 syllables... I found several definitions!). Sidman's poem were also all in riddles. That made it even more interesting for the young ones!

We thought this form sounded fun. My boys were inspired and subsequently came up with a few poems of their own using this form. Here is one by B (not strictly cinquain).

A ball.
A ball rolls.
A ball rolls into water.
A ball rolls into water and floats away.
Where did it go?

This one by B is a more strict syllablic cinquain.

Walk, trot, canter
And gallop. These are gaits.
They are different ways horses move

More on B's blog :-)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Art : Limbourg Brothers III - Illuminated Letter

Our latest Picture Study was Psalms XXVI of the Les Tres Riches Heures.

Upon the death of the Limbourg brothers, Jean Colombe was commissioned to complete their works. He intentionally retain the style of the Limbourg brothers. In this manuscript page, Colombe illuminated the verse and beautifully illustrated it. We followed this Picture Study up with delving into illuminated letters.

We flipped through a book about illuminations called the Illuminated Alphabet by Patricia Seligman and Timothy Noad. I bought this book at a book sale many years ago. (I am now thankful I did!) I was attracted to illuminated manuscripts in general after visiting the British Museum where I was spell-bound by all the richly illustrated and decorated manuscripts. The pictures and words just seem to jump up at you!

This book takes you through the history of the illuminated alphabet and has projects that exemplify various styles of illumination. We browsed through to get ideas for our own letter designs.

Since we were preparing for the boys' medieval birthday party, I decided we would make illuminated letters as decorations for the instructions to our Dragon Hunt (a game we were planning to have in the party). These are the letters we decorated.

Credits :
"D" and "S" by D
"I" and "H" by B
"T" by me :-)

We tried to design the letters with the text in mind. I will be posting pictures of how these were used in a later post.

Visit Rumphius Webpage Art to find out about how we approach Art in our homeschool.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Getting into the Medieval Mood

This pass week was a mad week for us. We were in the thick of preparing for my boys' 8th birthday celebration.

Knights and castles. Swords and armour. Bows and arrows. Horses and dragons. My boys just LOVE everything about the middle ages.

So when I agreed to have their first ever birthday party, I decided we'll have a medieval themed one. (I have always heard about or read about people having themed parties but have never had or attended one! And they sounded so fun. I just have to try one!). I was at first a bit hung up about not timing it with our History studies. Should I do it next year instead? That's the perfectionist in me speaking. But I decided to be spontaneous about it. I just want to let my boys have fun!!!

We have shied away from having any parties previously because I wasn't sure I could handle the logistics of one. How to feed so many people? What to do with the children? Oh no! Have to plan games? How to entertain everybody?! ... So much work!!!

Then recently, I read about the wonderful birthday party a good friend of mine planned for her son. I was amazed at her dedication and creativity! I was really put to shame. Haha... in a good sense because I was all inspired after that. She spoke about making memories for her children and that set me thinking... It is just this few years really, may be between the ages of 6 to 12. I don't think a teenager would fancy one at all. It would be too "childish" for them then.

So here I am, going to give it a try ... starting really small with inviting only 3 families. Just don't think I could cope with more... :-b (Have already exceeded the rule of "number of friends to invite equals age of child" rule.)

I hope to do a crash course on History in the Middle Ages (just for this two weeks) ... just a bit of this and that. This would serve as an introduction for later studies. I just couldn't resist it. :-b

In order to get the boys into the mood (Like they needed help!?), I chose a book that is set in the middle ages for our read aloud. It is King of Ireland's Son by Padraic Colum. Reviews of the book revealed that some clever story-telling is exhibited in the weaving of stories within a story. I have been saving this book for when we are "there" for History, but have decided now is good enough! This book has been a page-turner so far. More a fun and fantasy type book rather than one that gives detailed introduction to that period in history. Nevertheless an enjoyable read.

These were the books I assigned for independent reading this week:
Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges
The Kitchen Knight by Margaret Hodges
A Medieval Feast by Aliki
If You Live in the Days of the Knights by Ann McGoverit

There are many more of such books. I just chose those I could get my hands on.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Poem Fever

My boys simply love poems. Every time I finish reading one, they will be begging for more. So we can seldom just read ONE poem (as recommended by Ambleside Online).

I have to confess that I have not been reading poems as regularly as planned. But I think not much "harm" was done. We will take it from wherever we are and start from there! I am now resolved to read at least 2 before our chapter book read alouds. This is just to ensure it doesn't get forgotten :-b

So here is what we are reading now. A wonderful book of poems arranged by subjects called Read-Aloud Poems for Young People: Readings from the Worlds Best Loved Verses by Glorya Hale. (Similar to the better known Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris.) I appreciated the extra biographical sketches provided about the poets which often heightened interest somewhat.

In fact, my boys have recently took to liking poetry so much that they have even started composing some themselves. They unabashedly claim to be "poets". (Well, if you write, you are a writer. If you draw, you are an artist. So in the same line of reasoning, since they write poems, they are poets! :-D I decided I didn't want to "burst their bubble"...)

I sometimes speak to them in rhymes just to show them that it really isn't that difficult to compose rhyming verses off the top of our heads. They are always very tickled whenever I do that and would be challenged to respond in similar rhyming verses! Sometimes we may end up with something nonsensical and have a good laugh.

I see value simply in their wanting to compose. In my efforts to encourage them, I felt I needed them to know that there is a place for nonsensical poems. This is where I found our collection of Edward Lear's Nonsense Poems useful. Read-Aloud Poems for Young People also has a section called Laughing Lyrics that my boys especially enjoy.

Do you have any poetry books to recommend?

I think this "poem" fever
is here to stay.
And will get hotter
and hotter each day! :-)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why "Rumphius"?

“Rumphius” is actually just a name. But it is a name that is significant to me on several levels ...

Before I had children, I had dreams and ambitions like any starry-eyed youth. One of my dreams is to travel and see the world. Another is to live somewhere I can have the sea as my front porch and the mountains as my backyard.

Sounds familiar? Well, this happened to be part of the plot of a story out of a picture book as well. It is titled Miss Rumphius. For this reason, I could relate very well with the character in the story when I first read it to my boys. (You'll have to read the book to understand.)

Miss Rumphius however was also challenged to make the world a more beautiful place. She eventually chanced on a way to achieve this by throwing lupine seeds everywhere. That resulted in beautiful "wild" lupines growing at every street corner the next spring.

After reading this book, I was intrigued by this idea. The more I thought about it, the more I feel I want to do the same. I absolutely love flowers and lupines at every street corner sounded like my kind of paradise! I thus made another connection with Miss Rumphius.

As I ponder about it, God has shown me that I could make the world a more beautiful place in many other ways! (I will leave you to figure this out for yourself.) One of the most obvious way for me now is to work towards bringing up "beautiful" children ;-) , who in turn can make the world more beautiful in their own God-given ways! The effect could be exponential!

On another level, I was drawn to the name "Rumphius" because of another silly dream of mine.

I have always admired early naturalists; how they single-mindedly hike through unknown terrains to journal the wildlife they observe. I later got to know about the works of one such great man by the name of Georg Eberhard Rumphius. He authored a book called Herbarium Amboinensis. It became a reference catalogue of plants of the Indonesian Islands. His work was later used by Carl Linnaeus for the development of the now well-known binomial system of classification in the botanical field.

It is my dream to do what Georg Rumphius did. I know such work will not be needed in this time and age, but I still hope to relive those exciting moments of discovery and learning based on personal observations.

So in these ways, the name “Rumphius” very simply encapsulates some of my ideals.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Art : Limbourg Brothers II - Book of Hours

One of the Limbourg brother's most famous work is the Book of Hours (Tres Riches Hueres) commissioned by the Duke of Berry. This book of prayer has prayers for certain times of the year, month, day or hour. The Limbourg brothers were responsible for richly illustrating the book. In it is a calender that had 12 pictures depicting various events within the year occurring in and around the Duke of Berry's castle vicinity.

I chose to conduct detailed Picture Study for the months of January, March, May and August in the Book of Hours. We viewed the rest of the paintings of the other months in this site just for fun.

These studies were followed by a creation of our own "Book of Hours". Basically, I just told my boys to draw a picture that is a representative event of the month of January or February this year. We added the semicircular outline on the top of our paintings to mimic the template used by the Limbourg brothers.

Here is B's January.

He wanted to remember the day when we went visiting during Chinese New Year. He brought our Rubik's cube along and was playing with it. He had then already been able to solve the cube without referring to the solution sheet. (Memorized the solution. I didn't think anybody could do that.) An uncle of mine was impressed and insisted on timing him. B solved the Rubik's cube within a staggering time of 1 minute 30 seconds!!! (D's best time was 1 minute 37 seconds.)

Here is D's February.

He wanted to remember the fun he had at the zoo when we first visited Kidzworld. This picture is of him pulling the rope on the raft.

I want to make a note here that my boys had really come a long way with respect to their painting. They still have lots of room for improvement, of course! I am just glad that they have more control of the brush now so at least they can get most of the paint within the lines. I attribute this improvement solely to the natural development of their fine motor skills. I have seen other little girls being able to colour or paint neatly at a younger age, and have always wondered why my boys can't seem to do that! :-( I have to constantly remind myself that every child is unique and they all have different developmental clocks.

I am also glad to see that they have applied what they have learnt from the lessons in Draw Squad to their drawing.:-) See the 3D cube and raft!

As an aside, ... ... ...

In the preschool years, I had tended to plan my lessons thematically. It worked then, but is a little too tedious for me at this stage when I have more specific topics to cover. However, selecting a few related poems or books was no trouble at all.

This is my attempt at riding on the theme of Calenders/Seasons.

We revisited the poem A Calendar by Sara Coleridge. This is a lovely poem that we seem to not get sick of relearning every year! We have a few versions of this poem in some of our poetry books but our favourite is from this book Eloise Wilkin's Poems to Read to the Very Young. This is a board book that I read to my boys since they were toddlers. The illustrations are lovely. In fact I caught my boys devouring it all over again during their free time.

For Chinese, I selected the book 春天的兔子 for our read aloud. The story tells of a rabbit's impatient wait for the arrival of his little siblings through the different seasons. A rare Chinese Living Book :-)

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

Friday, March 6, 2009

Free Lunchtime Concert Near Us

After my post Wild Hour 1, two ladies who live in the west of Singapore have commented that they were glad to know of such a gem of a place that is near them.

I think they will be delighted to know that I have just discovered another advantage of living in Jurong. :-)

A friend who lived in the NTU hostel had kindly informed me of a free weekly lunchtime concert there. So this Wednesday, we headed there to attend one by the NTU string orchestra. They played Concerto Grasso in C Major by Handel, Divertimento I by Mozart and Simple Symphony by Benjamin Britten. I have introduced Handel and Mozart by way of our Composer Study so my boys kind of grinned at me when they saw the program sheet.

The program next week looks interesting too; a jazz percussion performance! Looks like we will be attending these lunchtime concerts regularly. Especially since it is so nearby our place (less than 30 min by bus!).

I am hoping that my boys can be exposed to different genre of music through these concerts. I am thankful that such an opportunity is opened to us!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Revamp of House Management System On The Way

I know I am getting a call from God to do a bit of reorganizing in terms of household chores. Here is why I am quite certain:

Call 1
Happened to "chance" on a library book titled Chores Without Wars; Turning Dad and Kids from Reluctant Stick-in-the-Muds to Enthusiastic Team Players.
Borrowed it and am in the process of reading it. Picked up a couple of ideas that I would want to implement.

Call 2
Have been getting a nudging feeling to re-look into some of FlyLady routines. (sixth sense?!)
Have benefited from it some years ago and think I can use more of their suggestions now! ... And re-instate some that have died a natural death:-b ... Really worth browsing through their site for some housekeeping tips.

Call 3
The Homeschool Freebies of the Day on 3 March was a free e-book "Mama's Saving Grace Homeschool Planner"!
Contains mainly planner type blank pages but had a few pages on common chores to do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. A good list to start with.

Call 4
Curriculum at a Click's free product of the week is an ebook "School and Chore Charts"!
Some of the cute colourful chore cliparts might come in handy later...

I am getting the goose bumps!!!

Time for a revamp!!

PS: I have added new links on my side panel! This is actually for my own convenience :-) Check under My Favourite Links for all the websites where homeschool mothers share their resources.

An UPDATE on 5 March
I just got CALL 5!!!
One of the blogs that I keep up with just posted this: House Cleaning the Easy Way.

I hear Him loud and clear! And He sure knows what I need.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hippocrates and the Caduceus

At the moment, I am using Story of the World (SOTW) vol. 1 as my core text book for history. I also have in mind to cover some well-known people as listed and recommended in The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Buer Wise and Jessie Wise. So whenever those people are not mentioned in SOTW, I would have to research and find material to work on myself.

I found a new History curriculum called Mystery of History (MOH) by Linda Lacour Hobar. The first volume in this series is titled Creation to the Resurrection. I was attracted to this curriculum because it attempts to weave Bible History into World History. The sample pages showed a wide coverage. I know because I saw that MOH included many of the extras that I added into my History curriculum. I was thrilled so I went ahead to get MOH.

This is where I am now. Having already started on SOTW, with the boys enjoying it. Yet attracted to another curriculum that is sequenced quite differently. I am torn between the two!!

I haven't yet decided what to do. My plan for now is to continue with SOTW as my core and use only those lessons from MOH as and when I need them. This will give me some time to try MOH out and hopefully I will get a better idea of what I should do next.

The next Great Men of Greece that is on my list was Hippocrates. We learned about his contribution to society by first drafting out the Hippocratic oath that is now still taken by every practicing physician. I read the relevant lesson from MOH and let my boys narrate the passage. They begged to make the Caduceus, another craft project they saw in Spend the Day in Ancient Greece by Linda Honan. I was not too keen initially, but have not the heart to object especially since they were so eager. Because this was quite unplanned, I did not have much information about the Caduceus to share with my boys. My boys are now getting the hang of searching for information from the Internet, so that is what we did!

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

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Creepy Crawly Crabs and more

I have always hoped that my boys will not squeak or squirm when they handle insects or other small creatures. I don't. So I don't think that it is very "manly" to. Sometimes, they "disappoint" me by screaming when an ant crawl on them. Sometimes they surprise me.

That is my "brave" boy showing off his catch; a crab.

We went to East Coast Park with a few friends about 2 weeks ago. One of them knew of a particular part of the beach that has discharged pipes forming tidal pools during low tide. It was extremely slippery on the cemented surfaces due to algae growth. Despite falling and getting some bloody cuts, some of the children still persisted on continuing their hunt for crabs and other creatures.

This is a huge crab (about the size of my palm) that was hiding safely in its hole, out of our reach.

I was totally amused when my boys led out all their crabs when we got home. The crabs were crawling all over the place!!! My boys attempted to train the crabs, like how one would a dog!! It was hilarious to hear them shout commands like "Flip!", "Go!", "Stop!", "Stay still!", and even "Go forward!". Yes! We actually discovered that the crabs could crawl forward!! ... May be it was groggy after the manhandling. Haha!
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