Archive for ‘Homeschool Activities’

April 20, 2015

Find me elsewhere

I have written two installments in a new series on the home / school / life magazine. This series, At Home with the Editors, is a look into Amy’s and my homeschool. Though we feel strongly that every family has to figure out what works best for them, we also thought it might be a good idea to let our readers know how we do it too.

So, check out Shelli’s Homeschool for a snapshot of how I educate my boys and all the curriculum resources we have used thus far, and then read Shelli’s Project-Based Homeschool for a good summary of how project-based homeschooling has worked in our home and the valuable lessons I have learned from it so far. To read all the posts in this series (because Amy is writing some pretty helpful stuff too), click here.

February 23, 2015

Art Fridays: Homeschool Art Lessons

I was pleasantly surprised that they got into my lesson about still life.

If I had more time, I would write a post after each art session, but instead I’m trying to catch up this homeschool year on my blog. (This is why I’ve been posting more lately, or actually, why I scheduled a bunch of posts over a few days in early February. Those will eventually run out. As you can see, I blog in spurts. Or between magazine issues. :) )

So here’s a little assemblage of various “art days” that usually take place on Fridays, though art is not restricted to that day. The boys do a lot of art projects on their own, but Fridays are the days when I initiate something, and sometimes I try to teach them a new technique and tell them about an artist who used that technique. I am neither an artist, nor do I know a lot about art, so I have used a few resources to help me out. My favorite go-to resource for this has been Amy Hood’s Art Together e-zine.

Some Fridays when I’m not (ahem) prepared, I say things like “My only requirement of you today is to draw a picture in your sketchbook.” (This usually results in more than one piece of artwork.) Or one morning, I woke up early and had already started to paint some of the nature collection that my son had left on the table the day before. When my boys saw me doing that, they immediately wanted to join me. (I didn’t know that this is called a “provocation” until I read Amy Hood’s recent art column in home / school / life.)

Sometimes I try to teach the boys a new technique, and they are not interested in doing the project, such as when I showed them Joseph Cornell’s art boxes (via Art Together). Usually they want to do something else like paint or draw. This is fine. Unlike math and reading, I don’t require them to do the art lessons because I think art should be fun and voluntary. When they see me produce the art, they are still learning about that technique, and they learn a new possibility.

Looking back over these art sessions, I’m reminded that there was a time when I felt like our homeschool was desperately missing out on art. Because of that, I was intentional about starting “Art Fridays.” I’m so pleased with how this has turned out, and I think my boys have benefitted from it greatly. Of course, there are other things I feel like we are missing out on, such as Spanish lessons or belonging to a big homeschool group, but alas, one thing at a time. As many homeschool moms have told me, you can’t do everything, and you shouldn’t worry about doing everything, and someday you may look back and realize you did more than enough.

Click on an image to enlarge and read the caption. Also, a big thanks to Mo Akwati for his tutorial on how to draw a moth, which my dissatisfaction of my own drawing inspired him to do.

 

February 16, 2015

Project-based Homeschooling: Pottery Class Update

I’ve written extensively about my eight-year-old’s interest in working with clay and his pottery classes. I thought I would update you with some of his latest work from his pottery class this past fall. It was an eight-week class that was extended for an additional three weeks. He had a different instructor this time, which I think was a positive experience because he learned new and different techniques. He learned hand-building and wheel techniques.

I don’t have photographs of everything he made. Here are just a few items, including my favorite sculpture: his two-headed chameleon. What impressed me about this work is that he didn’t copy what the teacher was making — he came up with his own idea. (He told me he changed his mind a few times before he settled on a chameleon.) And then he sculpted it from memory! At home he will usually look up a photo of an animal to draw or sculpt, but in the class, he didn’t have access to the Internet, so he did this from his own knowledge of what chameleons look like. I am not sure I could have done that!

He told me that he sculpted one head, but then at the last minute, he thought, “Maybe I’ll do two heads.” Okay, then! What an imagination! I think it turned out fantastic.

By the way, these photographs were taken with my phone. In my next post, I’ll tell you what my five-year-old and I did while the eight-year-old was in class. :)

 

I love the final product.

Here you can see a few pieces that were made on a potter’s wheel. The tall one on the left was made by a method of stacking more than one pot thrown on the wheel. He also learned about raku firing, which is a Japanese way of firing pottery.  I learned that raku firing does not make a pot safe to eat out of! The two-headed chameleon and the small bowl in the back right of this photo were raku fired. The raku firing can give a pot a metallic look, which can be beautiful.

I especially like that they make him clean up!

He opted to take a break from pottery this spring, but he says he wants to take a summer camp at the pottery studio. Since this is his project and interest, we’ll support whatever he wants to do (as long as we can afford it). I hope he sticks to it, but only the future will tell!

November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Wreath

This is a Thanksgiving wreath that my son made last year…. 

We’re having a cozy Thanksgiving at home this year, and the only true activity we are doing besides cooking, eating, and reading our Thanksgiving books is make this autumn wreath out of cotton, natural items from our yard and natural items that my son’s cousin sent him last year from his yard in Colorado (a very cool X-mas present)! My son arranged these on some cardboard I cut in shape of a wreath and glued them down himself with a hot glue gun. 

For more autumn and Thanksgiving activities to do with young children, you can read the post I wrote two years ago: November & Thanksgiving Activities With Small Children.  If you have any activities you want to share, feel free to post a link in the comments section.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I want you to know how thankful I am that you have taken the time to read my blog. I hope you are warm, safe, loved and happy.

August 8, 2013

Summer Scavenger Hunts

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on Wednesday, August 7, 2013.

If you need some more activities to do with your children on these long summer days, try a scavenger hunt. Earlier this summer I made one up for my six- and three-year-old, and they had a blast. Kids love to have a mission.

I gave my six-year-old a list of ten items, and little did he know that I hoped he’d put some effort into reading the list. I was right – the game motivated him to read, and the three-year-old was in charge of carrying the bag, which he was proud to do.

My list included things they would have to search for inside and outside the house. I tried to think of fun things that my son likes too: A little seed, flower from the woods, pinecone, big seed, red crayon, string, little ball, something purple, something blue, and a bug.

I was worried that they would find everything in ten minutes, but my list was just the right size – it gave me about 45 minutes to sit on the porch and read! They were very proud of themselves when they reported back to me with all the loot.

Another variation of this game is great for preschoolers learning their numbers. When the six-year-old was four, I used to write the numbers 1-10 in chalk on the sidewalk. Then I would put dots under the numbers, which represented the amount. One dot under the number one, two dots under the number two, and so forth.

Then we would find things around the yard to put on top of the dots: one toy car, two flowers, three leaves, four twigs, five acorns, and so on…  He always had fun doing that.

Last year my sister-in-law sent the boys a Venn diagram with lots of fun trinkets for Valentine’s Day, and my boys loved it. We sorted those trinkets a half a dozen times. The other day I thought I would put a summer twist on it.

A Venn diagram is a visual way of sorting and comparing a group of things. Draw two or more circles and overlap them. Each circle will be labeled with one characteristic. If an object has that characteristic, it will go into one circle. If it has two characteristics, it will go in the area where the circles overlap.  If it doesn’t have any of the characteristics, it will go outside the circles. Is that clear as mud?

Let me explain.  I drew three big, overlapping circles with chalk on the pavement, and I labeled one “brown,” one “hard,” and one “curved.” Then the boys and I looked around the yard for what we could find with those characteristics. The first thing the boys picked up was a twig. It was brown, hard and curved, so it went in the middle of the diagram where all the circles overlapped.

A rock wasn’t brown, but it was hard and curved, so it went in the space where the circles “hard” and “curved” overlapped. We decided that a flower and a green leaf were only “curved”, so they went in that circle.

My son thought we should add a circle labeled “green,” so we tried that. After awhile, it was hard to find different kinds of objects outside, so I think this activity might have been more fun using toys or a variety of indoor and outdoor objects. It kept my sons busy for a few minutes, but the best part is that it got them outside, and as they searched the yard, other things caught their attention. Before I knew it, they were off exploring and playing on their own.

Do you love scavenger hunts? What versions do you play?

March 29, 2013

How to Make a Terrarium

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on March 27, 2013.

If you’re eager to plant some greenery, but you’re still waiting for the threat of frost to pass, you might enjoy making a terrarium for inside the house. My plant-loving six-year-old found instructions in First Nature Activity Book by DK Publishing, and he asked if we could make one. I didn’t see why not.

Luckily for me, it’s fairly simple to make.  Here’s what you need: a clear container with a wide neck and an air-tight cover, small pebbles, charcoal, peat-based potting soil, small ferns, different types of moss, lichen-covered twigs or bark.

We had the charcoal, and we had plenty of moss, lichen and small ferns growing in shady spots in our yard, but we didn’t have the other ingredients. At the garden store, I bought a bag of pebbles and the peat-based potting soil. At the pet store, I found a medium-sized Kritter Keeper, and I lined the top with cellophane to make it airtight. A decorative glass container would be prettier but more expensive, or you could easily use an old aquarium.

When you let the kids do the work, they have fun cleaning up after themselves. (Sometimes.)

First, line the bottom of the container with enough pebbles to cover it evenly.  The pebbles are there for drainage. Next, add a layer of charcoal. We put in a fairly thin layer, but we covered the pebbles completely and evenly.

This is not the way I recommend you put in the charcoal. By pouring it in, it covered the walls with black soot and we had to clean them. Just be more careful.

My six-year-old had fun when I put some pieces of charcoal in a baggie and let him pound them on the sidewalk with a hammer to break them into tiny pieces.  The charcoal is supposed to act as a filter, keeping the terrarium smelling good. I have read different opinions online about whether it’s needed or not, but for a closed terrarium, it’s probably a good idea.

Next, add a thick layer of the peat-based potting soil, but leave plenty of space for the plants. Now the terrarium is ready for the plants.

We had to do some trimming.

We found all our plants in our yard. There was a small, pretty wild plant growing next to our house under the monkey grass, and I never had the heart to pull it out. I thought we’d give it a chance in the terrarium even though I have no idea what it is.

I also found an offshoot of some Japanese painted fern, which I had planted years ago near our front porch.  My six-year-old and three-year-old had a great time going around the yard collecting moss – much more than we needed.  We also found a small piece of bark with lichen growing on it.

As we arranged the plants inside the terrarium, I decided my son needed a lesson in garden design so that he wouldn’t crowd everything together. Later, I also read that we shouldn’t put too much moss into the terrarium so that the moss doesn’t overpower the small plants.

Once the terrarium is finished, you need to water it well, but after that, you only need to use a spray bottle once in a while to mist the plants and soil. Keep the lid open until the sides of the container have no more water droplets on them, and then shut it tight.

The terrarium needs to sit in a well-lit area, but no direct sunlight should fall on it.  Remember, these are shade plants.  Fertilizer isn’t needed either.  You don’t want the plants to grow too big, and when they start to get too big or the leaves touch the sides of the container, you’ll need to trim them.

After a few days, I noticed our plants looked a little brown and yellow, so I snipped off those leaves and hoped for the best.  Now, it’s looking good, and I’ve noticed some new growth on the wild, unidentified plant and the moss!

This was a fun, easy project, and it’s a perfect for children who enjoy planting or who are learning about plants.

Have you ever made a terrarium? 

November 24, 2012

The Junior Ranger Program

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on Wednesday, November 21, 2012. 

Ever since I learned about the Junior Ranger Program, I’ve been looking forward to when my son could participate.  Any child age 6-12 can participate, and it’s a great way to get outdoors, explore nature and learn about Georgia’s history.  It’s also a good way to teach about setting goals and working toward something.

In order to participate, all you have to do is pick up a copy of the Junior Ranger Activity Book at any Georgia State Park or Historic Site office.  You can also download the book online in pdf format at http://www.gastateparks.org/JuniorRanger

The book has a series of activities for children to complete, and a checklist for an adult to initial when they complete each activity.  Adults can help children with the activities.  There are three levels, and upon completion of each level, children will receive a junior ranger badge to display proudly wherever they want.

Level 1 is recommended for ages 6-7, and they must complete seven of the activities.  Level 2 is for ages 8-10 and requires 10 activities to be completed. Level 3 is for ages 11-12, and they must complete 14 of the activities.  Children may use the same booklet for each level, and the activities they did for their first level can count towards the next, if they want them to.

There’s information in the booklet for parents to read to the children so that they’ll become aware of things to stay away from when they hit the trails, such as poison ivy and venomous snakes. It tells you how to prepare and be safe while exploring the wilderness.  After this, there are several pages of activities for the children to complete.  Each page gives separate instructions for each level of participation.  My son is working on his first badge, Level 1, so the activities are fairly easy.

Some of the activities my son has done so far are identifying Georgia pine trees, taking a guided walking tour, observing wildlife, and visiting a historical site.  He only needs to complete three more activities to obtain his badge.

There are plenty to choose from.  He might identify plant and animal life in a body of water, or go fishing, go on a plant scavenger hunt, visit one more historical site, observe the night sky, or identify at least two nocturnal animals.  If my son isn’t into any of that, there are some other choices too.

With 63 sites statewide and a site 50 miles of every Georgia resident, it should not be hard for any child to participate in this program, especially since participants can take as long as they need to complete the activities.  You don’t have to do the activities in a state park either, although some of the activities such as visiting a historical site might require that.

When completed, all they need to do is present their checklist at any Georgia State Park or Historic Site office, or there’s an address in the booklet to mail the page to.  Participants who mail their page in will receive their badge in 2-4 weeks.

Occasionally there are Junior Ranger day camps or workshops that participants can attend.  These usually happen in the summer, and will be listed on the Georgia State Park and Historical Sites calendar of events: http://www.gastateparks.org/events.

Recently they have also started a Get Outdoors Georgia Gopher Badge too.  This is for kids 7-14 years old, and there’s a separate list of fun requirements for this badge too.  You can download the requirements for this badge here: http://www.getoutdoorsgeorgia.org/downloads/JrRangerGopherBadge.pdf.

If you are interested in this program, you’ll also want to subscribe to the Junior Ranger E-newsletter.  My son receives it at his own e-mail address, and he has fun reading about wildlife, viewing photos and doing some of the suggested activities.

For families able to travel, there’s also a Junior Ranger Program for the National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/learn/juniorranger.cfm.  I don’t know when we’ll get a chance to visit a national park, but my son has had fun using their on-line Junior Ranger program.  Children can play more than 50 games and learn about our national parks, monuments and historic sites. The website also tracks the children’s progress.

Whether you have some Junior Rangers in your house or not, I hope you get a chance to get outside and experience the healing qualities of nature this holiday season.

November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

{Thanksgiving Wreath}

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends!  

We’re having a cozy Thanksgiving at home this year, and the only true activity we did besides cooking, eating, and reading our Thanksgiving books was make this autumn wreath out of cotton, natural items from our yard and natural items that my son’s cousin sent him last year from his yard in Colorado (a very cool X-mas present)! My son arranged these on some cardboard I cut in shape of a wreath and glued them down himself with a hot glue gun. (This idea and the cotton was courtesy of Dotty at the William Harris Homestead – thanks, Dotty!)

For more autumn and Thanksgiving activities to do with young children, you can read the post I wrote last year: November & Thanksgiving Activities With Small Children.  If you have any activities you want to share, feel free to post a link in the comments section.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I want you to know how thankful I am that you have taken the time to read my blog. I hope you are warm, safe, loved and happy.

 

September 29, 2012

Native American Day

Yesterday was Native American Day, and since my son has shown interest in learning about Native Americans in the past, I thought he would enjoy commemorating the day.  These are just a few easy things I was able to do without much planning.

(We have checked out library books on Native Americans in the past, so I didn’t feel the need to do it again. If you are interested, however, there’s a wonderful series that starts each title with “If you lived with…”  They are for older children, but my six-year-old enjoyed listening to me read parts of those books.)

  • We read a book from our own library, The Very First Americans.  We’ve read it several times, and it’s a great starter book for understanding who the Native Americans are.
  • I had my son watch this very short video on National Geographic.
  • We did this totem pole craft that you can see in the photo.  My son loved it, and he’s very proud of his creation!  You can get the easy instructions and template here.

This is my son’s story he made up for his totem pole: The eagle at the top is protecting a lake from the two monsters (just below him).  The two faces on the bottom help the eagle protect the lake and keep the monsters from stealing all the water from the animals!  Well, he told it much better, but you get the drift!

There were also some cool events happening at some Georgia State Parks today, but we’ve been so busy, I needed a day at home!  I also think it’ll be easier to attend things like that when my three-year-old gets a little older.

What are your plans this weekend? 

 

August 27, 2012

Gardening Experiment Success

{Growing Pinto Beans In a Jar}

Remember the pinto beans my son sprouted in a jar?  Well, we planted a few of the sprouts in our garden, and a couple of them have been growing well and are giving us beans!  Unfortunately, they have caterpillars eating the leaves right now, so that means we’ll have to learn a lot more about organic gardening in the future.  But I’m tickled pink that we got something to grow!  My six-year-old is very happy too!

UPDATE: I just found these instructions on how to harvest pinto beans!

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