Knowing When to Stop

This week TK and I continued with her project on the circulatory system and the heart. We also looked at factors and prime numbers, reviewed some of last year’s maths curriculum, and started some work on dinosaurs.

The thing I am finding most difficult with home education so far, is knowing when we have reached the natural end of a project or topic and when to push for a little bit more. Some might argue that the moment the child loses interest, the topic is over but that in itself is a difficult thing to gauge. Has the child lost interest in this little bit, or lost interest completely? Might their enthusiasm be re-ignited with a slight change of direction, or have they had it completely with the focus of study?

So far, we are taking it one day at a time and I am pushing when I think that TK will get something out of doing that little bit more. A case in point would be her attempt at an epic tale; a task I set off the back of our work on the Anglo-Saxons and Beowulf. After a character bio and two verses, TK was ready to give in but I have been prodding Eoforhildwebedither to do a little bit here and there so that she has something more to show for the learning she did. By today she had written six verses, of which she was very proud, and I think we can now move on to a different project, with her knowing she actually got something done.

In her own time, TK has been working on designing a theme park using Minecraft and has displayed some interest in learning Spanish. She has been playing around on DuoLingo this last week and it is a great, free, site that certainly has it’s merits. I wouldn’t like to say how effective it is in the long term but for the purposes of ‘starting out’ with a new language, it’s engaging and the teaching methods are nicely varied between listening, reading, and writing. They also send you an email reminder if you don’t log on, which I think is a nice learning prompt.

As I said previously, our recent biology project has been on the circulatory system and the workings of the human heart. Although we had watched some videos on how the heart worked and looked at several diagrams, I felt that there was something lacking in the two dimensional nature of screen and worksheet. I’m not a fan of dissection and wasn’t about to go and procure an animal heart from the local butcher (even if I did, there would be pandemonium as TK screamed/cried/threw up and the animals squared up to fight one another to the death for the privilege of getting a mouthful). However, I felt that to understand the heart properly, it would help if TK could see it, with the chambers and blood vessels, as a three dimensional system. My solution was for us to build a model.

As you can see from the picture, the model was built on a shoe-string but the whole process of putting it together was surprisingly informative and worked as a revision task for everything TK had learned about the heart. For anyone wishing to give it a go, you will need the following items:HeartModel

  • A cardboard box (approx. the size of a shoe box) that can be closed or sealed completely.
  • Drinking straws (we used a £1 packet of red/yellow [arteries] and green/blue [veins] )
  • A few sheets of red and blue paper (Blue for the de-oxygenated blood being pumped to the lungs, and red for the oxygenated blood being pumped to the whole body.)
  • Some thin, flexible cardboard for the labels, and the ventricular and atrial walls (we used a cereal box)
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • A diagram to refer to, such as this one HERE.

TK and I had great fun putting our model together and to add to the entertainment, she played a selection of ‘epic’ music from films and video games on her tablet. As we taped bundles of straws and put them in place, the whole thing began to feel like a scene from a medical drama, crossed with the world’s most low budget game of Operation: There is nothing quite so farcical as crying “Oh no! I’ve dropped the superior vena cava through the heart and it’s stuck in the right ventricle!” to a soaring orchestral crescendo, topped with the wailing of a choir.

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