Tuesday, September 9, 2014

the Creation Story -- in felt!

This past couple of weeks I've been working on sewing some felt pieces for a "Creation Story" felt set, to use in kids' church.

Here are some pictures:

In this one, day four is represented (light, the sky, land and sea, plants, and sun and moon and stars have been created).

Here is day 5:  birds and sea creatures, fish

And day 6 part one: land animals

Adam and Eve have some skins on . . . this is getting a little bit ahead in the story, but oh, well . . .

Here is a close-up picture with people and animals together (this time they are on a brown rug, instead of a blue felt board):

For Adam and Eve, I used the "cookie people"- shaped patterns from Fuzzle Family Felt pattern set, available from either Gentle Shepherd or Fuzzlemania.  The tree shown in the earlier Adam and Eve picture is from that set, too.

This creation felt set is bright and colorful, and the pieces are easy to handle (most things are sewn with a double layer of felt so they are sturdy and can be played with off the felt board, too).  It was a joy to make this set-- and it came together pretty quickly because I already had a lot of sewn animals in my felt toys inventory-- the only ones I needed to sew were the fish and birds and dinosaur.  The piece that took the longest to make was the bright green tree with all the parts hanging down.  It is an interesting tree to look at, though-- I think it is worth the extra time.

Have you ever wanted to make a Bible story felt set?  I hope these pictures give you some ideas.  The story of Creation is a fun one for kids to help tell, too (putting up the pieces either with or for you).

Day 6 part 2: people

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Touch Typing -- A Simple System, with Stories . . .

When I learned to type, many years ago, it was in a high school typing class. We typed for almost 40 min every day, using the now antique electric typewriter (at the time it was exciting new technology). The things we typed were rows and rows of all kinds of phrases and sentences. The only one that sticks in my mind now is the saying, "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country." Such was touch typing in the '70's . . . and it served me very well. Because I had memorized the finger positions, I could type fairly quickly and even with my eyes closed (or while looking at what was being typed-- which was a useful skill).

When my kids learned to type, starting in the '90's, instead of using a typewriter they used a word processor. This allowed for all kinds of fancy and wonderful things-- you could easily erase (delete) what you'd already typed-- no need to use a correction ribbon or White-Out. . . and you could rearrange words, sentences, paragraphs . . . without having to type the whole thing again! This was almost magical, and truly a timesaver, though my kids never knew what they were getting out of having to do.

They used computer software to learn and practice their typing skills. I remember some fun games they had, with letters falling down from the sky and other strange things. For the typing lessons themselves, the kids typed lots of mostly nonsense syllables, at least in the beginning. Later on, they got to have some words and much later on, some sentences.

My oldest child thrived on competition, and the falling letters games were plenty enough to help her perfect her speed and accuracy. This software for beginning typing had worked fine for her, and we expected to continue with it. When the next child started his learning process, I decided to try out the program myself, to see what it was like. I disliked making assignments for things I wasn't very familar with. So I sat down to type the beginning lessons-- row after row of nonsense syllables, usually in groups of 3 or 4 letters. It might be because I already knew how to type that I found this process intolerably tedious and dull, but at any rate my reaction sparked a thought; why not make typing lessons that use actual words and sentences . . . maybe even an entertaining story, early on in the process?

So I started making lessons, and my second child switched to using them. He had 7 more siblings who would eventually go through the material, and in the process would help me discover a few things that needed changing. My husband taught technology at a public school, and found that his middle school students enjoyed these short lessons, too-- each one took only about 10 min, and within half a school year the entire course could be completed.

Later on, I created an ebook with these typing lessons, and began offering it online, through a new business we were starting, Gentle Shepherd.  And it is still available there, today . . .  if you'd like to learn more about this touch typing course, please visit the "Typing" page on Gentle Shepherd's website.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Omnibus is Back!

This is the third year of i Homeschool Network's ebook Omnibus.  And it is starting today! This is a huge sale with all kinds of homeschooling ebooks as well as mp3's-- this year there are 83 (yes, eighty-three) ebooks and 24 audios, and all can be purchased at once for the price of only $25.

And this sale truly has "something for everyone," as this photo shows . . .

There are curriculum resources such as an entomology unit study, Middle Ages history book and notebook pages, help for writing essays, Trees fact cards, and Gentle Shepherd's Picture and Writing: Older Ages creative writing work pages.

There are books with plans for preschool . . . several different idea books and complete preschool curriculum resources-- such as 101 Independent Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers by Mary Ellen Bream, God's Little Explorers Preschool Curriculum by Stacie Nelson, and Raising Rock Stars Preschool by Carisa Hinson.

There are all kinds of homeschooling planners . . . if you've been looking for ways to organize school and household plans, there are a variety of approaches presented among the ebooks in this Omnibus.

There are books with art projects, cooking, and lots of valuable homeschool advice (Help! I'm Homeschooling, by Tricia Hodges, Homeschooling 101 by Kris Bales, Homeschooling High School by Marie-Clair Moreau, Simply Homeschool by Karen DeBeus, Large Family Homeschooling by Amy Roberts, and more).

"Omnibus" means a volume with several items previously published separately. In this case, they are still separately published but all available at one time and place . . .

These ebooks are in both PDF and Kindle format, and if you'd like to have a DVD with the entire collection, you can purchase this for an additional $8.

Any way you look at it, this price is an amazing offer . . . and it will be available for this week only (the sale ends at 11:59 pm ET on Sunday, August 24, 2014).

To see more info and a list of all the items in this year's Omnibus, take a look here.

The downloads for purchased ebooks will only be available until September 25; please do not delay in downloading them.  See the FAQ or contact iHomechool Network for more infomation about downloading.

DVD's can be purchased until Sept 20 (and can only be purchased by those who have first purchased the usual Omnibus format).

The deadline for refunds is Sept 5 (Positively no refunds will be given if the file host shows that you have downloaded any files).

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fact Hunts! for research

I always looked forward to "Fact Hunt" day when teaching my kids, because of two things-- first, I knew it was an open-ended, interesting assignment that they would enjoy, and second, I would get to read the facts they collected and enjoy looking over the info; sometimes "ordinary" and sometimes very unusual.

We usually did this assignment once a week, with kids who were in middle school.  They would take a certain topic-- for example, "citrus fruits"-- and use whatever sources they wanted (since modern times and the internet this has always been online searches, but some of our oldest kids did use books back in the day . . .), making a list of 10 facts about the topic.

There were no requirements other than finding 10 facts-- they didn't have to write complete sentences, or find any certain types of things.  The whole idea was just to give them a short research project, to get them used to the process of doing "research."  (You know, the kind of thing you need to be doing when you're writing reports and research papers, and also just learning in general.)

To keep time and a schedule from getting in the way of just enjoying the assignment, the kids would do the fact hunt as the last thing in their morning schoolwork . . . so if it took them a few minutes longer or shorter, there were no worries or pressure.

Since this was one of our most favorite writing projects to do, I wanted to make a short ebook about it, with lists of suggestions for topics.  So now, (drumroll, please) a "Fact Hunts" ebook is ready!  And even more awesome, it is also a freebie, available to anyone on our website.

Here is what the cover looks like; there are 12 pages total, with ideas given for 4 years of fact hunts.
Come and see! Please download and try these out, if this sounds like something you might like to include in your homeschool.  And also, please share the freebies page link (but not the ebook itself; we'd like people to be downloading it from the website) and let your friends know about this research writing resource!

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 . . .