Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Learning Through Play: Art Close Up

   Learning through play=fun learning that sticks
   Art Cards Close Up features famous paintings from the National Gallery of Art on gorgeous glossy cards. One card shows the whole painting with the name, artist, and date, and its companion card shows a close-up detail from the painting.  Artists include Leonardo, Raphael, Monet, and more, and a number of games are possible with this set, including matching/memory games and Old Maid.  Kids will learn about the art and artists as they study details of the paintings, while holding them in their hands.  {They are perfect for every different learning style.}

   I love the use of perspective to teach kids how to "see" a painting.  Focusing in on details, then looking at the larger piece gets kids to slow down and really think about the artwork.  There are so many ways these cards can be used beyond the games--flashcards, art-starters, hung on the wall with poster putty.  I have a small clipboard/easel in our schoolroom, and I like to display a card for a few days and then switch it for another one.  This makes a nice journaling prompt, or simply a way to expose the kids to something beautiful.  Affordable little extras like these really enrich our school day.

{Birdcage Press provided me with a set of cards to try out and review.  My honest opinions are my own.}

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Best Parts of a Pumpkin

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
I don't wash off all the pulp, because it's so good when it crisps onto the seeds.  Just drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle lightly with fine salt, and bake at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Store in an airtight container.  Yum!  They won't last long at my house.

{We were amazed at how many different seed snacks we saw at the Asian Market last week--even roasted watermelon seeds.}

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Science Sunday: Soldering Lab

   After completing all the Edison Project classes through Quick Study Labs, my son took the Solder Magic class and made several neat projects, including a blinky robot, a chirpy cricket circuit, and an alarm.  The class was challenging, but being a guitar player, my son felt like soldering was a good skill to acquire, plus he earned school credit for it.  The biggest challenge was making good solder joints by being sure to use the correct technique when holding the soldering iron and not getting a huge glob of melted metal.  I love that my boys have opportunities like this to learn things that I don't know anything about, and that there are affordable resources available to supplement homeschooling.  We certainly have discovered along the way that not all learning comes from a book, and sometimes hands-on projects are just the thing to maintain enthusiasm for "doing school."

{Linking up with Science Sunday.}

Friday, October 26, 2012

Weekend Wishes {Adventure}

"I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone."

- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, Ch. 1

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Just Starting Out

   If you are just starting out with homeschooling, keeping things simple and easing into a new routine will ensure that your journey will be rewarding and successful.  It's easy to catch the curriculum bug, but I have learned that "the grass isn't always greener" somewhere else, and you don't have to purchase hundreds of dollars of curriculum to have a successful homeschool.  My favorite resource when we started homeschooling was Early Education at Home, which is a manual for preschool and kindergarten that contains lists and lessons for a complete year or two of these early grades.  It is no longer in print, but you may be able to find a used copy somewhere.  It taught me that I didn't have to have a full-out curriculum at first, and it gave me the confidence to plan our days with ease.  I have a complete review of this guide over at Home Educating Family Reviews:

My advice to new homeschool moms with kids starting preschool or kindergarten is always, “Relax, you can do it.” You are your child’s best teacher, and the precious time you have with your kids should be savored. {Go check out the rest}

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Real Teens Read: The Giver

   The first novel we read in our teen literature discussion group was The Giver.  It had such an impact on the group, that we find ourselves relating almost everything else we read to it in some way.  We talked about the archetype of the main character's journey in this book, and how it is similar in some ways to the main character's journey in several of the other books we've read, such as Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, and Bud, Not BuddyThe Giver also brings up the issue of living in a Utopian society and whether it really is perfect after all--we found similar themes in The City of Ember.  The theme of the individual's responsibility in society was also seen in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and The Hunger Games.  The teens in the group are beginning to see how literature is interconnected.

   Before our discussion meeting for this book, the teens also read the poems "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, "Unknown Citizen" by W. H. Auden, and "Warning" by Jenny Joseph, as well as the short story "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson. We watched a video of "The Lottery" (remember those filmstrips in school?) We also attended a live performance of The Giver recently.

After we read The Wednesday Wars and Park's Quest,
we visited the War Museum and met a Vietnam veteran who
talked to us about his experiences.

   If you are interested in forming a literature discussion group, it is really rewarding and a wonderful opportunity for homeschoolers to get together for cooperative learning.  It's also a great way to expose kids to quality literature and take the intimidation factor out of it.  We use an email loop so we can communicate easily, and we meet once a month for discussion and once a month for an activity, such as a movie or field trip.  So far, almost all of our field trips have been free.  We provide food to keep the kids motivated (pizza, popcorn, cookies, movie candy), and we post study notes in advance to get the kids thinking before the discussion.  We developed our reading list from curriculum catalogs and resources such as Honey for a Teen's Heart by Gladys Hunt and From Hinton to Hamlet by Sarah Herz and Donald Gallo. 

    Read what we did with Huckleberry Finn and Edgar Allan Poe.

(affiliate link)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Traveling Around the World

We've been traveling around the world!

   We have been following the adventures of Phoenix Phaxx as he travels to Russia, Bali, Jakarta, Cambodia, and South Korea, and learning about the people, food, music, religion, animals, and more by watching videos and reading the supplementary material provided by FEBC and Sonlight Curriculum.

  The Phoenix Phaxx website has free downloads and videos if you'd like to come along.  Each video is around 15 minutes long, and when you read the supplementary material, you get a complete lesson in cultural studies.  My kids have loved the adventure and have learned a lot about the interesting places and beautiful people featured in the videos, and Phoenix Phaxx himself is very engaging and entertaining.  I think all ages will benefit from these--all three of my boys have a different take-away from each lesson, and they have continued to talk about them throughout each week.

   For further enrichment, you can locate and label the places visited on an outline map.  The website has one you can use for reference.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Learning Through Play: Art Ditto

   My kids love art, and we are fortunate to have an affordable homeschool art class that they can attend at our city's cultural arts council.  If they could, my boys would "do art" every day.  In addition to taking a hands-on art class, they enjoy learning about different artists, art periods, and techniques.  This can be accomplished by simply looking at good art books, visiting museums, or even doing art unit studies.  A great way for hands-on learners to remember art facts is through games like Art Ditto by Birdcage Press.  This game contains large art collecting cards and smaller art tiles that kids match up as they learn how different artists depict things.  According to the publisher, Art Ditto develops key learning skills:
• Memory
• Matching
• Classification
• Visual processing
• Similarities recognition
• Sharing

   As a bonus, the cards contain the name of the subject and the name of the paintings in four languages, as well as the name of each artist featured and the dates.  The unique part of Art Ditto is that one side of the collector card has a close-up detail from each painting, while the other side shows the entire scene.  This teaches children observation skills, such as perspective, as they focus in on one piece of each painting.  The cards are categorized into topics, such as horses, flowers, birds, music, introducing the concepts of finding similar themes and comparing and contrasting.

   Art Ditto could be the basis for an art study where you play the game and then look up the paintings in an art book and read more about the artists, techniques, time periods, etc.  It could be an enrichment activity for an existing art curriculum, or it could be a follow-up activity to a visit to a museum.  Simply playing the game has already taught my kids to recognize the styles of different artists, and they can pick out other works by certain artists, like Van Gogh and Cezanne.  This game proves that learning does not always have to come from a book.

{The publisher provided me with a game for review, but my honest opinions are my own.}

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Favorites {Fall}

changing colors against a blue sky 
adding an orange smile to the porch
Fall weather
perfect temperatures

so funny to watch them come running for dried mealworms
still signs of life
Guard dog :)
 protective of the hens, and he will whine when he hears
them squawking--running outside to sniff out possible danger and
chase it away.

 seasonal changes
{Linking up}

Monday, October 15, 2012

Real Teens Read: Edgar Allan Poe

   My friend and I started a literature discussion group for teens this year so that we could provide a way for the kids to interact as they experience great literature.  Each month, we have two meetings:  one for discussion and one for an activity or outing.  We post a list of titles for each month along with study notes and links, and when we get together, we analyze and discuss the works, authors, literary elements, and historical background.  Our activity meetings are either a screening of a movie related to what we read or a field trip to a relevant site, such as a museum.  We are reading a mix of classic and contemporary novels, poetry,and short stories, and I hope to inspire the kids to discover something other than paranormal romance books in the young adult section of the store. This group has been a great way for my oldest and his friends to share, socialize, learn, and eat lots of pizza.

     For October, our theme is Edgar Allan Poe, and the kids read "Annabel Lee," "The Raven," and "The Fall of the House of Usher."  Some resources that I like to use when planning are Progeny Press literature study guides and websites such as shmoop and EDSITEment.  We thought the spooky nature of Poe's works would be fun for October, and the kids commented that they didn't realized how "unspooky" some of the themes seemed once they learned more about them, such as love and beauty.  They also liked learning about the symbolism in "The Raven," and how Poe used alliteration, repetition, and images from the Bible and from mythology to convey information to the reader.  We'll be going to a live performance of Poe given by a local theater group, and hopefully the kids will be inspired to read more of Poe's poetry and stories.

(affiliate link)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop Winner!

Congratulations to Joyfulmom who said:

I am so thankful for the many free or low cost resources that are out there for families to make memories while having fun on "field trips." We live in the Ozarks and while the opportunities are different than where we are from (Minnesota) - they are opportunities for adventures nonetheless.
Thank you for posting this giveaway!

October 11, 2012 3:08 PM

Joyfulmom, your comment on last Friday's Not-Back-to-School post was chosen by, so if you'll contact me with your mailing information, Home Educating Family will send you your Well Planned Day planner.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by during the Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Nature Study To Go

Just a few essentials, and we're ready to head outside for some hands-on science and nature study.  The boys each have a bag which holds their nature journals and a few supplies (plastic storage bags, magnifying glass, scissors, pencils, sharpener, glue stick, tape, and a field guide or two).  The contents vary at times, but having a few basics gathered in one place makes it easy to grab and go when we feel like taking our classroom outside.

We have inexpensive mesh bags, which are actually beach bags, so if they get dirty, muddy, or dipped in creek water, they're easy to rinse off.  The boys include photographs, writing, drawing, clippings, specimens, lab notes, and more in their notebooks, and their styles have changed over the years to reflect their interests and abilities.  I don't "grade" or "correct" these journals, and I feel that they are perfect just the way they are.  Now, the boys will see something and say, "I'm going to run get my bag so I can draw it."  I just love that.

Collections are placed in plastic bags and taped inside.

Pieces and parts are drawn and labeled.

Some things are cut-and-pasted.

Leaf rubbings


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Learning Through Play: Backyard Birds

   My boys are hands-on learners, and when we got the Backyard Birds Wild Cards to review for Birdcage Press, I knew they would be perfect to accompany our science unit on birds for Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day.  The boys are learning classification and characteristics of animals, and these cards are neat because they feature birds we see in our yard all the time, like cardinals, crows, hummingbirds, and goldfinches.  Each card (36 in all) comes with a matching one that has the same picture but different facts.  The information on each card includes the type of bird (songbird, hummer, waterbird, etc.), and facts such as nesting habits, migration patterns, coloring, body features, and diet. 

   The Backyard Birds cards are sturdy, so kids can take them outside and use them to find and identify birds they see.  My kids also used some of the cards as guides to look at when drawing birds in their nature journals.  The photographs on the cards are clear and vibrant, and the cards are colorful and nicely designed, making the information easy to find.  The cards come packaged in a box that looks like a book when filed on a bookshelf.  The front, held by a hidden magnetic closure, flips open to reveal the cards and an accompanying 32-page booklet that includes a field guide to all the featured birds, plus maps and even more facts about the birds' habitats and behavior from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

   The best part--the cards are not just flash cards, but also designed for playing several games.  Instructions are included for playing an Old Maid-type game ("Old Trickster"), "Go Fish for Birds," and "Bird Memory" (our favorite).   Playing and learning at the same time, my boys were hooked right away. 

{I am not an affiliate for Birdcage Press, but they did send me a card game to review.}

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hello Monday {Breakfast}

Hello Monday is our place to welcome a brand new week and reflect on the old one. 

 Hello to finally turning off the a/c and opening windows, and to hanging-out-on-the-back-porch weather.

Hello to days that feel shorter, but they still have 24 hours, don't they?

Hello to pulling out blankets and throws, and looking for long pants beneath all those shorts, (and hello to realizing how tall the boys have gotten when their pants don't reach their ankles.)

Hello to big changes -- Ami started laying eggs: four so far. They are beautiful!

The two on the left are Ami's, next to the store-bought egg on the right.

Perfectly shaped and brown, these first ones are small. 
Have you ever held a warm egg? It's precious.

{Linking up with Lisa Leonard for Hello Monday and Clever Chicks Blog Hop}

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fabulous Field Trips {and a Giveaway}


  This is the last Not-Back-To-School Blog Hop post, so be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win an awesome resource from Home Educating Family (details below...)

Petting a bunny at the horse stables

   One of our favorite things about homeschooling is the opportunity to go on field trips where we get a chance to explore and discover.  Sometimes we do things as a family, and sometimes we attend activities and events with other homeschoolers.  These excursions have been wonderful memory-makers, and a way for my kids to take a peek behind the scenes of such places as the post office, a working grist mill, and the kitchen of a large restaurant.

Learning about organic gardening
Picking strawberries with Grandma
   Although some activities do cost money, we have found many free opportunities.  You might be surprised at how many places are happy to accommodate field trips--all you have to do is ask.   
Some free or low-cost things we have done:
Art museums
American Legion museum
Baseball museum
U-pick farms (cost of what you pick only)
Post office
Grain mill
Organic farm
Horse stables
Local restaurants (cost of food only, usually w/ a group discount and educational talk/tour included)
Local colleges and universities
Library tours/talks/classes
Fire station
Police station
Grocery store
Manufacturing plant
Free children's concerts given by the local symphony 
Children's theater performances 
State parks
Fish hatchery
Plant nursery
Alpaca farm
Goat farm
Television station
Zoo (membership saves money if you go often or have a large family, and is often reciprocal)
Veterinary clinic
Dental clinic
Historical homes
Historical monuments
Recycling center
Waste-water treatment facility

Art museum exhibit of Edith and Thacher Hurd

   I document our field trips in my record-keeping notebook by writing the place, date, additional resources used, and adding some photos, brochures, business cards, etc. This helps not only in counting up days of school we have completed, but also in planning some additional activities related to the field trip, often creating a mini-unit study for my kids. For example, a field trip to the zoo might also include reading related books, classifying animals for science, and bringing along a scavenger hunt sheet for the kids to fill out (find a gray animal, find an animal with smooth skin, find an animal with spots, find an animal that eats vegetables, find an animal from Asia, etc.)
Learning about geology from the department chairman of a local university
Getting up close at a wildlife refuge

Science at the Mystery House

   We also take advantage of educational opportunities when we go on vacation, checking out local museums, parks, and historical sites.  Free tourism information and maps are available from the Chamber of Commerce and Welcome Centers.  I'd love to hear your ideas--what fabulous field trips have you been on?

Learning about trains at the train museum, and meeting Thomas and his friends
Learning about China, and turning a map into a dragon
Trying new foods

Meeting the goats and learning how the dairy operates

Learning how to forecast the weather
If you click on the Blog Hop button at the top of this post, you can visit the other review team members and enter for more chances to win this fabulous planner:
Since we're celebrating Not-Back-to-School, Home Educating Family has a giveaway for YOU!  Simply leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a Well Planned Day planner.  Winner will be announced next Friday.  

Congratulations to Swinging on Small Hinges  who said:

We are eclectic as well, using a bit of this and some of that to meet our homeschooling goals. Isn't it great? ;) I'd love to win the planner, thanks! 

September 28, 2012 8:11 AM
All prizes must be claimed within eight weeks.
{Due to international sweepstakes laws, this giveaway is for US entrants only.
  This giveaway is not tied to any social media site.}