Homeschooling Middle & High School Fine Arts

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School Fine Arts

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We’ve made it to Day 5 of the iHomeschool Network’s Winter Hopscotch 2014. Today’s topic is homeschooling middle & high school fine arts.

Strategies for Homeschooling Middle & High School Fine Arts

Fine Art is likely some of our kids’ least favorite subject as a teacher, but our 8th grader is a lovely creative soul who challenges and delights us in this area of our homeschool. We use a variety of methods to teach fine arts.

  • Homeschool Co-op Our family participates in a co-op that meets for two hours for 10 Mondays during the fall and spring semesters. It’s a low key co-op which focuses on the extras over the academics. So, we have art and music classes offered there quite a bit. Below are some examples of classes my kids have taken at co-op.
  • Choir- We have a homeschool choir that meets through co-op and our 8th grader joined my husband in our adult church choir. It’s a four part + choir which meets weekly and presents challenging music.
  • Guitar- Our 10th grader took a beginning guitar class at co-op last semester and has taken video courses at home.
  • Dulcimer- Our 6th grader made a dulcimer last fall and plays it. Such a great class taught by our pastor at homeschool co-op. Click the link (in the text or picture below) to see I11 play his dulcimer.
  • Art Classes- There is always an art class offered by talented parents.
  • Offering Supplies- We keep our supplies topped off and make ample time available for their use. They get used a lot, but mostly by our daughter who loves to try out things and learn new techniques.

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School Fine Arts

While co-op does not meet enough to meet the requirement by itself, the classes enhance what we do at home to round things out. At home we offer basic music theory and art lessons. For high school graduation only one credit of fine arts is required and our 10th grader is opting for art to fill the requirement and we’ll do that over the four years in high school- about a 1/4 per year.

Our Favorite Curriculum & Resources for Middle & High School Fine Arts

We have some great resources for teaching fine arts at home. Some are long time favorites and others are new to us.

  • Five in a Row- Literature unit study program which has lovely, very accessible art lessons.
  • Harmony Fine Arts- We use everything from Barb’s tutorials and blog posts to her curriculum for various ages and stages. What makes it all the more special is that we’ve met Barb and our daughter adored their time together. We still talk about how much they had in common in the art and nature world!
  • HodgePodge- Of course we love Tricia and Nana’s chalk tutorials! Accessible and fun and a soothing part of the day any time you pull them out.
  • Artistic Pursuits- We have one of the middle school years and I like to use them with Harmony Fine Art units.
  • Craftsy, YouTube- And other websites like blogs which offer tutorials are places where our kids will go to learn a new skill. My 13yo loves to read for this sort of information and try it out.

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschooling Middle & High School Fine Arts

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FIRST LEGO League: Science, Technology, & Teamwork

Blog, She Wrote: FIRST LEGO League- Science, Technology, & Teamwork

I don’t blog enough about our FIRST LEGO League teams, but I’ll be catching you all up to date this season. This is the fifth season for our sponsored teams. Our homeschool group started with one team which grew into two teams coached by Dan and another homeschool dad engineer. We have lots of parent help and the teams practice together and so far have done well in competition together as sister teams. This is both teams’ third chance at going to the next round of competition. This year LEGO Da Vinci won First Place Grand Champion while the Disaster Masters won the Project Award.

FIRST LEGO League (FLL) begins with the FIRST Mission

FIRST was started in 1989 by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, to inspire kids to become scientists and engineers. FLL is all about the science and research with the LEGOs being the hook in a high energy atmosphere.

Our mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.

Mr. Kamen had a vision:

“To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”  Dean Kamen, Founder

FLL Has Three Components

  • Research project- based on a theme. They must research the theme, choose a topic to become experts on and come up with an innovative solution to a problem they discovered a long the way. They get judged on their solution, how they contacted and worked with experts in the field, and in their presentation of their findings.
  • Robot- including programming, design, and performance. Teams must design and program a robot to perform missions in the robot game. It also includes their presentation to the judges about their robot.
  • Core Values- this is all about teamwork and gracious professionalism. Are teammates working together and treating others they encounter well? At the competition they have a team challenge to complete which tests them in their ability to work together well.

FLL Requires Commitment

The teams practice seven hours a week- one hour at co-op during the semester when Dan teaches the class and two other three hour practices during the week. The guys on LEGO Da Vinci are coming to our house, where we have the table set up, to work on missions this week for some bonus time.

Enjoy a look at just one of the missions. They have just 2.5 minutes to complete as many as they can. Next time I’ll share about their research project. The theme this year is Nature’s Fury and their research has been on blizzards.

10 (or so) Best Tinkering Gifts for Your Inventor

10 Best Tinkering Gifts for Your Inventor

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It’s that time of year when parents everywhere are looking for gift ideas for Christmas. Inventors can be hard to buy for especially when they are young and still have big ideas! Enjoy a look at some of the best tinkering materials we’ve found for our young scientists and inventors.

Electronic Gifts for Your Inventor

Snap Circuits- These are snap together electric circuits with many maps to build and tons of add ons. These circuits are easy to use and easy to please since the connections are rock solid. We have an oscilloscope interface for our computer along with the alternative energy kit. Don’t miss out on Snap Circuits Green.

Old Electronics- What engineer doesn’t like to take things apart to see how they work? We have a pile of old machines we remove the power cord from so that our inquisitive 8yo can enjoy how things go together and what their components look like.

Arduino- (for middle and high school) these are microcontroller kits which you can add sensors to and enjoy. J8 cannot wait to get his…shhh…

Raspberry Pi- (for middle and high school) card sized Linnux computer you can program and use.

Blog, She Wrote: 10 Best Tinkering Gifts for Your Inventor

Books for Your Inventor

Cool Stuff and How It Works- (and the 2.0 version) This book is full of fun gadgets and tells how the technology works. From LED lights to LCD screens, this book has all the good stuff.

The New Way Things Work- a huge encyclopedia of items and drawings sure to keep your tinkerer involved.

The Unofficial LEGO Mindstorms Inventor’s Guide- full of robots to build and programs to run them.

NXT Power Programming: Robotics in C- Great guide on programming in C with your Mindstorms Kit. J8 adores this book and is sad he can’t program in C during FLL.

Advanced NXT: The DaVinci Inventions Book- another great book using Mindstorms.

C++ Programming in Easy Steps- Inventors like to be fiddlers at the computer too. J8 has read this one cover to cover and writes his own code.

Beginning C++ through Game Programming- another book our inventor loves.

Building Essentials for Your Inventor

Keva Planks- love these plank blocks that allow you to build complex structures. The more the better!

Erector Sets- The best part about these sets are the tools kids get to use!

LEGO Contraptions Books- Technic pieces you can use with regular bricks to build machines from the book.

Physics for Your Inventor

Solar Kit- large pieces which are similar to LEGO technic pieces which you can build lots of solar vehicles. This holds great interest at our house because we have a large array of solar panels on our roof and we do a lot with real time monitoring of our energy usage.

Deluxe Physics Kit- this is an advanced physics kit teaching all sort of concepts in physics using technic type pieces.

Blog, She Wrote: 10 Best Tinkering Gifts for Your Inventor

Robotics for Your Inventor

LEGO Mindstorms NXT & EV3- NXT has just been upgraded to EV3 with the release having been late summer this year. While we plan to get an EV3 kit at some point, we are heavily invested in NXT and we’ll continue to use it. Our family is a long time FIRST LEGO League family with Dan coaching and running a JR FLL event annually. Our kids participate on teams and they play at home. This has been a great investment for our family.

Remote Control Machines- this is a great kit for building machines and powering them with the remote control. A nice one for elementary aged kids and up because the pieces are larger than LEGO Technic pieces and there is no programming involved.

Blog, She Wrote: 10 Best Tinkering Gifts for Your Inventor

Other Necessities for An Inventor

Don’t forget some of the most important items for any inventor that cannot be bought.

Workspace- a place for your inventor to have ongoing projects and his work all around him.

Time- Inventors at any age need the time to tinker. Leave some margin in your routine for those explorable moments.

christmas-gift-listsVisit other iHN Bloggers to enjoy other Christmas Gift Lists.

Pouring into a Passion at Home: TakeLessons

Blog She Wrote: Pouring into a Passion at HomeThis is a post sponsored by TakeLessons in keeping with my philosophy on low impact ways to pour into our kids’ interests. I hope you will enjoy taking a look at what they have to offer.

Pouring into a child’s interests and finding ways to do it that will be most effective for my student with minimal impact on the family as a whole is a family priority at Blog, She Wrote.

It’s a matter of finding opportunities and venues which allow you some flexibility on how you pursue a particular interest.

Finding Unique Opportunities for Pouring into a Passion:

We all want to find ways to help our kids explore their interests. Some of the ideas you come up with might introduce you to a person who can a mentor either right away or sometime in the future.

In addition to people and organizations you know locally, there are many online experiences such as classes, videos, clubs, and forums. There are many formats to fit your learning styles, your needs as a student and the family as a whole, and your budget.

Spending More Time at Home So There is More Time for Pursuing Passions:

I’m a huge proponent of spending more time at home. The more time we are out running kids to even the best activities, the less time our kids have to really explore their interests.

Regular, frequent days of being home allows us the freedom to explore more in our school and in our kids’ passions. Then we aren’t in a constant battle to hit the 3Rs before we run out the door.


Using TakeLessons as an Opportunity to Save Time on Pursuing Interests:

TakeLessons is an option in the effort to slow down and spend more time at home without leaving behind a beloved activity. It’s also a great way to engage your children if you are remote and finding quality lessons is difficult.

They provide In Home and In Studio lessons, as well as Online Lessons.  Online lessons are a popular option for busy families – all you need is a computer with a webcam, a Skype account, and a good Internet connection.

The purpose of TakeLessons is to connect students and families with private music teachers, arts instructors, and academic tutors throughout the US. They’ve been around since 2006 and have worked with over 30,000 students. The instructors are safety screened annually and undergo extensive interviews and training.

There are over 30 lesson types available including: guitar, singing, piano, drums, violin, harp, acting and academic tutoring. I’ve had two friends recently tell me they have kids who want voice lessons and they cannot find a good instructor. What a great opportunity if you have a shortage of local teachers or want to play a less popular instrument.

The cost of TakeLessons depends on the location and duration of the lessons. The most popular lesson package is quarterly (book 12 sessions, get 1 free). You can also go month to month or Flex (coordinating lesson times as you go with the instructor).

There are no long term commitments so you can switch teachers and lessons any time and they offer a 100% money back guarantee- if you are unhappy with the lesson, you can choose a different teacher or request a refund. In addition, there are instructors available for all ages and experience levels.

This free ebook “Getting Started with Music Lessons” will give you an idea of when to start music lessons and which type of lesson is best for your child and family- in home, in studio, or online.

Take lessonsA Few Helpful Tutorial Videos from TakeLessons:

How to buy your first guitar- One of the TakeLessons instructors goes through the basics of guitar types and how to know which is the right one for your student. I could have used this when we bought a guitar for lessons back in February!

Finding Your Voice Type- Another TakeLessons teacher shares how to find your voice type.

A special offer for Blog, She Wrote Readers from TakeLessons:

As a bonus for my readers, TakeLessons is offering 20% off music lesson or tutoring packages when you use the promo code: BLOGSHEWROTE at the checkout. The offer is good through July 6, 2013.

Fiercely protecting our time enables us to be more adventurous and it provides the time for us to invest in our children. How does your family discern which activities are best and how you will make the most of an opportunity with the least impact on the family timetable?

Introducing BrikSmith Customs!

How do you make a 14yo boy smile? You say yes when he comes to you looking for odds and ends like Sharpies and acrylic spray. Ethan (aka E14 here on Blog, She Wrote) started making custom LEGO minifigs last summer and has created a whole little world of Clone Troopers among other things.

blog she wrote: custom clones

I’ve been getting to know all about making “customs” this week as we prepare for the 4-H public presentations on Saturday. His topic this year is an illustrated talk on customizing minifigs entitled, “Transforming LEGO Minifigs”. He’s done a great job sharing how he got started and what he’s learned.

Blog She Wrote: close up clones

Any good project deserves the appropriate place in which to work. We set up a table down in our basement where he has his own workshop. The picture below shows some extra things like a NERF gun that he was modifying for a huge battle with friends. Everything you see here has a purpose. The bottle of colored liquid is rubbing alcohol which is where he soaks off the Sharpie if he messes up a clone. The bamboo skewers hold the different pieces as you work wit them. It’s a whole process! The hallmark of any good workspace is the ability to leave out your work and see a beautiful, productive mess!

Blog She Wrote: Custom lego workshop

Note the project journal- this piece of magic Ethan started on his own to record which characters he’s already customized. Most of these are Clone Troopers from The Clone Wars cartoon and LEGO has not come out with every trooper in their sets. So, he takes plain clones and turns them into the characters. He prints out the clone so he has reference material to work with and decided to use them as a way to document his process and progress.

Blog She Wrote: materials for customs

He began this journey all on his own and all we had to do was say yes. Dan has been terrific at setting Ethan up with the things he needs even allowing him to spray the acrylic spray to seal the work he’s done (properly with a box and ventilation).

Once he asked to have heat so he could poke a hole in a helmet and make a new helmet into an older looking model. Dan got him going with a candle and a needle. It was a failed attempt, but kudos to him for trying it out! Dan is more than happy to teach and to show Ethan how to be safe and it’s cool to see him try things out.

An important aspect of Project Based Homeschooling is to make sure kids don’t have to constantly ask for permission. At our house, we definitely strive to make things available to our kids and we’ve always done that in an age appropriate way. This is really key. If kids have to ask for everything, chances are they will stop asking…especially if you aren’t timely about getting them the help they need.

Blog She Wrote: Custom minifigs

Ethan has done his own research and tried a lot of things that failed before hitting on what really works for him and the materials he has for making custom LEGO minifigures. What a great process!

Blog She Wrote: custom minifigs

Ethan’s been dying to have his own blog for years, but we’ve been waiting for the right thing to come along for his “platform”. LEGOS fit the bill well. Click over to BrikSmith Customs and enjoy a detailed look at the world of customizing LEGO minifigs- my guess is I have a few readers with kids who would love a peek!

So much in life is learned through direct, unstructured experiences. Does your schedule allow your kids to explore? I know my children learn many lessons from the time they work on their projects. It is a priority in our homeschool to make project time available daily.

How do you encourage your own children in what they love to do? How can you encourage them to find something they love to do?