Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Home Learning Ideas -- Age Group Pages

When in the last few years of teaching our own nine children, I wanted to write out some ideas for home teaching.  I thought of some of the things we'd learned, and what might be helpful to others when thinking about the upcoming school year, and lesson plans.

So I wrote some articles with "ideas" for home learning.  They have been up on my Gentle Shepherd website for awhile, but just recently I noticed they needed a few typo corrections and some revisions.  So the newly revised versions are all up now--

There are five different documents; for preschool, kindergarten, primary grades, upper elementary, and middle school.  All of these are downloadable from the website (follow the instructions at the top of the page, to download), and they can also be read on the site.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Styrofoam Prints -- Easy to Do, with Great Results!

I was looking for a technique to use for printing that would be somewhat similar to lithography (a design is etched into something, then ink-- or paint-- is applied, then paper is pressed on).  But I didn't want to use regular oily printing inks, and didn't want to have to purchase expensive special materials for scratching into . . .

After a little searching, I found this idea: printing using styrofoam from styrofoam picnic plates!  This looked very interesting.  Styrofoam plates are easy to find, at very little cost. Some styrofoam containers could also be repurposed for this, such as meat trays or fast food holders.  Using a large styrofoam plate gives a pretty big flat area (the center) -- so the tilted edges can be cut off, and this flat area can be used for making a drawing.

Using a pen cap that is kind of pointed (not the pen tip itself; that would cut into the styrofoam instead of pushing it down), a simple design or picture can be drawn in the styrofoam.

Then paint can be added, by brushing some on with a paintbrush, and then a print can be made by either pressing paper onto the styro etching surface, or picking up the etched and painted styrofoam piece and pressing it onto paper.

As you can see, you'll get a mirror image -- so if you want to put words in the design, keep it in mind that you'll need to etch in a mirror image of the word (write each letter backwards, and write from right to left).

Each print made with this technique is a mono print; you can reapply paint to make more of the same, but if you try to make more than one without repainting you will probably not have a very vivid print.  Here are some examples: the tulip on the left is a first print, and on the right is a second print made without repainting.  Sometimes a kind of faded appearance does look nice; so you can experiment with doing reprints, if you want to achieve a lighter look.

So the next time you have some leftover styrofoam dishes or containers in the house, remember "styro-printing!"  You might like to repurpose some containers and try this out; or you can easily find a package of styrofoam plates at the grocery store-- I was glad to find that this material was so easy to make designs in (with a blunt, rounded but kind of pointy instrument-- a knitting needle or crochet hook could also work for this; I think another time I'll try using those . . .)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Savouring the Past but Moving Forward as a Post-Homeschooling Mom

This summer is the beginning of a new season for me . . . life as a post-homeschooling mom.  I think I will always see myself as a "homeschool mom" just because it has been my life for so many years (30 at least -- my oldest child will be 33 this year).  But things will be different now . . . just as being a mother never really changes but once your children are grown you have a different kind of relationship with them, there will be different ways now, for me to use my interests in learning and education, and to apply my own creative energies.

I'm going to keep designing and completing some more curriculum projects -- because I have a "ton" of files in my computer that are just screaming to get out . . . and besides that, it is just something I like to do.

I'd also like to really take the time to get training in graphic design things -- like uses of Adobe Illustrator/InDesign/Photoshop.  And I have some books for this already . . . they are here, just waiting for me . . .

Since I like doing artwork, I'll probably continue to experiment with various techniques and ideas, just as my own work instead of leading/teaching my kids.  But I also have the opportunity to volunteer in my grandchildren's classroom for art, so that will be a prized activity once a month :)

These past few years, my son James and I have really enjoyed learning about music history-- dabbling in it, coming across some fascinating things and interesting styles and people . . . and I will plan to continue this in my own way, as I write more posts for my Notes and Notions music adventure blog.

And while he is pursuing his own individual interests in music -- playing guitar, bass, piano, harmonica, singing and whatever else he decides to do either on his own or with others, I am going to be continuing independently on my own musical path, as a songwriter and composer.

So just because I'm finished with homeschooling, it doesn't mean this blog is going to end. Yes, it has been a "homeschooling blog," but I'm still here, still wanting to explore and learn and discover . . .  so I will be sharing bits and pieces of that journey here from this point forward . . .

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A New Literary Device Every Week? The Writer's Toolbox

Have you ever heard of "synecdoche"?  How about "chiasmus," "epistrophe," and "metonymy"?  I had no idea there are so many different types of literary devices -- tools that can be used in writing, to give clarity and embellishmentsa to communication.

Most people are familiar with a few of the well-known literary devices -- like simile, metaphor, irony, and alliteration.  But if you'd like to be introduced to more, just take a look at The Writer's Toolbox, by Patricia and Megan Samuelsen.  This mother-daughter team has written a book that can be used in introducing students to thirty-- yes, THIRTY-- different literary devices.

The format is to give examples, using short excerpts, from various literary texts, and with additional explanations, for one literary device at a time.  After demonstrating how it is used, there are exercises to help the student gain greater familiarity-- he/she is shown more short excerpts and asked to comment on how these are using the literary device.  Then, in a further exercise, the student writes sentences using the literary device.

This book is to be used with high school students, but I couldn't resist using a few of the lessons with James, starting in sixth grade.  We went through some of the more commonly known literary devices, and after doing the book exercises, he made a sentence and picture to demonstrate each writing tool, on a small wall poster.  Here is his first poster; we added to the poster with each new lesson.

And here is his second poster.

We revisited these lessons this year (eighth grade), just briefly, introducing one more of the literary devices.  The book is interesting, and the lessons have helped James learn quite a few tools for writing.

I can see that if used at the high school level, learning these literary devices would be helpful both for writing and for analysis of literary works.  They also present some very unusual vocabulary-- words like "liotes" and "polysyndeton."

The devices are arranged in four groups, and there is a written review quiz at the end of each group.  An appendix gives definitions and examples for all the literary devices, in alphabetical order.  And in another appendix there are instructions for two games (for a group of students) that can be played to practice the names and definitions.

The Writer's Toolbox is available online, at

How about it-- would you like some "synecdoche" with your "personification" and "alliteration"?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Mermaids Have Arrived!

The mermaids are here!  Yes, they're ready to swim right up to your couch, table, or felt board!  I made this design a couple of months ago, when our young granddaughter had a "Little Mermaid" birthday party. Then a little while later our son was in a youth theater version of Disney's Little Mermaid (he was a sailor and also changed costume to become a "tentacle" assistant to Ursula).  So I made a lot more mermaids and donated some to the souvenirs table at the play . . . and now there are some of these watery world creatures up in my Etsy shop, Fuzzlemania.
They all have long hair, but for some it is straight (like the one above) and for others it is wavy (like these two below).  I used the basic person shape pattern from Fuzzle Family Felt, and adapted it to have a mermaid tail instead of feet.

Here's a picture of the "Mermaid Assembly Line" in process:

As I said before, these mermaids can swim anywhere!  on a couch (as in this picture), table, rug, bed, or even on the kitchen floor (they are very magical and great at swimming); do you know any young girls who might like to play with them?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Leonardo (da Vinci) : To Mantua and Beyond . . .

     We have been reading aloud Catherine Jaime's series of novels about Leonardo da Vinci's life; the first was Leonardo the Florentine (about his years as an apprentice and early on as an independent artist), and the second, Leonardo: Masterpieces in Milan (he was hired by a duke, doing commissioned paintings, sculpture, and other works; this is where "The Last Supper" was painted).

     We recently finished the third book in the series. This isn't the last one; Catherine has already written one more novel that continues with Leonardo's further travels, inventions, and artwork. And she may be writing a fifth book in the future (and a sixth . . . ?)

We found this third book, Leonardo: To Mantua and Beyond, to be-- like the rest of the series--an interesting historical fiction account that gives us a picture of what life was like in Italy, and for an artist and inventor, during the late 1400's and early 1500's.

     In the Mantua book, the artist journeys with his friend Luca, a Franciscan monk, to the city of Mantua, Italy-- where he does some work for the Duchess Isabella-- because the French were invading Milan and it was not safe for him to stay. They spend a short while there, experiencing various entertainments with the Duke and Duchess while Leonardo also does artistic projects.

     If you've ever wondered what the city of Venice is like, the descriptions in this novel will give you an idea; later in the story, Leonardo and his friend travel there, on a project they've been called to-- to assist the Venetians in planning a defense strategy against a threat of invasion by the Turkish Sultan Bayaid.

     While in Venice they investigate the city and visit a print shop and glassblower, besides working on their military planning proposal.  Then they are about to head to Florence-- when the story ends (and we are ready now, to hear the next book in the series . . . !)

     I recently loaned two of these books to a friend who has also very much enjoyed reading them; what I like about these short novels is that they give so much description of the setting -- the Italian cities and time period of the late 1400's and early 1500's-- so that it is easy to imagine what it could have been like to be there during Da Vinci's time.  It is also a way to learn more about this famous artist and inventor and some of the things he did during his lifetime.

     Be sure to see Catherine Jaime's other books, too-- she is a prolific author with a wide variety of books-- both fiction and non-fiction.  Many of her books are about people or events in history, plus there are a variety of other topics.  She has books available through Curr Click and Amazon.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Painting with Tissue Paper

Maybe you didn't know you can paint with tissue paper.  I didn't, until I saw this post about it by Jeanette Nyberg at Artchoo:

She explains the process and has step-by-step pictures in her blog post.  I loved the idea of having a "surprise" painting project; it is a surprise because you put pieces of tissue paper OVER your design drawn with oil pastels, then use a paint brush and water to "paint" right over the tissue paper.  You don't know what the final picture will look like until after you let the wet tissue paper sit and "bleed" color onto the paper underneath.''

For some well-written instructions, take a look at Jeanette's post; I'll show some of the valentines we made here:

Please note:  To do tissue paper painting, you must use a special type of "Art Tissue" that will bleed color.  It won't work if you try using ordinary gift wrap tissue; I tried that before I knew what the difference was-- and the result was no color under some areas that had gift wrap tissue over them.  I had some of the right kind of tissue in our craft cupboard, but I had been trying to use a combination of both gift wrap tissue and art tissue.  In the picture at the left below, the white areas resulted because there was pink gift wrap tissue above.  So if you do want to have some white areas, you could use two types of tissue purposely.

I really enjoyed learning this new painting technique.  Of course, it doesn't have to be just for making valentines-- we'll be using it to do some other kinds of artwork, too . . . but since Valentine's Day is almost here, making valentines was a great way to try it out!