Solar System Mobile

Another mobile?” you may ask.

Solar system mobile

Solar System Mobile

Well, months ago, while browsing a large crafts store in a big city, I purchased some polystyrene balls especially packaged for a solar system mobile, and packed them away until we started our Exploring Creation with Astronomy by Jeannie K. Fulbright.  Then, we launched (yes, pun intended!) into our theme by creating the solar system mobile.

My daughter figured out how to support each ball to paint and let them dry without smudging them.  She used a small piece of wire stuck inside candle stick holders and pierced the wire into each ball.  We used acrylic paints and sponges.  Middle sister joined in because it looked such fun!  We referred to printouts of the planets to correctly select the appropriate-sized balls and paint them the right colors.

Solar system mobile1

We needed a large, large sun that would not be too heavy.  We compromised on the sun’s size and covered our inflatable earth globe with paper mache.  (A beach ball would also do, but the world globe has a stand which allowed us to turn and cover the ball with paper and glue.) I used a small amount of wallpaper glue mixed with water in the correct ratio … (I sneaked in a little maths lesson!)  Wallpaper glue lasts for several days in a sealed container, and spills and drips wash off easily.

The next day we recovered our sun’s newspaper layers with white paper strips and let it dry. Then, when dried, we deflated the globe enough to insert the scissors and snip a large slit and pull the flattened globe out our ball.  A few layers of  new paper mache to close our slit, and another day to allow to dry completely.  Somehow, the newly glued section softened previous layers and our beautiful ball became a bit wonky.  But my daughter was completely unfazed because, “the sun is a burning ball of gas and it’s not perfectly round, is it, mom?” Absolutely!

I bent a large piece of used fence wire and we used fish gut to suspend all the globes. There were a few problem-solving moments because our wire ring did not hang level.  We decided to add some blue, yellow and white glass beads to balance the mobile.  What an ingenious idea, because these beads looked like stars!  We could have hung planet moons too, I suppose, which would also be a great idea …

A great hands-on activity!  It was really educational too, because by the end of this activity, my daughter knew all the planets’ names, their relative sizes and colors, and could easily identify them in our studies.  Wonderful introduction to Astronomy!

Here are some of the Solar System websites I pinned or filed in OneNote ~

Have fun making your solar system model!

Blessings,

Try wet-on-wet waterpaints!

For this week’s Fine Arts Friday art lesson, I used a simple wet-on-wet waterpaint tutorial I found on YouTube.

Art rusty cup2

Miss.K14

The artist’s wet-on-wet painting technique really inspired me because he demonstrated several “new” things I hadn’t ever tried with water paints, such as ~

  • If your paper is wet, the added wet paint flows out and spreads beautifully.  You can paint large areas this way without the dried ‘edges’ showing.
  • Wet paint of different colors can be blended together seamlessly on the paper.
  • Wet paint can be ‘lifted‘ off the paper with a clean wet brush if it is too dark or the wrong color effect.
  • Once dried (he uses a hairdryer) you can paint new water and/ or new paint over the dried paints and paint over them again and again, laying down new layers of color. This helps sharpen and deepen your painting.  You can keep re-painting, drying and then adding more detail and colors.  This is especially good when doing shadows or creating depth.
  • When you want to add deep color and fine details, you can paint denser paint on dry paper or dry paint.

We set up our own little rusty cup with a (struggling little) fern and painted our own rusty cups using these new wet-on-wet paint techniques.

We used ~

  1. 300gsm water-color paper
  2. water paints (We used water paints in tubes which have the ‘proper’ color names used by professional artists.  May I suggest that it is worth investing in quality products for art and train your children to work with them correctly and carefully.  We always share our art materials and they have lasted for years!)
  3. Quality paint brushes.  (Again, see #2 and invest in good brushes!)
  4. Boards and masking tape.  Tape your paper to the board to keep your sheet of paper flat.
  5. Hair dryer.  (Use a low air speed so that you don’t blow your wet paint around on your painting.)
  6. Jars of clean water and clean cloths or tissues to clean off brushes and spills.

As a mom, the tutorial gave me the confidence to try my hand at the new wet-on-wet painting techniques while ‘helping’ and encouraging my kids with their discoveries.  We all thoroughly enjoyed our art lesson!

Art rusty cup

Miss.L12 (She used a sponge with water to wet the large background areas)

Art rusty cup1

My rusty cup

You can find the “Watercolor demo painting a rusty jug” tutorials here on YouTube ~

Give this lesson a try!

Blessings,

Spring Blossoms

We have experienced an unusually mild, dry winter.  There has been no snow on our mountains and yet we have experienced some of the worst frost ever.  Since it is still August, it came as a surprise to find our fruit orchard full of blossoming trees.  My previous early spring blossom sketches in my nature diary were done September last year.Blossoms1

My youngest daughter led me out to enjoy the warm sunshine and we went to view “our” Maple tree. We first measured our Maple tree  in 2011 and the little tree was just as tall as Miss.L12, just over 1 meter high.  This spring it is twice my height!  I was glad that my nature journal contained many of my older nature study pages because we could compare our current tree study with previous years and seasons.

Sketch Book Blossoms 001

Sketch Book Blossoms 004

We spent time looking at the variety of fruit trees’ blossoms.  I was utterly enchanted by our blue berry blossoms which looked like little bells.  We sketched and painted and we both experimented with wet-on-wet water painting which worked wonderfully! (I’m afraid that my scanner did not pick up the colors of our watercolors.)

Sketch Book Blossoms 002 Sketch Book Blossoms 003

As our time was running out, and we had already spent much of our morning outside (time flies when you are having fun sketching), I sent Miss.L12 with the camera to capture all the blossoms.  We plan to use the photos to sketch and paint or simply to compare the differences between the different blossoms.

Blossoms

We are so happy to enjoy our lovely early spring nature study here in South Africa and wish a happy autumn to those living in the Northern Hemisphere!

Blessings,

(Contributing this post to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival.)

Hard Homeschool Moments

Gosh, my last post “Love Homeschool” generated a flurry of comments and emails!

I’m so grateful that I have enough blog posts here on Practical Pages to ensure readers that I have my fair share of hard and heart-sore homeschool moments  … like “Stresses and struggles” and the challenge of teaching High School Maths … And while my previous post sounded like it’s all sunshine and roses, I am currently floundering and feel out of my depth.  And this is hard.

My middle child started with Cambridge education this year.  Previously, she and my eldest daughter used a textbook-based correspondence that I could quite confidently teach and facilitate.  But with this new curriculum, I am in need of a serious upgrade to help tutor her and we live too far from town to regularly attend tutor sessions.  I admit that I ‘dropped the ball’ on her homeschooling … and she “unschooled”, or should I say “non-schooled”, the first 6 months of this year.

Recently, we attended adviser sessions and we are still on track.  My daughter is 14-years-old and has 4 years to complete the Cambridge courses. They have a two-year exam sitting rule to qualify for university acceptance, so we have plenty of time to work through the course materials and prepare.  We have started lessons with a tutor and I can already see my child’s approach and confidence improve.

It has been my lack of confidence that has made this year tough, but we have made good progress and I feel that we will actually manage …  and a month from now it may not seem as hard as it seems right now.

So, to all you moms who are trying to figure it out, join the veteran homeschool club of moms still trying to figure it out.

Hard homeschooling keeps me humble and urges me to prayer.

Blessings for you in the hard times … this, too, shall come to pass.

 

 

Love Homeschool!

These photos capture what I love most about homeschool …

Homeschool3

LOVE!

I love reading to my long-legged, lanky 12-year-old while she nestles in my lap.  (Yes!  She loves to still snuggle in my lap!)

I love our mornings filled with cuddles and giggles.

I love my little Miss. Lara and Laura & Little House books!

My youngest is growing up fast, yet she’s still a child who loves to kiss and cuddle and she loves to be loved.  We have had countless loving moments in our homeschooling days.

Recently I remarked how public schooled kids miss out on parental touch and affection while they learn, and how fortunate and blessed we are to love each other throughout our days.

May I, yet again, urge new homeschool moms to relax and enjoy their children and develop deep and intimate school days.  Avoid all those tears and tantrums with tailor-made homeschooling presented in the way that causes your child to blossom and bloom best.  You have a wonderful opportunity to delight yourself alongside your child as he or she learns and discovers, so focus on the subjects and topics they are interested in.

Forget about “doing school at home”. Keep the essential basic lessons (reading, maths, handwriting) short, simple (literally no more than 20 minutes!) and then happily move on to the discovery and discussion subjects.  Find out how to fit all the extras in and add variety by using a theme for each day.

Follow your child’s lead.  Don’t struggle and “make them learn” by forcing lessons that they are not ready for.  Shelve the lessons or books for a month or two and try again later if your child continually cries and complains.  When your child is ready, they learn so fast and enthusiastically that it makes no sense to battle and fight with them and create a negative vibe about school.  Tears and tantrums are a sign of fear.

Don’t compare yourself, your child, your children or others.  Fear of failure is a dreadful result.  While it is easier and makes good sense to work with several children in your family as a group for core subjects, rather approach each child as a complete individual.  Observe and find out how each child prefers to learn new and difficult concepts and approach their learning in the way that best suits them.

My tactile, affectionate, visual, kinesthetic child loves to move, touch and do stuff while she learns.  If she were to sit at the table to do all her homeschool, she would be utterly frustrated, so we do short seat-work lessons and then I allow her to choose what and where she wants to do her core and other lessons.

We took these photos (with a self-timer!) after Bible, maths and spelling.  We sat in the warm sun flooding her bedroom carpet and did our reading and read alouds.  We chatted about topics and themes, we discussed the characters and their fears and successes.

Informal, intimate and incredible!  We realized, once again, that we are blessed to learn and live in such loving liberty.

What do you enjoy most about your homeschooling?

Blessings,

Around the World Mobile

An amazing learning tool and hands-on activity ~ our Around the World mobile!

Mobile

My youngest daughter and I have traveled with Jules Verne “Around the World in 80 Days” and we took some ‘scenic tours’ in Geography and Social Studies along our route.

Most our Geography studies focused around our large laminated world map as we plotted Phineas Fogg’s route, and we learnt the many countries of the world with our Sonlight Geography Songs CD. (Memorization and learning through song is the most amazingly effective learning method we have ever used! My homeschool graduate sang along with us while she was busy with her work!  She remembered these songs from 11 years ago when we first used the CD.) We pasted flags from each country around our world map in the order of the songs to better assist our memorization.

While I searched for other hands-on ideas, I came across Kids Around the World with gorgeous pictures of children in traditional clothes.  As I always look for some hands-on activities for my children to do while I read aloud, I printed black-and-white pictures and Miss.L12 happily painted her pictures during the next few days reading.  She used the color pictures as her reference.  With all these ideas floating around, I decided to create an “Around The World” mobile.

I used the Montessori continent color scheme in their printable Geography files to co-ordinate the elements of our mobile.  I added a cultural element or famous landmark for each country.  So the mobile has ~

  1. Name of each continent
  2. Continent in the prescribed color
  3. Selected countries from each continent
  4. Flags for each country
  5. Children in traditional clothes
  6. Famous landmark or cultural element for each country

Here are my free downloads ~

Quick reference list ~

Some things to note ~ 20140721_153542

  • This activity took several weeks of fairly consistent work.  It is NOT quick or easy, so it is most suited to middle schoolers (and their enthusiastic and determined moms!)
  • Although my middle schooler loved painting the children pictures, she did not enjoy pasting the flags, continents and labels to backing card or felt.
  • I used colored felt for backing as it is lightweight and brightly colored, but you can use card stock.  Bold colors are best.
  • We used thin wire to hang the elements.  We pierced the wire through the felt and it was quicker than punching holes in the card, but I used a thick darning needle to make a hole in the felt first.  You could use fish gut or strong string instead.
  • I had my daughter pre-cut dozens of short pieces of wire (about 5cm/2″ long) to connect elements to each other.  I used our beading round-head pliers to make neat little loops on both ends.  We used 25cm/10″ length wires to form the upper branches for each country.
  • To make the mobile’s 3 main “arms” we pushed wire through micro-sprayer pipes which are light but rigid, and bent round loops to hang the continents from each end.  You could use dowel sticks.
  • We grouped the countries to balance the arms.  There are 2 continents (Europe & Asia) with 7 countries each which we balanced on each end of one arm,  The other 4 continents have 3 countries each which we hung on the ends of the remaining 2 arms.

After all the hours of wire work, stabbed and pierced fingers, glue and felt fluff, it was complete and looked stunning!  It hung over our work table for the remainder of our Around the World studies.

Would you give this a try?  Or maybe use the downloads in a different way?  What about a simple booklet or a lapbook instead?  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

Blessings,

PS. Ideas for traditional clothing were done without intending to stereotype or offend.  Please adapt any aspect of these downloads for your own use.

Child-led Science Experiments

When we tailor-made this year’s homeschooling for my youngest (she’s 12-years-old) she requested ~

Science Experiments

As I have learnt to “let go” and let her take the lead for her maximum learning enjoyment, I wanted her to be able to “do her own thing”.  We set up a Science Experiment center on our bookshelf.  I simply gathered whatever I had accumulated from our homeschooling curriculums.  Our Science kit and reference books are all from previously purchased Sonlight packages.

Science experiments3

We spent our first session looking through and discussing each item in the Science kit.  We browsed through our Science books and decided which topics she most wanted to study or which apparatus she most wanted to work with.

I have found that if I establish the correct procedures and a few basic safety rules, my children can work quite independently.  (This is true for all other activities such as art, cooking and baking, cleaning house, sewing, washing and ironing.)

Essentially ~ Be safe.  Work carefully.  Clean up after yourself.

Science experiments1

Although I wanted her to have fun, I explained the basic approach used in scientific methodology.  Worded informally, yet covering science concepts, I have found that these principles develop proper scientific thinking.  For example:

  1. What are you studying? = Title
  2. What are you trying to find out? = Question
  3. What is needed? = Materials
  4. What do you predict (or think) will happen? = Hypothesis
  5. Describe what you do step-by-step = Method
  6. Compare with something that does not change = Control
  7. What did you see? = Observation
  8. What did you learn from this? = Inference

Of course, many experiments require a very simplified version of these points above, and, depending on your child’s age and ability, these questions could be simply summed up ~

  1. Title
  2. What I did.
  3. What happened.
  4. What I learnt.

I created a variety of Science Experiment Notebook pages for her. I printed the notebook bundle and she selects a notebook page to suit her experiment and her approach.Science Experiments

She has spurts of Science lessons, some weeks doing almost 3 a day, and other weeks simply reading the books.  Recent unseasonably warm weather made water experiments fun outdoor activities!Science experiments2

My daughter is very visual and loves to draw very detailed diagrams of her experiments.  I have requested that she label items clearly in print and give every picture a caption or descriptive sentence.

I am often her lab assistant and scribe.  I jot down her dictated notes because I want her to focus on the actual activities and not get bogged down in the difficult job of writing her notebook pages, but I have gently encouraged her to note some of the simpler experiments.

In essence, she initiates and leads her Science lessons and activities.  I am there, but as support and encouragement, participating as one discovering alongside my child, and it is really exciting and awesome!

It works for us!  What works for you?

Here is your free download ~ Science Experiment Notebook bundle

Blessings,