juthwara: (Default)
So we've been engaging in educational pursuits lately, really. Many of my plans have been stymied by the nasty cold I've had for the past two weeks. K also threw a wrench in my plans for starting with a week on castles and the Middle Ages by developing a grand passion for the ocean and fish.

I'm finding myself often being caught wondering where I draw the line between insisting K do the things I have planned and deciding that the advantage of homeschooling is that we can follow her passions. When it comes to reading and math, I'm good at staying firm, although I might make compromises like letting her spend more time on Reading Eggs or put off a handwriting assignment until tomorrow. But with everything else, my feeling is that in first grade, it's only reading and math that have a particular level that a child should be able to achieve. As for the other subjects, it's important that they learn history, science, art, health, etc. But there is anything in particular in those subjects that you can point to and say, "A first grader should know that." It's not like she should be expected to know American history through the War of 1812 and have a good grasp of geology. So since our approach is that she should be exposed to these subjects but the actual topics we cover are entirely up to us, it's hard to insist that we absolutely must be learning about castles when all she's interested in is dolphins and sea anemones.

So we finished up The Duchess Bakes a Cake and our study of the micro-organisms that help make our food by making bread and yogurt, then moved on to Very Last First Time, the story of an Inuit girl in Canada who goes beneath the sea ice at low tide to gather mussels on her own for the first time.

And here was where I ran into a problem I've worried about since embarking on FIAR: what if K refuses to read the main book? We had a bit of this with Cranberry Thanksgiving, but I was able to get her to listen to it after some persuasion. The thing is, sometimes K will take one look at something and decide she absolutely does not like it and will not be moved on the subject. She's extremely stubborn, and I have learned that fighting it head-on is the worst possible approach if it's not something that's really important (stubborn refusal won't get her out of a trip to the dentist or picking up her toys, for instance). It's better to try and take a different angle or give her time to warm up to it after some persuasion. In this case, for reasons she wouldn't or couldn't explain, K refused to read Very Last First Time. And I was getting sick and was nearly seven months pregnant and just didn't have the patience to work her around to it.

So I decided that there was nothing stopping us from covering the topics I had planned on covering. So we read lots of books on the Arctic and spent quite a bit of time looking up information on the sea animals that live there. We did a lesson in pontillism, which is the style Very Last First Time is illustrated in, but works fine as a standalone topic. K developed a passion for sled dogs, so we looked up information on them and K spent quite a bit of time getting pulled around in a laundry basket by her visiting grandfather.

From there, we moved on to Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, with more success. I'm hoping to finish it up in the next couple days, so it will get an entry of its own.
juthwara: (Default)
The Duchess Bakes a Cake is the story of a medieval duchess who gets bored one day and decides to make a cake. She adds some yeast, and then adds some more yeast, and then more for good measure. The results are about what you would expect for a children's storybook, which is to say it completely ignores the fact that all the yeast in the world can only make a finite amount of dough stretch so far and the resulting cake carried the duchess far above the castle.

With a story like that, you obviously would have to spend time talking about baking and the role of leaveners. We started with yeast. I showed K a couple Good Eats episodes featuring yeast, because if there's a better way explain how yeast works than with belching sock puppets, I haven't seen it. After that, we moved onto the hands-on portion of the lesson. First, we tried setting out two mixtures of warm water and yeast, one with sugar and one without. Within fifteen minutes, it was clear that sugar is necessary to fuel the yeast, since the mixture with sugar was bubbling merrily away and the plain water mixture was sitting there tepidly. I had K look at the yeast foam and see the bubbles in it.

To further cement the idea that yeast gives off gas (and because it was really cool), we took a two-liter soda bottle, put warm water, yeast and sugar in it and then stretched a balloon over the top. Within half an hour, the balloon had popped up and was clearly inflated on top of the bottle. We could see the yeast foaming away at the bottom as well. We went out for several hours after that and when we came home, the balloon had gotten quite a bit larger and the yeast was clearly still working away, which really impressed me. Even though I've baked more than enough bread to know that yeast keeps working for hours and even days, it's still hard to carry that over to realize that the yeast really is a living organism that keeps eating and producing as long as it has food, even when it's not hidden in bread.

The final experiment of the day was to talk about other leaveners, specifically baking soda. Since baking soda is much more commonly used in making cakes in modern times, I wanted to show K how it worked. I suppose it wasn't so much an experiment as a demonstration: I put baking soda in the bottom of a glass and poured vinegar over it, and as everyone who ever made a baking sode volcano knows, it bubbled up quite impressively. To learn a bit more about making cakes and baking soda, we read The Magic School Bus Gets Baked in a Cake and watched an episode of the Magic School Bus tv show that covered pretty much the same story.

Then, of course, we had to bake a cake. At that point, we were done with science for the day since there was no recapturing K's interest when there was a cake to be decorated.

This week, I decided that right before Christmas is not the time to try to get a six-year-old to concentrate on school, so we're putting off the rest of Duchess until after we get back from Michigan. There's more than enough of the Middle Ages to fill a full week, and it will give me a chance to get some books that I had wanted but didn't have time to get through interlibrary loan. We will be doing A New Coat for Anna next week because K's grandmother will be visiting with her spinning wheel, and that's far too good an opportunity to give hands-on experience with fiber production from fleece to yarn to pass up. I don't think we'll have any trouble getting K to pay attention to the process of dyeing wool or spinning it, even with new Christmas presents to distract her.

Books used today:
The Duchess Bakes a Cake by Virginia Kahl
The Magic School Bus Gets Baked in a Cake by Joanna Cole

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juthwara

May 2015

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