Wednesday, 28 January 2009

A quiet week

D has had a stinking cold this week, so things have been a bit quiet.

Monday we played a game to do with our project. It was all about getting to the top, then once the game was complete, they had to read how they managed to reach the top and what it had cost other people to get there. It certainly made sobering reading, making you stop and think.

We also then read about how hate had manifested itself under Nazi rule and through history since. It pointed out how it was manifest in this country now, and how a crime need not be committed for acts of hatred to be carried out, highlighting the responsibility we all had to examine our speech and actions.

We now have to think about what we will do next. It is a toss up between Romans and science at the moment. I have one that loves history and one that loves experiments, so one at least will be happy.

J really enjoyed the book, Hitler's Canary, he got from the library. He read it twice in two days. It certainly tied in with what we had been studying for the last couple of weeks. He also managed to pick up a few Danish words too.

D got himself all prepared for Spanish, and then wasn't well enough to go. There will be a bit of catching up to do next week.

Monday, both boys went to the optician and D didn't need to get glasses this time. It was borderline that he needed them, and as he hadn't had problems not wearing his last ones, it wasn't worth getting them. We picked J's new pair up today and the world is again a much clearer place.

Tomorrow the boys will miss swimming as we are taking D to meet his dad. He is going to stay with him until Monday. J has already got the days planned out whilst D is away.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Gratefully received

Thursday morning we went to play badminton. J managed to pull a muscle in his arm. Now he knows why a warm up is so important. He won't be cutting his short again. It was good to see the boys manage to get a rally going, although serving was still a bit of a hit and miss affair.

In out Holocaust project we discussed Jacques Lusseyran who was a blind student who helped to produce a French Resistance Newspaper. Under the Nazi regime he would have been put to death along with other disabled people. He felt very strongly that disabled people deserved as good an education as other people. After the war he continued his studies and became a teacher.

Friday was the first ice skating session of the year. It seems such a long time since the boys have been. J had improved so much in his skating over the last few months.

On the way home we called into the library. D had ordered three books on optical illusions and has been having fun with them since. J got out some books about looking after dogs in the hope he will be ready IF we get one. He also got some novels, one by Sandi Tosqvic, Hitler's Budgie which ties in quite well with our project we have been doing.

As I wasn't feeling very well when we got home, D volunteered to cook dinner, an offer gratefully accepted. This is what he produced:
Pasta with tuna in tomato sauce with grated cheese on top. It was really delicious. Thank you

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Kelham Island Museum

I would have some pictures to show, but my phone and computer won't talk to each other tonight.

We have done two more case studies for Holocaust Memorial Day, both from occupied Netherlands. One was Mrs Temenga who provided food for the camp inmates and provided a means of communication between prisoners and their families. The other was Josephus van Bebber. He hid Jews from the Nazis. He was finally caught and executed, but not before he saved 160 Jews.

Today we went to Kelham Island Museum. There were lots of exhibits from steel works, showing the skill that these workers showed and the conditions they worked in. The engines that were used to power the machines were fascinating and have been lovingly restored. A huge steam engine was powered up a midday and the boys couldn't believe how fast the huge pistons moved.

Upstairs there was a transport exhibition with examples of early cars and motobikes. When we moved to Sheffield, the highlights for the boys was the tram. Today we found out that there was a tram system here in the 1800's, so not such a good idea after all.

We will be visiting again later in the year. They are still getting everything restored after the floods in 2007 so more exhibits will be on show soon.

D made me smile this evening. He came down with his fleece draped over the shoulder like a toga. When I commented on the dressing gown underneath, he told me the Romans wore a knee Length tunic underneath anyway. He's been reading a book "100 facts about Ancient Romans". At least it proves he takes in what he is reading.

J has just finished reading Swiss Family Robinson and enjoyed it so much, he is bidding on the DVD on Ebay. He is now onto Robinson Crusoe, so I wonder if he wants a film of that next.

D has also started a painting on canvas. It is one that I bought him a few weeks ago and has the picture printed on it already. It is only the second canvas he has painted on, so should be good practise.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Bug Bazaar

Saturday afternoon, we took a trip to Millennium Galleries in Sheffield. The new exhibition was called Bug Bazaar and it was fascinating.

D was amazed at the cost of some of the pieces that were for sale, but we agreed that we would love the bugs made from stainless steel at £200 a go. Just need to find a spare £200!

There were some absolutely fabulous stump work bugs on balls. The detail was so intricate. The display that puzzled us all was the rat skeleton with bugs hanging around and stuck to it. None of us could work out why someone would want to pay £9000 for it.

The robot bugs were fun though. They were prototypes of the one used in a Harry Potter film.

We did revisit some of the permanent exhibitions. Here is D sketching a picture of some rock. When he came home, he did a painted version using gouache.
As J is interested in survival techniques, he was really interested in the video showing the process of making a bowie knife. It was fascinating seeing a block of steel change into something useful and beautifully crafted.
D watched how a tankard was made and now that is on his wish list.

Friday, 16 January 2009

This week has flown by

I think I blinked and it was the end of the week. Time just seems to have flown by.

Wednesday we went to the cinema and saw Bedtime Stories. We were going to see it last month but didn't get there as the boys were away. We all thoroughly enjoyed it. I don't think D stopped laughing all the way through.

I bought them a National Geographic for Kids mag this week that kept them occupied for a little while. In order to do the competitions, they did some research on polar bears and D wrote a poem.

Here it is:

One day I was on my bike as cheery as a lark
And then my brain decided I should go to the park

I was cycling along and then the hill descended
I hit the kerb and the bike upended
Flying through the air thinking doom impended
I landed on my bike and I was glad my trip had ended

That very day my friends came to call
They said I was the Evil Knievel Fool

On the front of the magazine was a balloon helicopter. D thought this was great but unfortunately, so did Tugger. Balloons don't blow up again once he has caught them! We did some more work on the Holocaust Memorial Day project examining the first case study included. Her name was Simone and her parents were Jehovah's Witnesses and because of their conscientious objections to the Nazi state they were persecuted.

We looked at the Arnold Liebster Foundation website ( which has her experience detailed and some work to do related to her autobiography.

The boys then came up with five rules of conscience to stick to if they were faced with the same issues. Also, they thought about the loyalty to other human beings and if they would be prepared to risk their own lives to protect others.

One of the videos mentioned on the website was Jehovah’s Witnesses Stand Firm Against Nazi Assault. The boys then watched this and could hear first hand from Simone about her and her family's experience.

Next week we will discuss the experience of someone in Cambodia.

J also spent some time on maths this morning and had great fun. He did equations, probability, sequences and general addition and subtraction.

Thursday was swimming with the local home ed group. I think there must still be a lot of sickness around as there were only three families there this week. J managed to swim about 9 widths as well as their usual play.

On the way out we met his MEND instructor who was pleased he was still making progress and delighted with his media appearances. She has been such a great support and a huge motivating force for J to keep going.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Holocaust Memorial Day

Holocaust Memorial Day isn't until the 27th January, but this work on this is likely to take us a couple of weeks, so we started doing this yesterday.

We first discussed what the Holocaust was and the people that were affected by it. The boys were amazed at the number of Jews that were killed at this time. They have done their own pie chart to show the proportion of Jews exterminated during this period.

They also watched the video, Purple Triangles that examined what happened to one family of Jehovah's Witnesses in Nazi Germany.

We then discussed what genocide was in preparation for today's discussion. The genocides discussed were Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda.

The lesson learned from these were that all are based on hate, intolerance and prejudice and can all be manifest even in small ways.

In the coming days we will be discussing case studies of children that lived through these experiences and thinking about what we would have done in similar situations.

It is certainly sobering to consider that each of us could have been put to death either for our religious beliefs, our age, sex or the fact that we wear glasses!

Saturday, 10 January 2009


We had a fantastic day out yesterday at Magna(, even if a little chilly.The building is a converted steel works, so the inside temperature reflects the temperature outside.

There are four main pavilions-Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Also, there is a Big Melt viewing area which tells the story of steel making. It describes the process using sound, light and fire. It is quite spectacular.

There were many different scientific processes explained and demonstrated with lots of hands on exhibits for the boys to try. This was a self raising chair. Unfortunately, D didn't have enough muscle and J gave him a helping hand. When he got to the top, D wasn't quite sure how to get down. Quite simple really, just reverse the process of getting up.

The boys love these human hamster wheels. I would love one in the back garden for them to get rid of excess energy they always seem to have.

J loved this chair. He could change the speed of the spin by raising and lowering his legs.

This was a fire tornado fueled by kerosene. The tornado effect was caused by two fans.
In this section there was also a challenge for the boys. They had to use a electromagnetic crane to pick up crushed cans and fill up a hopper. A certain amount of recycled steel goes into making new steel.
There were also lots of exhibits where you completed electrical circuits to produce heat. Heat also makes steel expand quite a lot, so now the boys know why there are gaps between railway tracks.
One process for making steel using electric probes and the was a small demonstration of how the electrical charge made the steel melt.
D loved this hot air balloon. The height the balloon went, depended on the amount of hot air released. The target was the ceiling.
This picture was taken in the Transformer House. Whenever you walked in it started the electrical charges going. Made for quite a spectacular light show and did wonders for your hair!
The boys favourite section was the earth pavilion. They spent ages playing at working in a quarry. They saw how rock sorters worked and the conveyor belts that transport the rock to different parts of the site. My favourite was being able to plunge the detonator to blow a face of rock. I've always wanted to be the one to do that in demolition. I think this is the closest I will get.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Climate Change week finished

Well, yesterday was freezing in the park. Though the temperature was warmer, the air was damp, so after an hour I was shivering! Ironically, D did more weather vocabulary in Spanish and has been walking around saying "warm and sunny" in Spanish. Oh, if only!

When we came back, the boys did their bar charts for greenhouse gas emissions. D has really enjoyed doing these charts. Today we finished the project. We went over what climate change was and the causes, what we can do to reduce it, the Kyoto agreement and watched a couple of adverts aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

This afternoon we booked out tickets for a visit to Magna Adventure Science Centre. We are going to spend the day there tomorrow but we are not sure we will get to do all we want as there is so much there.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

A radio interview

Today was a 'bits and pieces' day. Both the boys had some of their own study to do and D caught up with his Spanish homework in preparation for tomorrows lesson.

J decided he wanted to make a cake, so last night he chose a recipe that he was going to use. Lunchtime today he followed the instructions and turned out this sponge. Can't wait for a taste tomorrow.

He is promising to make some more. We also did a bit more for our project on global warming. The boys did these pie charts to show what percentage of greenhouse gas emissions were produced by who. The figures used were for the UK in 2003. Tomorrow we are going to represent the same figures using a bar chart.
This afternoon, J and I did a radio interview to be aired on Hallam FM tomorrow. This was to do with the MEND program that J did last year. It is being tied in with the Change for Life initiative that is being publicised at the moment.
The boys say they are going to get up early in the morning to listen to it. Not sure if I will as I hate listening to my own voice.
I am hoping that tomorrow will be a bit warmer as J and I have to spend an hour waiting in the park whilst D has his Spanish lesson.

Monday, 5 January 2009

We've had snow

It was a bit of a surprise this morning to look out of the window and see snow. I'm not sure if it was forecast or not, as I haven't seen the weather forecast for a few days.

We decided it might be a lovely day for a walk in the woods as the sun was shining, so after breakfast, we wrapped ourselves up and went out. The snow was covering a layer of ice in some places, so we had to watch our step until we got into the woods.

As we went into the woods, there was a sign informing of tree thinning that will take place during January and February. This is to maintain the health of the wood and to allow light to filter through to the floor. We will have to wait and see what difference it will make to what we normally see on our walks.It was a surprise to still see fungi still on the tree. As we had found our book on mushrooms and toadstools when we did J's bedroom, we have been able to come home and find out about this one. It's common name is Razor-strop fungus, as in the past they were dried and used for sharpening razors. It grows on birch trees as it Latin name signifies-piptoporus betulinus. Betulinus means 'of birch'.

Although the fungus on this side of the tree was all clear, just around the corner, all the frills were filled with a coating of frosted snow.
After dinner and a warm up, we started on this weeks project-climate change. We started by watching the DVD An inconvenient truth by Al Gore. We will do some more work based on this during the week.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Doing the tourist bit

These photos were taken the last time the boys went to Bristol a couple of weeks ago. Contrary to the way he looks in the photo, D was having a great time. The water behind was in full flow due to the amount of rain there had been. There had been flooding in some places.

J didn't go on the walk as he had managed to catch a cold and the weather wasn't ideal for him to be going out. On Tuesday, the boys went to London with their dad and went to see the Tower of London, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and went for a trip along the Thames. They chose a beautiful sunny day to go.
The boys had wanted to try and get the Guards outside Buckingham Palace to move, but there were too many people there to get close.
They were really excited about going and thoroughly enjoyed the day.
The boys will be back home on Saturday, so next week we will have to start getting back into a routine. I've already planned a couple of places to go this month so watch this space.