Our Artist curriculum.

Water Lillies - one of the paintings we are going to study by one of my favorite artists - Monet.

Water Lillies – one of the paintings we are going to study by one of my favorite artists – Monet.

I think that art is important. The making of art and the studying of art is important. Kids don’t always like it, but it is important to be able to express yourself and enjoy pictures, sculptures, and appreciate art. I’m lucky – my sister-in-law is an artist. She’s a ceramic artist and is always happy to answer art questions I have. I also like art, so my kids probably get more of it than they would if I didn’t like art. I’ve introduced the concept of “professional artist” to my kids. Abby has decided that she wants to be an artist, and Nicholas said, “Nope, I’m still going to be an engineer.”

The artists we are studying are:

Claude Monet, Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci (who comes up again and again as we study inventions), Raphael, and Vincent can Gough.

I really don’t like Wikipedia for sources, so I’m using the Met’s website for all my information.

Here’s what I do:

1. Print of a black and white version of the artwork: I Google “coloring pages for (insert title here),” and print off the coloring page.

2. We view the real painting online with the iPad. I ask the following questions (after I know the answer of course):

What colors are here?

What do you think this painting is about?

What do you think was used to make the artwork/What is the medium?

What emotion do you feel when you see the artwork?

3. Then I use the information I’ve taken off the website and talk about the painting (medium, style, title).

Then the kids color the artwork, while I leave the picture up online so they can see it. They often choose other colors. Last, I hand them a sheet and they glue down the information I’ve printed off. I print off: Artist’s name, years he was alive, title of the painting, when it was painted, style, and medium. I cur those pieces of information up into strips and the kids glue them onto a page. Then we insert the coloring and the information page into our artist binder.

I’ve left the lesson open ended so you can add your own paintings of choice to it. But that’s an art lesson for us for the day. We do one a week.


Free clipart!

I’m always in search of free Clipart. It’s not always easy to find images. When I do, I tend to go on a binge and download a bunch, then save them onto a thumb drive. Now I have 4 thumb drives filled with images and I’m always switching between them trying to find the images I really want when I make my own worksheets and things. At least it was fun searching for the images.

I came across this new website, http://www.Clker.com – I haven’t seen it before. And they have some great, free, simple images. I love it.

If you are looking for some simple images – this is where you go. Simply search “free” and then your image after the word free, and you will get a listing of all the free images.

Have fun!

Pre-K: Things to learn

Have you ever wondered what are the things your Pre-K student should learn?

Here’s a link to a standards page that has what Pre-K students should be learning. As a bonus, they have online activities for each standard linked to the standard. These are the math standards. Use the navigation bar to find other standards.


Art lesson #1: Draw what you hear.

Art lesson number 1: drawing what you hear.

Art lesson number 1: drawing what you hear.

My kids know how to draw a line, a dot, a circle, a triangle, and a rectangle. They’ve done the curved line and straight line lessons. So now it was time to combine all those lessons into one art lesson.

This lesson is taken from the website: http://www.kinderart.com

So I gave them 4 instructions in this order:

1) Draw four lines from one end of the paper to the other.

2) Draw five circles anywhere on the paper.

3) Color in 2 circles.

4) Fill in three more areas on the paper how every you want (squiggles, lines, dots.. .whatever you want).

My kids came up with two completely different drawings. Then we did it again. They came up with two more completely different drawings.

This was simply an exercise in creativity to let the kids follow directions, but still explore their creativity.


Learning to classify things is important. It’s a skill that kid’s don’t always have. It involves estimation (sometimes classifying on weight based on picture, or what they see and not actual numbers), reasoning (which things belong with which), and knowledge of concepts (small/big, colors, numbers, or specific knowledge about specific things – like which objects have wheels).

I’ve found a number of fun worksheets based on classification. They require the kids to cut out the objects, and then glue them into the correct classification activity. I love worksheets that are active like this – the kids love them too. Here’s a link to a few of them. If you need more, you can search for “classification worksheets.”

Classifying be weight

Classifying by size

Animal classification


Toddler Tuesday: My body.

1195424432502248826johnny_automatic_skeleton.svg.medI try and do more than simple practice of letters and numbers with Abby for her Toddler Tuesday. This week we are working on parts of the body.

First thing we did was go take a walk/run. Why? Because exercise is important to our bodies. I got to answer lots of questions about “why” on this walk/run, so it was fun. If you do it, just be prepared to answer lots of random questions about “why” exercise is important.

Then we came home and I laid out butcher paper. I traced each kid onto the butcher paper and then let them go crazy coloring themselves. We then took the black crayon and drew: eyes, nose, ears, mouth, hands (traced), fingers, feet (traced), toes, belly buttons.

I had pre-printed labels from our computer with the words on them (legs, arms, chest, spine, forehead, cheeks, neck, wrist, ankle, and chin). I gave the stickers to Abby and Nicholas, and they put them onto each part of the body. Then they were handed the same words in German and had to do it with the German words.

We finished by using string to glue on hair – Nicholas picked blue string and Abby picked the purple string.

Next, we went over food groups. We covered grains, meat, dairy, and fruits/vegetables. I handed them each two pages of pictures I had printed out from the computer. They cut out the pictures and pasted the pictures onto the correct food group pages. I made them each little books (two pieces of paper, folded in half) with the food groups on them. They had to properly put the pictures in the pages.

We sang “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” It’s a song about our bodies, and it was fun. We also had to read – three times – “Farley visits the doctor,” – a Sesame Street book from when I was a kid.

Lastly, we had snack. They got to pick one thing from each food group and have it for snack. We ended up with cheese, smoothies (milk, fruits, and veggies) and beef jerky.

That was our lesson on the body.

Learning about leaves.

Leaves are everywhere! And they make fun lessons and crafts.

Leaves are everywhere! And they make fun lessons and crafts.

We’ve learned about photosynthesis, and now we are doing some leaf identification. Identifying leaves works on classification skills. It’s also pretty cool to be able to do when you are on nature walks. Whenever we go somewhere, we almost always go on a nature walk and my children love to pick up leaves. Their favorite questions is, “What tree is this from?” They don’t mean they want the name of the tree (not normally), but they want to point to the tree it comes from. So I ask them a series of questions, and they eventually find the tree.

Here are the four things we are focusing on about leaves: Shape, margin, simple or compound, and alternating or opposite.

There a great website that has images of compound/single and alternating/opposite leaves.

I printed out this chart and then laminated it.  Two copies of this chart sit in a crate in my car so that I always have it. Along with paper and crayons (leaf rubbing or rock rubbings are always a great way to end a nature hike). Plus, I just like having them in case we need to get out of the car and go walking.

To begin our lesson, we wrote the word “leaf” three times. Then we learned the word for leaf in German (das Blatt/ein Blatt). I handed them a picture of a leaf and they colored it. Then Nicholas had to write “das Blatt” on it. I wrote it for Abby.

We’ve already learned what leaves do. But it is Fall here, and leaves are starting to fall off trees. So we had to read about why. I let Nicholas type the question into Google. I’m trying to teach him to find out answers on his own, and since “Google it” is our version of, “Look it up,” I try and let him do it. We ended up at this website, which had a nice and short explanation.  Then he wanted more, so we went to the NPR site, which was more scientific and less geared towards kids, which bothers my child not at all.

I printed out this worksheet for them. They had to draw the veins on their leaves – which the kids know that the nutrients to the leaf – and then color them. I then let them cut out each leaf and make a collage.

Now we go on our nature walk! I took the kids down by the river, handed them a paper bag, and let them collect leaves – only leaves that had fallen off trees. When we got home, we sorted the leaves by size, then by color (these two were for Abby to practice her relative size and color skills), then by shape and compound/single. Lastly, I handed each kid a piece of heavyweight poster board (I get the multi-packs and then cut them into paper size). I set out the glue, and had them clue all their leaves onto the board as a collage. We brushed glue on the paper, on the leaf, and then over the leaf. Abby wanted to add glitter to hers, so I let her. We had out nature leaf collages.

Believe it or not – this activity took all day. It was our whole school day. Nicholas still had to do his spelling and online math, but we were done after this. It was awesome. They had fun. and learned a lot – all without realizing they were really learning.


Here’s the website for Mathletics: http://www.mathletics.com

I found this website because I was looking through the vendors for our charter school. This looked like a cool one. I explored their website, and decided I’d sign Nicholas up.

There’s both a parent log in and a student one.

As the parent I get to set tasks – but not the order in which they are completed.  I can see his progress. They also have a page with workbooks you can download – but that page hasn’t worked for me yet. I’m waiting for their tech support to get back to me. I’m hoping the workbooks are as easy to use as the website.

The choices are pretty self explanatory for the kids. They have choices of what you can pick for them to do – and if you don’t choose anything they can do whatever they want on the site. But you can always pick “make it harder” or “make it easier” to find more choices of tasks.

The “classes” themselves are about 10 questions in length. The tests are a little longer, but I haven’t seen one that’s more than 20 questions.

The classes ask the kid a question, and they have to chose the answer, then click submit. The program will immediately tell them if they are right or wrong. Then they click next and go on to the next problem. It’s a little repetitive and the same questions can pop up more than once. But it is nice the lessons are short and sweet.

It holds my son’s attention for the entire time. I sit down at the beginning of the week and fill up his task list. Then he has to do 4 a day. If you think I’m being mean, you should know that 4 “classes” takes him 30 minutes or less. He gets to choose which four things he does. He thinks this is awesome because he gets to choose. He has learned that the choices in yellow are the classes and the blue ones are tests. He saves the tests for the very end.

There is one big complaint I have: The classes give the kids the option to “hear” the computer read the directions. But the tests do not. Also, the color differentiation when the kid chooses an option isn’t always big enough that they can easily see the differentiation.

Right now we are using this website to review things and practice money, shapes, and 3D object. We also use it to review basic math.

Nicholas tried the online competition in basic addition and got second place in one race, first in another, and disqualified for three or more wrong answers in a third. He goes back and tries it about once a week. He’s not a huge fan of that. But what he does like is seeing his point total increase.

I like the site. Will I sign up for it next year? Nope. It’s not that I don’t like it and wouldn’t recommend it to others, it’s just that I’m not a huge fan of it for my son. He likes math, but I’m not so sure he likes this website. He gets caught up in some of stuff on the screen and doesn’t always like the repetitive questions. It’s great for this year, and maybe as the year goes on he will like it more, but we shall see.

Lakeshore Learning coupon.

It’s not often Lakeshore Learning puts out general coupons for people. Normally you have to be on their teacher’s list to get them. But here’s a great coupon for 20% off a non-sale item. I’m totally using this on art supplies for my kids.

My new wish is this item:http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/product/productDet.jsp?productItemID=1%2C689%2C949%2C371%2C928%2C497&ASSORTMENT%3C%3East_id=1408474395181113&bmUID=1379286636932

Here’s the link to the coupon.


Nature contest.

One of the fun advantages of being a homeschooler is getting all these notifications about contests. Most of them I’m not interested in doing right now because they are too complex – and involve a lot of writing.

But I got sent an email about a nature based one that is art, photography, music, video, or writing based. Here’s the link to the contest: http://www.get-to-know.org/contest/us/

I asked Nicholas if he wanted to do it and what categories. Not surprisingly he picked art, photo, and video categories. So we made  a plan for each entry.

I’m lucky we are headed to the Bay Area this week. He wants to make a sand picture. So we will go to the bay and get sand. He can then make his sand picture with glue and paint. It’s going to be messy, but he wants to do it. I’ll have to find a way to ship it to the contest, but that’s my issue and not his. That’s what I get for offering him to do anything.

He’s already decided on his video topic: Sand castles. He wants to show why he loves the beach. So I now am planning a trip to Stinson Beach so he can have his sand area to build castles. Lovely huh? I think I might be indulging him a little too much, but it’s what he wants to do.

He hasn’t decided on his picture yet, but he thinks he might want to go to the river and take “tons, like a million” pictures. Then he will pick the best one and we can send it in. Sounds good to me.

Here’s what I like about this contest:

1. It is nature based.

2. It is required that the kids do their own thing.

3. It’s easy to enter.

4. There’s lots of chances for him to win.

5. The prizes aren’t about cash.

I also like that he got to pick the categories and he can enter as many as he wants. He also has to plan. I’m not picking what he’s doing – he has to make a plan for himself and get it all done. He’s also going to really learn how to work with iMovie before this is all done – the movie he makes I’m going to make him edit and stuff.

He’s also going to learn about waiting and possibly – probably – about losing. Why do I assume this? Because the age category is K-4th grade. He’s not the best at any of these things, and he’s going against kids who are 4 or more years older than him, so they will have more experience. So I’m assuming he’s going to lose. And then will be presently surprised if he doesn’t.

We shall see and I’ll update people as we go about this contest.

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