Thursday, March 5, 2015

Unschooling Arts and Crafts

In the summer of 2014 we decided to explore an interest based approach to education. While we haven't been pure unschoolers, the kids have had a lot of free time to explore their interests. Each child is unique. My oldest spends hours per day reading, while my son experiments. My little one likes me to read to her, but they all three have put hours into arts and crafts projects. Here are a few.

My seven year old has been experimenting with perspective drawing. A while back we watched a video on drawing people in perspective. Now she finally has more time to explore.

While on vacation in the Netherlands, we visited the Van Gogh museum. My seven year old, who doesn't care for any museums, loved it. At the end, she insisted we buy a book from the gift shop. When we returned home, she tried recreating a few Van Goghs.

My oldest can't get enough photo editing. She loves to dance and is very creative, but could use a little practice working with computers. So I introduced her to gIMP, a photo editing program and showed her how to find a few tutorials on the internet.

She took it from there, creating almost 30 edited photos. Next, I'm planning to introduce her to a scrapbooking program so she can put her pictures into a book.

My seven year old completed a latch hook rug she received for Christmas.

My son watched a video on how to change a quarter into a ring. We still need to get the proper tools to finish the job, but he took it as far as possible.

My son also remembered our perspective drawing tutorials and looked up another on drawing a house. Maybe we will move to one like this? I think it's pretty nice.

She decided she wanted a dress, and got busy sewing.

After reading about Chinese New Year, my daughter went crazy making Chinese lanterns.

Bottle cap collecting became a hobby of my son's over the summer. He has hundreds now, so I bought him an unfinished wooden box and he's been hot gluing the bottle caps into a decorative design.

My son decided to make himself a musical instrument with cardboard and rubber bands.

My 13 year old crafter, crocheted a hedgehog from a pattern she found on the internet.

We seem to start and end everything around here with dance. Lots of detail and time went into this needle felted dancer created by my 13 year old daughter.

I'm finding that by giving my kids lots of free time they use it doing high quality activities. Centered around crafts, they are learning computer skills, reading, a little math; mostly pattern, and learning a bit about history. I've been supplementing their activities with some math and writing on a daily basis. In addition, I spend one-on-one time reading books and doing music activities with each child based on their interests. My son has several science kits that he likes to explore, and once or twice a week I ask if they would like to watch a science based movie and they are usually up for it. This relaxed approach has taken so much stress out of our school days and really seems to be working!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Weaving - One Step Beyond the Basics

We created unique weaving patterns.

The Harrisville Designs 7" Potholder (Traditional Size) Loom Kit is my favorite tool for teaching weaving. When the kids are finished weaving the loops over and under they have a usable potholder to keep for themselves or give as a gift.

Recently, we began creating new potholders with slightly more difficult designs. When patterns are created going over two loops and under one, instead of the basic over one, under one sequence, new and beautiful patterns begin to emerge.

To create this potholder, one blue and then two purple loops were placed on the potholder. Then only greens were woven through the purple and blues. Instead of going over one, under one, the greens went over the purple and then under both blues.

The Map is Not the Territory blog displayed a similar activity which used paper instead of potholder loops as the medium. Be sure to visit for more pattern ideas.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Translating Patterns into Different Mediums

We translated Cuisenaire Rod patterns into numbers.

Musical rhythms are commonly translated into numbers of beats and dancers count the musical beats when performing steps. Knitting patterns are written mathematically in charts. Translating patterns between the mediums of sound, image and number is an excellent skill for children to develop. There is so much application which frequently shows itself when crafts or hobbies involve patterns.

In addition to dance and music lessons, another way to develop this skill is with art. For this activity we began with a small cuisenaire rod pattern and wrote down the number equivalent lengths of the rods on paper.

 After viewing the numbers, even more patterns began to appear. When reading the numbers down they count 1,2,3,4,5; and when reading the middle column upwards, it counts by odd numbers - 1,3,5,7,9.

A few days later the process was repeated with a variation. Using the 1, 2 and 3 cm long Cuisenaire Rods, we tried to see how many ways we could make 13. The number 13 had to be symmetric.

 Although we have lots of Cuisenaire Rods, we did run out during this activity. Therefore, translating the patterns into numbers allowed us to find even more. The picture below shows a partial list.

Translating patterns between mediums becomes easier with practice and is an interesting, creative way to develop mathematical skills.

In addition to this pattern translation activity, my math page contains links to several posts regarding mandala recreation with a compass and straight edge which is yet another way to develop this skill.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Discover and Do - Hands-On Science for Kids

Two years ago we were using Discover & Do Science and now we're using it again!

Discover and Do is a science series on DVD. Kids watch a short segment (5 min) and then repeat what they have seen performing their own experiment. We usually push the pause button before the outcome of the experiment is revealed. Then watch to see if the results were the same. The series contains many topics such as weather, plants, air and water, human body, etc. each with around 30 experiments and can be used for around five years.

We completed most of the experiments a few years ago, but now that my son is older, he wanted to repeat some lessons. He's currently interested in the battery series and pops the videos in and does everything on his own.

In the above photos, he attached some wires, a light and batteries to a cardboard ring to make his own headlamp. He had some issues with the switch and was adjusting it as I took this photo. - Awesome!

I highly recommend this series for young elementary aged children.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Learning Geography with State Quarters

My son is learning geography with a state quarters map.

I remember entering junior high and having a quiz on US States and capitals. For many kids memorizing names and locations of each state was daunting, and no fun at all. Therefore, whenever my kids are motivated to learn on their own I try to encourage them.

For Christmas, my kids all received state quarter maps. They say the maps are one of their favorite gifts. Now, each time we receive a quarter as change they want to look at it. They know exactly which states they have and which states they are missing. Learning state locations has been no problem. Now we just have to figure out a similar method for the capitals.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

* I did not receive any compensation for this recommendation. I'm just a homeschooling mom who has found many products that I like. If you're interested in the products I recommend on this blog I want to make it easy for you to find them. 
** I am an Amazon associate and receive a small portion of the sales on orders made after clicking in from this site, which I promptly spend on homeschooling books and supplies for my children. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Opposite Hand Day

Have you ever wondered why the handwriting of some children is so sloppy? or why other children make such a mess in the kitchen? Try doing all of your normal activities with your non-dominant hand for one full day and you will quickly understand their challenge.

I spent several days trying to perform normal daily tasks with my left-hand. I wanted to see how challenging it would be, but also felt like spending long hours in front of the computer, always cutting food, brushing my teeth and doing everything with my right hand had left me a bit unbalanced. Sometimes I felt like my spine was a bit crooked and muscles on one half of my body were developed differently than the other side. Would doing things with my left-hand have any effect?

Writing, cooking, brushing my teeth and operating the computer mouse were four main activities that were extremely challenging. In addition, unlocking doors proved quite difficult. Both number 5 and 2 came out backwards on paper. Wow! That was a wake-up call. In the kitchen, cutting tomatoes and potatoes, my hands did not know how to hold the food. I didn't cut myself, but a few of my fingernails ended up a little shorter. Using the vegetable peeler proved to be an interesting challenge. It took several swipes just to get the cutter to cut. Unlocking the front door, I turned the key in the wrong direction and consistently clicked the wrong mouse buttons. Eating took up about twice as much time. It's really difficult to cut an egg with a fork, and even more challenging with the left hand. It took forever just to get the cut piece of egg stabbed onto my fork, and I had difficulty getting out every last drop of yogurt from my bowl. My teeth did feel clean after I clumsily wiggled the brush around for a few minutes in my mouth. My right hand is an expert, but my left needs definite practice.

Two main things struck me while working left-handed. One was the amount of brain power involved in theses seemingly automated tasks. Once I switched hands, these activities were no longer automatic and required my brain to wake-up. The other was the muscle control which had been developed unsymmetrically.

After using my left-hand for a full day, I decided to continue the experiment for the entire month. By the third week I became quite proficient using the mouse and was able to cut my food much quicker. At the swimming pool I realized that my flip turns were right-handed and doing them backwards caused new muscles in my stomach to wake-up.

If you try using your opposite hand, be sure to leave a comment to say how it went.
Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Braided Rug

We made a braided rug out of old clothes.

When the pioneers were busy settling America they didn't have a huge amount of available resources. Recycling was a top priority and fabrics were frequently used in several different ways before being discarded.When clothes were too worn or too small, it was possible to reuse them by making them into a rug for the floor.

Pioneers would have used clothing available, but we had lots to choose from. The first step was selecting materials for the rug from the large pile of old stained clothes.

Next, the shirts were cut into strips about 3/4 of an inch wide.

Three strips were selected to start with. They were tied together in a knot and then braided.

 The braid was coiled into a circle and hand-stitched into place.

Next, additional strips were knotted to the end of each strip as they ran out. It was important that each strip ran out at a different place, so the knots would not be clumped together. The braid was continually coiled and stitched into a circle.

Progress was rapidly viewed at the initial stages of this project as the circle required only a short length of braid to grow in length. However, as the diameter increased it seemed like a lot more effort was required for the rug to grow.

Check out these great blogs full of educational activity ideas. 
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