Saturday, November 22, 2014

Carving Soap Stone with Kids

Renaissance Unit Study

Week 8: We carved soap stone like Michelangelo carved marble.

The marble which comes from a quarry near Florence, Italy is some of the purest marble in the world and it was during Michelangelo's day too. It was removed by inserting wedges of wood into chiseled rock, and then swelling the wood with water. Once it was free from the hillside, it was rolled onto a mound of sand under which rested a series of logs which acted as wheels for moving the block.

Among the numerous famous works of Michelangelo is the Sleeping Angel which comes with an entertaining story. In order to receive a higher price for the statue, it was buried in the ground for a period to obtain an aged look, thus appearing antique. The plan worked and it was sold.

When carving marble Michelangelo often began with fired and sealed clay models. Chisels, drills, rasps and files were used to shape the marble. The video Carving Marble with Traditional Tools gives an excellent description of how the work was done.

Michelangelo by Diane Stanley describes his pieta, David and work on the Sistine chapel. Michelangelo's surprise was great the Laocoon was unearthed. The ancient Roman statue from Nero's house showed body structure detail and people moving. It was a great contrast to the non-moving statues of Michelangelo.

Carving Soap Stone

Soap stone is a soft rock which contains lots of talc and sometimes feels soapy or waxy to the touch. It has been used for carving throughout history since it is relatively easy to chisel and cut and can be found at craft stores.

Soap Stone
Hack Saw
Safety Goggles
Leather Gloves
Modeling Clay

The kids each began with a small chunk of modeling clay which was used to  form their plan.

My 12 year old daughter's flower

My 7 year old daughter's hedgehog

 Next, the kids began hammering away at their soap stone with chisels.

Hack saws were used to remove large chunks. Files were used to smooth out rough edges and drills were used to remove large interior sections.

This was an ambitious project which I never imagined doing. Now that we've been through the process, it doesn't seem much different than learning to sew a quilt. Both are skills which require time and effort, but are achievable. My girls really enjoyed this project and worked to complete their carvings after the afternoon class was over.

Flowers in stone by 12 year old girl

Ring Holder by 15 year old boy

 * I did not receive any compensation for this recommendation. I'm just a homeschooling mom who has found many products that I like. If you're interested in the products I recommend on this blog I want to make it easy for you to find them. 
** I am an Amazon associate and receive a small portion of the sales on orders made after clicking in from this site, which I promptly spend on homeschooling books and supplies for my children.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Interest Based Education - Reading

Until recently, my second grade daughter has shown very little interest in reading. Therefore, I consider reading our first major breakthrough using the interest based approach to education. Last year and previously, we read together and I required her to read to me. (After all, I feel reading is very important.) Unfortunately, despite the fact that she liked the books and even selected them herself, it was a constant struggle, since reading was required.

Enter Unschooling
One thing my seven year old is very interested in is Pippi Longstocking. In the past, I read her all four of the Pippi chapter books. Since then, she discovered Pippi cartoons on youtube. Although I personally don't have an issue with her watching the cartoons, I do have an issue with her spending all of her available time watching them. So I've been thinking about how to get her to change her focus.

Option 1 - Limit technology or Pippi time
Potential result: This will create a deeper desire for her to watch Pippi and more videos in the future. Plus, doing this is the opposite of encouraging interests.

Option 2 - Change her focus to a different educational video - In other words, encourage her to watch more videos (that are educational).
Liberty's Kids is a series of animated American History videos for kids. When episode one was turned on for me to enjoy, she quickly joined to watch the episode. I was hoping that she would turn on Liberty's Kids instead of Pippi on her own, but that didn't work. Perhaps she just needs a little more exposure to Liberty's Kids, or a series which she finds more interesting?

Option 3 - Offer to read the Pippi books again
This is where we had the breakthrough. While she was watching Pippi, I pulled the chapter books off the shelf and set them down next to her. I offered to read them then walked away so she could finish her episode. Once the Pippi video was through, she came downstairs with her nose in one of the Pippi books and announced that she would be reading them on her own.

Although the books are way above her level I have no doubt she will be finishing them on her own.

(Can you see the purple flashlight strapped to her head? She's reading Pippi in bed before going to sleep.)

She can read and is highly motivated to read the Pippi books. It just may take her a while to get through them all, but her reading skills should drastically improve.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Flowery Knit Hats

My mother knitted these flowery hats for the girls.

Although they appear complicated, they are actually basic hats adorned with knitted flowers. The flowers were created by knitting small rectangles and then rolling them into a coil. The leaves are slightly tapered rectangles.

Since this hat had so many strings coming inside when tying the flowers on, a small circle was knitted inside the hat to cover them. I love the way embellishing basic hats and other items can completely change the look.

What have you embellished? Do you have a favorite knit flower book or embellishing book? If you do please leave me a comment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Area of Squares, Rectangles and Triangles

Distance, Area, Volume Unit Study
Day 7: Area - Squares, Rectangles, and Triangles
Measuring area answers the question how big is it. Formulas used to calculate area and perimeter were introduced to my son when he was exploring math on Khan Academy. Unfortunately, he didn't really understand what area and perimeter were, so he came away thoroughly confused.

Area is measured in squares. After learning about one square inch, he was easily able to determine the area of these shapes built from squares, simply by counting.

Next he determined the number of tiles we would need to redo our bathroom floor in one foot square tiles.

Then we explored triangles. On the right side of the picture below, there is a one inch string, a one square inch piece of paper, a one-half square inch of paper cut into a rectangle, and a one-half square inch of paper cut into a triangle. The middle column contains the same figures, but double the size.

After creating these figures, I asked the kids how big they were.

I asked them how big this two square inch triangle was and they were stumped. So I created a blue triangle the same size and cut it.

They quickly determined it was two square inches.

So they were given the large triangle and asked how big it was.

At first, they both wanted to measure the hypotenuse, but then both decided to draw lines on their triangles.

With different sets of lines they both arrived at the same answer.

This method of discovery mathematics is very important for my son. He learns best when he figures something out for himself. He is a natural problem solver who does not learn well with explanation and example.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Geology Unit Study - Geodes

Week 2: We broke open geodes.

Geodes are hallow rocks formed underground. When ground water carries dissolved minerals into hallow cavities, geodes can form. The most common elements found in minerals are silicon and oxygen. When they combine with other elements to form minerals they are called silicates. These same minerals, most commonly known as quartz, are the most common found inside geodes.

We purchased the Discover with Dr. Cool Explorer Geode Science Kit, Set of 7 and broke open the geodes to see the crystals inside.

Pure quartz is made of silicon and oxygen and is hexagonal in shape. When other minerals combine with the silicon and oxygen of pure quartz, variants of quartz such as orange quartz, which are different colors are formed. Several of the geodes contained quartz crystals and the kids were thrilled each time a new one was opened.

* I did not receive any compensation for this recommendation. I'm just a homeschooling mom who has found many products that I like. If you're interested in the products I recommend on this blog I want to make it easy for you to find them. 
** I am an Amazon associate and receive a small portion of the sales on orders made after clicking in from this site, which I promptly spend on homeschooling books and supplies for my children.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Michelangelo Painting Activity for Kids

Renaissance Unit Study

Week 7: We created one-point perspective drawings.

When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, he had scaffolding custom built, which blocked the view of the ceiling from the ground. The scaffolding curved with the ceiling and was braced against the walls. Since Michelangelo threw out the ceiling designs and painted what he wanted, the scaffolding served him well.

Despite being an extremely talented painter, Michelangelo didn't want to paint. His first love was carving marble. Pope Julius II wanted a tomb filled with statues and paid Michelangelo to complete the job. After he spent the money without performing the work, he was ordered to paint the ceiling of the Sistine chapel.

The four years it took to complete left Michelangelo with permanent back and neck problems.

Once the ceiling was complete, he was called back by Pope Paul III to paint the alter scene. Michelangelo had spent many hours dissecting bodies to study the male figure. This knowledge was used to paint the last judgement - all the people were nude. Unfortunately he lived during a time when nude artwork was controversial and he was ordered to add clothing to the figures. Being of a slightly spiteful nature, Michelangelo painted the bishop who gave the order in hell.

One-Point Perspective

Painting and drawing in perspective was a relatively new concept during Michelangelo's time.

To create one-point perspective drawings, the kids drew a vanishing point on their papers with a dot.

Next they used a ruler to create a road, or ceiling and floor which sloped toward the vanishing point.

Then they added figures, being sure to decrease their size as they approached the vanishing point.

We enjoyed this Art with Alex video which did a good job of explaining one-point perspective to kids.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Our Switch to Unschooling

Increased student enjoyment, better developed executive function skills and my personal childhood educational experience are just three of the reasons my husband and I agreed to try the unschooling approach to education. Unfortunately the term unschooling has a negative connotation to many, giving the impression that unschooled children are given free reign to do as they please, often spending countless hours idling about watching television or playing video games. For that reason, I prefer the term interest based education. 

 Chinese Lanterns - Made during her free time

Regardless, when implemented properly, children are exposed to a variety of educational topics and pursue those which peak their interests. It is the educators responsibility to introduce and inspire children to explore. Children who are spending exorbitant amounts of time in activities which do not seem to be increasing in challenge, should be introduced to new concepts and activities which enable them to grow while supporting their interests. The educator does not need to require work, but can offer to read stories, share a link to a related video, or suggest and participate in related projects.

As I child I attended the Open Classroom. The basic principle of Open Classroom was for the public school teacher to implement a form of unschooling. In my classroom I had the same two teachers, who we called by their first names, for grades K-3 and two different teachers for grades 4-6. The students sat at desks instead of tables and were free to roam about the classroom as desired. We had a variety of materials strewn about the classroom which we were free to use (much like Montessori). We were encouraged to read, write stories and to explore.

Although the method advocates pure student chosen activities, in my case there were a few requirements to be completed each week. It was the student's responsibility to complete a certain number of math worksheets, free writing pages and read books at the appropriate level. The teachers worked with small groups of students to introduce new concepts in areas such as math and spelling  (depending on student level).

As a result of my elementary school experience, not only was I way ahead of the other students upon entering seventh grade, my executive function skills were highly developed. Executive function skills are those business managers use on a daily basis such as time management, making decisions and setting priorities; hence the name executive function. Freedom to set one's path is the primary way executive function skills are developed. These skills can certainly be developed using a variety of educational philosophies, interest based education just provides many additional opportunities. In other words, free time is the key to executive function skill development.

Before deciding to really try interest based education, this article on free play was linked on my homeschool group's page by another mom. It definitely reinforced ideas which have been playing over in my mind.

Another media story which influenced this decision was the Harding Family's Story. Seven of their ten children began taking college classes by age 12. What stands out is that the children were each following their individual interests. They were not forced to take classes or learn about a particular subject. They were not pushed to get into college. On the contrary, they each found an interest and demanded more information. Finally they reached a point way beyond standard knowledge and began with college classes.

Currently, my eighth grade daughter is way ahead in math, reading and writing and my son is about average. My second grade daughter is a little ahead in math, and average with reading and writing. Knowing they are on track gave me the courage to try this philosophy for at least six months. After all, if it doesn't work, they won't be too far behind.

Following the interest-based educational philosophy, we do not plan to abandon the basics, but rather encourage them as they relate to interests. For example, my son is very interested in science, and we are both interested in learning more about bridges in the near future. I've purchased a few bridge books which I plan to introduce. Maybe we will read the beginning together or do the first projects together. We will watch some bridge building videos together. Hopefully, it will peak his interests in a way that he will eagerly find and read the books when I'm working with the girls. If his interest in bridges increases, I will introduce him to bridge disasters and the concept of calculating forces and loads to predict whether or not structures can support weight. If his interest isn't peaked or levels off, we will explore a new topic. Maybe electronics, maybe structures in buildings, maybe cooking?

I'm really excited about this approach and have been keeping a list of educational materials and activities I think each of the children will find interesting. There are so many things I've wanted to introduce to the kids but haven't had time. Now I will be watching for when their interest begins to wain, so I can introduce something new.

Here are some exciting topics I want to explore:

Eighth Grade Daughter
Robert Greenberg Understanding the Fundamentals of Music
Mechanical Drawing
Calculus for Cats (book)
Project Origami (book for exploring high school and college level mathematics through Origami)
gIMP - Photo Post Processing Software
Zentangles - art
Quilting (instruction from an experienced neighbor)
History of India and Egypt

Sixth Grade Son
Toothpaste Millionaire (book)
Music Ace Deluxe (software for learning music concepts)
Electronics work with Snap-Circuits and other kits
Postcrossing (exchanging postcards - writing, geography)
Algebra with Cuisenaire Rods
Real-Life Math - using formulas such as Speed=Rate x Time and Circumference= 2 x pi x Radius

Second Grade Daughter
Dance Mat Typing
Cursive Writing
Read her lots of books
Liberty's Kids (American History videos for kids)
Basket Weaving
Friendship Bracelets
Math Games like Cribbage, Lost Cities and Speed!

There are so many more, but I just jot them down as they come up, then introduce them when I see the kids in transition.

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