Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Gentle Process of Learning Art...

We have two goals when it comes to art for our children.  The first is to have an appreciation of great art.  The second is that they will feel comfortable expressing themselves through art.  The second goal is the one I will talk about today.  This blog entry will be about how I help my youngest three express themselves through art.  They are 9, 8, and 7 now.  My children have always been offered the best art supplies we could afford (and that were safe for them to handle), even when they were tiny tots.  I think it is so important to give children art supplies that work properly and hold vivid colors.  I loathe those little boxes of crayons that are handed out in restaurants that have more wax in them then color!  If children are given inferior art supplies, they become discouraged, frustrated, and unwilling to keep expressing themselves through art. 


 Making fans at the Art For Life table in a doctor's waiting room.

 I am very fortunate that I was raised in an artistic family.  My father is a professional photographer and my mother holds an art degree and taught me from a very young age all the pleasures of art.  So, when it came to filling my children's art cabinet, there were many willing hands to buy supplies.  However, if money is tight, this is what I would purchase:

  • Good quality drawing paper

  • Watercolor paper

  • Watercolor pencils

  • A set of watercolor paints

  • Several types of glue and paste

  • Large box of Crayola Crayons (the more colors the better)

  • Fine tip and thick tip markers

  • Homemade play-dough

  • A set of better quality paint brushes in different sizes.  If the paint brushes are in bright, child-friendly colors, they are probably not very good.  It is better to have just a few good paint brushes than to have a whole bunch and have the bristles falling out in your art.

  • Tempura paint in the primary colors~don't forget black and white for mixing.

  • A box of clay

  • A box of Plaster of Paris

The above list is by no means exhaustive.  Of course, there are fun art kits, glitter, pipe cleaners and all manner of other fun media items in which to create.  When the kids are a bit older or one could afford it, I would add a few acrylic paints and a few stretched canvas boards to the basics list.

Movable bats made at the Art for Life table.

Many people say to have the art supplies accessible to children at all times so that they may create whenever they wish.  This does not work in our family.  With some of our children's special needs, they behave very impulsively.  If I left the supplies out for them, great quantities of art supplies would be dumped out and great messes would be made.  I would be the first to say that art can be messy, but not at all hours in my household is it necessary.  So, I try to provide free art time every week and make myself available to get out the supplies they request during their free time.

Bird made with watercolor pencils.

As the children are getting older, I seek out opportunities in the community for them to explore with art.   One of our current favorites is The Art For Life Table that is set up in the waiting room each week where my son attends speech therapy. It is staffed with volunteers (mostly college art students) to help guide the kids through a project.  They always have quality art supplies, and although it is a set project, creative embellishment is encouraged.  Another favorite out of the home art place is our local art musuem, which holds a homeschool class once a month.  Again, it is an instructor-led project but with lots of wiggle room to be creative.  In the past we have enjoyed the classes at Michael's and other art stores, but they tend to be crowded and a bit pricey when paying for multiple kids.  Home Depot and  Lowe's also provide wood building classes once a month for free, but there is very little creativity beyond the project, so I consider these classes more for fine motor skills.

Making birds at The Art Museum.

Another way to acquire art supplies is to ask for art kits when people want to know what to get for Christmas and birthdays.  We have recieved some great kits that I would not have spent so much money on for one event. Often, there are reusuable parts in these kits that can be stored away for other projects.

This mosaic project was a recent gift that all of my children loved.

I get most of my ideas for projects out of arts and crafts books.  Some of my favorites are Mudworks , Great American Artists for Kids, Storybook Art, and Best Ever Craft Book for Kids.  There are also millions of sites on the web.  One of my favorites is this one.

Creating animals with leaves.

The kids had fun with the project pictured below a while ago.  I had some large sheets of paper that were gifted to me.  About the same time, I saw a great project at Smockity Frocks.  The idea is to make a list of words that your child can read and have them make a picture with all of the words on their list added to their drawing.  This kept my kids busy for some time.


One of the most important things when helping your children express themselves through art is to limit criticism.  It is one thing to advise and guide, but make sure that you do not put down your child's attempts at art.  After all, artists have found many ways to depict a tree.  Now that my kids are confident with expressing themselves through art, I do occasionally insist that they show me their best effort.  This is not usually a problem with art, but sometimes attitudes get in the way of even this subject.  When this occurs, I try to respark the project by presenting it from a different angle or gently reminding the child that their best effort will make them feel better than showing Daddy poor work when he gets home.




Monday, October 18, 2010

Our Native American Indian Plans...

I mentioned earlier that I am striking out on my own without a curriculum in history.  I will be reading biographies, living picture and chapter books, and doing hands-on projects with the kids to bring history to life.  This is the way I taught history to my oldest, and he is a real history buff.  For some reason I strayed, but I am back.  We are moving chronologically through history and are ready to study the New World of America.  Since the Native Americans were here first and are woven throughout our history, I decided to start with a mini-unit study on them. We will be concentrating on the Indians that explorers and settlers would have met along the coasts and near the first 13 colonies. When we get to the pioneer times (next year), we will do another mini-unit study on the Indians out west.

We are very blessed to live near the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (the Cherokee who hid during the government removal of Indians in the 1830's and continue to live on their homeland to this day).  The Western Band of Cherokee who live in Oklahoma are considered a separate nation by the government. All the pictures throughout this post are from our visit to the reservation and their reenactment village of how the Cherokee lived at the end of the 1700's, shortly before the government gathered the Cherokee and marched them west to Oklahoma. A third of the Cherokee died on the way, now called the Trail of Tears. In the village, the people were demonstrating the crafts that they have practiced for 14,000 years.

Kids standing in a canoe

Over the next few weeks, we will be reading books on the Cherokee, Iroquois Nation (where my heritage is from), Powhatan (the Indians around Jamestown), Creeks, and the Lumbee/Croatoan Indians (who would have been the Indians around the lost colony of Roanoke).  All of these Indians lived near where settlers lived and were the first to to be affected by or affect the colonists.

We have already started reading books about Pocahontas and are busy separating out  more likely fact from fiction. The Disney movie is so not the truth!! Pocahontas was a Powhatan Indian.

We are going to be doing an in-depth study of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee which will include the following:

  • A field trip to the Cherokee reservation (already done yesterday).

  • Making a Cherokee 3-D village.

  • Making a dugout canoe for Playmobile to ride in.

  • Making a pot out of a ball of clay, much like we saw a woman potter doing at the Cherokee reservation.

  • Doing some bead work (probably a necklace).

  • Learn how to use a mini blow gun.

The children will also be entering The Festival Knowledge contest at our local Nature Center in February.  My oldest entered this Festival several times in his early teens and won top honors once.  The projects can be individual or group.  Our kids will be doing a group project.  They will be building a 3-D village complete with a dugout canoe, proper shelters, and a woodland setting.  The kids will also make a presentation board of all they have learned (like a science fair board).  They will have the opportunity to explain their project to the judges.  I think this will be a wonderful opportunity for them.  They will be learning public speaking, research, presentation skills, 3-D building and working together.

Here is a list of some of the books we will be using.

  • Pocahontas By, Ingri and Edgar Parin d' Aulaire

  • The Cherokee a New True Book By, Emilie U. Lepthien

  • American Indian Games and Crafts By, Charles L. Blood

  • If You Lived With The Cherokee By, Peter and Connie Roop

  • The Iroquois By, Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve

  • A life in a Longhouse Village By, Bobbie Kalman

  • Powhatan Indians By, Suzanne Williams

  • More Than Moccasins: A Kid's Activity Guide ByLaurie Carlson

  • Morning Girl By, Michael Dorris

We will also be doing several other projects that will represent other tribes besides the Cherokee.  For instance, when we study the Iroquois, we will make a corn husk doll.  I am still waiting for the More Than Moccasins book to come in so that I can finish picking out our projects.



Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day In The Life ... October Edition

Things are a bit different in our homeschool right now. After much thought and prayer, we have decided to set aside SOTW and the classical approach and return to Charlotte Mason.  Not to say that I ever left Charlotte Mason behind completely, but we were dabbling a lot in the classical approach.  It just was not a great fit for my kiddos.  We were slipping into workbooks and memory work and losing narration and living books.  To make a long story short, I witnessed a dislike of school developing, and the kids were struggling with retaining information (especially history).  So, we are in transition right now, while I find my way back to educating the children with living books in all subjects.

7:00 to 8:00 am~

We had a real slow start to our morning.  Most of the kids slept in and Tom Sawyer (8) woke up and read in bed for about an hour.  I took a shower, checked a few blogs, and added some movies to Netflix for Sunday nights.

8:00 to 8:30 am~

Breakfast  for everyone.  Most of us had oatmeal with bananas.

8:30 to 9:15 am~

Everyone did morning chores.  Little Red Ridinghood (7) put away the clean dishes from the dishwasher; Goldilocks (9) made all the beds; Tom Sawyer (8) took all of the dirty laundry to the laundry room and collected water glasses from everyone's room; and Timothy loaded the car for the various trips of today.  We then took our first car ride of the day to drop off Timothy at his nature center job.

9:15 to 11:30 am~

This period was the bulk of our seat work time.  I read from Let My People Go by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack.  This is a wonderful book filled with 12 Bible stories that are woven into a Freed Slave's life during the 1800's.  We read the story of Queen Esther (Bible).  The children narrated the story to me every few paragraphs (narration).  We worked on place value and estimation.  I realized that my girls need more work on place value (math).  The kids did an adjective work sheet and did Mad Libs (language arts).  We finished seat work time with a poem by William Wordsworth "The Kitten Playing with the Falling Leaves" (poetry).   While I read the poem, the kids picked out a piece of fruit or leaf from the book series, Draw, Write, Now, and learned how to draw it (art).  One child put in very poor effort and had to draw the picture again.  I do not expect perfection, but everyone is expected to put forth their best effort.  This can be very challenging at times to get out of some of them, which varies by day.

11:30 to 12:00 pm~ 

Free time while I made lunch.  The kids ran around and jumped on the trampoline. 


12:00 to 12:30 pm~ 

We had organic hamburgers, apples and organic onion rings for lunch.  This is a big lunch for us, but I have noticed with the change of weather that my kids are hungrier. 

12:30 to 1:00 pm~ 

We traveled to  Occupational Therapy.  A few weels ago, we purchased an in-car DVD player for long trips and my dh put it in for a day trip this coming weekend.  The kids were excited to see it in the car early and so they watched "Veggie Tales the Story of Queen Esther" (Bible). 

1:00 to 2:00 pm~ 

While Tom Sawyer was in OT the girls and I made a place value game and tested it out.  It was fun.  We then did a reading lesson with "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep".   I made three copies of the poem and cut up two copies into individual words. Then the girls read it and matched their words to the poem so that we had three complete sets again (reading lesson). 


2:00 to 3:00 pm~ 

We picked up Tim and traveled home. The kids had free time and watched the last 15 minutes of the "Cat and the Hat" on PBS. 

3:00 to 3:40~ 

The kids did afternoon chores and then we sat down to tea time. Since we are waiting for our new chapter book to arrive in the mail, I read to them a picture book. We read Papa Piccolo, which is a wonderful tale of a cat in Venice who adopts two kittens.  Our next chapter book will be The Nutcracker and the Mouse King

4:00 to 6:00 pm~ 

The girls have one hour dance classes, one right after the other. All four of our children are in the "Nutcracker and the Mouse King" performance by Hoffmann this December.   Already, costume fittings are going on and excitement is in the air.  Goldilocks, who is taking modern dance, will be in a scene with other children playing in the snow.  Little Red Ridinghood, who is in Ballet I, will be cotton candy in the performance.  Tom Sawyer is taking a boy dance and theater class this year and will be a toy dragon that comes to life.  Timothy, who is in advanced Fencing, will be one of the soldiers. It  looks like it is going to be a wonderful experience for all of them.  Luckily, they all take classes at the same place, where all sorts of dance, theatre arts, and fencing is learned.  A wonderful husband and wife team own this studio and put on really great performances. 

Goldilocks practicing a snow angel. 

6:00 to 8:00 pm~ 

We returned home for dinner, more trampoline time with Dad and stories with Dad.  Lights out and goodnight. 



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy Birthday, My Little Princess ...

Little Red Ridinghood turns 7 today!  She had a wonderful party on Saturday with some of her friends in attendance.  She wanted a tea party princess birthday with a bit of a tomboy flair -- I say tomboy because there were more boys invited than girls and most of the activities she wanted to do were outdoors.

We served tea and punch.  There was also fruit, finger ham sandwiches, cookies, pretzels and bugles.  Little Red Ridinghood loved using all of the crystal serving dishes for her special party.

The kids enjoyed Pin the Tail on the Donkey, breaking the pinata, seesaw play, trampoline, and generally running around. They then had a small tea party and cake.  After opening the presents, they played outside some more.

Here are 7 words to describe Little Red Ridinghood:

  1. Delightful

  2. Sporty

  3. Dancer

  4. Obedient

  5. Easy going

  6. Graceful

  7. Happy

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, October 8, 2010

I Did It!!!

When Little Red Ridinghood said she wanted a princess tea party for her 7th birthday, I knew a castle cake was in order.  We saw one that was adorable at our grocery store for $40!!!! That is to steep for my budget, so I decided to make my own.  I know it is not all that great next to those who are cake making experts, but I am relieved to be done making this castle cake.  It came out very much like I hoped it would. The corner towers are toliet paper rolls with princess Christmas wrapping paper and ice cream cones on top.  I also used lots of princess figurines that we already owned. I dyed the coconut green with food coloring.  Total cost for my version of a castle cake~$8.  Now that is more like it.

Now I just have to put together the example craft and finish cleaning the house.  Hopefully, I will be back with lots of pictures of her princess birthday party by the end of the weekend.



Saturday, October 2, 2010

Weekly Wrap Up ~ Night at the Museum ...

From the Heart ~

I am thinking about fun ....  Can you have too much fun in your life?  What about too much joy or opportunities and events?  More than once, I have been told by some professional in the mental health field that our family is too fun. We have too much fun and do too many fun things.  They never have any other problems with our family.  They like our chore charts, our consistency, our devotion, our strong marriage, our child training techniques and family values -- but we are TOO MUCH FUN. One must remember that these are the same naysayers who predicted that our Goldilocks would never recover from severe RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) well enough to live in a family.  Now, they consider her to be pretty well attached to our family and the majority of difficulties she gives us can be blamed on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I am grateful for my fun family and all of the fun events we cram into our lives.  Frankly, we are an intense family with intense special issues.  We need a lot of comic relief to carry us through our days.  So, I seek out wholesome fun and try to fill our days with love and joy. I hope this is the right thing to do.

I am not speaking about material things here. I certainly do not think that all of the stuff that dribbles into our house is great.  I am still working on how to keep the tap closed more on that one.  But, that is a thought for another day.

On the Homefront ~

Wow, the month of September passed me by in a jiffy.  After weeks of unique schedules and travel, it is nice to be home. This last week was the first week that we got the feel for our Fall school schedule.  What it looks like on paper is sometimes different than how it feels in real life.  I am relieved that after getting through this week, it feels manageable.   I am even 90% unpacked from our travels.  I love October and am looking forward to a month with a more normal schedule.  We have two family birthdays and the joy of watching the changing of the leaves.  It should be a good month.

Learning Time ~

We just completed our 8th week of school.  I did a little review to see where we are and how the kids are retaining their subjects.  The good news is that they are doing great in retaining math, reading, literature, art, music, science, Latin, sign language and geography.  However, they are lost and confused when it comes to history. They gave me unimportant info about a topic, mixed up famous people and generally showed me that our history studies are not sticking in their minds. I have been concerned with SOTW (Story of the World) for a little while now.  I love it, but it is getting more and more complicated. There are so many details, and it just seems way above their heads at the moment.  Often in the past weeks, I have felt like I am filling a vessel instead of igniting a flame. So, for now, I am putting SOTW away and moving through history with picture books and hands-on activities. We are just finishing the Rennaisance, and I will be starting a unit study on Native American Indians before moving into American history, starting with Jamestown.  My priority is for my children to have a love of learning, not to be able to state every little detail about an event.  I think I lost my priorities a bit in the last few months.

Our pop up Globe theater has added loads of fun to our Shakespeare study of Macbeth.

Reinforcing blends through a phonics game in a doctor's waiting room

"Double, double, toil and trouble..." This is our witches brew to go with Macbeth.

Family Time ~

We went to the new exhibit at our hands-on science museum.  It was the Blue Man Group exhibit.  For those who don't know who the Blue Man group is, such as my Mom, they are comic, musical entertainers who paint themselves in shiny blue and use everyday materials to create music.  They perform in large venues such as at Las Vegas, but this was not a live show -- it was an exhibit exploring sound and light with lots of videos of the Blue Man Group.  The kids loved it and dh really got into it, too.  We went on members-only opening night and were delighted with the spread of food they provided.  Yummy ...

Considering how messy the crowd is supposed to get at the Blue Man performances, this movie is probably close enough for us.

Getting down with the Blue Man Group

Today, we spent time in our very first corn maze. It went better than I expected.  No one is terribly itchy but dh did have a huge allergy attack. The children also loved swinging on the rope swing and falling into the piles of hay. We picked a pumpkin out of the pumpkin patch and ate homemade ice cream, too.

Please join Canadagirl for more weekly wrap ups.