Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer Needs a Little Pinterest

We have on break from school for about a month now. I believe in letting kids have a break with to be "bored". In the month of June, T participates in our neighborhood swim team which competes with other teams throughout our city. He is still a beginning swimmer when it comes to competing but he has been improving over the last two seasons. He now knows the back, breast, freestyle and butterfly strokes but he needs to work on his speed and form. The team practices every M-Th morning so we have been starting our days early all summer. Days seem longer when you leave the house before 8am and have very little scheduled activities.

I'd like to share some of the recent projects the kids have been working on over the last two weeks. Most of the creating was done by T (or me) but both T and B enjoyed playing with the finished products.

Our first pintrest adventure of the summer was Sponge Balls. I have had this pinned for over a year and kept thinking we should try it. I don't normal use sponges at home so we never had the materials on hand. Once I finally bought the sponges we were able to make these very quickly one afternoon while B was napping. T helped and then they both played with them after B woke up. I don't have any pictures of B because she was less than thrilled with her brother throwing water drenched sponges in her face right after she woke up from her nap, so I was busy being a referee.


He really enjoyed smashing it into his own head

If you'd like to give these a try, they are super easy, cheap and fun. There are tons of different blogs with instructions so I will just link you to the one I used. I will say that string did not work well for us, it just didn't hold it tight enough. We used large rubber bands instead.

Next we tried a super simple and quick DIY super hero cape. This another one of those pins I've had pinned forever. It took about 5 minutes to make two of these capes. You only need an old tee shirt for each cape and a scissors. For my 8 year old, I used an old adult tee, for my 2 year old I used one of my son's old tees (size 5T). After they wore these for about 15mins, they decided they needed some emblems on the back so I cut them out of sticky backed craft foam and just stuck them onto the back of the capes. They ran around with these capes for hours (and for several days).

**WARNING** your child MUST be supervised while wearing these capes. They are definitely a strangulation hazard if left as is. I am considering cutting the collar and adding velcro to make it safer but haven't yet. These capes are only worn with supervision and put away where they can not access them alone.

Super B and Super T!

For some reason, super heroes need forts! T grabbed two moving boxes from our garage and made himself and his sister a fort. They were basically boxes with windows and doors cut out of them, but they loved them. No pin here, just use your imagination. If you want some inspiration, Ive really enjoyed Fort Fridays at All For The Boys

Super T's fort

Super B's fort

Lastly, some super hero power crystals. I didn't actually have this one pinned, I was just browsing a favorite blog and came across it. T noticed it on the computer screen and insisted they needed to make them. The tutorial calls them Wire Wrapped Stone Necklaces, but ours needed more power. T raided his rock collection for some pretty polished crystalline rocks. B got a purple on and T got a greenish one. We wrapped jewelry wire around the rock to keep it from falling out and then make a simple twine necklace. We found that we needed a lot of wire to actually keep those stones in place and the wire we bought was too soft to stay how we made it. I would recommend not using jewelry wire for this. They were fun for a while, but they didn't last. Again, if you have a small child, these would be a strangulation hazard, please supervise small children with necklaces.

We had fun working through some pintrest projects and I think we'll keep looking for more. Some were better than others but they were all fun as an activity. None of them cost more than a few dollars and they all provided hours of fun for the children.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Enjoying Art

I will fully admit that I am not an artist. I don't know much about art history either. I know the basics, the famous painters/paintings, but techniques and time periods confuse me. I love doing crafts with the kids but real art was not something I felt that I knew enough about to teach T when he got very interested in it. I decided to enroll him in a homeschool art class and he loved it.

There is a local art studio owned by a Mom of two elementary aged children. She teaches adults and does after school art classes for kids. Recently she began offering homeschool classes during the day which were perfect for us. T went for one hour each week to a class with other homeschool kids close to his age and learned different techniques and mediums. He also attended a homeschool art history class for 45 mins each week where they studied one famous artist of the week. He learned so much about the different techniques that were used and when they were most popular. He learned to paint, draw, sculpt, and even decorate a cake.

For the last month of classes he worked on his final project which was a painting of his house on a 16x20 stretch canvas. Normally I do not stay for these classes as it is distracting for the children to have parents and siblings hanging around and my 2yr old got very bored the few times we stayed in the waiting area. I knew that he was doing a painting of his house because they told us when we were required to bring in a photo of the house for reference. I didn't see the stages of the painting though, because T wanted it to be a surprise.

The last day when he was finishing up he let me come in and take a look. I snapped this pic of him putting the finishing touches on the tree next to the house.

I was really impressed with his painting. It really does look a lot like our house. When T started this class he had just gotten really interested in drawing. The first 6 years of his life he really disliked any sort of drawing/painting so I really was not expecting much from his painting. I was pleasantly surprised at how well he did on this painting. He even added berries to the holly bushes in front of the house.

The Art studio was really great. They met T where he was in ability and helped him improve without making it feel like work. He had fun and he learned a ton. After all of the classes were finished, the studio held a Art Gallery Show. They decorated the studio and displayed the final projects from all of their classes. The children and families dressed up for the show and each child spent some time by their painting talking with viewers about their piece. They also had a fun sundae bar, drinks and goody bags for the kids.

Homeschooling is wonderful, its great to teach your own child. Sometimes its also wonderful to go outside the home to find other teachers for your children. In Montessori, children are encouraged to find a way to learn what they need to learn. Sometimes their teacher (or homeschooling parent) doesn't have the skills to teach them properly. They need to expand their search to include outside teachers at times. I think T's idea of taking Art classes was just what he needed. I love that he is enjoying creating beautiful works of art and I can't wait to hang this in a special place in our home.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Birthday Celebration Montessori Style

There is a wonderful Montessori tradition of celebrating birthdays that we decided to do this year. T has had this celebration twice before when he attended a Montessori school but we didn't do it at home last year. This year I decided it would be fun to do it at home. You don't need much and it doesn't take long. You only need a birthday child, a globe, a candle and pictures of the bday child (optional).

I recently purchased a lot of used Montessori materials from a local school that was closing and found a lovely gold colored candle holder from India in the box. I thought it looked perfect for the candle's role as the Sun. T cut out a sun shape from yellow paper with 12 rays, on which we wrote the months of the year. We lit the candle and placed it, and its holder, on top of the paper sun in the center of the room. T held the globe and walked around the "sun" one time for each year of his life. He turned 8 this year so he walked around the "sun" 8 times. After he walked each time, I talked about a few special things he did for the first time at that age. Examples of special things: learned to walk, learned to ride a bike, went to school, became a big brother/sister, moved, etc.  During his walk around the sun we sang the following song (to the tune of the Farmer in the Dell)

"The Earth goes round the Sun,
The Earth goes round the Sun,
The Earth goes round the Sun and child's name turns one" continues to whatever age they are.

T, being an 8 year old boy, did not walk around the sun....he ran around the sun. B was sitting nearby but she didn't make it into any pictures because she had to sit far enough back that she didn't get trampled.

We used our Hugg-a-planet plush globe which was great because I didn't have to worry about it going flying out of his hands while he was running.

Some schools/homes also use beads in a dish for each year. The child gets to place a bead in the dish each time they go around the circle. T wasn't interested in doing this so we skipped it, he just started at the point where his birth month was and walked around and stopped at the same spot between years.

Summer has arrived

I have been slacking on the blog lately. Sorry! We have had a very busy May and June. I would like to share some of what we have been up to lately.

We took a trip to visit family. My Sister is a homeschooling Mom to 4 little girls aged 8, 6, 4 and infant. The kids had so much fun visiting with their cousins. They played together so well. We spent a long weekend at their house and then drove to the big city where my Mom lives.

B with her newest cousin K

As homeschoolers, we wanted to explore some of the educational activities the city had to offer. Our first stop, as it often is, the Zoo! Most of these photos were taken by my 8 yr old niece A, she did a great job.

Brown Bear

Juvenile Snow Leopards

T's fave, Polar Bear

E's (6yr old niece) fave, Giraffes.


A close up shot of the snow leopards

Our next stop was the Art Museum! We had never been there before. The kids really enjoyed all the kid friendly activities they offered.

Drawing using magnifying glasses

Drawing in sections

Little art cases you could check out and take with you throughout the museum. The kids loved being able to sit down in the exhibit area and draw.

T saw a sailboat on the lake and sat down to draw it.

The little ones played with puppets from another kit we checked out.

The exterior of the museum

We needed a little break from activities the next day and just spent some time at the park. The kids loved the large sandbox.

That is T buried in sand behind B

B with her Cousins
 The night before my sister and nieces left, we celebrated T's 8th birthday. It wasn't actually his birthday but it was close and we wouldn't see them again before it. We had cake and the kids played. They gave him an awesome bday gift. It was a little can with a real mollusk that he pried open to find his very own, natural pearl. T has wanted a pearl ever since he found out that it is his birthstone. The fact that he got to harvest it himself, made it even better.  Being homeschoolers, T kept one half of the shell (and the pearl) and sent the other half of the shell with his cousins so that both homes could have one on their nature table.

After my sister and the kids went home we were a bit bored. We took Grandma out with us on some new adventures (she had been with us on all the other trips as well).

We visited two museums, the first was a hands on museum for kids and the second was a natural history museum.  Here are a few pics from those trips:

T on the bed of nails

Controlling a robot Dinosaur

Cool miniature versions of the Great Lakes. Michigan

Lake Erie

Some different types of eggs

Touching some fish fossils

Rain falling over the Great Lakes

There was a small Aquarium in the museum

Aquarium tunnel

Touch Tank with stingrays and sharks

A shark egg

T loved the stingray barbs and shark eggs

Trying out some pulleys

...and Levers
....and more pulleys

The natural history museum had so much more than pictured but couldn't see everything and we visited at Christmas time to see the rest.

Checking out some insects with Grandma

T's fave

Looking in the window of an early American toy store

Looking at insects under the microscope

The Butterfly garden room. There is a butterfly on B's knee in this pic. They kept landing on us but flew away before I could get pictures.

A Mammoth skeleton
We had such a fun time visiting family and enjoying some educational activities that we don't normally get to visit. Once we returned, we had a few days left of regular school to finish up before summer break started. Now that summer break is here, T has been enjoying his time off. He is continuing his reading each morning and occasionally we will be working on other subjects as needed.