Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Adventures in Natural Dyeing

With heavy hearts the children waved goodbye to their British grandparents last week. We see them regularly and they were with us for two weeks but it is never enough for the children. We all really needed a pick me up so we got in the car and made our way to the lovely Tisserie at Branderion, a small but delightful little museum concerned with fibre, textiles and weaving. 

Homeschooling Fibre, weaving, spinning, knitting
All the different animals who provide us with fiber
Homeschooling fibres and textiles
Really fun guess the animal fibre baskets

I'd signed the children and I up for a natural dyeing workshop and we weren't disappointed. Not only was the welcome warm and the museum's exhibition interesting, the workshop itself delighted everyone. We were eight participants and we covered three forms of natural dye, cochineal (cochenille en fran├žais), indigo and leaves. 

For the first two we experimented with tie-dying using elastic bands and dye baths. 
Homeschooling : dyeing with cochineal
Noah and Maya watch the bugs leak their dye!

For the cochineal, the dried bugs were mixed with boiling water, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda before we placed material samples, one wool, one cotton in the dye bath and left them to soak until the end of the workshop. 

The indigo bath was already prepared. We took it in turns to dip in aprons which we'd contorted with elastic bands. The later batches initially displayed an acid green colour alongside the dark blue but this faded as the aprons dried. 

Homeschooling : dyeing with indigo
Noah dips his apron in the Indigo
Indigo dye bath
Maya's turn
Indigo dyeing with under 5s
And last but not least, Lotta

For the third technique we picked fresh leaves outside and then after placing the leaves under a thin piece of cotton, used a hammer to release their dye. The material was then placed in a special bath with a fixing agent. 

Homeschooling leaf dyeing
Take the leaves
Homeschooling natural dyes
Place the thing material over them
Homeschooling hammer dyeing
And hammer...

The children were really delighted with all the results especially the aprons. The leaf dying really surprised them and they are very eager to try this again at home with other leaves as well as flowers (I'll keep you posted!). 

Indigo tie-dyed apron
The big reveal to Noah's delight
Indigo tie-dyed aprons
Apron's drying

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Five Little Things : Bringing in the Hay

Living in a rural area, we follow what's going on in the fields a lot. From the planting through to the harvest we really enjoy watching the crops grow. Although we may not always be in agreement with our neighbour's farming methods, there's still something awesome about watching a field grow from bare earth through to seedlings and then to full grown crops. 

They're bringing in the hay at the moment here, the large machinery clogging the narrow roads traveling from farm to farm. It's fun to watch but we'd never taken part in it before. Luckily, while on holiday earlier this year, we had the good fortune to meet a friendly farmer who invited the children to join in. They really did have a wonderful time and were able to observe the process and the machinery involved. There really is no better education than hands on experience in this kind of case and I was amazed afterwards at all the details they'd picked up through observation and discussion with the farmer.

One of our objectives when we moved out of the city was that our children better understand the processes by which our food makes its way to our table. Although this mainly progresses through our own vegetable growing, this experience has definitely contributed to their comprehension of the work involved preparing animal feed and why raising animals requires so much land and labour.


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Homeschooling Science : Experiments

One of my favourite things about science as a kid was doing experiments. Adding one thing to another and seeing what happened. Trying things more than once to control the variables. Wondering if anyone would blow up a test tube that day or not... 

As I've documented before part of our science curriculum is covered by the science group the children belong to, a spin off from Les Petits Debrouillards (the little do it them selfers is the best translation I can come up with) but that doesn't stop us from repeating experiments at home and also doing our own. 

Last week Lotta did some chemistry with bicarbonate of soda (alkaline) and vinegar (acid). The first part of the experiment involved mixing the two together and observing what happened. 

Homeschooling Science Bicarbanate of Soda and Vinegar Experiment

The second part was a challenge - take the bicarb, the vinegar, a small bottle and a balloon and inflate and keep inflated the balloon without using air. 

First of all we talked again about what had happened when we mixed vinegar and baking soda. How it made lots of bubbles which were filled with gas. We talked about how we could get this gas into a balloon. We tried a few things. If we just mixed them together we did blow the balloon up but it was tiny. We worked out that was because the gas was escaping before we attached the balloon to the bottle. 

Finally we decided to put the vinegar in one receptacle, the bottle, and the bicarbonate in the other, the balloon. We then attached the balloon to the bottle and gave the whole thing a shake. Bingo! The balloon inflated and stayed inflated.

Homescholing ; inflating a balloon using bicarb and vinegar

Afterwards we detached the balloon and tied a knot in it. Lotta and her brother both observed that it didn't float up into the air a bit like a normal balloon but quickly sank to the ground which enabled us to talk about the gas produced being heavier than air.

All in all this was great fun and enabled us to touch on some important principles of the physical world. 

Top tips for experimenting with children

  • Let them do as much as possible, it's not as fun to watch.
  • Have the kids gather the materials you'll need where at all possible. 
  • Try to resist edging them towards the right solutions, you can learn a lot from trial and error and this is one of the founding principles of all scientific process. 
  • Encourage them to be observant. Questions like what do you see? what's happening? are good prompts.
  • Repeat as many times as they want if you're able to. In my experience if they're asking to do something again it's that they still have something to learn from it even if you feel they've 'got it'. This is also true if they ask to do something again months or even years later. Perhaps in the meantime they've acquired new knowledge that will fuel their understanding of what's happening. 
  • Challenges are a fun way to get the kids doing it themselves and trying out different things. 
  • If you're working with more than one child they can each try their own way either at the same time or successively. This is a good way for kids to see how other people think and problem solve.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Five Little Things : Bounty

There's a lot coming in from the garden at the moment. Added to that we made time to get to the Pick Your Own farm this week and came home with just over 4kilos of strawberries. Like all the end of the year parties (pottery, climbing, riding etc) it's kept us busy and away from other things but it is so good to revel in the best of what the season has to offer. Strawberries simmering....

An immensely satisfying stack of jars filled up with homemade strawberry jam...

For the jam, I followed two recipes from the wonderful Canning for a New Generation, the simply diving Strawberry Preserves and my personal favourite the Strawberry and Lavender Jam, with lavender from our own garden. 

Of course the kids wanted to enjoy some of the strawberries other than in jam so we saved enough for a yummy Charlotte... (apologies for the terrible quality of this picture, three hungry beggars did not want to wait!)...

And as if all this strawberry goodness wasn't enough, Maya made us this beautiful salad with home grown Rocket and Borage, a delicious edible flower that brings a lot of bees into the garden promoting pollination across our veggie patch....

Rocket and Borage Salad

It seems to me that really relishing the food each season has to offer us is one of the most important ways we honour nature and fill our children with passion and awe for the wonder that is our planet and how it provides for all living things. 

Five Little Things : Keeping us Busy

Such a special relationship

It's been a busy few weeks here. Visitors and end of the school year festivities have kept us busy. Yes even though we home educate we still get caught up in the over busyness of end of term time with lots of parties and events on our calendar. 

One of the things that's been keeping us busy all year really but especially the last few weeks has been Maya's Pony Club activities. She goes three times a week which already means a lot of our time is organised around this activity and has also begun taking part in competitions on Sundays. 

We've been really pleased that she's found a home away from home where she can grow her passion. She's made a band of friends, found other role models to learn from and made herself useful and welcomed in an environment outside of the home. It's really been a delight to see how horse riding and particularly her club l'Etre Cheval has allowed her to blossom and grow. Here are some pictures from last Sunday's dressage competition where not only did she have fun but also excelled at something she loves.

Maya and Janed take third place !

Horsing around with pretend ponies
Nervously awaiting the results

In front of the judges (in the car)