Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Crystals and Paint Are Fun!

I just finished cleaning up the girls' paint palettes after our art class and sent them to the playroom, so I thought I'd write a blog entry. We do art once a week, using a book called Discover Art by Laura H. Chapman. I found the books on amazon.com, after reading some good reviews about the series. I actually bought it (and all the books in the series) for about a penny each, though shipping was $3.99.

There are 6 books, for grades 1 through 6, I assume, though this level 1 book we're doing right now is good for both my almost-6-year-old and my 3.5-year-old. I've let my 2.5-year-old boy participate a few times, since he likes coloring and painting, but he doesn't really understand the point of the lesson most of time. For that matter, my 3.5-year-old girl may not get it very well either, but at least she doesn't eat the crayons and smear paint and glue on herself like my son does! I waited until his naptime today to have art class. It's just much cleaner that way. The lessons are very basic - lines, curves, colors, painting, paper collages, but there are some nice images in the book to demonstrate things. Today's lesson had some paintings by Van Gogh.

These books are out of print, and there is also another series by Laura Chapman called Adventures in Art, which is also out of print, I believe. I think that series is very similar to mine, maybe even just repackaged. The books I got are old library books, but I think they were frequently used in elementary schools years ago. Anyway, they are perfect for our art lessons, with short lessons using a wide variety of activities and simple materials. I made up a list of materials needed for the level 1 book, and it includes crayons, white & colored paper, construction paper, scissors, glue, paints & paintbrushes, clay or playdough, colored pencils, markers, textured objects for tracing and pasting, cardboard tubes, objects to use as stamps, paper plates, stapler, string, tape, paper cups, and fabric pieces. I haven't gone through books 2-5 in as much detail, but they seem to follow a similar pattern.

The other hands-on activity we did today was for science class. We are making crystals in a pie pan. This activity was listed in the Intro to Science course we're doing, but is detailed in the More Mudpies to Magnets book. It is fairly simple, though we had to have some "blueing agent" which I had to order. You put some sponge pieces, water, blueing agent, salt, and ammonia in a pie pan, and then let it sit for several days to let crystals grow. We started it about 4-5 hours ago, and it is already showing some nice white crystal structures around the perimeter of the pie pan, just above the liquid level. The ammonia smelled terrible, but overall, it is a good and easy experiment.

The kids all enjoy the science and art work that we do. I never have to prod or push or scold them into doing those classes, or to pay attention while I'm talking. I enjoy teaching these subjects too. Science - because it is fascinating and one of my favorite topics, and art - because it can be beautiful, colorful, and I love making art myself.

Now, math and English, on the other hand, can be a pain for both my daughter and myself. I am realizing that I could never be an elementary school teacher! I admire those who do teach these ages, year after year! I am just not patient enough for all the necessary repetition that these subjects require at these young ages. Having to repeat myself has always been one of my biggest pet peeves, and teaching addition and subtraction, letter sounds, and reading in general, to either a kindergartner or a first grader (and probably higher) just requires the teacher to repeat themselves a lot. That's how this age learns. It's not that she doesn't get it - just that learning this stuff and getting it down pat requires lots of repetition.

I should know that, since as a pianist, I have to repeatedly practice the same thing over and over again. I don't mind that, but then, I'm the one doing the repeating for myself. Having to drill things with my daughter is driving me crazy. I get bored, I get frustrated, and I just want to be done with it and move on to something more interesting. That's why I dislike it, I know, and I'm afraid my dislike of it is being transferred to my daughter.

I love the material I've picked out, both for math and for language arts, and think it could be a really great way of teaching. But I'm not liking having to be the one doing the teaching. Impatience on my part, I know. But I'm seriously thinking of switching to a distance learning video product, at least for math and English. That's what I had originally planned to do, upon taking my daughter out of public school, because I knew teaching wasn't my favorite thing to do. But then I got distracted by all the curriculum available, and found so many (cheaper) curriculum products that sounded great and really are great and can make it easy to teach and cover everything needed. But in order to keep my sanity, and to keep my daughter loving to learn, I'm seriously thinking about the Bob Jones distance learning products, at least for elementary school. I'll write more about them later, but I just thought I should confess my thought trends at the moment! Science and art we are all loving, and I will continue teaching those subjects no matter what, but we've got to change something with how we're doing math and English.

Addition and digraphs may drive me crazy, but crystals and paint are fun!

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