Op Art for Kids

My 12 year old created perspective op art using two videos as a guide. The project was recommended for fifth grade, but could be enjoyed by both younger and older children.

The first step was to create a vanishing point dot somewhere on the page.

Next, straight lines were drawn from the dot to the edge of the page creating an even number of sections and making sure none of the lines passing directly through the vanishing point created a 180 degree angle.

Once the straight lines were complete, curved lines were drawn in each of the sections and spaced as evenly as possible. The two videos below explain the creation and coloring process for this project.

Here's my daughter's finished op art perspective drawing.

Switch to Interest Based Education - Update 1

For several months we have been transitioning towards a more interest based education philosophy. My older two children have been home educated since 2007. Therefore, when we began with the interest based approach, they had a pretty specific idea of what a school day should entail. In addition, they saw a distinct difference between school days and non-school days. When I first told them they could do whatever they wanted, they interpreted that as being able to choose which math program they could follow. In other words, they were happy to be able to chose between Khan Academy, Life of Fred, Math-U-See or a workbook. While this wasn't exactly what I meant, I am happy to see them interested in math. In truth, I'm not really ready myself to let this portion of their education be left up to them. So, I'm not sure they have a genuine interest in math at this point. I think they feel like they have to do math for school, but that's alright with me, because I agree.

As for their other subjects, they sort-of have the hang of unschooling. What I mean is that they do educational activities they enjoy. Over the past four months they have engaged in a variety of activities from photo editing, learning German via Duo Lingo, reading books, reading with me, practicing their musical instruments, and exploring science via toy-based kits.

In the mean time, I've been busy introducing them to American history and evolution as they have expressed interest in these two subjects. We've constructed an evolution timeline which we populated with information about the various historical eras, read a book on evolution and watched several videos on youtube. In studying American history, we have engaged in similar activities. Since they expressed interest in these areas, I was hoping they would be inspired by a book or video to engage in a project or to learn more about the topics. Unfortunately this hasn't happened. Although they seem to enjoy learning about these subjects, they haven't branched out on their own. I think it's because they are comfortable with their past school experiences. So I'm not sure how to proceed? Maybe I should introduce them to more subjects and do a better job of encouraging them to explore? I'm open for suggestions.

My son writing a computer program using Scratch and following a Youtube tutorial

My youngest, on the other hand, is more on-board with the unschooling than I'm comfortable with. She has little interest in evolution or American history, and often chooses not to participate when we explore the topics. That's just fine with me. As I said above, I'm not ready to leave math up to the kids. In addition, I'm not comfortable leaving reading and writing completely up to them either. My youngest, although super smart, is almost eight years old and doesn't read as well as the other two did when they were six. Because of this, I do my best to encourage her to read, but I do require her to read for about 15 minutes per day. Sometimes I have her read to me, sometimes she reads books I select and sometimes she selects her own books and reads. The household mood is definitely best when she decides to read something on her own. She absolutely hates it when I force her to read to me.

This is the part of unschooling that really tears me up. I want so bad for her to read, yet, I want her to read for her and not for me, and still, I'm not willing to accept the fact that she will read when she's ready. I know that she will be capable of doing so much more on her own if she can read. Reading is the key to knowledge in the society we live in.

So as for unschooling, we are making steps toward the interest based philosophy, but I would not consider myself an unschooler. In a lot of ways, the kids are independent learners. They definitely have more say in what they are studying than in the past. I tend to introduce them to topics and sometimes they explore further, and other times they don't. My overall goal is to make them capable of finding resources and exploring their own interests. In other words, I want them to be independent self-led learners, not independent mom-led learners. We're getting there, but we have a way to go.

A few notes on this blog:
I often write posts and schedule them to publish on future dates. Therefore, when a post from a past unit study posts, it may appear we have taken two steps back in our strides toward unschooling. However, over time, the posts will become more interested based in nature.

What is an emergency?

One local former EMT mom put together a three week (one hour per week) emergency preparation class for kids. During the first week kids learned to recognize an emergency. The second week covered what to do in an emergency - stay calm, call 911 (or 112 for us in Germany), check Airway, Breathing and Circulation (ABC's). The third week was reserved for hands-on practicals.

Week 1: We discussed different emergency situations, learned about different types of emergencies, emergency related vocabulary and made family fire emergency plans.

What is an Emergency?

Should emergency services be called if:
the house is on fire?
mom falls down the stars and is acting strange?
the roof blew off the house and a sister is stuck under a bookshelf?
the baby is playing with blood pressure medicine and the top is off the bottle?

During our emergency class the kids were given sticky notes and pens to write down possible emergencies. Then they had to decide if the emergency was a Natural Hazard or Disaster, Man-Made Hazard, Criminal Emergency or an Injury/Medical Emergency.

Emergency Language
Many words associated with emergencies aren't part of our everyday conversations and are therefore unknown to lots of children. Unconsciousness, impaled objects, and possible neck or back injuries were eagerly discussed, as well as personal stories relating to emergencies and injuries.

Fire Emergency/Family Plan
Discussing what to do in case of fire before hand is of critical importance as it makes reactions automatic. Here's what we told the kids.

In case of fire the number one priority is to get to a safe place. Assist siblings if necessary, but don't put yourself in greater danger by searching for a pet or phone inside a burning house. Know your designated family meeting spot away from the house. Stop, Drop, and Roll if hair or clothing catches on fire. If the smoke is think crawl because the low air is more breathable. 

Phone Number List
Placing a sheet of paper near the phone with fire, police, poison, and other emergency numbers can help those who forget everything under pressure.

Preparing for an emergency by exploring different scenarios can save time during a crisis. Knowing what to do helps those assisting in an emergency take quicker and better action. My children learned so much and I would highly recommend organizing a class such as this covering basic emergency procedures. I still hope these skills never have to be used, but it's a good idea to have a plan of action.

Renaissance Unit Study - Music

Week 13: We sang Ode to Joy.

During the late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance a system of written music similar to what is used today was developed. This revelation enabled people in different parts of Europe to enjoy the same music. Music from the south, Italy, was lyrically based, where as music from the north, Germany and England, was more focused on instruments and harmony.

This lesson introduced lots of vocabulary:

Madrigal - secular song, lyrically based on popular poetry
A cappella - singing without instrumental accompaniment
Word Painting - Musical technique of matching musical pitch with lyrics
Chromaticism - Musical technique of using shocking pitches to draw emotion
Polyphony - Music with two or more independent lines of melody

The Education Portal is a free internet educational resource which happens to offer several videos on the subject of Renaissance Music.

In addition to the above videos, the Sacred Music Series below weaves the history of music with examples of current performers - The Sixteen directed by Harry Christophers - singing the music of the past.

Sacred Music Series: Episode 1 - The Gothic Revolution
Sacred Music Series: Episode 2 - Palestrina
Sacred Music Series: Episode 3 - Byrd and Tallis
Sacred Music Series: Episode 4 - Bach and the Lutheran Legacy

After learning a little about Renaissance Music, the kids were separated into two groups and given sheet music for a portion of Beethoven's Ode to Joy.

First they practiced their parts and learned musical lyrics are written with the verses above each other.

The first group sang Part I, then the first group paused while the second group sang part II, then both groups sang their lyrics together.

Here's the video. The best part is at the end when the two groups sing together.

Not bad for only 20 minutes of practice!

To see the other activities from our Renaissance Unit Study please visit our History Page.

Teaching Kids about Money

We implemented a money management system to help the kids learn to be responsible with their money.

Christmas and birthdays are frequently a time of instant wealth for children. A money windfall, can make learning about money management even more difficult. Kids don't connect work with money and may plan on the next big holiday for replenishing their piggy bank. Having an upfront plan can go a long way to money management success.

The video below gives five tips to parents which are very useful for teaching kids about money. Instead of kids keeping their money in one container, there are four labeled spend, save, invest and donate.

I have two children who are very responsible with their money, and one who spends every cent she receives. My first two kids think about their purchases well in advance and stick to their plans when shopping. In contrast, my youngest child goes to the store and wants everything she sees and is willing to immediately part with her cash. Dividing money between the four containers was a way to limit the amount of money she was able to spend on trinkets and food at festivals in a way that she would still have money available for future use.

In addition to money management, my youngest child preferred to let others clean up after her. Ok- So most of us prefer this, but my youngest was a master at letting others work while she watched.

After meals we typically did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. Each child had a job; sweeping, drying dishes, clearing the table, and emptying the garbage. Since some jobs took longer than others, the kids helped each other until all the work was done. My oldest two were always finished eating and just began cleaning, but my youngest, would eat slowly and help herself to more food until the work was nearly finished. Not only was she happy to let others do the work, but she was a master at manipulating the system in her favor.

I liked this system because I believe that kids should be expected to help and receive money for work they are able to choose whether or not to do. My kids are expected to clean the house once per week with the other family members and expected to clean-up after meals. They can choose to empty the dish-washer, vacuum mid-week, fold laundry, or clean the bathrooms mid-week to earn money. If they do these things they are paid, but if not they don't earn money. To me it makes no difference. To them it only matters if they want to buy something, or save money for future use. The system worked great for my oldest two children, but due to my younger daughters superior thinking and master manipulation skills, this system wasn't working for her and needed to be changed.

My youngest needed to be in control and able to decide whether or not to work. Therefore, I began paying the kids a small amount for cleaning up after meals, and told them they would now be responsible for paying their own entrance fees to our local swimming pool (which we visit 2-4 times per month.) I paid them enough to cover the entrance plus a little extra. That way, they could decide not to clean once or twice and would still have enough to go to the pool.

Despite the fact that I was now paying for kitchen clean-up, my youngest still rarely choose to work. Therefore, although she earned some money, it was not enough to cover expenses to the pool as frequently as we went. In addition, all three kids had quite a bit of birthday and Christmas money which caused a great delay in understanding the effect of this system, but the time eventually came.

Finally, my youngest ran out of money. On a Wednesday I asked, "Do you want to go to the pool tomorrow?"

She quickly shouted, "No". Well it turned out she was out of money. Since my husband had to work, nobody was available to take care of her, so I changed our pool day to Sunday. This gave her a few extra days to earn the entrance fee and provided a back-up plan if she choose not to go. Again, she choose not to work in the days between Thursday and Sunday, so when the time came to go swimming, she couldn't afford it.

I felt really bad leaving the house without her since she was crying and really upset, but I left. Before we left, she told my husband, "Dad, I know what we can do when they're at the pool. We can go to Spiel and Spass." (That's one of those indoor play places with trampolines, etc.)

His response; "That costs more than the pool. We will go on a bike ride and go to the park."

They had a nice afternoon, and the older two had a wonderful time swimming. When I got home my youngest was emptying the dishwasher. She doesn't plan on missing swimming time again.

............... Update .....................
After several months the system is still in place. My youngest barely earns enough money to go to the pool each week. She works the minimum amount, but now ensures she can afford to swim.

In addition to this change, the system ended up as a math lesson for the two younger children. Once per week the kids are paid for their weeks work. They track their income on self-made charts which they tape to the kitchen cabinets. Each child has developed a unique system to note their work. At the end of the day they add up their earnings, and at the end of the week they create totals. I noticed on my son's chart that he was creating estimates of future earnings based on work he planned to do around the house.

Finally we have a process that's working and I plan to continue its use until the kids find a way to outsmart the system. (It may happen sooner than I expect. My oldest two have found outside jobs which pay much better than I do.) One teaches piano lessons, and the other is mowing lawns. I see raises in the future and giving the kids the responsibility to pay for more than just entrances to the swimming pool.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational ideas.

How Granite Forms - Activity for Kids

Geology Unit Study

Week 7: We modeled the formation process of granite.

Granite is an igneous rock which forms underground. The bigger the crystals in the granite, the stronger the granite. Some of the hardest granite on Earth is found in Yosemite National Park.

We watched the documentary, How The Earth Was Made - Yosemite, as part of our Glacier study as well as for learning about granite. When granite cools slowly, large crystals are formed. In Yosemite, a crack in the surface enabled liquid magma to seep out. The magma kept the cooling granite warm for a longer period of time greatly increasing the cooling time. As it took a long time for the granite to cool, large crystals developed.

After watching the video, we used Crayola Model Magic to illustrate the granite formation process.

 First many crystals were formed by breaking the dough into small pieces.

 Next, small crystals were quickly stuck together to form granite.

 The processes was repeated with larger crystals to illustrate stronger granite.

The big crystals on the left represent strong granite which cooled very slowly.

More hands-on science ideas are on our Science Page.

Renaissance Unit Study - Martin Luther

Week 12: We made salt dough maps of Germany which highlighted the places Martin Luther visited.

During the Renaissance, officials from the church in Rome traveled to the north selling indulgences. Purchasing an indulgence ensured safe passage into heaven, and helped to finance the building of St. Peters. Indulgences however, were not the only immoral acts practiced by the church.

Since the Bible primarily existed in Latin, the people had to rely on others to interpret its meaning. Martin Luther, a priest from the north, believed the inability of the people to read the Bible for themselves allowed greater corruption in the church.

Martin Luther took issue with indulgences and other practices of the church which he considered immoral. He made his view known to church officials and desired reform within the establishment. In addition, he worked to translate the Bible into German so the common man could read it for himself. Unfortunately, church officials did not want reform and they saw Martin Luther as a threat. In fact, he was considered an outlaw by the church.

Martin Luther lived in Germany and therefore his influence was greatest in the north. Although it was not his intention, his desire for reform lead to the formation of the Protestant Church. Throughout his life, he lived and traveled throughout Germany, and therefore, we created salt dough maps of Germany marking the locations where he spent time.

Salt Dough Recipe
1 cup of salt
2 cups of flour
1 cup of warm water

We live in Germany, so in addition to marking the locations where Martin Luther lived the kids marked a few favorite cities. Trier was marked on my son's map because he ate schnitzel in a restaurant and really liked it. He also labeled Munich and Berlin the capital.

My daughter added hedgehogs, pretzels, and mountains because she likes them all and Germany has them.

Published Authors Write Rough Drafts Too

We explored the rough draft of a published author.

Writing is often fun for kids until it's time to take a rough draft to the next step. After all, they read lots of books and they all look great. The kids never get the opportunity to see the rough drafts from published authors.

Unfortunately Dr. Seuss died before he had the chance to complete the story which was eventually published under the title Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! Fortunately for us, not only was the story celebrating alternative teachers completed, but the published version contains Dr. Seuss's rough draft.

The story from Dr. Seuss was in fact in a very rough form. It contained sketches and verses and ideas for characters, but it lacked a plot. It was in more of a concept form than a rough draft. The book explains how Dr. Seuss' sketches were transformed into the published story.

This rare opportunity to see a Dr. Seuss rough draft was an eye opening experience for my children. Before this, I think they thought authors just wrote down a finished version.

Check out these Blog Hops for activity ideas from others.

The History of Modern Art

We visited a Modern Art Museum and also learned how modern art evolved.

I must admit that I've never been a big fan of modern art and have never really been able to understand it. Much of it looks quite simple enough that a child could have created it, and some of it looks as if it was created by spilling paint on the floor. To me, in addition to aesthetic appeal art needs to appear like it was a challenge to create.

A large yellow circle on a black background may look like rising sun, or a glowing ball of fire, but to me, I think I could copy it without too much struggle. On the other hand, I really enjoy geometric art. MC Escher's tessellations are absorbing as are the repeating patterns of eastern art.

Although this piece is three dimensional, it still seems quite plain. I just don't get it.



Well, it turns out I'm not alone in my lack of appreciation for modern art. Enter Prager University. Prager University is a web site which produces short videos (5 minutes or so) designed to make people think. Although I do not agree with several of the videos, there are many I really do like. The topics range from religion to capitalism to how to be happy.

This video entitled "Why is Modern Art so Bad," explains the history of modern art and how it evolved. It was actually quite interesting, so if you have 5 minutes why not watch it?

Check out these Blog Hops for activity ideas from others.

Volume in Milliliters

Distance, Area, Volume Unit Study

Day 11: We determined how much different containers could hold in milliliters.

In Germany restaurant beverages are not sold in small, medium and large sizes, but rather in milliliters or liters. .3 liter and .5 liter sizes are the most common. How much is .3 liters?

First several drinking vessels were gathered.

Next, they were placed in size order by appearance.

Next, they were filled with water and the water was dumped into a container containing milliliter markings.

Each container was labeled with the amount of liquid it could hold and reordered if necessary. The kids learned why the Eeorye cup is my favorite one. (It holds the most liquid.)

Check out these Blog Hops for activity ideas from others. 

Geology Unit Study - Rock Identification

Week 6: We identified rocks.

Rocks are used to build roads, buildings, make glass, and carve. They are set into jewelry, used as game pieces, table tops, and in a variety of other ways. Within the three main categories of rock sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous, rocks can be further divided.

The book How the Earth Works (How It Works) has a nine step process for further identifying rocks. Many of the steps are similar to those used in Mineral Identification. Looking at the grains within a rock, determining if it fizzes with vinegar, testing its hardness, and calculating its density provide significant clues to identification.

The first step was to determine if the rock fizzed with vinegar. If it did fizz, it was likely to be a type of limestone.

Each of the steps in the process asks a question and then directs to another step depending on the answer.

By working through the steps rocks identification is narrowed to sedimentary, metamorphic or igneous rock. For each type there are examples of the most common rocks from the group with pictures and some characteristics of the rock.

The rock section of geology contains pictures and brief descriptions of different types of rocks which was helpful during the identification process.

Rock identification is difficult, and going through the steps in the process gave us a better idea of what to look for when examining new rocks.

For activity ideas from others check out these blog hops.

* 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.

Renaissance Unit Study - Venetian Carnival

Renaissance Unit Study

Week 11: We made Venetian Carnival masks.

How would you like it if someone threw an egg at you? Carnival in Venice began during the 11th century as a religious tradition. But as the years passed, the celebrations turned away from religion and towards fun and mischief. During the 13th century, one carnival tradition practiced by men, was throwing eggs at ladies. Naturally the ladies didn't appreciate the egg throwing, so the men began wearing masks to hide their identity.

Seven main types of masks, each with their own special significance, hid the identity of the wearer. The masks enabled people could engage in improper behavior without fear of retribution. People liked the freedom and the carnival season stretched to six months in length. Gamboling and drinking rates increased. Debtors hid from creditors and noblemen who came upon hard times begged for cash to replenish their supplies.

Masks were works of art and constructed from clay, paint and other materials as shown in How Venetian Masquerade Masks are Made below.

Soon laws were passed forbidding masks except for designated special events and celebrations. With the reforms, carnival became a time to speak out against government and poke fun at life's rituals in a format much like Saturday Night Live. Skits and performances are still a big part of the carnival tradition today all throughout Europe.

Bravo! Zan Angelo! is a picture book about a family of carnival actors and a quick read to go along with this lesson.

Carnival Masks
Blank Masks
Glue Gun
Craft Jewels
Glitter Glue
Lots of craft supplies

Unfortunately the glitter glue and objects attached to the masks with kids glue fell off as soon as they were dry. Other than that this project requires little explaining, so just scroll through the pictures and enjoy.

He made a sad bird mask.

For activity ideas from others check out these blog hops.

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