Sunday, January 25, 2015

My Latest: Popcorn, Summer Camp, and Hands-on Math



and a tutorial for the newspaper cubes that the kids made to give them hands-on experience in calculating volume








The newspaper pillars are tricky to build with, as they present a whole host of build challenges just for that material. Once I stepped in just to hold parts until they'd been supported, so that both kids could focus on the engineering and construction, the project was much less frustrating for them. A much easier material to work with would be balsa wood posts, but that would go against my desire that the kids complete the project simply with what they had to hand.

It would be interesting to try this again in nicer weather, when it can be prefaced by a stick hunt in the woods, and then we can see if sticks are easier than newspaper pillars, or if the bends and waves in sticks will just make them a different type of challenging material to build with.

For now, however, it's no matter. Will, who prior to this couldn't quite work out why volume is calculated the way that it is, now has the concept down cold. Tomorrow, then, she leaves geometry behind for a while and returns to fractions.

Fractions, I think, will also be a very hands-on unit. So many pies! So many Cuisenaire rods! So many coins and counters and puzzles and graphs!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Making Mandalas with Compass and Protractor

This mandala creation has really taken off, I know.

When I took the mandala-making class from Julie Gibbons Creative, I'd assumed that I was just taking it for my own personal pleasure and edification. I was approximately one minute into her first video tute, however, before I realized that mandala-making would be an EXCELLENT activity for the kids. Geometry of circles, radial symmetry, the proper use of compass and protractor and ruler, angle measurement, polygons... Excellent. Truly excellent.

Like the painted color wheels and the circle and hexagon drawing, this is another project that lets the kids practice how to use a compass, how to draw lines with a straight edge, and how to measure angles with a protractor. They also get to be really creative and artistic, though, and even my Will, who has much less patience for the fine motor activities of drawing and coloring in, became really invested in this activity and produced a mandala that she'd worked hard on and was quite justifiably proud of.

To begin, all the kid needs to do is use the compass to draw a circle as large as the page can support. I gave out regular typing paper for this, since I wanted the kids to do their coloring in with colored pencils or markers, and I didn't want to give them too much blank space to have to cover.

This alone is a great exercise for the kids, visualizing the area to be covered and then testing that theory, figuring out how to adjust one's circle sizing when the theory doesn't pan out:


Next, the kid will want to set up some marks for herself, to help her keep her designs symmetrical. I had the kids use the compass to draw successively smaller circles, then had them use the protractor and ruler to first draw a line straight through the circle at its center point, then draw a line at a 90-degree angle to the first line, then draw lines at 45-degree angles. This part is also how we made our color wheels.

When all the drawing and measuring is complete, the kids get to decorate their mandalas any way they'd like. This one is Syd's, decorated like a birthday cake:

I especially like the three-dimensional candle in the center.

This one is Will's:
 It's meant to remind one of a rainbow.

The kids are really liking making these mandalas, and I think that for Will, especially, it's a way to draw and color that feels comfortable to her. Even though we've been consciously working on art skills for over a year now, specifically to build Will's confidence, and her skills have improved, she's still not usually a confident artist. But with the protractor and compass and ruler that she guides making straight lines and even circles, she's got a starting place that feels good to her.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Color Wheels Composed with Tree Branch Paintbrushes

As part of our Georgia O'Keeffe study, we're also studying art composition, including warm and cool colors and color comparisons. To begin, I asked the children to create their own color wheels. I gave them large-format drawing paper, and since they've both recently learned how to use the compass, I asked them to also draw the wheel from scratch:
This was Syd's introduction to the protractor!

Fortunately, it's quite simple to make a color wheel using a compass, protractor, and ruler:
  1. Use the compass to draw a circle as large as the paper will support.
  2. Use the center point to help you draw a line straight through the circle with the ruler.
  3. Use the protractor to mark a 90-degree angle from this line, also at the center of the circle. Use the ruler to draw the line.
  4. Again using the protractor, mark a 45-degree angle in the middle of each 90-degree angle. Use the ruler to draw the lines.
Our Christmas tree is still hanging around--now it's outside on the brush pile, but it nevertheless remains green!--so the children cut their paintbrushes from it. Sensory exploration, creation with a new material, and no need for paintbrush washing--yay!

We own enough Biocolor paints (although after this project, I think I need to restock!) for the children to have completed their color wheels that way, but Syd got it into her head that she'd revolutionize color theory. She'd start with red--


--and then she'd wow the world by showing that you really CAN make all the colors of the color wheel from red!

She got this far:

This also happened, which is why I suspect that I need to check our paint stock:

Will, on the other hand, first studied the provided color wheel--

--and then immediately recreated it on paper:

And after Syd gave up her original idea--alas for the world of color theory!--she started again and created this:

It was very interesting to watch the children handle their tree branch paintbrushes, as they each did so quite differently. Will really embraced the feathering effect of a paintbrush lightly held and vigorously swiped, while Syd held her paintbrush in such a way that all the needles pointed the same direction and allowed her to paint neatly and accurately:


And yet, with both children, it was very apparent by the end of the day that a good time had been had by all:

Although Syd did need to spend quite a bit of time at the sink dealing with those paint cups used in the attempt to prove her grand theory...

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Work Plans for the Week of January 19, 2015: Essays of Unusual Size


Will was NOT thrilled to write her essay last week, and she will be equally not thrilled to find yet another essay for this week. Write it she shall, however, and I shall attempt to regird my patience for the inevitable upcoming struggles.

Writing, or the battle about writing, took up much of last week, and, as I'd suspected I would, I did need to delete a couple of the smaller, unimportant lessons from our plans--experimenting with watercolors can happen anytime, and Syd, at least, will be pleased to be asked to get messy dyeing Great Northern beans with me during her leisure hours.

This week's plans, however, are all important and unskippable, although I did cull them down as much as possible. I include the children's extracurriculars into their plans, but I don't include the daily book assignment, keyboard practice, memory work, and the chore chart--that's all on top of school, but the reading they'd do for pleasure, regardless, the keyboard practice takes only minutes (although they often remain at the keyboard for much longer--yay!), the memory work takes place in the car, and chores are chores; everyone in the world has to do their chores!

TUESDAY: Yesterday was our free day! Matt was off work, so he took the burden of shlepping the kids around while I slogged through my work at home; the kids skipped our weekly volunteer gig to go to a special volunteer opportunity with the Girl Scouts, and they took their weekly aerial silks lesson, happily freeing up a little more Wednesday for us.

Today, then, as I write Will sits next to me and reads her book assignment, a biography of Charles Darwin (she has just informed me that we MUST go visit the Galapagos Islands one day, although sadly we are no longer permitted to ride the tortoises, and did I know that "galapagos" is the Spanish word for tortoise?), and Syd eats breakfast and reads in the other room. Their math this week is all review drills from our Kumon workbooks--more subtraction with borrowing across zeroes for Syd, and calculating volume and area for Will. I expect that after this extra practice, we'll move back into Math Mammoth next week.

The commencement of horseback riding lessons is also the commencement of the horse breed research that their instructor always gives them for homework. I believe that my emphasis, this session, will be on efficient, effective, and informative displays of their research, so that the children become easily able to reproduce infographics and posters, as the case requires.

Will has by this moment found and looked over the essay requirement for this year's Black History Month essay contest, and already pouted about it. It's another biography from a dedicated pool of names, with some first-person analysis, as well. She's going to loathe it.

She will like better our plans for a swimming date with some friends at the gym this afternoon, and like best of all the first session of this semester's Robotics Club tonight. While she's there, Syd will be able to have some quiet time to work on her design for this year's Trashion/Refashion Show. I REALLY hope that she creates a design that she's able to sew by herself this year!

WEDNESDAY: Song School Spanish is a painless lesson to get through each week, especially as much of the work for it takes place as our daily ten-minute memory work in the car every day. I also enjoy having someone else in charge of horseback riding lessons and Magic Tree House Club (the kids were meant to attend their club meeting earlier this month, but were so busy playing that they didn't want to settle down for it; this is the last meeting for this month, so they'll definitely need to attend this one); I can get some writing done during the former, and have time to cook something a little more involved than frozen pizza or stir-fry during the latter.

THURSDAY: First Language Lessons is scripted, so sometimes I'll save that to hand off to Matt in the evenings. I won't be surprised if I need to on this day, because both kids will need my assistance as they complete pre-writing activities for upcoming essays. We have ice skating plans with children from our homeschooling group, however, so hopefully that will keep them in a good enough mood to stave off the most excessive of the fits.

FRIDAY: I usually try to keep the kids' keyboard lesson early in the week, so that they can use the rest of the week to practice, but it just wouldn't fit into the schedule any earlier than today. Fridays tend to be busy, though, with both math class and Will's ice skating class getting us up and out of the house, so this quick, independent lesson will be a helpful breather for me.

I generally let the kids cook independently these days, but since these cookies are for other people, I'll probably need to be on hand to supervise. I need to remember to set aside time earlier in the week to have the kids choose a recipe so that we can shop for ingredients, unless you think that I can convince them to find a recipe that allows me to use up the random bits of candied cherries and chopped pecans that I have in the pantry?

All this essay writing--or rather, essay dictating, to me--has made it very clear to me that it's high time for the kids to learn keyboarding. I've got several software programs checked out of the public library, so ideally the kids will like one of these well enough to at least learn the functional basics.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: The kids don't have any responsibilities on Saturday, but I'm having friends over that night, so I suppose that I should do some cleaning and cooking. On Sunday, Will has Chess Club, and the cookies need to be delivered to our town's homeless shelter. I imagine there will also be Girl Scout Cookie selling. Perhaps Trashion/Refashion Show material shopping. Minecraft playing. Chicken spoiling.

You know, typical weekend stuff.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Party to Which I was Not Invited

I found this schedule of events a few weeks ago--it's Syd's handwriting, and it appears to be for a Christmas party that she was planning to throw for her toys:

There was to be a play (with particular attention to the part of the snow angels, I'm certain), some singing, I have no idea where Christmas land was meant to be--under our tree, perhaps?--a talent show, which, I know from long experience, was sure to have numerous acts, all very detailed and each lasting several minutes, and... some sort of other show:


And after that there was still a game of hide and seek to play, and then an obstacle course to complete (I vaguely remember a million building blocks and stuffed animals in the hallway one evening--was I disrupting their obstacle course run?), and then something to do with camouflage, and then another game that includes a spectacular though unfortunate misspelling of the word "hero". It would make a great, although still unfortunate and offensive, college party game, however:

And finally there's some singing, and then, as dearly as I love them, my favorite of all evening activities that children can engage in:

Perhaps I should start referring to our evening routine every night as a "party." The "take a shower" game. The "find your toothbrush" hunt. The "no, you may not take the ipad to bed with you and watch videos for the next three hours" song.

And then, of course, the "finally the children are in bed!" after-party.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Board Games, Tree Branches, and T-shirt Leotards


a round-up of board game storage ideas, because I needed some (I eventually decided on another set of pipe and board bookshelves--yay!)

and a T-shirt leotard tutorial, which entails much showing off of Syd on our aerial silks rig







MUCH much showing off. Sorry!

Project plans for the next week include a modification of the T-shirt leotard (assuming that I can find some more FOE), the creation of a "team" uniform (the children have a pretend aerial silks team named The Awesomes, and they require uniforms for this team... obviously), the construction of a Girl Scout cookie booth (our last DIY booth did not survive the move, alas), and whatever other miscellany comes my way.

That happens often, by the way, the thing about miscellany coming my way. Don't be surprised if I report  next weekend that none of this got done, but instead that I hand-sewed six child-sized costumes that look like various flavors of Girl Scout cookie (this is a thing). Or wasted an entire night, literally AND figuratively, taste-testing margarita recipes for a Mom's Night Out that I'm hosting on Saturday. Or spent a day baking ten different kinds of cookies, instead of the one dozen that I'm supposed to be helping the kids bake for our town's homeless shelter. Or...

...I don't know. I'll tell you next weekend!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

From the Children's Museum

No agenda here, no story to tell, no particular message to deliver, just some small but important moments from our winter visits to the Children's Museum of Indianapolis:
Syd is in love with this DIY paleontologist Ken. See the field jacketed fossil? See his hands covered in plaster?!?



This Chihuly installation isn't often cleaned, so it was a treat to see it happening!
the installation from below




Syd is a scuba diver measuring some cannons that have just been discovered in the Caribbean--could they have been a part of Captain Kidd's ship?
Here you can watch real artifacts undergoing electrolytic reduction to remove their concretions. One cannon was recently removed after completing the process that we had observed throughout approximately four YEARS of visits!
 I feel a little poignancy sometimes at this museum, because I know that Will, in particular, is really beginning to push the maximum age for their target audience. As for Will herself, however--she'd never notice. She knows more about electrolytic reduction and edmontosaurs than most of the other small visitors, sure, but she still happily scoops and shovels rubber rocks in the construction site with them, and sends boats down the long and elaborate canal system should-to shoulder with the smaller kids, adding ever more to her intrinsic understanding of the maths and sciences as she does.

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