|I started this pastels art lesson by beginning it first myself, and soon everyone was at the table.|
Make things look tempting: When I started nature study journaling or often when I do an art project or a craft, I just get all the materials ready and begin with the project myself. In no time, they are there, dying to do some, too. We have fun finishing it together and with my head-start I can often find out the tricky or difficult spots ahead of time and warn them of them, which makes the project run smoother. I also have a model to show them if they get confused on some aspect of the project.
|They have been playing with this school project, a catapult, for over a year.|
|Katie taught Quentin all of his letters and some other skills.|
Double up for maximum fun: Making school projects that transform into toys gives them lots of extra play. They will remember their history lessons if they play them. This is a type of narration. Sometimes they come back to me to clarify some aspect of the lesson that they were not sure about that they would not have otherwise thought of if they had not been acting it out.
Enlist help: Now that I have older kids, often they will help me with a lesson for their younger siblings or even do one completely for me. Utilize their talents and energy level. It is a joy to see this in action. If you only have younger kids now, think of all the seeds you are planting now, that you will be able to reap later.
Keep it simple: Sometimes it is easy to get too complicated with a craft or project and this not only leads to frustration and confusion but also the original purpose for the activity gets lost. They remember only the activity and not the lesson. Sometimes the activity will be counterproductive. Sometimes crafts or art projects in the end will look like a historical object or process, but if they make it differently than they did originally, this can confuse the facts.
|Quentin is always using craft materials to make his own projects related to school lessons.|
Go natural: The more you use toys that are battery-powered, television, video games and the like, the less likely they will want to make the effort to learn, imagine and play. By contrast supplying them with lots of interesting raw materials sparks creativity. Many times my kids come up with their own crafts and activities appropriate to the lessons learned.
|Quentin made a quiver for his Robin Hood figure when he saw some arrow-shaped plastic toothpicks in my cabinet.|
Mix it up: If you do the same subjects, the same materials, the same times of the day -day in and day out throughout the year, it will come boring and stale. We have been doing a Mainly-One-Subject-A-Day for over a year now and it works for us because things seem new and different if you haven't done it for a week. I also vary when and where we do our lessons -sometimes first thing in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon. If they are busy playing something productive than I will let them play and catch them right after lunch. All of this adds some freshness. I do some subjects every day, but this varies according to the student. I do each day what each student needs to do regularly such as reading, math and foreign languages. I discuss these individually with each student and they agree that they need to do these things more regularly than once a week so they are participants to this decision. You really need to be partners in their education and empower them. It is harder to grumble if you have been a part of the decision.
|James especially enjoyed reviewing Roman numerals by using pieces from an old RISK game.|
Add a wow factor: I am constantly on the look-out for projects that really are exciting and fun. Keeping with the same sort of activities becomes mundane and ordinary. Even if I do a complete book such as a History Pockets book, I don't do the whole thing, one chapter after another. I do one and then wait a few weeks to do another one with other projects in between. Art projects are a great way to add a wow factor because there are so many good techniques out there now. Add CD's and DVD's, games, costumes, puppets, beautiful journals to encourage writing and drawing, art materials of all types, various math manipulatives, science supplies like magnifiers and dropper or plastic test tubes to your regular activities and always a stady supply of good books. Look at how you can use the same materials you have in a new way. This is especially important when budgets are tight. Model creativity and imagination.
|James made this beautiful flower from the wax covering of some Baby Bell cheese. They see art materials in just about everything now.|
Upcycle: The more you use recycled materials to make learning aids or playthings, the more you inspire and spark creativity. They begin to see the potential in these things themselves and begin to build their own items to go along with what they are learning. That is when your heart really sings.