A semester of science

We are coming up to our first annual visit from our department moderator, in the next couple of weeks. So I am busy getting all of my paperwork together. When I say paperwork, it’s not actually all that much as far as volume is concerned, but rather, I need it to be chronological and coherent. My job is to present Miss 6s learnings to the Dept. in a way that proves we have covered the key learning areas, as set forward by the curriculum, and to show improvement on Miss 6s abilities over the last 12 months. I also need to show a loose plan for the next 12 months, stating what we intend to cover, and how I intend to link it to the curriculum. To date I have written a very loose plan for the next 12 months – if the last year has shown me anything, it is that everything I plan in detail will be tossed straight out the window! – and all I need to do now is type it up, so that it is legible. I have 2 folders of loose examples of work. I have a folder of various workbooks that Miss 6 has used, I have the dedicated folders for Auslan, Music Class and Science/Steam club, and I have my Facebook page, which acts like a photo diary, and takes care of the need for dated photos. Apart from typing up the 12 month plan, all I need, or, more particularly want to do, is type up a summery of what we have done, what Miss 6 has accomplished, and areas that I feel we need to focus on. I also want to get this blog post done, updating on the last semester of science-based learning that Miss 6 has been doing.

So, with Miss 6s help, I picked 8 areas of scientific study, for her to take a look at. So far we have done 5 of the 8. Initially I had figured we would spend a week or two on each area. But, as I mentioned, anytime I plan something in detail, the plan gets tossed (homeschooling parents are nothing if not flexible!!), and we ended up spending anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks on each area. The areas we picked were;
– Chemistry
– Biology
– Botany
– Geology
– Meteorology
– Zoology
– Astronomy
– Physics
We have done chemistry, biology, botany, geology and zoology. We will do meteorology over the next couple of weeks, but I have a feeling Miss 6 is going to skip astronomy. She did a unit on space last year, and when I mentioned a little revision, she didn’t look too interested!

The chemistry unit went well enough. We bought Miss a second hand chemistry kit, and while we have not used it as much as I had hoped we would – Miss 2 makes it a bit tricky – she had fun with the experiments that we did do. I booked her into a homeschool chemistry workshop at Scitech during this period. There she reinforced what we’d already discussed about states of matter, and had the opportunity to be involved in a few more experiments. At home we experimented with turning water into ice (solid), and then steam (gas) and then back to water (liquid). We also tried to do the instant freeze water experiment, which is advertised widely as being “super easy”, but we found it to be super hard! We were, much to my frustration, unable to make it work. After speaking to a friend of mine, who is a secondary school science teacher, I found out that it is actually NOT as easy as it’s made out! However it was a learning curve for Miss 6, who found out that not everything in science goes to plan, and there are many, many failures, before success.



I based the unit on biology around human biology, as I knew we would be covering plants and animals in separate units. Miss 6 learned about cells, and the different parts of the cell, as well as the difference between plant and animal cells. She already had a basic understanding of the human body, but we delved further into the major organs and what their functions were. She made a working model of lungs, which was a great hit with her as well a Miss 3. The lungs can be seen on our Facebook page, here. She also experimented with growing bacteria in a handwahing experiment, and explored the senses with some fun blindfold games. At the end of the unit, Miss 6 was able to draw a LifeSize body on butchers paper. On this, she correctly placed the heart, brain, liver, lungs, kidneys, windpipe, small and large intestine, stomach, and pelvis. Miss 6 also completed a biology class at Scitech durning this time. During the class she was able to reinforce her learning on cells, as well as use various pieces of equipment to magnify and observe things like hair, string, plant matter and insect parts.
Incidentally, even though Miss 6 has technically finished her unit on biology, this will be an ongoing unit for her, for at least the next few months, as I enter the third trimester of my pregnancy. Miss 6 has been eagerly following and learning all about how a baby is conceived (two cells joining together), how it grows and how it is delivered. She even had a wonderful opportunity to help my midwife with my most recent scan and blood pressure check.



Botany was particularly fun for Miss 6, although it is the shortest unit she has done so far. She learned about different types of plants (trees, bushes, flowers, etc), as well as different parts of the plant. She helped out in the garden, weeding and planting seeds for our winter vegetable patch. She has since been able to watch the seeds germinate and grow. She also learned, about photosynthesis and the fact that plants need sunlight, water and carbon dioxide in order to grow. We did an experiment with celery and food colouring, after she wondered out loud how plants drink water, without mouths. We cut some celery stalks and put them in jars of water, with added food colouring. Then over the course of a couple of days, she was able to observe the coloured water being drawn up the celery stalk and dispersed throughout the leaves. After this time she took the celery sticks and spent a good hour and a half dissecting them, following the veins and tracing the path that the coloured water had taken.


Our unit on geology was another short one. Miss 6 learned about the three types of rocks, and watched some short documentaries on you tube explaining what they were, as well as how they are formed. Our STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, maths) co-op was, fortuitously, based around rocks. During co-op Miss 6 was able to investigate a fabulous rock/gemstone collection, and refer the rocks to a book that was on hand, to try and identify what type she was looking at. She complete a “cut and paste” activity where she pasted pictures of rocks into a structure (in her case a bridge), and then had to decide whether her structure would work in real life, if she were able to build it exactly as she had pasted it. She made a pet rock – a table was set up with a hot glue gun, a beautiful pile of river stones, and a dozen containers of craft supplies. Hands down it was the hit of the day, with ALL of the children! – as well as an example of a sedimentary rock. The sedimentary rock didn’t quite work as it was supposed to. I think we made the mixture too wet, meaning that it didn’t get hard, but rather stayed soft and crumbly. However she did get the point of the task, as, only today, she took a cup out into the backyard and layered it with various types of sand, soil and rocks, showing me and exclaiming she had made a sedimentary rock! Unfortunately, around this time, Miss 2 killed my laptop and I have been unable to download the photos I took on co-op day. To support her unit on geology, we took a drive, as a family, 2 hours north of here to a geological formation known as The Pinnacles. The girls explored the rocks as well as the little museum that is on site. Miss 6 decided that she had spotted some metamorphic rocks in the desert, and was fascinated with the theory that the formations could possibly be fossilised tree roots from an ancient forest.


Lastly, we have been, and are currently still, working on zoology. Miss 6 has revised what she knows about different classifications of vertebrates (fish, amphibian, reptile, mammal, bird). She has been watching a lot of documentaries from David Attenboroughs collection, as well as those of her hero, Steve Backshall. She attended a workshop on Birds of Prey, where she was able to hold or pet a variety of raptors. She also learned what a raptor was 🙂 And I took the girls to Caversham Wildlife Park for some close encounters with the mammals there. She made friends with a little wallaby and was terribly sad when she had to say goodbye! We also have, coming up in the next couple of weeks, a Worm Farm workshop (where the children learn about worms, the important role they play, and how to make a worm farm), and a class that is being held at Perth Zoo (where the children will read a book and do a craft based on a particular animal, and then take a walk around the zoo, to find and observe the animal they have just been learning about. 🙂



All in all, it’s been a pretty busy first semester for my little Miss. On top of the science, she has been attending music class, dance class, various workshops, play dates, co-ops and lots of outdoor activities. I have seen a big leap in, not only her reading and writing abilities, but her willingness to do it, and I have been amazed, again, at how much knowledge she retains. Also, in amongst the above, she has developed a fascination with movies and how they are made. She has experimented with stop motion, and has written a basic script, made costumes and has asked her beautiful best friend to help out, by acting a part in the short film that she wants to direct. I’m thinking my next blog will involve a couple of movies by Miss 6!



Learning about the ocean, and a message from Miss 6

Yes, I said Miss 6! Since my last post she has had a birthday and is now 6, and she makes me more and more proud, every year.
Miss 6 has declared her Ocean unit is finished, and she wants to learn about Australia. In her words “because, you know, I actually live in Australia, and I should know all about it, right?” Yes indeed.
So as we move on to our new unit, I am writing up what has been accomplished in the last couple of months.

Miss 6 has been immersed in all things ocean-related. She has become fascinated with sharks, and thanks to a brilliant app I found for the iPad, called “Ultimate Sharks”, she can visually identify around half a dozen, and is full of facts about different species of sharks. She has studied coral reefs, and now understands how a reef starts, how it grows, and how it dies. She has learned about the different levels of the ocean and can name them, describe them, and name animals or plants that can be found in each level. It would have been nice to have done this unit (or be continuing this unit) in the warmer weather. But the cold has not stopped us from taking trips to the beach for beach combing or exploring rock pools, and she also had a day at AQWA with her friends to support her learning.

We did lots of reading this unit. In fact, Miss 6 did hardly any “book work” at all, most of her learning came from reading out loud, reading along with the apps on the iPad, watching documentaries and hands on exploring at the beach. We did do a couple of science activities. The first of which was to grow our own coral reef. I bought a kit from the Little Passports website. She started this within a week of beginning her unit, as it took a couple of weeks to grow to maturity. Miss 6 read the instructions, followed the steps and put together the frames for the “reef”, then she added the chemicals. Over the course of the fortnight, she observed the blooming of the reef and made comparisons between the one she grew in our kitchen, to the ones in the ocean.

In explaining how the ocean moves, I discussed with Miss 6 waves, tides and currents. She could understand the science behind tides, as we had already touched on it during her unit on space. She also had no problem grasping waves, as her favourite naturalist, Steve Backshall, mentions waves in one of his episodes, and does a demonstration on waves and wind, involving paper aeroplanes. So it fell to me to explain currents to her. I talked to her about warmer water and colder water, and what happens when the two temperatures meet and mix. I then set up a little demonstration for her. Miss 6 and Miss 3 filled a dish with ice cold water, then I filled a jug with boiling water that we had coloured blue with food colouring. Miss 6 slowly poured the boiling water into the ice water, and was able to watch how the water moved and pushed through the dish. We were also lucky enough to see a small eddy in our miniature ocean. Miss 6 thought it was a great “experiment”.



During the course of this unit, Miss 6s reading and writing took another leap. She is not only more inclined to suggest sitting down and doing some reading or writing work, but is also displaying a marked improvement in her sounding out, spelling and penmanship. One of the “lessons” she did, which still had a scientific spin on it, as that’s her “thing” and that’s what keeps her interested, was a morning of playing sinks or floats. We gathered up around eight different items. She divided her book into two columns and wrote her guesses down, and then systematically ticked off whether she was right or wrong. We talked about the salinity of the ocean, and whether salt water would make some things float when they sank in fresh water. We used almost an entire 1kg bag of table salt to try and prove this theory, but it didn’t work. Which Miss 6 thought was hilarious. So we googled the Dead Sea and read about that instead.

A standout in her workbook, was her picture of the different levels of the ocean. She spent the better part of an entire day, drawing her picture, reading through her books to help her decide which animals she would draw in each level, and colouring it in. When she was done, she dictated some information about the picture she had drawn. I was thoroughly impressed with the detail of her drawing and the information that she was able to give me.


As we were winding up her work on oceans, I asked Miss 6 if there was anything else she wanted to do, before we moved on. Her response was “Mummy, the coral reefs and the oceans are in trouble, and I want people to know, so that they can help to make it better”. I asked her how she thought she could do this, and she came up with making a poster and writing a message to her friends on our blog 🙂 Her poster shows a polluted planet with smoke and cars and dirty oceans, with a big line through it, and the words DON’T WANT underneath. Then it has a happy healthy planet, with clean oceans, a big tick and the words DO WANT. The message she wanted to pass on, is this;

Carbon dioxide is covering the Earth, and making the planet too hot and sick. Carbon dioxide comes from machines and factories. Did you know that, because there is so many, cars make more carbon dioxide than planes? When the planet gets too hot, the coral reefs start to bleach. This means that it will die. The coral reef is important to us, because it is the home to 25% of the worlds ocean life. 25% means a whole quarter. If the reef dies, the animals that live there all die. The reef also takes the carbon dioxide out of the water, like trees take it out of the air. This keeps our oceans healthy. Please keep our oceans clean. If you see any rubbish at the beach, or in the water, please pick it up. If you live close to school, or work, or the shops, please ride your bike or scooter, or walk. Three arrows in a triangle shape, is the symbol for recycling. Please try and make the world better by recycling, and helping your kids to plant a tree. If every single person in the whole world, picked up one piece of rubbish, or planted one tree, the sea, and the planet could be healthy again.


We are off to Sydney to visit family, soon, and my little girls are all very excited! Miss 6 has started her unit on Australia, and after some thought and discussion about what she is interested in, I have a loose plan for the next couple of months, including some great excursions. I think the next unit will be a little lighter on the science component, and a little heavier on maths and English. I have selected some Australian poems and songs, a well as bought some play money for her. We will cover geography with a lot of mapping and travelling, and I have a basic, introduction to Indigenous culture and art, put together for her too. And even though our unit on the ocean is finished, I have a feeling that she will revisit it at another time. I also know that it will be reinforced every time we go to the beach 🙂



A guest post; by Miss 5

Generally we don’t adhere to a timetable of weekday, weekend and school holiday. Generally we follow a schedule of our own making, and recognise that learning takes place at anytime of the day or night, and we seek opportunities to learn or teach whenever they are presented to us. In April, however, circumstances were such that we decided to have a rest from school, when everyone else was having their school holidays as well. This meant that resuming our “school work” coincides with the return to school for those in the mainstream, and the beginning of Term 2.
Today I was able to take an hour and reorganise my office, and run through what we have achieved and covered in the last 4 months. This gave me a pretty good indication of just how much work and effort Miss 5 has put into her days, and how much she has flourished, given the opportunity to have control of her own learning. Obviously the things she does are on par with her age and development levels, and obviously there is an amount that is facilitated by me as her ideas and abilities may not coincide with each other. But her ideas, and her direction, and her subject matter, as well as the time of day and amount of time spent on her learning; are all hers to decide. I also understand that there is a percentage of society that can not accept that a child of 5, or any child for that matter, will – when given autonomy to choose – willingly make the decision to sit down and learn one subject or other. I can only say that it has been my experience – and the experience of every homeschooler, unschooler and teacher that I have met or spoken to – when interest, passion and encouragement are present, a child will definitely, absolutely, without a doubt, do exactly that 😀
So after I had organised the office and filed away Miss 5s work from last “Term”, I sat down with her over lunch and discussed how she thought things were going. I asked her if she liked what we were doing. I asked her what her favourite bits were, and what she thought she might like to do differently, and then we talked about setting goals for the rest of the year. I had to explain to her what I meant by a “goal”, and she understands it as being something that she would like to finish, something she would like to be able to say “look what I’ve done”, and with a deadline of Christmas time. I was about to write the goals down on a piece of paper to put in our work folder, when she asked what I was doing. I explained to her that if I wrote the goals down, it would make them more real and we could refer to them down the track, to make sure that we remember what we wanted to achieve, or “finish”, and to make sure that we are motivated to keep working towards finishing.

(Before I go on, some background information: Miss 5 is aware that I write a blog and that we have a facebook page, I’ve told her that our Moderator needs to see what we’re doing and how well she’s progressing, as part of our “reporting” to the Department of Education. We are a pretty tech heavy family, so she understands that doing things online make it easier for everyone concerned. We’ve started to use the term report as an umbrella term to indicate recording something for the blog or the facebook page, and if I’m being honest, Miss 5 does really kind of like the fact that people read about her. She says it’s like being famous XD)

Our next conversation looked like this:
Miss 5: Why don’t you put it in the report? That way our school Margaret (moderator) can read about it, and all of my friends (by which I think she means fans 😉 ) can read about it.
Me: That’s a good idea, sweetie. Maybe I should.
Miss 5: I could do it.
Me: You could do it?
Miss 5: Yes. I could do it. I could write a report. Well, you know, I could tell you what I want to say and you could write it. Because I can’t write yet. But it would be my report. And I can tell my friends (fans) about homeschool and what I want to finish this year. Can I Mum? Can I do it?
So without further ado, I am pleased to present my guest blogger, Miss 5 😀

I am 5.5 years old and I am doing Homeschool. I really like homeschool because I get to spend more time with Mummy, and because I get to be with my two sisters.
I like learning how to write, and I like playing new games. I love going outside to play and I don’t have to sit on a chair all day.
At normal school, I think, no one gets to go on a hike or a bush walk and chase the birds anytime they want. Which makes me a bit sad.
So far I have learned how to do more of my numbers, and I have learned about spiders and I have done lots of cooking.
My favourite thing that I have done in homeschool has been Chocolate Day. It was the best day EVER! I don’t think kids who do normal school would have a chocolate day, I think maybe the teacher would say they would not be allowed to eat chocolate and candy at school.
The BFG has been my favourite book, and it can write B.F.G, because that’s really easy. I am looking forward to learning about space stuff and going to the library, and maybe we can go to Adventure World for homeschool (this is a blatant attempt to get me to agree to a day at a theme park – which is closed for the winter season!)?
My three goals for this year are:
1) Learn how to read.
2) Learn to do woodwork and build a cubby house with my Daddy.
3) Make some of my own clothes and learn how to do tie-dye, on some T-shirts.
I really love homeschooling lots and I want to keep doing it.

One proud and happy Mama, right here 🙂