Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

How do you "unschool" Art?

A friend asked, "How do you do art with your kids?" Honestly I hadn't thought about that much. I spend far more energy on "How do you get your kids to clean up after they do art?"

It's a legitimate question, so I'll try to answer. Like so much here, it just flows from our regular life. Art involves seeing, looking, perceiving, and then sharing what you see/interpret in a physical way. Understanding this helps me see art as a frame of mind, as an intention, a meditation, and a way of exploring our world.

Mostly I have supplies and idea books around and the kids pick up what they want. There's always paper, crayons, colored pencils and washable markers around. When I notice a good sale I stock up on card stock, pastels, oil crayons, tempera paint, etc. I have a supply of rubber stamps and stamp pads from my pre-kid times and let the kids use those as well. Scraps of fabric, glue, yarn from the thrift shop, and found odds and ends, round out our supplies.

We find inspiration everywhere, at art museums, local kids art shows, art and craft books, stories we're reading.... It can be fun to try some recycled art - using found or recycled objects create a piece of art. Some books we've liked are The Big Messy Art Book, Crafts for all Seasons, The Little Hands Art Book, and Look What You can make with Dozens of Household Items, as well as those I've mentioned in an earlier post, Drawing with Children, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and Making Things.

All my kids love making pottery, so they have all had classes at a couple of local pottery studios. This love of sculpture first showed it's face with play dough when they were very little. Play dough is great. You can make it cheap. It cleans up pretty well and the kids love it. It doesn't last forever though, even if you bake it. Thus the move to clay when they got old enough to take classes, and the use of sculpty here at home. (Sculpty is expensive, so I wait for sales and coupons and stock up as I can. Here's where the kids get to learn about economy.)

Mostly though, as with all of our homeschooling I've found that if I want the kids to try something they haven't come to on their own, the best way to get them to try it is to do it myself. An example comes from just a couple of days ago.
I had bought some oil crayons, which on their own, didn't seem to inspire my kids. They just couldn't see how they were different from the regular crayons that they always use. So I pulled out some sketch paper I'd gotten on sale, opened up the package, sat down with paper and pencil and set out to make a picture for myself to color.

That was all it took.

They bugged me, "What are you doing".

Me, ignoring them: "I'm busy. I want to try these new crayons."

Them: "Can I try?"

Me, vaguely: "Sure."

Here are the results:
11 yo's "red car" 9 yo's "painting turtle"

5 yo's "explorations in brown" April's "I'm easily bored pineapple" 11 yo's "Oooh, me!"

You don't need an expensive curriculum to "do art". Spend the money on supplies and field trips, classes if your kids want them, and just have some fun with it!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Quickie - new finds

You know how I like audio lectures and books, right? I'm discovering podcasts. I've already posted about Grammar Girl, well, look what I found - The Math Dude!

These are great to down load and play while driving around town. It's amazing how much even my little ones pick up. They absorb some of it, and we have great discussions about what they don't.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Tonight we played Snow Tails. Very fun, quick, playable by anyone who can add and subtract, and good for getting faster at that. I still didn't win though. Hmph.

And check this out
Math is not linear

My favorite bit? "Be less helpful" :-) Think about it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Math videos

Someone asked on one of my lists about Fibonacci numbers. Recently my oldest has been complaining about pi, as if it was invented specifically to torment him.

Math is so interesting. It's fun!!

So I got on line to prove it. I started looking for videos that could explain in easy terms some of my fascination with mathematical concepts.

There is so much out there. I can't possibly include them all. Look for yourself.

Here are a some I found and liked.

Pi, Pi, Mathematical Pi
Mysterious Golden Mean
Using a Fibonacci Gage
Fibonacci and the Golden Mean

Sunday, April 4, 2010

For the Math-Phobic

Get over it.

There. Didn't that help?

No? Oh. Dang.

When I hear people say "I don't like math" it's almost as if they said "I don't like eating". I just don't get it. You need it, it's good, what's not to like?

Hmm.. Perhaps motivation is an issue. If you're homeschooling your kids you know that your own attitudes have a huge influence. You can't afford to pass on your math-phobia to your children. And why would you want to? Math is everywhere, it's necessary, and if it's fun too, what's not to like?

FUN. Yup that's what I said. What makes math fun? It's pretty. It's puzzling. There are math tricks. You can play jokes on people with it. It's used in playing games.

Math is useful. You use it to cook. And sew. You need it to tell you how long it is to your birthday, and how many presents you got. How many thank you cards you need to write and how much it's going to cost to send them all. :-D

OK. Maybe you're convinced you want to learn to like math, or at least become less phobic. How would you do it? I think you need to back up. If you're math phobic, it's probably because someone somewhere pushed you too fast, or was rude to you, or mean to you with regards to your math skills. So, first, don't do that to someone else. Certainly don't do it to your own children. Take a brake from whatever curriculum you're using if you need to. Don't pass this phobia on. Remember that our emotions color our learning. If you or your child is not liking what you're doing, then you're probably not going to reach your true goals, regardless of the time and energy you put in it. In fact the extra push needed to overcome the negative emotions is likely to do just the opposite of what you intend.

Second, give yourself a math hug. Play. Find something fun and recognize the math in it. Do you like to cook? garden? read? play computer games? Just about everything has math and numbers in it. Look around with new eyes and see where you use math. Give yourself a chance to realize you don't hate all of math. Sure, maybe balancing the checkbook isn't much fun, but how about doubling a cookie recipe?

Next, try something that sounds fun to you. You could play some games, read a book, do a puzzle, plan a project, read some poetry... something. Just for fun. Not to learn anything, or beat anyone, just something enjoyable, noticing how math is interwoven with your something.

Now do it all over again. And again.
That's it. Cut yourself some slack and build some positive emotions around math.

Remember "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy". Get happy about math!

Friday, April 2, 2010


I first experienced coaching as an assistant coach to my then 10 year old's FLL team. That overlapped with co-coaching my then 7 year old's Primary Odyssey of the Mind team. I followed that up with being lead coach for the next FLL team.

Every time I've coached I've learned something new. There's so much. Just the logistics can be enough to send me over the edge. Then there's dealing with personalities, both kids and parents. And, of course, you still have to focus on the actual team project.

Luckily both FLL and Odyssey of the mind provide coach support. FLL has the Coaches Handbook, a deceptively slim spiral bound volume that is full of help both relational and technical. Colorado Odyssey of the Mind offers an all day coach training in the fall for the spring season and includes with that a coaching manual in 3 ring binder. Both also offer on-line support and forums.

The best advice I can give is to get involved. Just go for it. Sure, you'll make mistakes, but they're unlikely to be critical, and you'll learn from them. The gift you give the kids is tremendous, but the gifts they'll give you are even greater.