Marbled Flowers

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For a fairly quick art project this week, we made these spring flowers using the marbled paper from a few weeks ago. I got the idea for the project from Deep Space Sparkle. The directions are simple. Using a piece of  construction paper folded in half, we cut a vase out along the fold of the paper. We then cut out the flower centers, petals, and stems from the marbled paper and then we glued flowers and vase onto a larger sheet of construction paper. I did suggest to the kids that they arrange all the shapes on the page before gluing so that they could figure out how they wanted it to look before committing.

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David chose to glue his petals in a way that they curled off the page, giving a 3-D effect. I also liked that his finished result is very asymmetrical on the page.

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Ruth found the cutting and glueing to be a little more challenging that David. It was a good project for her because it worked on skills that she hasn’t mastered. It also was inherently more freeform than some other art projects. She’s a bit of  a perfectionist so I always like giving her art projects that encourage her to not worry about “getting it right”.

Marbled Paper

I am not a particularly arts and crafty person. But I have kids who love art. Ruth, in particular, loves crafts. She makes things all the time: scarves out of T-shirts, bracelets for her stuffed bunny, a  monogrammed sign for her door out of cardboard and patterned duct tape, etc. Her favorite part of the week is any kind of art project that we do. So, I’m always happy to find a project that is a new technique for us to try.

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Last week we tried this very cool marbled paper project from The Artful Parent. Like the best projects it was fairly simple and turned out beautiful results. Full instructions are at the link above but basically you put shaving foam in a pie plate or small baking dish and then drip liquid watercolor on it. You then swirl the drops together (we used a chopstick). Then you dip a piece of paper on the top and scrape the shaving cream off the paper. The result is really cool marbled paper.

img_2396We used posterboard for the paper cut into smaller squares. The edges curled quite a bit but then flattened out nicely after a few days under some books. If we did it again I might go with stiffer paper (like cardstock). We found that we could get one or two dips before it worked better to add a new color. I thought the process worked best to start with one or two colors and then add more as we went. My kids liked just to add a bunch to begin so there paper got more and more solid as they went. We then just got fresh shaving cream when it got too muddy looking. We also found it hard to scrape off the shaving cream with cardboard as in the original link. Instead I used a chopstick and then wiped off the excess with paper towels. It was a somewhat messy project for us, but since the materials were easily washable it cleaned up easily.

Afterwards, we used the paper to make Valentines for Ruth’s class at co-op. We just cut hearts out of the paper and she wrote a message on each. Then we tied the heart to a lollipop with some ribbon. It looked really cute and she was so excited to give them to her friends.

Advent Art

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One of the (many) good things about having three kids is that I can repeat projects and activities I did with the oldest years ago and they are new to the youngest member of the family.  We’ve done this Advent art project twice before and it’s become one of my favorites. It’s super simple, allows for some open ended creativity and makes a pretty finished product.

First, you take old crayons and shave them. You can do this with a crayon sharpener. We’ve also used a vegetable peeler with good results. Then you cut out a shape using white paper. The first two times we did this I had the kids first draw a simple picture on the paper and then cut around it. However, I realized that the picture gets kind of lost in the end so we skipped that step this time. Next, you place the shape you have cut out on a piece of wax paper that is bigger than the shape. Then sprinkle crayons over the paper. I don’t give a lot of instructions at this point, other than to point out that large clumps of crayon will likely turn brown in the end.

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The next step is the most fun. Place a second sheet of wax paper over top of the white paper and crayons. Then apply heat with the iron. It does not take a lot of heat to melt the crayons and have the two pieces of wax paper seal together so watch the kids carefully at this step. Finally, cut around your white paper shape , leaving a border of wax paper.

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They end up looking pretty in a window. It was a fairly grey and rainy day when we did these but they look especially nice in the sun. We also experimented this year with leaving out the white paper and just dropping crayon shavings between two pieces of wax paper. I liked the way that turned out as well. We ran out of time but I think if we do this again I would experiment more with that method.

With art projects for kids there is often a struggle between process and product. A lot of adults will talk about being more “process driven” and I agree that the value in doing art with kids is often more in the doing itself than in having a perfect finished product. But I also find that my kids like product. One of my kids in particular worries more about having the finished product look “right” even when I purposefully talk about their being no “right” answer in art.  One of the things I like about this project is that it’s so obviously open-ended and loosey-goosey that even a perfectionist kid can have fun just playing around and seeing what you end up with.

The last two times we did this:
In 2012 with a 3, 6 and 9 year old
In 2009 with a 3 year old and 6 year old

 

 

Fall Leaf Art with Deep Space Sparkle

If you aren’t already using the Art Lessons at Deep Space Sparkle in your homeschool or with your kids after school, you should be. It is a treasure trove of art activities for kids. You can buy complete lesson plans or search the website  (by topic, by artist, by technique, by grade) for something free that meets your needs. Last week I was looking for a fall art project to do with my 2nd grader and 5th grader. (As an aside, my 8th grader claims to dislike art. He often will join us and can get really into the right project. He also has a lot more other work to do and less free time, so I treat art as a free time option for him most of the time. I figure he’s had plenty of exposure up to this point and forcing him to participate isn’t going to make him enjoy it.) I went to DSS and searched under “Fall” and found this beautiful watercolor leaves project.

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First, we sketched leaves in pencil on a sheet of white watercolor paper. Then we used black glue (Elmer’s School Glue mixed with black tempera paint) to outline the leaves. The directions were to use the squeeze bottle to apply the black glue. However, our glue bottle was old and the top was completely stopped up. I found a medication syringe and we used that instead. It worked fine but probably made our glue lines thicker than intended.

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After letting the glue dry (it took a couple of days because our glue was so thick), we got out the paints. We reviewed the color wheel first and I asked the kids to paint their leaves using colors that are near each other on the color wheel. We used liquid watercolors which give really brilliant colors. We then did some catechism practice and PE at the same time (nothing like homeschooling for multitasking) to let the leaves dry a bit before painting the background. I asked them to paint the background using more of a complementary color to their leaves. (You can see below that Ruth didn’t really follow my instructions but I think hers turned our great anyway.) Before the background paint dried, we applied table salt as a resist. I had never done this but it was really easy and gave a cool batik like effect.  You just sprinkle the salt onto the wet paint and then let it dry. Once dry you gently brush it off.

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Ruth’s painting. She ignored the complementary background instructions because she wanted hers to look like leaves sitting in a pile of other leaves. I really liked that she did her own thing and I liked the way it ended up looking.

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David’s finished project. You get an idea of how vivid the liquid watercolors can be!

img_1751And mine. I was the first one to try the salt and I think I used a bit too much, but it still looks ok. The great thing about art projects like this is that it’s just fun and the process is truly as much the point as the finished product.

 

Scenes from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

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The kids spent this past weekend at my parents. H. and I had a lovely, if much quieter than usual, time together. Quiet didn’t mean boring. We ate well, saw a couple of movies, golfed (him), read books (me), did some school planning and thinking (me). We also saw two excellent exhibits at museums: The Greeks at the National Geographic Museum and a retrospective on the work of Kehinde Wiley at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (all the photos above are from the Wiley exhibit). I would highly recommend both. The Greeks was fascinating and full of really remarkable artifacts. (Photos were not allowed so you’ll have to just believe me on that or, even better, go see for yourself.) I knew nothing about Wiley going into the exhibit at VMFA but I came out feeling like I had learned a lot. Both exhibits are around for just a bit longer so if you are in the area consider checking them out.

Scribble Art

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Art is one of those things I want to do more of but we often don’t get to. I think part of it is that I feel the need to over plan instead of just doing art together. I feel like art must somehow coordinate with what we are studying in history or a book we are reading. It’s great when that happens but it’s also great to just do it without worrying about making it part of some big cross-curriculum plan.

This week we did some scribble art paintings. I got the idea from The Artful Parent which is my new favorite website for art ideas for kids. It’s was super easy and simple to do. The materials required were as basic as it gets: paper, pencil and watercolors.

First, scribble a line drawing on a piece of paper with a pencil. I forgot to take a phtoto at that stage but you can kind of see Ruth’s drawing in the photo above. Next, you simply fill in each space with watercolor paint. Easy peasy.

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Perhaps because it was easy, this activity proved to be the center of a relaxing afternoon. We painted and listened to music and watched birds out our big kitchen window. We chatted some and were just quiet some.

This is a great activity if you have kids who are more perfectionists about their art. There really isn’t any “right” way to do it. It’s much more about the process than the product  so they don’t stress about making it “look right”.

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To give you some idea of the finished product, I’m including photos. I’m not sure why the background looks so brown in these, we used regular white paper. Still, you get the overall idea.

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The boys decided to paint their backgrounds black. I’m not sure why but it gave a different finished look. Part of the fun of this activity was that because it was so easy it was a good opportunity for the kids to experiment with watercolors and to learn some basic ideas (less water=bolder color, watercolors bleed into each other). Best of all, all three kids had fun with it, which is ultimately my main objective with art in our homeschool.

Thanksgiving Adventures

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Thanksgiving break gave us two very different but equally fun adventures. The kids and I spent “Black Friday” at Huntley Meadows, our favorite local nature spot. It wasn’t so much a protest of consumerism as it was just a beautiful day and I hate to shop so the day after Thanksgiving typically finds me anywhere but a shopping mall or store. We saw an owl, a great blue heron, a few frogs, and a bunch of minnows. We had fun trying to identify birds by their songs, something really only David is able to do in any small way. The kids were perhaps most intruiged by the numerous tracks we spotted in the muddy areas of the wetlands. We had fun trying to identify them with the aid of a guidebook and a park employee in the visitor center. In the end we decided that they were most likely muskrat.

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Yesterday, after helping with annual Advent decorating at church, we headed downtown to the Renwick Gallery. This is H.’s favorite museum downtown and it reopened this fall after a two year major renovation. Nine artists created works for the reopening exhibit, titled Wonder. If you are in the area, I would highly recommend going. The works are truly amazing and unlike anything you’ve ever seen. For one thing, the scale is awesome: each work takes up a full room. The materials used to make the art are mostly everyday materials (glass marbles, tires, string, index cards) but are used in ways that are truly mind-blowing. I would highly recommend it if you are in the area.

Our kids were fascinated by the exhibit. Spontaneously, they decided to each come up with one word to describe each piece. It was the kind of cool moment as a homeschooling parent where you think about all the different educational things that are happening but keep quiet and just let them happen.

We also played a few games (Carcassone, Qwirkle, Clue), took a lot of walks, ran a 5K on Thanksgiving (David and John), watched two movies (Free Birds and Miracle on 34th Street), decorated the house for Christmas, had friends over for dinner, completed one decluttering project (cleaning out the shoe and coat closet) and, of course, ate a lot of food. All in all, lots to be thankful for.

Tomorrow we get back to school for the three week stretch before Christmas break. I think of Thanksgiving as like a mini-breather before the sprint to the finish time before the longer Christmas holiday. I feel reasonably rested and ready to go. And that’s definitely something to be thankful for.

Fun Friday

Even after 7 years of homeschooling there are things I “always” want to get to but somehow never seem to get done on a regular basis. Last year, I was intrigued by the idea of Fun Fridays on Amy’s blog. I was intrigued but still didn’t really implement it in our homeschool. The main issue for me is that we have a schedule that really allows for only two full days of school with me home. Two other days I work part of the day. The other day  of the week we do a co-op. Friday happens to be one of our full days at home and so is usually one of our longer and fuller school days.

However, this year I would really like to have Friday be a little bit different. I’m not sure exactly what this will look like but my plan right now is to have Fridays be a mix of Science, Art,  Poetry Teatime, and other special activities.

IMG_2176Today, I had the boys do some work on their current unit study (architecture with H.) and do a little bit of math. Then we all got together to do art. We are traveling to Chicago in a few weeks (hence the architecture unit study) and plan on going to the Art Institute. There are many things we could have studied but I decided to focus on George Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte because it was relatively easy to come up with a last minute art project. (Just being honest) I decided to do a project from MaryAnn Kohl’ s Discovering Great Artists. First, we used Q-tips and acrylic paint (tempera would work fine but we didn’t have any) to make dots on index cards. We first did only dots of one color on each index card. 

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Next, after letting the first set of dots dry, we used a Q-tip to put dots of a different color in between the original dots. We used only red, blue, yellow, black and white paint. The idea was to see if the card began to look more like two colors mixed together from far away. It’s important not to let the paint mix together on the paper if you do this. It would also probably work better with smaller dots. Our cards still mostly looked like dots from across the room. But when we went outside, we were able to walk far enough away where the dots disappeared and we saw orange instead of red and yellow dots. We had a brief discussion about the technique and also about how with computers and TV screens, basically everything uses the concept of pointillism. Next week, we’ll do a larger painting but this was enough for today.

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After art, I surprised the kids by asking if they wanted to ride bikes to lunch. They were all excited about the idea. Ruth has recently “graduated” to using John’s old bike that has gears and hand brakes and she is very excited about her new skills. Note that John is wearing a backpack. IMG_2187

The backpack was to carry his books so that he could read during lunch. We enjoyed a delicious pizza picnic lunch at our favorite local pizza place. Sadly, I was the only member of the family even mildly challenged by the mostly uphill ride home. 

Once home, we gathered for science. We’re going to focus on chemistry this year. We did a few experiments out of Adventures with Atoms and Molecules. This is more at the level of Ruth and David than John but he likes science so was happy to join in. The experiments are all very simple and the book includes some brief explanation/discussion that you can use for slightly older kids. I am also going to have John and David go through Ellen McHenry’s The Elements and we did a few pages in that as well.

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I had then planned to do a poetry teatime but the kids all really wanted to finish playing Elemento, a new board game I picked up for this year, that they had started yesterday. So, I decided to scrap poetry and let them play.

All in all, a good day. It felt pretty fun and we still got some good work done. And I managed to include at least one thing that each of them had put down that they wanted more of on the first day of school (art, books, bike rides, time outside, doing things with siblings).

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Deck the Halls

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We typically make an ornament every year. Usually we give one to each relative as a present from the kids. Some of our ornaments turn out better than others, but it’s really more about teaching the kids to give. I thought this year’s project turned out particularly well.  I’m not especially crafty so I’m always excited to find fairly easy projects that end up looking halfway decent. I got this idea from this multiple sites on the Internet, but I ended up mostly using the instructions given at this Instructable.

It’s fairly easy. You remove the paper from old crayons and break them up into small pieces. You place some pieces into a glass (NOT clear plastic) ornament and then use a hair dryer to melt the crayon pieces. As they melt you swirl the ornament creating patterns on the inside of the glass.

We ended up breaking our crayons into much smaller pieces than what is shown at the linked site. The bigger pieces just took way too long to melt. Interestingly, the more high quality crayons like Crayola melted much better. We had a few cheap ones in the mix that just would not melt. The only downside to this project was that it’s tricky to hold the glass ornament while heating it as it gets very hot. The kids really weren’t able to do that part and I wished I had come up with some kind of better handle so that they could have helped with the holding. They had fun though creating various color combinations of crayon pieces.

Of course, they each got to make an ornament for themselves.

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Ruth’s pink and purple creation

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David created the color combination for this one, naming it “Disco Party” ball.

IMG_0676John’s “Camouflaged” ornament.

 

The Scraps Book

Lois Ehlert is one of those picture-book authors where you can blindly choose a book off her shelf in the library and know you are going to end up with a winner. Favorites of ours include Feathers for Lunch, Planting a Rainbow and Waiting for Wings. Her bright colorful collages are beautiful and have great kid appeal. She writes about topics kids are curious about: butterflies, birds, food, flowers. And she manages to strike that perfect balance of writing simple prose that a 3 year old will listen to but that will still appeal to a much older kid. I’ve always loved the extra notes she includes in each illustration that give just a bit more information about whatever she is writing about.

Her new picture book biography, The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life, is not to be missed if you are also an Ehlert fan. If you aren’t, then read it anyway and see what you’ve been missing. Ehlert uses her trademark collage illustrations to tell about her own life and work. The focus here is on her work, with very basic biographical details. Her parents encouraged her early interest in making things by giving her a private art space where she could create. Artistic kids will be inspired to read about how Ehlert gets ideas for her work and the process she uses to make her books.

Perhaps the highest recommendation I can give this book is that after reading it together David said, ” I feel like doing art now.” And so we did. I think Ehlert would consider that equivalent to a 5 star rating.

The Scraps Book has been nominated for a Cybils award in the Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction category.