Quantum physics, GIMP and slime

C(10) learning to use GIMP
C(10) learning to use GIMP

I was going to write about our family’s approach to screen time last week. I must have been writing further outside my comfort zone than I realised, because I kept procrastinating and – well – here I am ten days later with a post about some other fun stuff we’ve been doing recently. Quantum physics, computer art and an old favourite, slime.


C(10) had a friend to sleep over on Thursday.  I find weekday playdates a great excuse to try fun projects we’ve been meaning to get around to. This week we made slime with borax, using Sci-Toys’ fun with boron recipe.  Everyone found it very cool to see their slime instantly coagulate when they added borax solution to their glue.

Pretty slime. I love food colouring.

The older kids looked at the structure of the borax molecule and we talked about polymer cross-linking. Our slime didn’t turn out like the shop-bought kind. It wasn’t as stretchy and snapped more easily. We’ll have to experiment some more. 😉

Do you know a good slime recipe? What makes for stretchier slime? I’m hoping one of these polymer recipes will work.

While making their slime, my kids reminisced about the many times they’ve mixed cornflour and water. C(10)’s friend had never made cornflour gak, so while I cleared away the borax mess, they made a bowlful each which they happily played with for ages.

Unschooling science - making slime
The best activities are always the messiest

Quantum physics

J(8) asked to learn about quantum physics this term, which led us to the Uncle Albert trilogy. In the first of these entertaining chapter books Uncle Albert and his niece Gedanken discover the theory of relativity. The second book is about black holes and the shape of the Uncle Albert and the Quantum QuestUniverse. And in the third book, Uncle Albert and the Quantum Quest, Gedanken finds herself in (Lewis Carroll’s) Wonderland, where she becomes small enough to examine close up the behaviour of electrons, photons and other tiny atomic components.

All three of us enjoyed the Uncle Albert books immensely. We now know a great deal more than we did about the science of the very big and the very small. We had fun testing our knowledge in the quizzes weaved into the end of each story.

On busy days when we have to leave the house at, say, 10AM, it’s easy to round everyone up for a few chapters of a good book (compared with, say, an open-ended maths session). Which makes for efficient use of time (and better maths later in the day, with a relaxed mum who isn’t watching the clock).  (How do people manage to get everyone out of the house for school by 8AM?)

What will we read next? It might be Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities and Thought Experiments. Or perhaps The Mystery of the Periodic Table.

Learning to draw with GIMP

C(10) has spent many hours over the last few weeks creating art on the computer.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen my all-rounder daughter so passionate about one thing. She’s inspired by Canadian (homeschooled) artist Fin, whose FinsGraphics YouTube channel she’s been following for a long time.

Like Fin, C(10) likes to create Minecraft-style “blockhead” art. Fin uses Photoshop, but C(10) has found she can do most of what he does using the free GIMP software instead.

Watching C(10) learn how to use GIMP has been interesting. The complex interface frustrated her at first.  So I grabbed a computer and sat down alongside her, and we figured it out as we went along.

When C(10) saw me researching my queries I think she realised that (1) you need a bit more than intuition to use this kind of software, but (2) all the information you need is out there if you know how to look for it. Good learning.

Unschooling - computer art with GIMP
Blockhead art by C(10)
Unschooling - Computer art with GIMP
C(10)’s drawing of YouTuber Mumbo Jumbo

Here’s the picture I made on that first day we messed around together. I’m not at all artistic so I’m rather pleased with it as a first attempt, but you can see how unpolished it is compared with C(10)’s – that’s all the manual work-arounds I had to resort to because I don’t know my way around GIMP.

Unschooling - Learning computer art with GIMP
My GIMP picture (inspired by an avatar I found online but can’t find now, oops)

As well as leaving me behind on GIMP, C(10) has been using social media to share her creations with her global artist network in a way that has left me feeling rather technologically backward. Oh well, at least I know where to go for help.

March woods collage
We’ve  been enjoying the  recent spring weather too, playing outdoors with friends. (Although following our strange, wet winter it looks more like autumn, with all the leaves  still on the ground.)

I’ll keep at it with the screen time post. 😉


I’m appreciatively linking up here:

The Hip Homeschool Hop

Entertaining and Educational at Highhill Homeschool

Collage Friday at Homegrown Learners

Weekly wrap-up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom

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30 thoughts on “Quantum physics, GIMP and slime

  1. We ordered one of the Uncle Albert books, and your other recommendations have all been great, so I’m really excited to read it with the kids. I liked the Mystery of the Periodic Table, but haven’t gotten to chemistry yet, so I haven’t read it with the kids. It’s a good one and would go well with your slime experimentation.

    1. Julie, I hope you like the Uncle Albert books as much as we did. We have jumped right into the Mystery of the Periodic Table. I’m afraid I’m not very organised when it comes to keeping subjects in order. I’m counting on my children managing to make all the connections eventually!

  2. C(10) is certainly way advanced in computer-generated art! I tend to shy away from computer-generated art and stick with the more traditional, hand-drawn art. But I’m very old-schooled anyway. 🙂 I like her art, which is full of character. Quatum physics is not on our radar, but it’s handy to know that there are interesting resources for children to learn about this topic.

    1. Thank you, Hwee. Yes, I know what you mean about computer art. There is something lovely about creating art with “real” media. And it is certainly a lot less complicated! But computer art has certainly captured C’s imagination so I guess it is here to stay in our house!

      I am constantly amazed by the plethora of interesting resources available for almost every subject. Aren’t we lucky to be able to pick and choose the ones that appeal to our families? (Rather than being stuck with the texts that a bunch of education adminstrators have selected.)

  3. You are finding ways to have fun and use that double order of borax! :o)

    I’m hoping to do science experiments once a week next year! fun!!

    1. LOL – yes, Angie, I think you reminded me about the borax – thank you! I will look forward to reading about your science experiments.:-)

  4. Lucinda,

    What an interesting post! I want to make some slime just for myself. Oh I can just imagine squeezing it through my fingers! And I must find out more about those physics books. I love reading science books aimed at kids. I have a chance of understanding the concepts! Your Gimp artwork is very impressive. Are you using the mouse to draw with? If you are, I am extra impressed (if that’s possible!) I have hardly any control with a mouse. Charlotte is using a graphics pad and loving its flexibility.

    1. Sue, I feel exactly the same about kids’ science books. Although I think my children retain more of the information than I do. I was excited to see an Alan Davies documentary on string theory recommended for 9+ year olds and made a note to watch it with C and J. Then I realised I’d watched it before, a few years ago. Perhaps I will remember more from a second viewing!

      Thank you for your compliments about our Gimp art. C is using a graphics pad. She had mentioned that Fin (of FinsGraphics) uses one, and it so happened that James had an old one in a box in his office – C was so thrilled when he brought it out. I drew my picture on paper and scanned it in. But I think for that to work well you have to select the drawing as a layer of its own, and I haven’t fully got to grips with layers yet. I will have to ask C to explain them to me. I love Charlotte’s art. She inspired me to want to learn to use the airbrush tool!

  5. This time i’m letting the children dictate the message:
    Oldest: Does this mean that i can secretly slime people’s beer by carrying borax and glue with me?
    Youngest: Mumbo Jumbo has a great moustache. :))
    Lovely post! We’ll have to check out the book recommendation. Looks very interesting. Thanks for sharing..

    1. LOL, Loraine!

      C says “thanks!” to Youngest, and “Yes – great idea!” to Oldest, although her father jumped in at that point with cautionary words. 🙂 You guys would love the books.

  6. Sorry it’s taken me so long to leave a comment. I read the post in my email feed but am really struggling for any spare time at the moment!
    T devoured those physics books. Have you seen there are some available from Stephen Hawkings and his daughter – science through science fiction, I think. They’re on my list but I don’t know if they’re any good. they look like they are written in a similar vein to Uncle Albert.
    The graphics look amazing, you’re all so clever!

    1. Thank you, Claire – your cheerful comments are always welcome, no matter when. I’m amazed you find time to read anyone else’s blogs at all with all you do and write yourself!
      We read the first Stephen and Lucy Hawkings book, George’s Secret Key to the Universe a couple of years ago. It was okay but I didn’t find it especially well written so that I don’t think we made it quite to the end. Perhaps we should give it another go, I see they get 5 stars on Amazon. A friend recommended the Mr Tomkinson books, and I discovered that they have been revised and updated by Russell Stannard, the author of the Uncle Albert books so I ordered The New World of Mr Tompkins. It looks excellent but is a big step up from the Uncle Albert books eg it contains physics equations. Your son might enjoy it though.

  7. What a great week!!! Keilee loves Gimp and she ADORES Quantum Physics. Go figure! I always love seeing all the amazing things you do with your kids. As always it makes me wish Kei was 10 again…or 8….or 6. 🙂 Happy weekend!

    1. You and Keilee are my homeschool role models, Karen! When I see how much Keilee learns and how happy and radiant she always looks, it reassures me we are on the right path with interest-led learning. 🙂

  8. Great post as usual. We learned at the science center that the slime will come out slightly different (and my kids thought better) using clear glue instead of plain old white glue. I love when they start at slime and move on to gak.
    In case you’re interested I thought this comic http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?f=1691
    was a really interesting way to explain the big bang theory. I found myself flummoxed by the whole gravitational wave news and thought the illustration / comic helped.

    1. Thank you, Carol. Yes I’d like to try clear glue. We don’t have Elmers School Glue over here but I’m sure we have an equivalent. I knew it affected the opacity/transparency of the slime but that’s interesting that it also affects how well the slime comes out.
      Thanks so much for the link – that’s right up our street!

  9. I’ve never heard of the Uncle Albert books – thank you! I’m going to see if our library has them.

    Messy science is the most fun, I know my children agree, though outdoor science is a close runner up.

    Screen time – ahh, the bugaboo of family bloggers. Everyone is different and for some reason everyone can’t accept that it’s okay to be different. 😉 Good luck with finishing the post!

    1. Thanks, Tristan! Isn’t it funny about screen time? Perhaps it’s because we are all a little insecure about whether we’re doing it right, so we find alternate approaches slightly unnerving! But you’re right, every family is different and every child is different so no one approach is going to work across the board.

  10. The Uncle Albert books look fun.

    Both of your attempts at GIMP turned out good (obviously his is more practiced), but they’re both good.

  11. Isn’t it funny that oozy stuff can keep kids, even older ones, busy for a very long time? My kids could play with the cornstarch/water stuff for an afternoon! We’ve also done the Elephant’s Toothpaste and went through a lot of supplies doing that.

    I have NEVER heard of GIMP! Wonder if my kids have??

    1. Yep – oozy stuff is fun however old you are I think, Jessy! 😀

      I’d never heard of Gimp either until my techy husband suggested it to C(10) as a free version of Photoshop. It’s brilliant. Maybe one day I will actually learn how to use it to edit photos!

    1. Thank you, Phyllis. I’ve found so many great resources from other bloggers, so I always try to link to as many as possible of those that we’ve found helpful.

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