Saturday, May 19, 2012

Moments to Remember: May 12th - May 19th

It was a busy week around here! We've been working hard, playing a bit of catch-up so we finish everything I have planned before summer vacation (which starts at the end of June!) But it was a fun week, and the weather was perfect. Here are some of the highlights:

We had plenty of outside time this week. The Littles enjoyed watching the bees and hoverflies that were all over our viburnum:

We had school outside almost every day. The picnic table is officially our favorite place to work:

On Thursday, Pooks and Sauce went to the Detroit Tigers game with Dad and Grandpa. The Tigers lost, but they got to see three home runs and had a blast!

And while the big girls were at the game, the Littles and I played outside. This tub of water with measuring cups and rubber ducks kept them busy for a long time!

So, that was our week! I can feel the lazy days of summer coming on, and we are all ready for them!

I am linking up to Moments to Remember over at 1+1+1=1 -- it's a great way to remember each week -- both the ups and the downs. :-)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Encouraging Creativity: Craft Supplies to Keep On Hand

Flickr Creative Commons photo by laffy4k.

 I always swore that I would not be one of those parents. That I would keep plenty of craft supplies around for my kids, to encourage their creativity, and not complain about the mess or clutter that resulted.

Mostly, that has worked out. Though a side effect of this philosophy has been that my kids make an enormous amount of arts and crafts. I have been known (ahem...) to lose my cool when I walk into my daughters' room and accidentally bump a pile -- resulting in an avalanche of homemade books, paintings, drawings, sculptures....we are working on that.

But the clutter is worth it. 

Hardly a day goes by in which my kids don't create something. And they create more than "just" art. They make things to solve a problem. They make furniture and accessories for Barbies (one of them just made a Barbie hang glider. I didn't even realize they knew what hang gliders were), toys for our cats, and even come up with board games that they all play together.

So having all of these materials on hand for them helps them do several things related to creativity: they solve problems, design and redesign if something doesn't work the way they want, and figure out new ways to do things. Critical thinking -- which is a huge part of creativity.

Here are some of our favorite craft supplies to have on hand. I don't spend a lot: we buy at "back to school" sales in summer, in the dollar section at Target, and on clearance. And many of these items, as you'll see, are free.


  • Crayons
  • Colored pencils
  • Markers
  • Chalk
  • Watercolor paints
  • Poster paints
  • Acrylic paints
  • Scissors
  • Rulers
  • Hole punches


  • Construction paper
  • Newsprint
  • Pompoms
  • Googly eyes
  • Glitter
  • Yarn
  • Sequins
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Glue
  • Glue sticks
  • Tape (different types, but we go through tons of Scotch tape)
  • Craft sticks
  • Fabric/felt scraps
  • Stamps and stamp pads
  • Stickers
  • Beads
  • Buttons

Recycled Items:

  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Paper towel rolls
  • Oatmeal containers
  • Shoe boxes
  • Plastic lids
  • Egg cartons
  • Small jars and clear containers

It looks like a lot. Actually, it kind of is a lot. We have an area in our coat closet dedicated to craft supplies, and the older girls also keep a plastic tool box full of craft supplies in their room.

At this point in time, they like drawing, painting, and constructing things they can use. My oldest has started writing books (we order blank paperback books from Amazon for her) and creating her own comic books. I'm hoping she continues with that. They've also showed interest in learning to crochet along with me, and, who knows? Maybe they'll take up painting or sculpture, or pottery somewhere along the way -- and maybe I'll learn it along with them! The important thing to us right now is to encourage their creativity, and help keep that spark alive.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Artist Study: Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso, Public Domain Image
I am an art history nerd. I am. It was very nearly my major in college, but then I decided to major in something practical, like English. (That was sarcasm, by the way...)

So, of course, one of my favorite parts of teaching my children is delving into art history every once in a while. Last year, we did a whole quarter studying Vincent Van Gogh. It was heaven for me, and the kids liked it, too.

This year, we're using The World's Greatest Artists Unit Study, Volume 1, which was created by Erica over at Confessions of a Homeschooler. The first artist we're studying is Pablo Picasso. The unit studies are built around Mike Venezia's Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists series. So we're using Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists: Picasso for the lessons that Erica came up with.

But, as I've mentioned before, I like multimedia! We'll do a lot of reading from the Venezia book, as well as from What Makes a Picasso a Picasso?  by Richard Muhlberger (we used the book from this series during last year's Van Gogh study, and loved it.) And we'll do the projects and lapbook from Erica's World's Greatest Artists program. But I came across a few additional resources that we'll be using as well.

Picasso Coloring Pages

Picasso-Themed Art Projects

Video About Pablo Picasso

This video is perfect to watch with your kids. It was made and narrated by a child, and the information it provides give kids a good overview of Picasso and his art. It was actually rather difficult to find an age-appropriate video about him. Picasso did not exactly live a G-rated life.

Biographical Information About Picasso

The sites below provide biographical information about Picasso, as well as examples of his artwork:

I hope these resources help make your own Picasso artist study fun for both you and your children!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. By clicking the links and making a purchase, I earn a small commission. These are products that we use and find useful, and I am not being otherwise compensated for mentioning them. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Homeschooling Book Review: The Imperfect Homeschoolers Guide to Homeschooling

The Imperfect Homeschooler's Guide to Homeschooling
by Barbara Frank
Published: 2008, Cardamom Publishers
192 pages

Imperfect. It's one of those words that we know applies to all of us (nobody's perfect, right?) but it still carries that connotation of just not quite measuring up. So to see it there on the cover of a book, as if to recognize that yes, we are all in the same boat -- that was what made me want to read this book in the first place.

And it delivered. Barbara Frank is a veteran homeschooler. With over 20 years of experience, she provides a treasure-trove of advice for those of us who are still novices (though I imagine that I will still look back at this book a few years from now, and say "Oh, that's right. I don't have to be "perfect.") She tells about how, in her family, school was sometimes difficult because of pregnancies or new babies, or other family issues, but that kids learn anyway -- just TRY to make them not learn. It's not possible!

Aside from general inspiration and virtual hand-patting (it feels like there's someone by your side saying "it's OK, dear. This too shall pass...") Frank provides a lot of specific advice for homeschoolers, including:

  • Developing a homeschool schedule to fit your family
  • Tools for homeschoolers
  • Attending homeschool conventions
  • Tips for teaching specific subjects
  • Testing
  • Choosing a curriculum
  • Meeting state-mandated requirements
  • Record-keeping
  • Developing a scope and sequence
  • Dealing with homeschool burnout
  • Organizing your home 
  • Taking care of yourself

It's amazing that she fits so much into a book that doesn't weigh five tons, but she did. Each section is short and to the point, and she provides plenty of resources to check out for further information.

A side note: Frank writes from an obviously Christian perspective. This does not bother me, but I thought I should mention it so there are no surprises for anyone who decides to pick this book up.

This is a book that just about any new homeschooling parent could benefit from -- check it out from your library, get a hold of a copy, download it for your Kindle -- whatever. And when you need to be reminded that imperfection is just a way of life, this is the perfect book to reach for.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. By clicking the links and making a purchase, I earn a small commission. These are products that we use and find useful, and I am not being otherwise compensated for mentioning them. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Learning About Space: Mercury

 This year, we're studying space as part of our science curriculum. We've generally been following the plan of study outlined in The Well-Trained Mind (though, as I mentioned a while back, I have decided to be a bit less stringent in how we do things at this point. I think we'll still follow the same general schedule, but with more experimenting, reading, and project time.)

The first planet up: Mercury!

The base text we're using this year is Visual Factfinders Stars and Planets. It's great for providing structure and at-a-glance information. We usually augment the information in the text with books from our library visits, as well as web sites and videos that add another dimension to what we're learning. (Note: this is one of the ways I don't strictly follow the tenets of Classical education. We watch videos and look at websites to enforce what we've already learned. Words (reading and writing) are wonderful, and are the basis of our learning, but I think you miss out when you don't make use of everything available -- including video and interactive web sites.)

With that in mind, here are a few things we've enjoyed using!

Websites about the Planet Mercury

Online Video About Mercury

Books About Mercury

There are tons of books about there about the planets, and honestly, they're all great for the photos and drawings alone -- getting a visual of the planet is great for helping your kids really be able to picture what it is that they're learning about. With that in mind, here are three that we've really liked:

Mercury (Scholastic News Nonfiction Readers: Space Science)

Mercury (True Books: Space)

While it's not technically a children's book, we also like looking through our Peterson Field Guide to Stars and Planets.  There are plenty of pictures to look at, and we always learn a new fact or two when we leaf through it.

Putting it All Together

So, what do we do with all of this information? Generally, we just read and discuss. But for each planet, we're also putting together a notebooking page. Then, at the end of our study of all of the planets, we'll put our notebooking pages together into a book, and the kids can make a great cover for it.

I didn't like any of the available notebooking pages, so I made my own (and I'll make a matching one for each of the planets). If you'd like to download a .pdf of my Mercury notebooking page, you can do so here: Mercury Notebooking Page

Learning about space was one of my favorite things to do as a kid. It is a lot of fun to see my kids just as intrigued about "what's out there" as I was.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. By clicking the links and making a purchase, I earn a small commission. These are products that we use and find useful, and I am not being otherwise compensated for mentioning them.