Educating Outside the Box

Bit of a rejig

Over the last couple of weeks it has became painfully obvious that the Schemes of Work on the Pearson web site were not properly updated for the new course specifications, critically the Student Books, and continuing with them was going to make things unnecessarily complicated. So I’ve reworked everything from the student books combining Biology and Human Biology into one subject. Not integrated totally, just doing chapters from one and then the other. Biology (B) 1 Life Processes, Human Biology (HB) 1 Cells, HB2 Movement of Substances into and out of Cells, HB3 Biological Molecules, B2 The Variety of Living Organisms etc. There’s going to be a fair bit of going over stuff but there’s no harm in that.

Chemistry and Physics aren’t so bad, at least they don’t seem to be, the schemes of work so far have run fairly close to the student books so using the books as the order going forward isn’t going to mean recovering ground.

There’s still going to be some confusion because the Pearson revision books we have are for the old spec and the Hodder Education (9-1) workbooks are in a totally different order so I’ll have to pick and choose individual questions as we go along. Oh and nobody does revision or workbooks for Human Biology at all. Ah well, we’ll muddle through.

On the resources front A has found a cool site (while using Google to help her create revision cards) called Quizlet which has online flash cards on almost any subject you can think of. We’ve both signed up and it looks like it’s going to be very useful.

Human Biology - week 4

Genetic engineering

Video GCSE Biology Revision: Genetically-modified organisms
Video Genetic Engineering Will Change Everything Forever – CRISPR
Video Why Do We Make Glowing Rats?
Video Genetically Engineered Cancer-Fighting Algae

Student Book pg 16 (Genetic Engineering) - pg 21

Biology - week 4

Stem cells and differentiation

Video - Stem Cells (SciShow)
Video - Specialized Cells: Significance and Examples (Amoeba Sisters)
Video - How Cells Become Specialized (More Amoeba Sisters)

ABPI web site section on Stem Cells

Biology Student Book pg 18 (Cell division & Differentiation) - 21

ABPI Stem Cell Poster (I requested a free physical copy a few weeks back but you can download it here)

iPlayer: The Human Body: Secrets of Your Life Revealed part 1 (there’s a free poster you can request from the OU. Standard procedure is that once they’ve run out of copies you’ll be able to download it here)

The BBC documentary touches on stem cells but it’s mostly on this week’s Biology list because it’s current and generally interesting with loads of cool CGI. Human Biology day has The Brain with David Eagleman for the next 5 weeks, unless I can convince A to binge watch it.

Human Biology - week 3

The Student Book had finally arrived and here’s a blog friendly version of the email I sent A:

Video - DNA Structure and Function
Video - DNA Replication: The Cell’s Extreme Team Sport

Amoeba Sisters activity sheets - 2 on DNA Replication (I printed them out & you can find them here)

Video - Why RNA is Just as Cool as DNA
Video - Protein Synthesis and the Lean, Mean Ribosome Machines

Amoeba Sisters activity sheets - 2 on DNA vs RNA and Protein Synthesis (here)

Video - Mutations: The Potential Power of a Small Change

Amoeba Sisters activity sheets - 2 on Mutations (here) You’ll also need an mRNA codons chart like this.

Read Student Book pages 5 - 11 (stop at Cell Division)

Info page with animations - Protein synthesis

Activity - Make model of DNA with pipe cleaners and beads (which was a nice idea but the rest of it took longer than expected so she didn’t bother with the model)

Human Biology - intro & weeks 1 - 2

Following the same pattern as Biology here’s the specification and support materials and the scheme of work.

The Edexcel International GCSE (9-1) Human Biology Student Book: print and ebook bundle didn’t actually turn up until AFTER we’d started and there isn’t a revision book at all. No doubt all down to it being a less commonly offered course in schools.

Week 1
A couple of the recommended videos from the Scheme of work Structure and function of the electron microscope not exactly thrill packed and Cell Biology Under Microscope this one seems like something from the 1950s but A watched them anyway. Since the Student Book hadn’t arrived she copied a simple animal cell from the Biology book.

Week 2
The Student Book still hadn’t arrived.
Video - DNA and RNA - Part 1
Video - DNA and RNA - Part 2

Don’t worry, things get better in week 3.

Biology - intro & weeks 1 to 3

Largely because of the availability of Human Biology as a separate subject we opted for the Edexcel IGCSE (Specification and support materials here).

I’m basing each week’s work on the Scheme of work (docx file) supplied by Pearson. It assumes 2 hours of teaching time per week over 60 weeks but as you can imagine that’s not massively helpful as a guide for home ed. In some ways you can get it done quicker, but add in an occasional 1 hour documentary and the kind of activities that schools would set as homework and I’m timetabling in 4 hours just to be safe. If it takes less to cover the material great, if it takes longer then it takes longer.

Things are likely to get a little muddled at first as there’s a fair bit of overlap between biology and human biology to begin with, like the structure of animal cells and it took a while to get ourselves organised.

First the basic resources. I got the Edexcel International GCSE (9-1) Biology Student Book: print and ebook bundle and Edexcel International GCSE (IGCSE) Biology Revision Guide with Student CD. Then, since we only had a cheepo kiddy microscope, I splashed out on an Apex Researcher Microscope and Minigrab. Expensive but you get what you pay for and this baby is awesome (yes I’m a geek). There are other books and materials in the house which will probably come in handy but I’ll mention them as and when we use them.

Since I didn’t start with the email list idea at the beginning I’m going to combine what I can remember into one post.

Week 1
DVD - Life on Earth episode 1 - once you get past the lack of CGI it’s still covering the basics and I have the whole series so why not.
A wrote out 8 characteristics of living things for her folder and read the Student Book pages on the 5 major groups of living organisms. Collected some water from one of the garden ponds and spent a while with the microscope looking at the things living in it.

Week 2
Video Viruses and Bacteria: What’s the difference and who cares anyway? - Plain and Simple Very funny and it’s such a pity that this is a vet channel and there isn’t more on general biology. Have to admit that we let things slide a bit this week, and didn’t really cover the scheme of work beyond reading the Student Book largely because it was all pretty much familiar material but she’ll need to go back over this with some activities at the end of the section just to be sure.

Week 3
Video Introduction to Cells: The Grand Cell Tour
Printed out the worksheets for this video.
Also printed out the Animal Cell, Plant Cell and Bacteria Cell worksheets from the Cells Alive web site. A filled in what she could watching the Amoeba Sisters video and then used the interactive cell models on this site to finish off.

Home Ed the teen years

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted anything here. I guess it’s just a feature of home educating a teen, all those visits and projects and social events that filled the pre-teen years and lend themselves to blog posts just don’t happen any more. I follow the #HomeEd and #HomeEducation tags on Twitter and go a little bit misty eyed and sentimental, remembering when we used to do those sorts of things.

Well, time marches on. I’d told A that I would ONLY require she take 2 GCSEs, Maths and English Language, because so many jobs ask for them and they’re fairly fundamental. I know that’s not strictly autonomous, but other than that I said she didn’t need to do anything else unless it was required for whatever career she picked. To spread things out nicely she started the Maths course 2 years early so she could take the exams before even starting the English course. So far, so relaxed.

Then she announced she wants to be a doctor. No, seriously she really wants to be one and declares herself willing to do the work to achieve that. “Oh bother” thinks me and off to the internet to find out what qualifications she’ll need to get into university to study medicine. We now have a 5 year plan involving a bunch of I/GCSEs and A levels (attending the local 6th Form college for the last 2 years) and DoE awards and assorted other things that’ll look good on her application.

So far she’s started IGCSE Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Human Biology and is into the second year of Maths GCSE (exams next summer). Which brings me to right now, taking a break from planning Biology for this week, trawling through YouTube for helpful videos on Stem Cells and the rest of the internet for other resources while she’s in her room making a start on today’s Physics.

I’ve found a few gems already, like The Amoeba Sisters, A loves them and they made cell structures and DNA replication understandable and even a bit fun! Once I’ve got together the plan for the day I email it to A so she’s got the video links handy on her laptop and knows what she’s got to get done. It’s working well so far and I though, if I’m putting it in an email why not stick it in a blog post incase someone else might find it useful, and so that’s exactly what I’m going to do …

AQA GCSE Maths

This academic year we’re going to make a start on the AQA GCSE Maths (8300 spec) course with the intention of A sitting the exams when they start in summer 2017. I ordered the text book and the homework book which duly arrived and gosh darn but it’s “powered by MyMaths.co.uk” and the AQA web site promises all sorts of support materials … only, no. No, as it turns out MyMaths.co.uk only allows schools to subscribe and AQA will only let school teachers register for all their free stuff. If you home educate you’re on your own.

(insert mumbled swearing under breath)

Plan B - go through the workbook and map each subject against the materials in the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching - Mathematics Enhancement Program (MEP for short). We used their courses for years 7, 8 and 9 and at a first glance there’s not much in this GCSE that we haven’t already covered. MEP is free. MEP doesn’t mind if you home educate.

(edited Sept 2017)

Just look at the dust and cobwebs!

Has it really been nearly three years since I last posted to this blog? How time flies!

Looking back at those old posts full of battles with national government and SCC it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago, but I guess it is. Three years of peace and quiet and being allowed to get on with the day to day business of home educating without feeling we have to justify ourselves to anyone. Bliss.

I don’t plan on blogging here regularly but the site clearly needs a serious spring clean. There are broken links on the HE Groups page and things like the HE News page is so, so old that I might just rename it as an archive.

Consultation on new Surrey County Council EHE Policy

Today home educators known to Surrey County Council will (Post Office permitting) have received a copy of the DRAFT EHE policy [pdf] with a cover letter [pdf] explaining that the consultation will run until 30th September. There is to be a ‘feedback meeting’ on Wednesday 29th June (or Thursday 30th for GRT parents) or you can send written comments via Angela Lee (see cover letter for details).

As usual, if you are ‘unknown’ and feel nervous about communicating directly you can send your comments to me to pass on anonymously.