Sunday, August 17, 2014

Promoting Creativity through Arts and Crafts


When our family initially started homeschooling and developed our philosophy of education, we decided that creativity was a trait that was important to us and one that we wanted to develop in our children.  According to one of my favorite books about creativity, one of  the best gifts we could give our children is to provide them with ready-materials and time.  It’s important to let them invent, create, and have fun.  It sure makes a mess, but it’s worth it!  Arts and crafts projects that don’t use pre-drawn patterns or designs allow children to create and develop according to their view of the world.  Here are some ideas for some of the craft projects we did:

  • Paper mache’ — create sculptures or scenes using newspaper and flour & water glue.  After it dries, paint with Tempra paints and add twigs, stones, dried moss, aluminum foil or mirror rivers and lakes, etc.  Great fun!  We once created the Garden of Eden doing this.
  • Sawdust and glue — similar to paper mache’ but using fine sawdust and Elmer’s glue instead.
  • Make kites — use a plain template and paint or color designs on the kite body to make your own design or check online or the library for books and kite shapes.
  • Wooden objects — children seem to enjoy crafting with wood, so we bought lots of different ‘wood’ things from the craft store and let them paint, decorate, hammer, nail, etc. to make things.  Stencils are helpful in adding designs like planes, trains, etc.  When homes were being built around the neighborhood, we would ask the contractor if we could take the wood scraps home.  They were happy to get rid of them and they provided raw materials for some great homeschool building projects.
  • 3-D art using foam shapes, twigs, dried legumes, etc.  Fun to use a basic design on tag board and then glue objects on it to make a collage or work of art
  • Computer art — using simple programs that teach 3D animation, computer graphics, or photo editing.
  • Kits — lots of fun!  Go to Michael’s or Craft Warehouse and look at all the kits that are available.  Latch hook rugs, felt art, beading, etc. can all be fun for both girls and boys.  Boys enjoy making latch hook rugs in an airplane theme!
  • Candle-making — either dipped candles, molded candles or rolled candles using beeswax.  Kids especially have fun with this project:   take an aluminum pie plate and hold a regular candle up in the middle of the plate.  Then pour melted, colored wax into the plate.  Gently dip the plate of wax in a sink full of cold water.  The hot wax will rise to the top and will ‘hug’ the candle, making a candle holder.  Work as a team, as hot wax can burn.
  • String art — look online for designs.  A pattern looks somewhat like a dot to dot page, but without the numbers.  Colored string is sewn on the page in sequences that create a woven effect and make beautiful pictures — of ships or buildings — etc.
  • Watercolor — really fun and helpful if you can find someone who is willing to give a few lessons first.  Use ‘cheater’ techniques to help get started with watercolor (like dot stickers that keep paint from sticking somewhere when you first coat the page, etc.).  Small paintings make great Christmas gifts for family.
  • Sewing. Boys love sewing machines!  And so do girls.  Make them earn their driver’s license first (to teach machine safety) and then give them small projects where they create designs — hot pads, pillows, and other small things are fun.  Or, have them turn a t-shirt inside out and sew up the neckline and the sleeves.  Turn right-side-out and stuff will pillow stuffing.  Then stitch up the bottom. Sewing designs on paper is a good way to develop fine motor skills.
  • Theme quilts — have them make quilt blocks on a theme (we made one with a dog theme and another with an airplane theme).  Use muslin for the blocks and cut them out in 10″ squares.  Using fabric crayons, permanent markers, appliques, buttons, or photo transfers (where you print off photos onto transfer paper and then iron them onto fabric) to create blocks in the selected theme.  Give grandma a block to make — and one to dad — and one for mom — etc.   Then have the child sew the blocks together with printed fabric (also in their theme — they have fun going to the fabric store and choosing something that strikes their fancy).  The quilt top is pretty easy to make.  Add a back (stitch together like a pillow case with thin, rolled padding for the middle and then turn right side out).  Tie with yarn and stitch up the turn-space by hand.  Easy and really valued by the child when done!
  • Flower and weed arrangements. Make wicker and twig (or silk flower or dried leaf) arrangements or wall hangings.  Cool glue guns, fabric ribbons (printed in themes kids like) etc. all work together to make small objects, arrangements, wall-hangings, etc.  The fun is the process — and they make nice gifts for family members.
  • Ceramics. We had a great time with ceramics!   A ceramics shop has green-ware that they will show you/your child how to clean (using tools kind of like a dentist uses).  After it’s cleaned, they will bake it for you in a kiln for a small fee.  Then have child apply a glaze and take it back to the ceramics shop to be processed in the kiln again.  We chose projects like gazing balls, vases with multi-colored glazes that melted and make funny patterns, chess game pieces, etc.  You can also get plain clay from them — like play-dough.  Statues, objects, free-form pots, etc. can all be made.  When done and dried they can be fired and glazed as well.
  • Model rockets and model airplanes — plastic or paper — ones that fly or are used just for decoration — all are fun and teach creativity and following directions.  Allow your child to think ‘outside the box’ as they create on their own using the base kits that are available at craft stores.
  • Model airplane paints work great for painting designs on stones for paper weights.  Be sure to buy the type of paint that is safe to breathe!
  • Legos. For art — never negate the value of Legos when it comes to developing creativity!  So many skills are learned with Lego building.  You might assign specific projects with Legos — a complete village or building or vehicle.  Take a picture of the finished project to remember it by.
  • Photography. Art principles can be taught and artistic skills developed using photography as the vehicle. In addition to taking pictures, students can start a photography blog where they post their photos. Photography can easily be used to teach "across the curriculum". Nature study, composition and writing, art principles, and human relationships are just a few subjects that can be incorporated into photo studies.

Happy creating!  Children are only limited by time, resources, and their imaginations!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Storytelling as an Educational Tool

For many generations, stories have been a meaningful part of childhood. Christian classics, from authors like Arthur Maxwell, Josephine Edwards, and Eric B. Hare have held children’s interest at bedtime worship and on many happy afternoons. The art of storytelling is a craft that broadens horizons and transports a child to places far away and too many times in history. From the pages of The Bible Story by Uncle Arthur to the adventures recounted in the audio presentations of Your Story Hour with Aunt Carole and Uncle Dan, children have been held spellbound as lessons have been learned. Through stories, the world opens up in front of them.

A story is an account of connected events that are presented to a reader or listener. It is a sequence of spoken or written words. These words can be read silently from a page or recounted orally.  It can include narrative, prose, poetry, news facts, telling, or writing. There are many ways to recount a sequence of events in effective ways. Storytelling is a natural way to teach children to write and to introduce them to literature.

According to Ruth Beechick, an educator who encouraged home education and wrote many educational books, stories can be a way of increasing a child’s knowledge and use of language. She states that parents to use stories regularly when interacting with their children can expect to the following rewards:

  • Building of vocabulary.
  • Stretching a child’s knowledge of things and ideas.
  • Building a feel for fine sentences and larger language structures.
  • Building a understanding of orderly sequence, cause and effect and other logical ways of thinking.
  • Development of sense of wonder and imagination.
  • Building of closeness and security between parent and child.

The first step to good storytelling is the implementation of the family story hour. Reading stories aloud to your child from a wide variety of resources sets the stage for learning about language. A home library is something that can be established and built from early in a child’s growth and development. There are a wealth of quality reading materials available for kids. Bookstores, libraries, and a grandmother’s attic all contain treasures that can provide your child with many hours of listening pleasure.

Before expecting a child to put a story down on paper, it’s a good idea to spend time teaching a child how to orally tell a good story. Children can be notorious for blurting things out in an excited and scrambled way or for communicating so sparsely that it is difficult to know what they are talking about. Other children talk without end, but are unable to bring out the main points of a story, getting stuck in minute details instead. While considering a child’s age and abilities, a thoughtful parent can help teach a child better ways of recounting events. You can start by asking the five important questions: who, what, when, where, and why? Then, ask for specifics to fill in the blanks. Details can include a request for descriptions, or sequences like what happened first, and a one sentence conclusion to evaluate and tie the recounting together in one concise thought. Practicing these skills daily with your child will help set the stage for the written story.

Once a child has had practice with oral storytelling and has gained adequate proficiency in the skill, it’s time to move along to writing stories. There are several ways to ease them into the process. Some ideas are:

  • Ask the child to dictate their story, word for word, while you write down what they have recounted. Write it exactly as they dictate, making sure the words are the childs and not your own. Then, read the story back to them. Help them make any changes that may clarify or enhance the story. Once completed, many children enjoy drawing a picture to illustrate their story.
  • Use a pocket chart and index cards that you’ve written words on. Separate the words according to verb, noun, adjective, and adverb and place each in their own stack. Add prepositions and connecting words in other stacks. One the chart place the words “who, what, when, where, and why”, using one word per line. Then, have the child fill in the chart rows, choosing the cards in the stacks to create a story. Start with a noun and a verb and then fill in the blanks with the other appropriate cards. The end result will be a short story that they have “written” without having to deal with the mechanics of actually using fine motor skills.
  • A story starter is something that can be used to draw children into the writing experience. It is a paragraph that sets the stage for a story. The child reads the paragraph and uses it as a springboard for creative storytelling. Depending upon a child’s age and abilities, the story can be dictated to a parent or written down by the child.
  • A picture prompt is another way of encouraging a creative streak in the young storyteller. Provide the child with a picture or photo that is interesting or unusual. The purpose is to spark the child’s imagination as they use the picture as a basis to write their story.

A story is a simple technique that can teach a child many things. The act of storytelling can teach, persuade, and help children understand themselves. A story is a powerful tool in the quest for positive character development. Use it as an integral tool in your homeschool for maximum effect. It will bring enjoyment and satisfaction to the entire family.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The 5 R's of Early Education

The 5 R's of early education are: read together, rhyme and play with words, set consistent routines, reward with praise, and develop a strong relationship. 

{Dr. Pamela High}

Success & Peer Groups

“I can't think of one great human being in the arts, or in history generally, who conformed, who succeeded, as educational experts tell us children must succeed, with his peer group...If a child in their classrooms does not succeed with his peer group, then it would seem to many that both child and teacher have failed. Have they? If we ever, God forbid, manage to make each child succeed with his peer group, we will produce a race of bland and faceless nonentities, and all poetry and mystery will vanish from the face of the earth.”

― Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Two if by Tea

A favorite writer of mine is Ce'leste perrino Walker who writes from Rutland, Vermont. I think I enjoy her writing because it her topics deal with real life things. In the Sept/Oct 2001 issue of Vibrant Life magazine she wrote an article that I've saved called One if by Land; Two if by Tea. In it she shares how a friend introduced her (and her French blood) to the gentle art of the English afternoon tea. She learned that tea is much more than a beverage in a cup, but rather something emotionally fulfilling, and a refreshing pause to the day. 

  • To quote her: "Teatime fills a need for peace in our stressed-out society. Not only that, but the manner in which you 'take tea' lifts the spirits and fills the senses with beauty. Everything about tea time contributes in some small way to this: beautiful tea linens, gorgeous china, luscious tea, delicious tea biscuits or cookies (or other even more scrumptious treats). Teatime 'for the soul' can be compared to dropping everything to spend a few stolen moments in a beautiful garden." 
  • She goes on to say: "I've decided to give 'teatime' a try. I'm not sure how it works. Maybe it's the special feeling you get from using the pretty teapot and china on yourself for a change. Maybe it's the ritual of preparig the tea, boiling the water, smelling the aroma of the tea as you measure it out, the rhythm of the procedure that won't be hurried. But teatime really is all they say it is."

Her advice to her readers is to take a little time for yourself this week and discover teatime, the pause that refreshes. Then thank the English. They were right all along. C'est la vie.

*The photo shown with the article reminds me of the children's teas that my mother used to conduct. She taught kindergarten for thirty years. Sometimes her school would have a benefit auction, and mother would donate a children's tea party. They were always popular and mothers and daughters would enjoy a lovely afternoon tea with all the trimmings at mom's house if they were the winners of the auction bid. Her beautiful children's china tea set was put to good use!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Scripture Memorization

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children.”  Deuteronomy 6:6-7
These words clearly instruct that God’s word should be committed to memory and passed on from generation to generation.  Committing portions of scripture to memory is vital in retaining knowledge of the scriptures.
In Psalm 1 and Joshua 1:8 share that prosperity and success in life come from scripture memorization, as it creates familiarity with God’s word and causes the learner to meditate upon the principles of God which promote these things.
Memorization takes discipline, and that can become tedious if not handled with some creative care.  A teacher-mom or dad can help speed along the process of memory work by building fun and interest into the process.   In her book, Building Your Child’s Faith,  Alice Chapin outlines some great techniques for accomplishing this.  She recommends:
  • Set up contests between adults and kids.  Offer fun prizes.  Draw up a “contract.”  For instance, if the kids memorize the verses more quickly than the adults, the adults will take out the trash for a week.  But if the adults memorize them first, the kids will do the supper cleanup for a week.  Be sure to sign the contract to make it official!
  • Help little children learn by repetition.  Review while rocking, bathing, and playing with them.  Repeat while driving or waiting in line at the grocery store.
  • Post current memory work on the refrigerator, closet door, or kitchen bulletin board.  Or stretch a “clothesline” and clothespin verses for the month to it.
  • Have memory charts.  Award stickers, stars, or seals for each learned verse, prizes for every five stickers.
  • Purchase a Scripture songbook, and sing Bible verses right into the minds of the family.  Or make your own music for favorite verses.
  • Use flannel-graph letters or verse flashcards.  Mix up letters and words, and take turns straightening them out.
  • Write the verse on a chalkboard.  Take turns erasing one word at a time.  Repeat the whole verse after each erasure.
  • Print different verses on 5×8 cards.  Cut each card into pieces.  Put the pieces for each verse in an envelope.  Pass out the envelopes, and use a timer to see who can put the verse-puzzle together the most quickly.  Have each member read his or her assembled verse.
  • Let the leader begin quoting a verse, stopping after every few words to ask another person to add the next four words, or two words, and so on.  Have a stick of gum or a lollipop ready for the first person to identify where the verse is located.
  • Let the small children use magic markers to print the verse of the week on sheets of construction paper.  Add stickers or magazine pictures and use for placemats at dinner.
  • Give each youngster an empty photo album with see-through plastic pages.  Insert weekly memory cards for an individual record of verses learned and for easy private review.
  • Once in a while assign short Scripture verses to be memorized by the following day.  Celebrate completion of the assignment with a yummy treat.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ideas for Keeping Summer Fun & Productive

Summer can be a busy time.  Family vacations, tending gardens, canning and freezing fruits and vegetables, swimming lessons, and more take up our days.  For most homeschool families, the pace of home education changes during this time.  Even for those who school year-around, the more traditional academics are usually set aside while my active pursuits take precedence for education.  Even though we are busy with our children during these days, sometimes individual time and attention can be lost unless specific attention is given to spending time doing things together that promote communication and togetherness.  In her book, Survival for Busy Women, Emilie Barnes shares a list of ideas that promote planned family events.  She suggests that these be combined with a family conference (discussion time where family issues are discussed) on a weekly basis.  Here are some of her suggested activities:
  • Make a collage on love.
  • Make and fly kites.
  • Assemble a puzzle.
  • Write and produce a play.
  • View family movies or videos.
  • Have family celebrations.
  • Exercise together.
  • Have a make-up party.
  • Have a fix-it night.
  • Make a terrarium.
  • Write letters to grandparents.
  • Cook and bake.
  • Make and sail a boat.
  • Play board games.
  • Tell stories.
  • Put on a puppet show.
  • Go on picnics.
  • Model clay.
  • Ride bicycles.
  • Play charades.
  • Visit a farm.
  • Have discussions and debates.
  • Have a fire drill.
  • Go to a pow-wow.
  • Make Christmas ornaments and candles in preparation.
Emilie Barnes shares that a list of family activities is limited only by our imagination!  These times play a valuable part in establishing harmony, respect, and pride in the family unit.