Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How to Decoupage Pencils

Didn't they turn out cute? I wasn't sure how they'd work out, if the tissue paper would stick or if they'd sharpen okay, but they're perfect!

I wanted special pencils to go with the special notebooks that I made for the kids in my Girl Scout troop, but I didn't want to buy them, of COURSE. Instead, I experimented with our stash of plain old #2 pencils until I found a way to create the specialness that I wanted all by myself.

Well, Syd helped, too.

You will need:
  1. #2 pencils.
  2. tissue paper. I bought a set of tissue paper squares years ago, and we love them. Use them all the freakin' time.
  3. Mod Podge and paintbrush.

In some ways, this project is uber-easy. All you have to do is paint your pencil in Mod Podge, and wrap a square of tissue paper around it, smoothing it as you go. When you reach the point where the tissue paper begins to overlap itself, paint another layer of Mod Podge, then continue wrapping and smoothing:

Repeat, overlapping the tissue paper to increase color saturation or to layer colors:

The project is a little fiddly, however, so it may not be great for those with fumbly fingers. For one thing, the tissue paper is quite delicate, especially when it's saturated with Mod Podge, and rips and wrinkles very easily.

For another, no matter what they say when you buy it, tissue paper bleeds like crazy! You must be very mindful not to paint glue with a heavy hand over the top of the tissue paper, or you'll get the color on your brush and it'll show on the other colors that you're painting. Easy to wipe off, but a pain to have to keep cleaning your brush.

That being said, Syd was able to help me make several of the decoupaged pencils, although she's pretty good with fiddly projects and does not have fumbly fingers.

The pencils will sharpen and write normally once decoupaged, although I do have to adjust our old-school, wall-mounted, manual pencil sharpener two holes larger for these pencils.

With Syd's help, I was able to decoupage enough pencils for each of the Girl Scouts (and one brother), to have their own to go with the notebooks that I made each of them. Each notebook also had some little surprises in it, such as any photos that I'd taken of that kid, and her sixth-part of the ribbons that the troop earned for their World Thinking Day display and presentation:

Syd also created a scavenger hunt for Fair Trade products in the grocery store that we had a field trip to on Monday, so the notebooks were a handy place to glue them, all ready for each kid to play!

I was happy to see many of the kids taking notes during that field trip, using their brand-new notebooks and pencils, and I'm hoping that if each kid can manage to bring the notebook to each meeting and field trip, that it will be a handy place to keep notes, glue more activities, and work on projects for quite a while!

Until next Girl Scout cookie season, of course, when I'll make them each another notebook.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Work Plans for the Week of March 30, 2015: SCIENCE!!!!!!!!!!11!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am ready to have a Project Week here, so I can take a break from writing lesson plans and the kids and I can take a break from doing formal lessons, BUT our homeschool group's Science Fair is on Wednesday, so if we've got Science Fair prep to do for three days out of four, then we might as well do our other subjects, and the kids have so many extracurriculars on Thursday that I might as well just add in the extra couple of subjects that complete their schedule and make it a full school day, and then that's a full school week!

But we're definitely having a Project Week next week. We might even have two!

This week, though, is all about the science:

MONDAY: Our day began bright and early with a field trip with our Girl Scout troop to a local co-op grocery store to learn about Fair Trade. We went straight from there to our volunteer gig at a local food pantry, and then FINALLY got home around 2:30 and segued immediately into a late lunch and then outside playtime.

Whenever the kids come in sweaty and tired, that's the time to mellow down with afternoon schoolwork. They both have badges that they want to complete before they Bridge to their next Girl Scout levels, they both have Science Fair work to complete, and Syd has Math Mammoth (temperature measurement, a review, and then division) while Will, whose Math Mammoth was unable to be printed because my printer crapped out and needs a new part, has Kumon fifth-grade word problems this week.

TUESDAY: Hopefully, the kids will completely finish their Science Fair projects today, so that they only have to rehearse on Wednesday.

Hoffman Academy and First Language Lessons lessons are easy to knock out, and then the kids will spend the evening at Science Club and Matt and I will spend it at a Mexican restaurant. Yay!

WEDNESDAY: Will has horseback riding, and the required homework to complete before that class, although, as she was thoroughly informed, she put up enough guff about that homework last week to seriously threaten the possibility of me signing her up for another session after this one. Will she straighten up this week, or am I on the verge of saving a LOT of money this summer? Time will tell...

Syd doesn't currently take horseback riding, so she has an extra school slot to fill on Wednesdays, as Will does on Thursdays since she isn't taking gymnastics with Syd. Syd's been longing for Perler bead My Little Pony figures like we saw at Comic Con a few weeks ago, so I bought the beads, we painstakingly sorted them (WHY do they not come sorted?!? I know good and well that they make them in single colors in the factory! GRRR!!!!!), and on this day she can try her hand at the craft. Just between you and me, I anticipate plenty of tears spilled doing this--Perler beads are fiddly!

This day is already crazy science-heavy, what with the Science Fair and its prep, but the kids LOVE Zoology for Kids, they can do it independently, and it'll be a nice day for the outdoor activity that I've assigned them from the book, so might as well!

THURSDAY: We've got our regular homeschool playgroup at a local park on this day, and Syd has gymnastics, but we're also going to try something new this week. Our local animal shelter has a volunteer program in which children are asked to read out loud to shelter cats. The kids will love this, and they've been dying for more volunteer hours (they're trying to earn the Presidential Volunteer Service Award), and I've been wanting a way to get Syd to read something besides Foxtrot and Calvin and Hobbes comics, so win/win/win!

The kids also love the Magic Tree House Club that they attend through Currclick, but I've never encouraged them to explore the club's web site before, even though there are additional resources and activities linked there. I wanted one more academic experience on this day, but I knew that we'd likely all be tired out after all the work of the Science Fair, so having the kids explore that site seemed to be just the perfect thing. I've also given Will a falconry web site to explore; she's been interested in falconry for a while, so I think she'll be pleased to have a source of new information on the subject.

FRIDAY: Our math class is off for the day, which would normally mean that we'd be heading out of town for some adventure or other, BUT Syd's gymnastics class is having a "mock meet," whatever the hell that is. This is her last week of gymnastics for the session, and she loved it a lot. We'll have to skip the next session, because her two straight weeks of ballet recital rehearsals later this month will overlap it, but fortunately these sessions are short, so if she'd like to, we can pick it back up in May.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Ballet class, and then Chinese language class on Saturday, and nothing on Sunday but egg hunts and chocolate!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

My Latest: Flowers, Cats, and Lunch

and a tutorial for decoupaging an old lunch box to make it more awesome

This coming week, I need to start seeds, finish decoupaging pencils for my Girl Scouts, and figure out how to sew a sheer blue dance skirt for Syd's Spring ballet recital (she's a bluebird!).

Friday, March 27, 2015

Searching for Salamanders

The kids have been excited about salamanders lately. Our property has shady woods and teensy creeks, which are great places to find salamanders, pop them in a Mason jar habitat, name them, keep them for a bit, and then return them from whence they came.

All of the salamanders have S names, of course. Steve. Speed. Sally. Stuart. Sunshine.

The Hoosier Herpetological Society had an entire salamander-themed day at a local state park last weekend, and since it was also happily one of the Spring Break weekends that the children had off from extracurriculars, we all spent the entire day there, watching a presentation on amphibians and their identification, creating salamander crafts (the docent taught the children beading using Pony beads and flat cord; it was VERY intriguing...), eating a buffet dinner at the inn that mostly consisted of pie (oh, the pie!!!), and in between all that, going on hikes to search for salamanders and get lots of wet:

The children were lent deli containers to catch and examine the salamanders. One mustn't touch salamanders, because their skin is very porous and very sensitive to toxins, even ones that don't bother people and thus that we might accidentally have on our hands:
Salamander! The kids found lots of northern two-lined salamanders.

This kid and her animals...
and THIS kid! They're pretty great.
Although I do not know how this one eats. That's FOUR bottom teeth that she's missing, my little rabbit girl.
Our area was formerly under the sea, don't you know, so one must also always be on the lookout for interesting fossils--

 --and, of COURSE, heart-shaped rocks:

I haven't turned the salamander into a study beyond this, but I have checked out many salamander-related resources from the library to strew temptingly for pleasure reading and, if that doesn't take, then for future Books of the Day:

Don't tell the children, but I secretly counted this day as a school day in my planner. Salamanders are science!!!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Work Plans for the Week of March 23: Science and Grammar (and Spring!)

Unsurprisingly, we did not complete our schoolwork last week. There were salamanders to find, hide-and-seek games to play in the woods, neighborhood cats to befriend (the kids give them their own names, and I'm pretty sure tempt them over to our house for an extra meal daily--we seem to be feeding a LOT of extra cats these days...), mudpies to bake, we kept going to the library for various programs and then staying all day, and in this, our first spring in our home, there is much yard work to be done, and my two are quite the branch-hauling, gravel-spreading, rock-moving helpers!

No worries. Little schoolwork is time-sensitive, as long as the learning continues (and when you're outdoors, with the mud and the salamanders and your toy ponies, then yes, I count you as learning), and so what wasn't completed last week has simply been moved to this week, where we'll give it another shot in between the woods exploring and the fossil collecting and the salamander spotting.

Dailies this week include Chinese language practice (which I need to monitor more closely this week, as they've got class again on Saturday after the Spring Break hiatus); typing practice (I have a couple of software programs from the library to install for them to try, now that they're bored with Dance Mat Typing); keyboard practice; cursive practice (definitely improving!); and the Book of the Day, which this week includes a couple of movies as a bit of a treat--a video on Chinese cuisine, and a documentary on Tchaikovsky--as well as books on the oviraptor, periodic table, and Lippizaner horse.

MONDAY: Hopefully, our gig at the food pantry will be less chaotic, now that Spring Break is over! For grammar, we have another First Language Lessons unit, and for math, Syd is continuing with measurement in Math Mammoth, and Will has a review of multi-digit multiplication before continuing in her current calculations unit.

The kids worked hard on interesting Girl Scouts projects last week--Syd, thanks to the Computer Expert badge, learned that she really likes to create digital art, and Will framed a dried rose from Syd's Nutcracker bouquet as a keepsake for her as part of her Flowers badge, to name just a couple of the activities that I happened to notice--so they'll continue that practice this week. They haven't, however, been working nearly as hard on their Science Fair projects as they need to, which means that they'll need to work on them every school day this week, and I'll need to monitor and guide their work more carefully.

TUESDAY: Brainpop Jr., it turns out, has short videos for exactly the capitalization and paragraph writing topics that I want to teach this week--yay! They also have printable activities that go with the Brainpop videos; the kids will be doing that activity on Friday as part of their capitalization lesson, but for this paragraph lesson, I'm giving them the movie review prompt from this Paragraph of the Week freebie. It it goes well, I might add paragraph writing as a regular component of our school week, at least for a while.

It's high time for the kids to start rehearsing for this year's Trashion/Refashion Show, so they can use some of their school day to measure and tape down a practice runway in our big family room.

Will is back at Robotics Club on this evening, so Syd and I will spend that time over at the grocery store that is hosting a field trip for my Girl Scout troop in a couple of weeks. Our topic is "Fair Trade," and as part of Syd's Game Making badge, I've asked her to put together a Fair Trade scavenger hunt that the children can complete after our lecture and tour.

WEDNESDAY: The kids really are doing well in their Hoffman Academy lessons! I know they're not receiving the constructive criticism in posture and technique that they'd get from a live teacher, but they're learning to play, and they're enjoying learning to play, and I have many, many, MANY opinions about outsider art, DIY, and the false archetype of "proper" technique that I can share with you whether you're interested or not.

The kids did read their Zoology for Kids chapter last week, but they did not do the butterfly life cycle activity that I wanted them to do, so they can do that as well as read the next chapter this week.

And there's a Girl Scout workshop on friendship bracelet making--fun with fine motor skills for the win!

THURSDAY: Free day!!! There's a park playgroup on this afternoon, and Syd has gymnastics on this evening. Otherwise, freedom!!!

FRIDAY: The kids have math class, and need to work more on their family tree project. I've been saving eggs again, too, and I know that they'll enjoy dyeing Easter eggs again with me. Maybe next week I'll teach them how to make egg salad!

As for me, I have an essay to write on crafting and fan art, and a book on knitted and crocheted hats for cats to review, and a World War II unit study to plan, so I'm pretty excited about the kids' extracurriculars and playgroups recommencing, since that's when I get a lot of my writing, and even some of my research (yay for extracurriculars with wi-fi access!!!) done. My main garden project this week is to plant spring bulbs, which will require the kids' help, of course, but won't be nearly as taxing as tearing out 30 feet of shrubbery and replacing it with a river rock bed.

At least I hope it won't. As I discovered on Sunday afternoon, swearing and sweating and hacking at a stump with a fucking AXE because the chainsaw doesn't actually work and the only part that will make it work can only be bought ONLINE and NOT at one of the FIVE hardware stores in this town, I am not great at predicting how long a specific gardening/landscaping project will take.

And yes, I eventually gave up and just guided the river rock bed around the stumps. It looks like crap, but whatever. It's done.

On to spring bulbs!!!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My Latest: Cardboard, and also Spring

an essay on the environmental nightmare that is the Keurig K-Cup (with a great monster video!)

I'm going to surprise all the kids with these at our next meeting, so I'm pretty excited.

Coming up for next week, I've been working on decoupaging a lunch box and putting cardboard dividers into another box to use as candle storage--you can expect tutes for both of those projects on CAGW. I figured out an awesome way to embellish plain pencils with tissue paper, so when I finish that, I'll write the tute up here on this blog. 

My biggest project, however, has been the hours that I've spent this week sawing up the GIANT shrubs planted just thisclose to our house--gee, I wonder why our foundation is crap? Today, I'm going to finish with the chainsaw (yay!), then dig a trench two feet from the house for a border, then spread landscape cloth and river rocks across that two feet so that we can, you know, actually access the side of our house for maintenance and repair.

Later this spring, however, part of the remaining space between that border and the driveway will be the new home to the dwarf fruit cocktail tree that I'm almost positive that it was foolish of us to order (if it sounds too good to be true...) and to Will's long-planned, long-awaited butterfly garden

Because grass? That's just the stuff that holds your place until you figure out what you ACTUALLY want to grow in that spot!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Review Multiplication and Division Facts Using Cuisenaire Rods

You know by now that Base Ten blocks and Cuisenaire Rods are my favorite math manipulatives. They're a hands-on way to model calculations in the Base Ten system, and you can combine them with centimeter-gridded graph paper or a centimeter ruler and some colored pencils even more hands-on enrichment.

Will actually did this particular activity back when she was beginning to learn long division, but I need to give her some review work in multi-digit multiplication next week, so I was looking over my past projects and resources and discovered that I haven't yet shared this with you--and it's really great, so I want to!

To start, review this lesson on teaching long division using Base Ten blocks and Cuisenaire Rods. I found the vocabulary suggestions especially helpful for connecting the modeling to the calculation.

The premise, however, with or without the vocabulary, is simple: 16 divided by 4 means "16, put into 4 rows." Using the Cuisenaire Rods and skip counting, or the Base Ten units and counting on, the kid adds an equal number of units to all four rows until she finds out how many units would have to be in each row for the four rows to total 16:

Then, ask the kid what other math facts are modeled using this same set-up. Give her plenty of time to come up with repeated addition, repeated subtraction, multiplication of both rows by columns and columns by rows (don't start off with a square number, as I have in my example--this wasn't the first problem that Will did), and division of both rows by columns and columns by rows. If you totally have to, you can ask leading questions after a while, but I don't like to unless the kid is clearly over it but still hasn't found everything there is to find.

Once the kid has the hang of this, you can give her several problems to model and write down math facts for:

If I'm not sitting next to her, I like to have her color in what rods she used. You can see that you can also use the units to help you count on, if you're having trouble keeping track:

You can also do quite big numbers, as long as they fit onto the graph paper, although then you'll run into the problem that big numbers can be tricky to count on by hand, and you'll start to see some errors that result from simple miscounting, like this one:

Thirteen times 19 equals 247, not 244. If I'd encouraged Will to use Cuisenaire Rods to complete each row, instead of the columns after the ten bar, then she possibly wouldn't have made that error, but I don't like to correct her when she's in the middle of working something out. We talked about it afterwards as 10x19+3x19, using two different graphs, and it was simpler for her to work out that way.

Will doesn't have a lot of patience for manipulatives, but she does love puzzles and problem-solving, so this was a great review activity for her. This may be the one that I ask her to repeat next week--she made some errors during her multiplying decimals unit this week that lead me to believe that she's forgotten how multi-digit multiplication physically works. So multiplying the units, then multiplying the tens, then adding together the two separate functions--doing all that physically with the manipulatives and seeing it actually happen is crucial for understanding what you're doing in the pencil and paper calculations. If you remember that, then there's no way that you'll forget to put the tens calculation a column to the left when you add.


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