How to Fit in Creative Hands-on Ideas

Commenting on my recent post “Make Memories with Hands-on Activities” a reader asked ~

How do you do it all and where do you get all your creative ideas from?”

As many other readers may wonder and ask similar questions, I thought I would answer in a full post.

Firstly, I DON’T “do it all”!  I think this post may describe my failings and fears of not getting it all done!  But here are a few simple strategies to plan and add hands-on activities and to create fun learning opportunities in our homeschooling experiences.

1.  Plan it 

Start with your year plan or the book index.  Look over all the main topics and themes in the schedule that may provide interesting activities and highlight them.  Add a few days to a week, or even longer for your activities, depending on the activity.  Usually I source (or create) a lapbook and a few quick hands-on activities for each theme.  We don’t always do them all, but I like to have some options planned.

Essentially I extend our 1-year schedule to 18 months or even 2 years.  I have NEVER regretted taking our time with extra hands-on activities, but have always regretted rushing on when there was still a sparkle of interest and enjoyment.  None on my children have ever fallen behind academically.  Carry on with the 3′Rs (Maths, Spelling, Phonics/Reading, Handwriting) according to their normal grade schedules and simply extend your core.  At first, you may feel anxious, but don’t worry.  You will find your rhythm and flow.

2. Pinterest  Pinterest Homeschool

Where did I find my ideas?  In my early years, I simply Googled the topics and themes for projects, plans, ideas and activities.  These days, Pinterest is a fantastic resource!  Type in your search topic and pin away! (Here are my Homeschool, Art, Famous Artists, Bible, Nature, Maths, English, Printables and Science boards.)

Practical Tip:  

While I search, I use Microsoft OneNote (here’s an online tutorial) to collect all my ideas so that I can work with them offline. Other folk swear by Evernote.  (Read the comparison between them here and here. ) OneNoteWhatever works for you is fine! 

I love OneNote because I can easily create tabbed notebooks and sub-tabbed pages.  OneNote automatically adds link and web addresses whenever you copy text or images.  I especially like the screen clip insertions as it gives me quick visuals of my searches.  OneNote  allows you to attach files, pages and portions from the Internet to the notepage, so everything is in one place and saved automatically. Later, I play around with my Internet finds and create my projects and pages.

3. Print & Prepare

After collecting my hands-on activity ideas, I create my pages and then print everything out and prepare the work.  After many years of homeschooling I have found all these time-saving tips for doing lapbooks that really work. We save time and avoid much frustration if we cut, fold and pack all the minibooks and store them in Ziplock bags, or better still, paste all the minibooks into the file folders ready for our lapbook sessions.  I file my lapbook planner with the index page and notes, all ready to whip out when we need them.

4. Promote it

Usually our hands-on activities are the best part of our theme.  My kids love to know what hands-on activities they will do with each new theme or topic. Introducing a theme with a hands-on activity is so stimulating!  But if we need to first do read alouds, narrations and notes, then the hands-on activity is a wonderful reward to complete the work.  If interest flags, or kids are tired, sick or unmotivated, hands-on activities revives our days.

5. Provide options  Science experiments2

Children have unique interests and learning styles.  I find that younger children need more physical activities, while older kids may prefer creative activities. One of my children is very shy, while the other loves to act out scenes and present puppet shows and speeches.  One is very visual, while the other loves listening.  One is very left-brained and logical, the other very fluid and right-brained.  Find activities that serve the individuals as well as the group.  Co-op with other families for added hands-on excitement!

When teaching several children together, (and I highly recommend moms combine their close-aged children on the same core) it is good to have options and allow the kids choose what activity they would prefer to do.  My kids notebook in individual ways, uniquely combining notebook pages with their minibooks, and I try to create pages and projects that are open-ended and flexible.

Many of our activities have started with an idea which the kids developed and fulfilled in ways that I did not necessarily anticipate.  The more I homeschool, the more I realize that my kids love to take an idea and run with it!  I am often simply a facilitator!  More and more, I am learning to let go and allow my kids to lead & take charge of their learning experience.

Whether your hands-on activities are “extras” or essentials in your homeschooling, please plan time for them, take your time and enjoy these homeschool moments!

Blessings,

 

DIY Folded Paper Boxes

My youngest daughter wanted to sort and classify her sea shell collection.  This was a great Nature Study and Science activity, but we needed several smallish boxes to store the different shell types.  She displayed her shell collection on our Nature Study tray.

6-Nature study1

We quickly made these paper boxes.

The nifty, practical aspects of these folded paper boxes are:

  • You can make them in different sizes … so they can nest in each other or form a top and a base to close your box!
  • The boxes can easily be stored flat, unfolded and ready for the next occasion.
  • You can use decorative craft paper or card stock for really pretty gift boxes or display boxes.

Here are the instructions and a free downloadFolded Paper Boxes

You will need:

  • square paper or card stock 28cm X 28cm
  • scissors
  • glue/ cellotape/ stapler

Fold your paper:

  • Fold the square horizontally in half & re-open.
  • Fold the square vertically in half & re-open.
  • Fold the bottom left corner and the top right corner to the center of the square, forming opposite triangles.Paper box 1
  • Fold both the newly made folds to the middle & re-open these folds.

Paper box 2

  • Cut along all 4 of the new fold lines, from the paper edge up to the edges of the triangles.Paper box 3
  • Take the top left corner and the bottom right corner and fold the corners into the center.Paper box 4
  • Fold again in half, so that the last fold is at the end of the cut lines.
  • Fold all 4 pointed strips to form folds in line with the 2 middle double folded pieces.Paper box 5

Assemble your paper box:

  • Fold the pointed flaps around the outside of the 2 center folds.
  • Insert the corners of the center folded piece into the diagonal fold of the flap. This part is a little fiddly, so mom, you may have to help here!Paper box 6
  • Tape/ glue or staple the outside overlapping flaps to the box.

Enjoy this craft project!

Blessings,

Add Variety

Variety adds “spice” to life …

and different approaches are good tools to enhanced learning!

This is especially true when a child struggles, stresses or stagnates in learning skills.

Spelling and maths tables, bonds and drills are common problem subjects in many children’s schooling, and despite diligent effort, they may still struggle to master new and difficult skills.

When this happens, look for some new tools or methods and to try to involve as many senses as possible.

Movement is often a great method to apply in Maths.  We use these for tables and bonds or reviews:

  • skip with a rope calling out the skip counting or times tables  
  • jump on a mini trampoline
  • jump up a flight of stairs, one step at a time, if the answer is correct, back if incorrect
  • clap hands as partners to tables

    This is a great idea to add to ‘blank’ trampolines – excellent for directionality and spatial awareness

  • bounce and catch a beach ball – on floor/ against a wall/ with mom or sibling
  • hop on one leg

With spelling, try a variety of objects:

  • Bananagrams
  • Scrabble tiles
  • magnetic letters on the fridge
  • white board
  • trace in flour/ rice/ small lentils on a tray
  • trace letters on a sealed Ziploc bag filled with colored pudding (and enjoy eating it afterwards)
  • play-dough letters
  • foam letters – print out spelling
  • physically forming the letter shape with their body and a rope or stick.

Review or re-wind previous lessons with a different approach.

Use arrows, directions and obstacle courses, play “Twister” to amplify Geography skills.

When your child starts school after a long break, try  a physical, musical workout and make it energetic fun.

Music, songs and rap are excellent for spelling or learning off by heart.  Add some cool moves which amplify meaning to add to the impact of the learning experience. My kids still remember their Geography Songs CD!

Do school in a different room or place or in a  new environment. Sit under the table, stand on the table, go outside, or lie on the floor.  Try to learn in a darkened room and encourage the child to print “mental visual images” in their minds.

Despite variety being fun, it activates different centers in the brain and facilitates neural links and connections.

When a child really continues to struggle, I  encourage you to take you child to an occupational or remedial therapist.  Apart from correctly assessing where the problem may lie, they have a massive repertoire of games, activities and approaches which you can use at home.  They have mastered the art of using games to teach and reinforce skills.

Lastly, although iPad and Smartphone apps and computer games promote interactive learning, research has shown that screens and flashing imagery does not necessarily enhance learning as much as real life, physical, sensory experiences do.

Teach new skills in new ways to add to the impact of the lesson. Find your child’s learning style and work that into your teaching style.

Laugh and have fun.

What novel ways have you used to teach or reinforce lessons?  Please share with other readers in the comments.

Blessings,

Fun History!

What a shock my kids had when I walked into the room like this!

(Excuse the slightly blurred photo.  My 10-year-old was giggling too much to focus the camera properly!)

It was a great way to introduce the British Occupation at the Cape and the 1820 British Settlers for our Footprints On Our Land history curriculum.

All Miss.L10′s narrations were done with the mask and a most ‘proper’ British accent!

(And lots of giggles from Miss.K13 studying in the background!)

Some novelty and fun makes History fresh and exciting!

Hope you and your kids have fun now and then!

Blessings,

Corn Starch Clay Decorations

Thanks to Pinterest I have discovered some wonderful ‘new’ recipes!

           This lovely baker’s clay from woodsidekitchen.blogspot.com is cheap and simple to make,

smooth and easy to work with,

 comes out the oven white and hard,

and looks pretty even un-painted!

We used our normal play-dough cutters,

and I gave the girls our rubber stamps to use for texture and embossed designs.

Fun!

Here’s the recipe:

1/2 Cup Corn Starch

1 Cup Bicarbonate of Soda

3/4 Cup Water

* Mix all ingredients together in a pot.

* Stir over heat until the mixture thickens and resembles thick mashed potatoes (really!)

* Remove from the stove and place as a ball in a bowl and cover with a damp cloth until it cools.

* Roll out, cut, shape and decorate.

* To make the holes we used a drinking straw – press down, twist, and lift, then blow out the little centre into your hand to re-use the with the scraps.

* Bake@ 180○ C for about 10 minutes or until firm and hard.

* Cool and paint, varnish, or enjoy as is.

Great for Xmas decorations, place-name settings, gift tags and gift embellishments.

Give it a try!

Blessings,

3D Models into Art

“Busy hands while I read aloud”

This is a wonderful recipe to success in a literature-based curriculum like Sonlight.

My kids have modeled in clay, made prints, colored-in, painted, woven wool, built a Lego ziggurat, tied knots and built paper models.

In Footprints on our Land, we recently studied the French Huguenots and their influence on the culture, architecture, agriculture, language and religion in the Cape.

I had some postcard paper models of Cape houses from my old teaching-days.  I made color photo-copies (to save my originals) and gave them to Miss.L10 to cut and glue while I read aloud.

She enjoyed the intricate cutting and scoring,

glueing and forming …

The water-mill was quite tricky!

Once she had finished “playing” with the little paper people around her houses, we put the models up on the window sill on display.

This week we finished off the read aloud.  While I read the last few chapters, we solved the “where do we store the 3D models?” problem with an artistic application ~

  • cut the models apart
  • use the front, the sides and the back to create 3 houses from 1 model
  • paste them on a blank page
  • draw, color and paint the background and the details
  • and we have wonderful, detailed, colorful pages for in our notebook file!

This way we achieved ~

  1. creative and busy hands while I read aloud
  2. storage for a 3-dimensional object in our notebook file
  3. creative problem-solving = make the models fit into a 2-dimensional design (she had to cut the roof in different angles to look “true”, she made a door where there was only a window, she wanted both sides of the water mill and created a full water flow through several buildings!)

How do you store your children’s 3D models?  What busy-hands activities have been the most successful/ creative?  Please share in the comments.

Blessings,

Narrations 103 Puppets

This is number 3 in my series of Narration posts. (Read the previous posts Jot & Draw and Type & Print)

Many young children love to tell their narrations!

What better way to dynamically retell the story than with

Puppets!

Some of our best puppet shows were spontaneous -

Finger Puppets

The children simply drew outline pictures of the characters from the story.

They stuck a strip of paper to the back of the picture,

wound the paper strip around the finger and taped it closed,

and narrated the story.

Children with a flair for the dramatic include accents and actions.

They swap finger puppets to narrate different characters.

Folded flat, the children pasted their finger puppets on their notebook pages.

Paper Puppets

Our free Aesop lapbook came with paper puppets.

My youngest enjoyed hours of free play with her puppets.

P1070759

Paper Doll/ Men Puppets

During our Sonlight World History studies we created our paper doll series.

These paper dolls were fun to use in narrations.

Laminated and stiff, the children played out their narrations and stories.

But you could paste the paper doll on a wooden stick and make “proper” puppets!

They provide hours of creativity – coloring in,cutting out, pasting clothing and narrating.

We store ours in clear plastic zipper bags.

Hand Puppets

Our hand puppets have been enormously popular

and have lasted for years!

We made our fist puppet show

Esther Play for Purim

with puppets, backdrops,
props and a full script.

A few years later we updated our puppets,

made new backdrops,

added some animal puppets on sticks

for our new play ~

Nativity Puppet Play

Whether simple and quick,

planned and prepared,

practised or spontaneous,

puppets take centre stage.

They divert attention away from the child

and give the child something to “do” while narrating.

Allow your child the freedom to express their narration in a way that is not always dictated or written.

Try puppets!

Blessings,