Gift Ideas for Home Educators

Someone’s first Christmas

{Gift Ideas for Children} {Gift Ideas for Homeschoolers} {Gift Ideas for Anyone!}

This is a post I wrote two years ago. I thought it might help you (and me) as we get ready for this holiday, gift-giving season! I have added a few resources & checked all the links. Enjoy!

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Do you have homeschooled children on your gift list this holiday season?  Or some precocious children who love to learn?

Homeschooling can be expensive or inexpensive, depending on how much parents decide to invest in it.  Curriculums can cost a pretty penny, but a lot of homeschoolers do without and use materials that they can find at the library or in thrift stores.

Still, the best way to get a child to learn is to lay some interesting materials around the house – a book on the coffee table, art supplies in an accessible bin, a game on a low shelf.  If they think that they are discovering it themselves, they are more likely to want to know all about it!  So homeschoolers will appreciate any extra help they can get to offer fun, educational tools to their children.

Here are some ideas they might love:

  • Art Supplies – I’m not talking about crayons and markers that you can buy at any grocery store (though kids love and need those too), but real art supplies that you can buy at art stores can make a wonderful gift.
  • Ask what they need – You may just want to ask what they need.  Do you know what kind of teaching method they are using?  You may find a store that specializes in it.  In addition, for homeschooling families who purchase curriculum, they may appreciate it if you could chip in on the cost because some curriculums can be quite expensive.  Or perhaps there are certain books or other resources they want but aren’t able to afford.
  • Let’s not forget books, especially if there’s a subject the children are interested in or studying.  And remember, gift certificates will be appreciated too!

Here are some cool online stores that may help you find that perfect gift. They are in no particular order.

Are you a homeschooler with a wish list?  Please tell me what you would like to receive for gifts this year! Or do you know of another cool place to buy educational items?  Do you make them yourself?  Let me know!

Inspire Kids: Slow motion of running cheetah

My husband found this awesome video on Boing Boing: Fantastic slow motion video of sprinting cheetah.  Of course he sent it to the six-year-old!  Not only is it a stunning video, I think it’s a good example of how photography can help us learn more about animals and our world.  Watch it until the very end to see a fast motion clip of the set-up used to capture this!

(If you subscribe to my blog by e-mail, you may have to view this post on the Internet to see the video.)

pink columbinesThis is a new series I’ve started under the tag “Inspire Kids.”  If my six-year-old loves it, then maybe your children will too!

Inspire Kids: Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap

pink columbinesI subscribe to the blog Mind Shift, and the other day they posted Physics in the Hands of a Seven-Year-Old.  It made me so happy to watch this video of a seven-year-old demonstrating his Rube Goldberg machine.  He is so enthusiastic!  What is more inspiring is that “Seven-year-old Audri wants to study robotics at MIT and become a theoretical physicist someday.”

I sent this video to my six-year-old (I’m so happy I gave him that e-mail address), and he wanted to watch it twice, smiling the whole time.  No, he doesn’t want to make a Rube Goldberg machine (and I’m kinda relieved about that), but it made me realize even more how the Internet can help inspire children.  How they can share their explorations, creations and inspire each other.  I really appreciate Audri making his video so that my son can see another possibility, another avenue for his own explorations.  Even if he’s not interested in it, at least he’s understanding that the world is rich with opportunity!

And this made me think that perhaps I can occasionally share with you what I e-mail to my son.  If he likes it, then maybe your child will like it too.  So, I’m going to label this series “Inspire Kids.”   I don’t know how often I’ll post it.  If I don’t find anything worth sharing then I may not share anything in a long time.  If I find some gems, then maybe I’ll post one each week.  We’ll see how it goes.  I hope you like it.

Gift Ideas for Home Educators

Someone’s first Christmas

{Gift Ideas for Children} {Gift Ideas for Homeschoolers} {Gift Ideas for Anyone!}

This is a post I wrote last year, and I’m referring to it as I try to decide what to buy for the children on my list. I thought it might help you too as you get ready for this holiday, gift-giving season! Enjoy!

***

Do you have homeschooled children on your gift list this holiday season?  Or some precocious children who love to learn?

Homeschooling can be expensive or inexpensive, depending on how much parents decide to invest in it.  Curriculums can cost a pretty penny, but a lot of homeschoolers do without and use materials that they can find at the library or in thrift stores.

Still, the best way to get a child to learn is to lay some interesting materials around the house – a book on the coffee table, art supplies in an accessible bin, a game on a low shelf.  If they think that they are discovering it themselves, they are more likely to want to know all about it!  So homeschoolers will appreciate any extra help they can get to offer fun, educational tools to their children.

Here are some ideas they might love:

  • Family Memberships– What venues do they like to go to?  Most museums, zoos, aquariums and other centers have family or individual memberships that will allow a family/person to have free admission and/or discounts at the facility for a full year.  If you know that the family lives close enough to such a place, it might be perfect for them!
  • Art Supplies – I’m not talking about crayons and markers that you can buy at any grocery store (though kids love and need those too), but real art supplies that you can buy at art stores can make a wonderful gift.  If you don’t think it’s worth buying children good quality art supplies, I suggest you read this post at Camp Creek Blog, “In Praise of High Quality Art Materials.”
  • Ask what they need – You may just want to ask what they need.  Do you know what kind of teaching method they are using?  You may find a store that specializes in it.  In addition, for homeschooling families who purchase curriculum, they may appreciate it if you could chip in on the cost because some curriculums can be quite expensive.  Or perhaps there are certain books or other resources they want but aren’t able to afford.
  • Let’s not forget books, especially if there’s a subject the children are interested in or studying.  And remember, gift certificates will be appreciated too!

Here are some cool online stores that may help you find that perfect gift:

Are you a homeschooler with a wish list?  Please tell me what you would like to receive for gifts this year! Or do you know of another cool place to buy educational items?  Do you make them yourself?  Let me know!

Post Script: Using E-mail in Home Education

When I wrote my last column on using e-mail in our homeschool, I didn’t realize how beneficial one aspect of it would be, so I thought I’d add a little more about that.

What I’m referring to is sending my six-year-old articles that I find on the web that he might be interested in.  Sometimes my husband finds them too.  Mostly these are science-related articles having to do with animals because at six-years-old, that’s something he can wrap his head around.  The articles always have photos, and my son likes for me to read the text.

Sometimes I put it in more simple language, if I feel that is necessary, but sometimes I read it just as it’s written.  Even if some of it goes over his head, if he’s interested, it’s a good way for him to build his vocabulary and hear how articles are written.  Sometimes he asks me the meaning of a word, or we might do a google search for more photographs of the subject.  Perhaps in the future, these articles will spark an idea for a longer-term project!

I should also mention that we watch a lot of educational television, so my son is used to some of this scientific language and imagery.  If you want to try this, you’ll have to judge for yourself what you think your child is interested in and ready for.  You might want to experiment!

Here are some recent articles that my son received from my husband and me.  Feel free to snatch the link and show them to your children!

Feel free to leave more ideas on how to use e-mail or other technology to spark a child’s interest in learning.  As I come up with more ideas, I’ll be sure to share them with you too.  Thanks so much for reading my blog.

The Merry Toymaker: A Retired Toymaker’s Story and His Beautiful, Handmade Wooden Toys for Children

Note: This column was printed in the April 18, 2012 edition of the The Barrow Journal.

Sometimes it pays to have connections.  At least, that’s what my boys thought when a friend of mine invited us over to meet her husband, a retired toymaker, and play with his handmade, wooden toys.

Jack Dohany worked in the electronics industry as a field engineer from 1962 to 1970, but after seeing the Vietnam War up close, he became a pacifist and eventually left his job. He met a craftswoman who took him to his first crafts fair, and he noticed that there weren’t many good toys there.

“I was looking for a way to support myself that was fun and peaceful, and it seemed like toymaking might be that way. It was.”

He ran his business from 1970 to 2009, and he called it The Merry Toymaker.  It was located in his home or wherever he happened to be living, and he sold his toys chiefly at craft fairs.  He did no advertising.

In California, there are huge craft fairs such as the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in the spring, a fair in Northern California in the fall, and the Dickens Christmas Fair and the KPFA Crafts Fair in Berkeley in December.

After Jack and his wife, Winston Stephens, moved to Georgia in 2001, his business shrank because there are few good craft fairs here.  So at that time he sold to stores, and The Idea Factory in New Orleans was his best outlet.

The first toy Mr. Dohany made was of a train engine, and he still owns it.  (See photo below.) All of his toys were circus-oriented.  He says his favorite is the two-hand top, but the circus train and squeeze acrobat come in close seconds.  He has wonderful memories of entertaining children at the craft fairs.

“I’d spin a top on a plate, flip the top high in the air and then catch it still spinning on the plate.  Then I’d put the plate on top of my head and do my silly toymaker dance while the top was still spinning.  Kids (and their parents) loved it.  One of my fondest memories is of a kid here in Georgia who managed to do this trick perfectly on his first try!”

My boys loved playing with the wooden toys.  For me, these handmade toys are much more special than the plastic toys the boys receive for their birthdays with all the bells and whistles.  I asked Mr. Dohany what he thought about that.

“Handmade wooden toys have some human warmth built into them which is lacking in factory-made toys,” he told me. “They also encourage the development of manual dexterity, and in my humble opinion, they are just more fun to play with than plastic toys are.”

If you want to buy one of Mr. Dohany’s toys, you’re out of luck because he retired in 2009.  He gave his entire workshop to John Thomas who was one of his helpers in California and good friend.  John stays home with his young children, and he’s planning to sell his toys over the Internet. When it’s complete, the website will be at http://www.merrytoymakers.com/.

Until then, Mr. Dohany likes to tell everyone, “I’m not the only toymaker in the world. If you Google handmade, wooden toys, you’ll find lots and lots.”  He also added, “Next to meeting and marrying up with Winston Stephens, toymaking is the best thing that ever happened to me.”

To see more photos of Mr. Dohany and his toys, you can go to my photography blog by clicking here.