Homeschool Art Show

A few weeks ago, I hosted my first art show. But the show didn’t feature my artwork. Instead, this show featured student work from my observational drawing class. A big thank you to the parents, students, and local library for making the First Annual Homeschool Art Show a smashing success!

A picture of tables with children's artwork displayed.
The first annual homeschool art show was held at the local library

Observational Drawing for Kids

I had every intention of writing a post about the year-long observational drawing class I’ve been teaching this past year, but man, life has been busy. I have plans to get to it…soon. After we move. And paint. And install floors. And I finish up the Art History class I’m taking. But enough about my shortcomings. Here’s a partial list of activities we followed.

I used a tri-fold board to display the artist biographies

Kids’ Art Show

Around October, I knew I wanted to host an art show for the kids, but I wasn’t sure what it would look like. Initially, I thought we should open it up to the homeschool community and my students could be the curators. But as we got closer to spring, I wasn’t sure how to tackle that particular challenge. Instead, the homeschool parents opted for a low-key affair with artwork from the students in the class.

Around February, I reserved the meeting room at our local library and started planning the specifics. I decided to showcase four art pieces from each student, three pieces were completed drawings and one was an entry from their nature journal. All entries were self-selected.

I modified John Muir Laws’ nature journaling template for the kids’ use

Nature Journaling for Kids

For the spring semester, I focused on animals and other items from nature. To reinforce the concept of observation, I introduced the students to nature journals. A consistent nature journaling practice develops observation skills, something all artists need. I found a lot of inspiration in Clare Walker Leslie and John Muir Laws.

In addition to a online drawing tutorial, each week the kids created an entry in their nature journals. We shared our findings at the beginning of the class. It was such a large part of their spring semester work, and I wanted to honor that work at the art show (the kids were less enthusiastic about the idea, but they came around).

Artist Statements

I had never hosted an art show before and I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to display their four pieces of art, so I was grateful when a friend mentioned artist statements. She had asked her children to create one for their own pieces of art and conveyed the idea to me. I realized this was the missing piece to the show.

The students filled out this worksheet, and typed it up in paragraph form. After a little bit of editing, I printed out two artist statements for each student and matted them on black construction paper. I also had the students write a short autobiographical note about who they were and what they liked about making art.

A colored pencil drawing of a seahorse is next to a typed artist statement for the piece.
Drawn by C, age 9

Art Show Logistics

I wanted to make this a special event to help the kids see how far they’ve come in their drawing skills. Thankfully, the parents were willing to help. Everyone brought a dish to share (cookies, veggie tray, etc.), and one parent even bought potted plants to liven up the meeting room.

I set up most of the artwork using book displays (borrowed from the library), and laid out the kids’ work in an alternating pattern. Thanks to our local library, set-up and take down was very easy and the central location contributed to the show’s success.

Handmade Minecraft Creeper Quilt

Last month, I may have boasted  – just a little bit – about my kids’ 4-H non-livestock fair submissions.  I tried to include a wide variety of their projects, but I omitted one project: my older son’s handmade Minecraft creeper quilt.

Minecraft Creeper Quilt

In fill disclosure, I left it out because I didn’t have a good picture. Plus, the quilt was hung sideways at the fair…probably by someone without kids. It didn’t look right.

However, I also wanted to highlight his progress and effort. This was a HUGE project. It took determination and motivation to finish such a large quilt. He’s only twelve, though he made most of it when he was eleven. It took months to complete.

Quilting for Kids

Let me back up just a bit. I’ve always had sewing projects for the kids to try.  It’s part of Montessori’s early childhood curriculum, and it was one of the first “maker” skills I taught myself after college.

So my older son knew how to use the sewing machine and I trusted him with the rotary cutters.  When he said he wanted to make a big quilt…well, I tried to talk him out of it.

I know!

But it’s a lot of work and I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to keep up with him. However, he was determined and we sat down and made some preliminary sketches (after a bit of idea-gathering via the Internet).

Minecraft Blocks = Quilt Blocks

Thank goodness Minecraft is built on blocks. It makes creating a square-based quilt much easier. After a few explanations of the technique required for certain designs, we settled on a five-inch squares. He could easily cut those out and he liked the look of the creeper.

We went shopping at our local fabric store, picked up some supplies and he started cutting that day. I can’t say the entire project went that smoothly, but he did all of the work by himself. I helped occasionally, but this was his project.

Quilting Logistics

Since he was homeschooled last year, it was easy to incorporate this into our learning routine. While this was a self-directed project, he would have given up halfway through without my support and guidance. He wasn’t lacking the skills, just the tenacity to finish such a large project.

As with most of our big projects, we broke it down into smaller steps and added a time requirement. He needed to have the top finished before we left for our big trip last summer. That gave him 2 months to finish. He competed it a week before we left.

Binding the Quilt

We didn’t get around to the quilting and binding until seven months later. (I know…we were busy). We had it professionally quilted at our local quilt shop around Thanksgiving, and he worked on the binding throughout the Christmas break (he was in school at that point). Plus, he chose to sew the binding by hand. He said he wanted it to look the best…since he had put so much hard work into it.

I’m happy to add this to his list of project-based learning successes. He was self-directed, but wasn’t allowed to give up when he felt overwhelmed or bored. I was the facilitator (project manager?), but he learned how it felt to complete a large project. And he has a pretty cool quilt too.

Learning Watercolor :: Washes & Underpainting

First, I should say that I have no business giving advice on using watercolors. I have only been learning watercolor techniques for the last ten months; I am still a beginner. However, I thought it might be interesting to show off what I’ve learned (and how I learned it).

A picture of a graded blue sky with orange water

Learning Watercolors :: Introductory Classes

When I decided I wanted to move from color pencil illustrations to watercolor painting, I skimmed my options on Craftsy. I absolutely love that web site (and no, they don’t pay me to say that). However, it can be pretty overwhelming – especially if you aren’t sure what kind of painter you want to be.

Initially, I chose two classes: one by Kateri Ewing and one by Angela Fehr. Angela’s class was not my favorite. It was too tedious for me. (It took me a long time to finish her class). But others loved her class. She has rave reviews and her own YouTube channel. Her style just wasn’t (and isn’t) for me.

Kateri Ewing’s class…was the perfect introductory watercolor class for me. It was similar in feel to my first color pencil class, and the first half of the class had us mixing colors and trying to get a feel for the paint. We completed two “proper” projects, but we were painting the entire time. I completed Kateri’s class last May.

A picture of a watercolor yellow pear

Kateri Ewing showed us how to paint this pear, step-by-step.

Fast Forward — 2 months

We took a fabulous summer trip and when we got back, I found myself in the middle of an incredibly busy time. I drew and painted some, but my learning was set aside – until a few months ago. I had this overwhelming desire to beef up my watercolor skills. I had a beautiful watercolor journal just sitting on my desk, taunting me. I had used a few pages during our trip, but I needed more instruction.

However, I didn’t want to jump back into a video class, nor did I want to scour YouTube for free watercolor painting videos. I like videos, but only to a point. I really am a book gal. (It’s the librarian in me, I think).

Flat and Graded Washes

Lots of practice and testing. I tried out different brushes and different paper. I was shocked at how the quality of the paper makes a HUGE difference.

According to Claudia Nice in her book, Watercolor Made Simple, “graded washes are useful in portraying clear summer skies, pools of still water and the contours of human skin.”

A wash is basic watercolor technique. It seems overly simplistic, but is worth a little practice to get it just right. (I messed it up a bunch of times). It produces fascinating effects. Since my two online classes didn’t discuss washes, I stumbled across them as I tried to recreate various paintings. Thankfully, there are some amazing teaching artists who share their techniques via books.

I’ve been pulling a number of books from various libraries and choosing projects I want to try. My first success came from the book, Watercolor Painting: Practical Techniques and Projects for Beginners.

Variegated Wash

I used cheaper watercolor paper to practice the gradated wash, so it doesn’t look as smooth as I think it could. But I understood the concept. I was ready to jump into something a little more challenging: a variegated wash.

A variegated wash occurs when you have two (or more) colors. You wet the entire paper with a sponge – making sure it’s slightly damp, not sopping. Then add one color at the top and instead of returning for water, you grab a different pigment on your brush. Voila!

A picture of a piece of paper with graded colors - pink on top with yellow on the bottom.

True painters will notice that I pulled the yellow up into my pink. I was ‘playing in the paint’ – a big watercolor no no.

Sunset Over Water

Now that I had “mastered” the concept, I was ready to try the accompanying project. Thankfully, the book is pretty good about having step-by-step pictures. If you are trying to learn a new skill, it’s not helpful to only see the finished project.

Most of their projects require you to sketch out the project just by looking at the picture, but they go into detail for particular techniques.

I was very careful and methodical with my first attempt. The second one, not so much. I was less then attentive and went a little loosey-goosey. Plus, I used student grade paper and the pigment didn’t spread nearly as well. Lesson learned.

A picture of a graded blue sky with orange water

First attempt. A good use of a variegated wash. The blue for the sky melts into the orange for the sunset-lit sea.

A picture of a blue sky, and orange sea and some shadowed buildings/trees in the distance

I was trying for a brighter pigment…and I got it. Though, I think the paper caused me problems. (Don’t mind the white spot at the bottom…I’m testing the idea of painting while my paper is taped down).

But it’s the third painting that shows my growth as a watercolorist (I hope). I wanted to try the same technique, but with a slightly different color scheme. I had to figure out how to change up the colors. I looked at a few reference photos for guidance.

A watercolor picture of a cove at sunset

I love how this one looks more like a cove. I totally, ahem, meant to do that.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I thought it was better than the original, but the three members of my immediate family all prefer the last painting. My very own composition! Well…you can bet I’m hooked on project books now.

Summer 2018: Online Computer Programming Class for Kids

This summer, I will be teaching an online, interactive programming class through the Classical Learning Resource Center (CLRC). This course will be delivered online, but we will meet “in-person” once a week. This programming class for kids will focus on creative design using Scratch, the icon-based language developed by MIT.

a picture of a kid looking at a mac computer screen. The content is from the Scratch web site.

An online, but interactive programming class for kids using Scratch.

Programming Class for Kids

I have taught Scratch for a number of years, both in-person, and through my self-published asynchronous classes. I am excited to try my hand at virtual, real-time classes.  We’ll be meeting for four Wednesdays from 4:30 – 6:00 PM (Eastern time), starting June 6. We’ll meet via Adobe Connect and the emphasis will be on introductory, but creative programming concepts.

We may do some storyboarding, or pre-planning, if there’s time.

Classical Learning Resource Center

I am especially happy to be working with the CLRC. For the past year-and-a-half, I have been a CLRC parent. My older son has taken two CLRC courses over his homeschool career. He would have taken more, but he’s in school this year — a perfect fit for my extroverted child. However, my younger son can’t wait until he is old enough to take a CLRC class. The teachers are fabulous and accessible. Plus, my son loved the real-time interactions.

If you have any questions, please let me know. You can find my contact information on the class page, Creative Computer Programming for Upper Elementary Students. Sign up today!

Hand-Sewn Key Chains for Kids

I created these hand-sewn key chains last summer for my sewing camp class. Remember my Mondrian-inspired wall hanging? Do you remember how it didn’t work in a classroom, even though it was the perfect project for home? Since it was a classroom bust, I quickly came up with a new idea: hand-sewn key chains!

Technically, these hand-sewn key chains weren’t made by the kids. I made them, but my students replicated their own.

Hand-Sewn Key Chains — Embroidered Key Chains

Thankfully, I came across a number of key chain projects online. Many of them required expensive connectors, but I stopped by my local Hobby Lobby and picked up a package of plain silver split rings. Then, I made a few examples. Of course, I took the complicated approach first…

After a bit of searching, I decided to make a Celtic cross as my first example. Overkill? Yes, definitely.

I may have chosen a really difficult project. Just a little…

After testing this one, I decided to look for a simpler project, especially since I didn’t think the students would have an easy time with the tissue paper transfer.  But I still wanted them to add a design to the outside of their project. Enter the utilitarian key chain.

Hand-sewn key chain — Chapstick or Money Holder

These turned out to be some of my favorite hand-sewn projects. I used a soft 4B drawing pencil to sketch a simple design on the outer felt. It was easy to see the design and would (mostly)  be covered by the stitching. I had created a few samples, but wanted to see how the patterns would translate to kids’ use. My youngest son, age 8, jumped at the chance to make a sample key chain.Turns out – he’s a natural hand-sewer.

a picture of a child making a hand-sewn keychain

I love a messy table covered with fabric, at least until it’s time for dinner.

This project was a success! My students enjoyed how creative they could be with their designs and it didn’t take them three class periods to complete. Instant satisfaction!

Just a side note: we hot glued the fabric strip (with the split ring) to the back of the hand-sewn key chain. A perfect afternoon project for beginning sewers.




Authentic Learning with 4-H

My boys have been 4-H members for a number of years, but as I tell people: we’re not really animal people. I get strange looks with that statement, especially when I tell them I love the 4-H organization. The county fair, with all those show animals, is the primary event, but we’ve also participated in a marine ecology tournament, a 5K run, and the annual non-livestock fair.

A picture of two hand sewn items with ribbons attached

C, age 8 made a handsewn needlebook and a badge.

4-H Non-Livestock Fair

My boys experience authentic learning with 4-H through the non-livestock fair. They don’t show animals — which is a good thing since we gave away our chickens last year! However, the non-livestock fair provides the perfect opportunity to showcase their homeschool work. According to Lori Pickert, author of Project-Based Homeschooling, students need an audience to show what they’ve learned (in whatever way they choose to present it).

Although Lori advocates for complete self-control, I recommend it only after students have been creating projects for a couple of years. I found that when my kids were younger, they needed guidance. They didn’t have the experiential knowledge of how to create a “final” project.* Initially, I offered some suggestions and had them choose what type of project they wanted to make (after determining what they wanted to learn about). It was less overwhelming for a young child. They had a topic, and they could see what they were working toward. That might be a poster, a written report, an art piece or a computer program. (FYI – we did projects and traditional school work).

A picture of a trifold with the title: My Shell Project

C has really been into shells this year and delved deeper into the topic as a result of this poster.

A Project-Based Learning Venue

The 4-H non-livestock fair provides a great opportunity to share their projects with others. In addition, there are a number of projects to see for inspiration. Kids can submit traditional projects, such as book reports or tri-fold posters. My kids usually do a couple of those projects, but also submit original artwork, sewing pieces and woodworking projects.

C’s Scratch project. The topic was a chapter from Story of the World concerning Louis XIV: The Sun God.

A picture of two wooden slat boxes stained dark brown.

Each boy made one of these wooden boxes with the help from a fellow homeschool parent. He cut the wood, but the boys put it together and stained it (with his guidance).

Reflecting on the Learning Process

In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably tell you that I have been a non-livestock fair judge for the last two years. Although the day usually falls on, or near, my birthday, I love the experience. All day, I get to speak with kids about their projects. They have a receptive audience in me, but they also get my teaching experience. This year, I was the art and craft judge. I spoke with some very, very talented students. I also encountered some very reserved and hesitant students. I dealt with them differently, but asked every single one: what is your favorite part of this project (and/or what did you think you did well)? I also asked them: what do you think you could do better (if anything)?

Not only do my own children benefit from reflecting on their learning, but they get to see a bunch of other kids doing the same. Like I said, it’s a fabulous organization.

A picture of a printout from the Scratch web site. Printout has blue and purple ribbons attached.

R, age 12, made a Harry Potter computer program in Scratch. (Yes – 4H judges computer programs)!

**The way I conduct project-based learning at home is slightly different than Lori Pickert recommends. I think students should have a choice. They should be able to define and redefine how they want to showcase their learning. However, I don’t think just reading about something constitutes a project (at least not past 2nd grade). I need them to have some reflection on their learning — whether that’s by writing, doing a poster or creating a Scratch computer program. The research on learning (and growing a growth mindset) means you have to help them push through the frustrating parts of not knowing.

Star Wars :: Art, Coding & Just Plain Silliness

Around our house, I hear a lot about the Star Wars universe. Is it the same in your home? It may have something to do with the new movie premiere,  which three of us saw in December.  It may be because the youngest has been reading every. single. Star Wars book he can get his hands on.

A picture of 9 children's books about Star Wars

All of these are library books!

At eight-and-a-half, he hasn’t seen all the movies. They are a bit intense for him, but he has seen Episodes 4-6, and is quite ready for Episode 1. (He lets us know when he’s ready to watch another one). Even though he hasn’t seen all of the movies, he already knows what happens in the story; thanks to those books.

In fact, all three of the males in my household like to read Star Wars books. I am the only one who abstains from reading about lightsabers. They look cool on screen, but I’ll save my precious reading hours for a non-fiction book, or ahem…a good romance novel.

color pencil drawing of Star Wars character, Boba Fett

Boba Fett. Drawn by R, age 12.

Star Wars Art

Thank goodness I can find other ways to dip my toe into the Star Wars universe. Recently, we came across Tom Angleberger’s book, Art2-D2’s Guide to Folding and Doodling. We played “pencil podracing,” and created an origami Yoda. After all, Angleberger is the author of the Origami Yoda book series.

On the left is the “gameboard” for pencil podracing. You flick your pencil and that constitutes your turn.

Pod People

Since we’re chatting about Star Wars, I have to mention these wooden peg dolls which I made a few years ago. They live on my older son’s shelf, but I was inspired by the dolls from Homemade by Jill.

A picture of two wooden peg dolls painted to look like ObiWan Kenobi and Darth Vader from Star Wars

Handpainted by Liz.

Star Wars Coding

Now that I’ve chatted about arts and books, I can get to the meat of this post: Star Wars coding. Last month, I came across the book, Using Scratch: Star Wars Coding Projects. Can you guess where I found it? Yes, at my local library (I love that place).

Since it involved the icon-based programming language Scratch, and Star Wars, I knew it would find a receptive audience at my house. (I just love it when I’m right). My youngest son was enamored. Two of his favorite things — combined!

a picture of a kid looking down at a book while working on a computer

C, age 8.5, working on a project from Using Scratch: Star Wars Coding Book

Scratch Project Name

Since he’s a homeschooler, I asked if he was interested in doing a project from the book. When he said yes, I added it to his weekly schedule. The instructions were clear enough that he was able to get started right away. After all, he’s been working with Scratch for almost two years. However, he is only 8.5, so after the first set of instructions…he got stuck. I was called in to help. First issue: he wasn’t sure how to replicate the very fancy graphics shown in the book.

We talked about how they were probably made with Photoshop and brainstormed some ways  he could make something that looked “close enough.” He’s pretty easy-going and this suggestion was sufficient for him to continue. Unfortunately, I could see the images becoming a frustrating point for a more controlling child. A few available graphics might have been a nice addition to the book, but I digress…

Teaching Moment

One of the best things about a “follow the instruction” project is the opportunity to guess the next step. Since I was helping him, I asked him to think about what the programming might be for the upcoming situation. For example, he created “gravity,” so I asked him to make Bobba Fett float up, instead of down. He had to play with the programming.

However, once he managed to figure it out, we went along in the same vein. He would copy the program and I would ask him what he thought it might do…before he ran the program. He wasn’t always right (and neither was I), but it got his brain primed to retain the information for later.

“Jet Pack Adventure,” made by C, age 8.

Star Wars Silliness

Lastly, there may have been two milestone birthdays celebrated this past February. We also have some great friends who were happy to celebrate – Star Wars style.

Homemade Boba Fett helmet. Made by R, age 12.

Death Star cake. Made by a friend.

a picture of cake pops and a cut out of a tiny Millennium Falcon

These cake pops were meant to be droids, but looked more like asteroids. Cake pop recipe adapted from Elana’s Pantry.

May the Force Be With You

a picture of a woman dressed as Princess Leia.

Princess Liz…I mean, Leia.




One of my unofficial New Year’s resolutions was to find more time to draw. It’s easy to say I’m too busy (I am), or I don’t quite have the skills to accomplish a certain look (also true). However, I realized I was holding a very high expectation of myself. I wanted my drawings to be perfect. I felt I needed hours of uninterrupted free time, which was a convenient excuse when I couldn’t get around to drawing. If I produced less than stellar illustrations, well it wasn’t my fault!

Oh, the lies perfectionism and fear tell us.

A picture of three circus tents on a pier.

This is a one-minute sketch of the Montreal Pier (near the kids’ science museum). I tried to use Mark Toro Holmes’ technique, but without the watercolors. Obviously, I need a little more practice with this technique…

Abandoning Perfectionism

Instead, I decided I would (mostly) abandon judgement and learn to live with the results. After all, I need the practice. These drawings are not masterpieces – they are practice. They are quick sketches I can do in short bursts of time – during a lunch break or before I climb into bed. We’re talking 15 minutes. What if I get it wrong and they look terrible? Well…that’s sort of the point, right? I can see where I goofed and work on not repeating my mistakes.

Isn’t this the same thing I try and help my children (and students) awaken in themselves?

A hand drawn picture of a woman's left hand.

My left hand-ish.

Practice is Hard

A few weeks into my resolution, I felt myself wavering a bit. Practice is hard, I whined. I’m too busy. I don’t where to start. I suck. But, lo and behold, one of my favorite children’s stories presented itself at the library. This book was on display and I picked it up for my youngest son. I thought he would benefit from an old-fashioned read-aloud (he may have inherited a few of the above traits from yours truly).

The book was Ish by Peter Reynolds.

A hand-drawn picture of a scene from Peter Reynold's book, Ish.

I drew this ink-only illustration during my short lunch break (after I ate my lunch). Next time, I’d like to add color.


If you haven’t read it before, the story follows Ramon, a young elementary student who loves to draw…until his older brother makes fun of one of his drawings. Afterward, Ramon tries making everything he draws perfect, until in frustration, he gives up drawing altogether. In the end, he he has another family member who adores his art and her interpretation of his work helps him to learn to love his work again (“it looks flower-ish”).

Copying as Practice

I’ve decided to give myself another break and relax. I thought I needed to draw from life regularly – and while it is important to do that – I found that my skills aren’t quite there yet. This “block” was hurting my progress. I was afraid to draw because I knew just practicing wouldn’t help me get any better — especially if I’m not getting feedback. I need deliberate practice.

So I’ve given myself permission to copy other children’s book illustrators. In copying, I can learn a lot of valuable techniques and I have a built-in teacher. Since live art lessons aren’t an option for me at this time (see above: I’m busy), this is a good stand in. I can still work on my own original stuff…

A cartoon drawing of a young girl in a blue medieval dress

My own character…I’ve named her Emma.

…but I’m also appreciating the work of others.

Shows a girl in a yellow rain slicker standing in a marsh, looking at birds in the distance

This was a quick sketch with waterproof pens and a wash of watercolors. It’s based on the front cover of the children’s book, Squish!: A Wetland Walk.

A hand-drawn picture of 5 sea birds sitting on a log; from The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling.

I copied this from the book, The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling. He used watercolors, but I used colored pencils.

Favorites from 2017

I know I’m a little late to the “best of 2017” party, but I think something is better than nothing! At least, that’s what I’m telling myself. In fact, this year I’m resolving to be kinder myself and my body. I’m releasing some of my many responsibilities and prioritizing a few others. Sadly, this blog is on the chopping block. I love writing posts, but it takes a lot of time and it stresses me out when I can’t post. So, I’m being gentler with my psyche and letting these posts linger. I have one lined up for in two weeks, but after that…well, I’m not making any promises.

I managed to finish my penguin drawing.

Favorite Books of 2017

These books weren’t published in 2017, but were books that I found interesting and inspirational when I came across them this past year.

  1. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (and sequels) — I don’t know how this juvenile series escaped my noticed. However, we have since corrected that issue and my boys and I have each taken to these novels. I love all of the literary references!
  2. Desperate Duchesses series by Eloisa James — Just to prove that smart, witty women read (and love) Romance novels, I’m including a favorite series that I re-read this year. In this tumultuous and scary political climate, I really needed some happy endings.
  3. Designing Your Life — I love this book for its “design thinking” approach to career and life development. There is no “what’s your end goal,” but rather a way of looking at your life (and career) as a work in progress. I liked the exercises and approach of this book so much that I included some of these concepts in my college class, Intro to College Success.
  4. Art Lab for Kids — Although the kids and I slacked off on completing more of the projects in this book, the ones we did complete were fabulous! I really liked that each and every one of these projects was simple, but worthwhile. You can check out a few of our projects here.

Favorite Artisan Posts of 2017

  1. SCBWI Art Challenge — This is one of my favorite posts because it represents a change in focus for me and my interests. My art still needs work, but I have found my “posse” in SCBWI.  This organization is a major favorite of mine for 2017 (and 2018)!
  2. Elementary Electronics Series (Homemade LED bracelet) — I had forgotten that I conducted an elementary electronics class last Spring (was that really in 2017)? In doing so, I created a make your own LED bracelet pattern to help the kiddos understand circuits. Fun!
  3. FETC 2017 — Last January, I presented a poster session at FETC. This poster showcased how a teacher can use Scratch to learn about other content areas (not just computer programming).
  4. Minds Maps for Learning — This is another favorite post because I realized (this year) how much I truly love making mind maps. They are a fabulous way to combine learning (and remembering) with artistic design.

a colored picture of a mind map for the book, The Magic Words by Cheryl B. Klein

I used color pencils to complete the map.

Favorite Curriculum Used in 2017

  1. Improve Your Painting: Luminous Watercolor Mixing by Kateri Ewing. I think taking art classes in person are the best way to learn, but when that’s not an option (due to finances, time, location…or all three in my case), Craftsy classes have filled that void quite nicely. I have taken many of their classes and only one was a dud (and even then I learned something…just not as much as I would have liked). They are much more interesting than Udemy art classes and most of them have lots of hands-on projects, which is a must for me. My current classes are Perspective for Sketchers and Developing Your Main Character. I can’t recommend them enough (and no, they don’t pay me to say that).
  2. Meet the Masters Art and Art History Series for Kids — We are on our next set of artists, but since my 8-year-old is the only homeschooler left in the house, we bought the 8-9-year-old pack. I like that there are a number of simple drawing/art techniques to try before doing the final project. I also like that I can make my own projects. Check out our lesson on Impressionists.
  3. Story of the World — I’ve been using this series for seven years. It brings history alive, and when combined with juvenile historical novels…well, the subject just teaches itself.

I’m sure that if given more time, I could come up with a much longer list. However, I think in this case, less is more. I really enjoyed looking back and focusing on the positive things in 2017. Thanks for indulging me.

Making for Halloween

As a parent, I find the Fall “holidays” a bit draining. Why is everything stacked on top of each other? First, it’s the Fall semester (for college), which is always busier than Spring, and second, it’s college football season! There’s just not enough time for holidays (she says, tongue in cheek). Yet, we parents (mostly moms) are expected to create a fabulous experience for our children, all while stressing ourselves out even more.

Making for Halloween

I sound a bit whiny today, don’t I? And here it is, the day before Halloween. I’m not complaining, truly. I recognize that I live a blessed life. Rather, the above sentiment was my mood earlier this week. I am incredibly busy at work right now, but also trying to maintain our other commitments (healthy food & homeschooling). So, when my younger son came to me Friday afternoon and needed help making his Halloween costume…well, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the endeavor. But once we go started, everything clicked into place. The artistic nature of “making” energized me.  It was fun to be making for Halloween. I was able to get into the flow of creating…and pretty soon, I was a lot more relaxed (and a lot closer to a finished Halloween costume).

a picture of a boy making for halloween

C, age 8, painting his Halloween costume.

Crafting for Halloween

I’d like to say that I inspired the boys, but really it was the other way around. Earlier in the week, they made their own Halloween decorations and hung them around the house. Today, we were reviewing a book and they were inspired to create a few other decorations.

A picture of a boy making for halloween

R, age 11, was inspired to create a paper jack-o-lantern.

I’m sure I bring on some of the holiday stress myself; I’m not willing to participate fully in the consumer nature of these holidays, but we still try to be a part of the experience. Our neighborhood is full of excitement at Halloween, and the kids love that they get to hang out with their friends at night. So, we participate…and my husband tells me I’m not allowed to pass out pencils. (This year, I’m opting for Earthbound lollipops and lunch snacks…yeah, I’m that parent).

When the kids were younger, I didn’t buy stuff because we didn’t have the money. As they got older, I didn’t buy stuff because I didn’t want to store it all year. At least, those were the reasons I told myself. I think the real reason is that I wanted to create a “maker” culture in our home.

a picture of a very large piece of loose-leaf paper made from cardboard.

C decided he wanted to be a piece of paper (and a pencil). He painted the white background, and I added the details.

Maker Mindset

For their homemade decorations, the boys didn’t ask for help – they just grabbed the art supplies (and their secret stash of tape) and started drawing. They didn’t ask for directions or permission. It was assumed they were allowed to hang up toilet paper from the front windows. (Front windows – yes; mailbox – no).

I was feeling pretty stressed out this week, but after seeing (and appreciating) my boys’ maker mindset, I felt a lot better. It takes a lot of work to support a maker culture, but the extra time and energy is worth it.

Dad contributed his talents to creating this cardboard pencil.

A picture of a woman's arm with a hummingbird, flowers and butterfly airbrushed on it.

I wanted to continue to spread the “maker” love by showing off my airbrushed tattoos (all done by a veterinarian, no less). There’s all sorts of making for Halloween!