Project-based Homeschooling: Angry Birds – You Never Know

I don’t know much about the Angry Birds game except that it used to be my son’s favorite game when he played on his dad’s Nexus, and when I sat down to watch him play, it seemed absolutely silly. But hey, it’s not for me. It’s for him, and I’m glad he’s having fun. I don’t have a problem with screen time, and while we do enforce some limits¬†(it’s just part of our daily routine),¬†our day’s overall screen time is definitely higher than what most conscientious parents prefer.

It’s really cool, however, when I see his interest in a game turning into a little project. All on his own one day, he made these angry birds and their raft. (Note: He already had access to all the materials he needed, and he knew how to use them, so he didn’t need anything from me.) How cool is that? Now the game doesn’t seem so silly, huh?

Never dismiss, restrict or belittle your child’s interest. Ask questions, nurture it, and it may blossom into something productive and cool! You never know!

Project-based Homeschooling: This year’s cardboard projects

It’s the end of our “school year,” so I’m wrapping it up at home and on my blog. A few more posts to go!

As I review our past year, I have found that my seven-year-old has been quite a builder! I’ve written extensively about his interest in clay here and here. Now I want to share with you all those little cardboard projects that I thought might get their own post, but actually, they add up into one big post: my son’s interest in building. (I wish I could find a woodworking class for him. I think he would love that!)

The material we have most readily at home is cardboard, or more specifically the cardboard used to make cereal boxes or frozen pizza boxes — they are much easier to cut. I also keep LOTS of tape on hand, and I though I ask him to try not to be wasteful, I don’t fuss at him for being a little excessive with the tape when I see him being so productive!

We also have a cool shot glue gun, which I let him use on his own. It works well, and the glue cools more rapidly, which makes it safer. We had a regular glue gun, and while my son never got hurt, my husband and I both got some scalding burns from it! ūüėČ My son has learned to be quite cautious with glue guns.

Here are his creations made between last summer and this summer in no particular order:

“spaceship robot”

Thank you Curious George for giving my son the idea to make this big robot!

A representation of the Mayflower. Unlike most of his creations, I did help him a lot with this because he didn’t have the motor skills for the fine details, especially tying the thread. However, he absolutely directed me on where everything was supposed to go. He looked at photos of the Mayflower and designed it himself.

He wanted a toy tank, so he built one for himself. I helped him a little, but I’m certainly not responsible for that excessive use of tape! ūüôā He also looked at a photo online to help with his design.

A “thin, flat lizard” inspired by a box he found.

A bee made out of a toilet paper tube and some wire, etc.

I think this is supposed to be a mosasaur.

“A drill that goes to the center of the earth.” “It’s pretend,” he said.

Airplane.

He loves Star Wars and decided to build¬†Darth Vadar’s ship as closely as he could to the design in the movie. He was willing for the center to be a cube since it’s hard to make a sphere out of cardboard.

These creations take up a lot of space in the house. They can fall apart, and sometimes he’ll fix them and other times he doesn’t. I encourage him to throw them away or recycle the materials when something is unrepairable, or when we’re running short of space, but I don’t force him to throw anything away. It’s all important to him, and I respect that. My sanity suffers a little, but mostly I’m just super proud of my little builder!

The Little Projects: Project-based Homeschooling

{A.K.A. I don’t plan any crafts in this house.}¬†{In between projects} {Exploring mediums}

I’ve written about what I’ve considered our “project-based homeschooling” in terms of long projects in which my son learned about a specific topic and also spent some considerable time constructing something, such as in Building the Titanic¬†and Rockets and the Benefits of Failure. But to tell the truth, he spends most of his time doing what I think of as “little projects.” That is, they are projects he has come up with on his own, but they aren’t tied to what I consider a long-term study project. Not that they couldn’t become that, and in a way, you could consider some of what he’s doing long-term study in that he’s learning some skills such as sewing.

For me, this is what homeschooling is all about. I want my children’s imaginations to be unfettered. I want them to have fun. I don’t want them to be told what they can or can’t do. I want them to have the time and the resources (to the best of my ability) to develop their imaginations and real, quality skills along the way!

I’ve already written about how my boys love to build. You can read about many of the building and art supplies we keep on hand and ideas my son “found” last year in Boys Like to Build. You can read about the benefits of building with Legos or blocks in Little Builders.

Here, I want to show you examples of other projects. For lack of a better term, they’re kind of “artsy.” How did he come up with these ideas? Many different ways:

  • He “finds” ideas in television shows, such as¬†Blues Clues,¬†or he happens to find an idea in a book or on a pamphlet at Hobby Lobby, and he tells me he wants to make it.
  • Some ideas are from pure imagination.
  • Some ideas I lead him to. Occasionally I’ll see something online that I think he might like or could easily do, and I show it to him. If he likes it, he wants to make it.
  • For holiday craft ideas, I don’t plan anything. I let my son google “Easter crafts,” and then we look at the zillion of images and he picks what he likes!
  • Most artwork comes from just playing with different mediums. I keep all art supplies out where the kids can reach them at any time. Here’s a short list of what we’ve got:
    • paints, brushes
    • construction paper
    • markers, crayons, pens, pencils
    • glue, tape
    • lots of fun stuff such as sequins, pom poms, little wooden cubes, etc.
    • modeling clay
    • recently added: watercolor pencils and watercolor paper!
    • sewing stuff: fabric, felt, fabric scissors, craft thread, needles (but the needles are kept in a safer place)

We have one section of the wall in our kitchen that is our “art gallery.”

I am the “YES” Mom.

Part of “project-based homeschooling” is creating an environment where supplies are on hand and easily accessible to my children. From the time my son was three- or four-years-old, I’ve been doing simple art with him – nothing stressful for me and nothing that needed a lot of pre-planning. For example, when he was two and three, he just liked to cut paper, so I turned his paper bits into animals. We did that for the longest time, and sometimes my boys will still ask me to make them a paper animal!

We have a routine, and there are things that I require of my children, but I try very hard to always say “Yes! Go ahead!” whenever they want to paint, draw or create something. It doesn’t have to be a certain time of day – I just let them do it. The only time that I may say no is when it’s, say, fifteen minutes before our evening routine begins, and someone wants to pull all the paints out. Then I’ll say, “Well, you’re going to need to get your bath in a few minutes, so why don’t we plan to paint tomorrow?” But if it’s crayons or markers, I’d probably be inclined to say “Go ahead!” even at that time.

My kids don’t “create” everyday or every week, but looking at all the pieces of artwork in the house, I know that they’ve had a lot of fun and freedom. It does make for a messy house, and even though I always make the boys clean up after themselves, there’s still a lot of mess left over waiting for me to pick it up. (And it can just keep waiting.) I’ll be writing about this “chaos” and our messy but productive environment in upcoming posts.

Art Lessons

It’s always in the back of my mind to get a little more formal with the art. Show them different mediums, artists, and styles. I’m really looking forward to reading more of Amy Hood’s amy hood arts blog for ideas on teaching art to my children. But right now I can hardly keep up with my son’s ideas, so for awhile, we’ll just go with his ideas.

Here’s a few of his self-made projects:

Making a bed for one of his stuffed animals. He used a box, fabric & a glue gun. He’s never felt the need to paint the boxes or add embellishes.

Making an alien puppet. This idea came to him after we made the dinosaur puppets below.

Here it is!

I saw the dinosaur & rocket puppets online & thought they’d be easy to make. The six-year-old made the one in the middle. We both worked on the green one. I made the one on the right.

The rocket puppet. I cut out the pattern & the six-year-old sewed it.

I started this lizard for a Christmas gift, but I don’t have the patience my son has, so he had to¬†finish it for me. ;o

Our Thanksgiving wreath. Idea given to us by a friend. (Once my six-year-old hears good ideas, there’s no stopping him.)

My six-year-old found this pamphlet with instructions on how to make a lion puppet at Hobby Lobby. He bugged me for months to make it, and we finally did. The instructions were not good, by the way, so I had to improvise on some of it. I helped with the sewing/cutting on this, but the six-year-old did a lot of it!

Nature art. My six-year-old did this all by himself. He got the idea after seeing some similar artwork at the Botanical Garden.

Clay is a huge hit with my boys! My six-year-old watched this tutorial on how to make this car.

This tree was his idea.

I’m really impressed with how my son has taken up sewing. (I don’t sew.) He saw this snake fabric at the store, and he said he’d make a snake with it. And he did! I helped, but it was all his idea, and he was very fussy about how it needed to be done.

Every day my son carries some little toy around the house all day, and at night, he puts it to “sleep” on his nightstand. One day he had the idea to make a bed for his toys! I didn’t even know what he was doing until he was almost done.¬†

I can’t forget the three-year-old! He LOVES to paint, cut paper, glue, build with blocks, make pretend food, paste things into his “notebook,” and create different things too. At Christmas, I got him these little wooden cubes and sticks. I let him make all the messes he wants to. (This picture was taken the day after Christmas, which is why there’s a lot of odd stuff in the room.)

The three-year-old doesn’t have the motor skills to make things like my six-year-old, but he’s often creating interesting things with blocks or cards or anything he can stack.

The three-year-old made this flower face with some wooden shapes. I think the six-year-old had showed him how to do this once.

The Benefits

I know there are more benefits to living this lifestyle than I’m even aware of, but I do feel confident to say that my boys are developing their imaginations, self-esteem, fine motor skills, problem-solving skills, and a general awareness of how things work. By experimenting, they are learning how things work together, and learning how to deal with the frustrations that come with trial and error. I try my best not to interfere with how they plan out their work unless they ask for my help or get very stuck. I can hardly wait to see what they come up with next!

Note: I have noticed that in most of my photographs, especially these, my boys are in pajamas. Ahem. Just so you know, I do dress my boys! But with that thought, I’ll leave you with this quote:

Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.¬† ~Lewis Carroll

Please share your children’s artwork with me!