Tag Archives: art

New Sculpy Clay Lines

I apparently missed this last year when they announced it, but Sculpy, the people who make the really nice clay, came out with a bunch of new clays!

We found them because the kids got a sculpy art kit from CostCo for Christmas. It has tons of different clays (including the new ones), clay tools, cutters, molds, and a really nice plastic carrying case.

The first new like is the  Premo! line, which just has some really neat colors.

The second line is Premo! Accents, which has really neat glitter, granite, and translucent clays. They’re nothing like I’ve ever seen in clay.

And then there’s Sculpy Souffle, which is really lightweight and has some other different colors.

I’d love to make some ancient Greek column models with the granite.

Sculpy’s blog has a ton of pictures of the actual clays in use and mixed with other clays.

PS — No, I’m not being paid for this. I just really love clay and I think everyone should see how neat these are.

PPS — I buy art supplies at Blick. They have good prices and sales.

Online Resource For Teaching Art

I love finding resources for people like me who sort of piece together a lot of their own curricula. It’s a lot of work finding new ways to easily get information.

Art is one of those subjects that I really have very little formal training in at all. But I did manage to learn enough from a few little picture books that I read when I was in elementary school that a decade later, halfway around the world, I could identify famous impressionist paintings and do a pretty good job of guessing who painted them.

So I’m happy to sometimes use a Facebook group page called I Require Art to just get 1-3 different pieces of art per day that I sometimes choose to share with my kids, or just use for my own education.

Each image is shown with information about the artist, year, where it can be found, and often more information about why the piece is important or noteworthy.

The thing is, it’s all information that’s readily available… but it’s nice to have a curated collection delivered right to my eyeballs every day without being overwhelming.

There is also a web site I Require Art with much, much more information, organized by period, art movement, and so on, so you can find information that ties in with other subjects if you want.

Paper bag tree

This is a fun little craft. You cut the tops of a paper bag in strips and twist them together to make a trunk and then branches. I was going to leave it bare, but The MK thought it was sad without leaves, so we cut up tissue paper and glued it on. I made a little stand for it out of a paper plate and more tissue paper on top. They sprinkled more tissue paper on top. Fun and quick!

Unit Study: Color Theory

This summer, we seem to be falling into a routine of unit study. It really fits with our personalities anyway — we hear about something and then obsess about it and then suddenly you see it in everything you do and you investigate it until you’re sick of it and then move on to something else. Sometimes it’s just coincidence.

 I figured it would be fun to do a series of posts on some of our unit studies, such as color theory, fermentation (all of my postings about FODMAPs, making yogurt, making cream cheese, and so forth were part of that little obsession), and aliens. Yes, we did a unit study of aliens. Just wait, I’ll document that one too. 😉

So for Color Theory, we did a number of things.

First I introduced the idea with a neat poster. I just did a Google image search and chose this one because I liked that it showed many concepts that I wanted to cover: primary, secondary and tertiary colors; tints and shades; CMYK vs RGB; cold vs warm colors; color relationships; and cultural color meanings.

Then I drew a series of pictures of fish and birds and things with colors we chose, trying out analogous, complementary, monochromatic, and triad color groups. I have no picture of these, as they were destroyed by the baby.

Then we cut up strips of construction paper and grouped them in similar ways.

After that, the kids used the My Little Pony Creator to make different ponies using their new color theory knowledge. They were quite happy with their results, and I think they realized that they now had a better idea of why some colors looked better together than others.

Then I found an old box of crayons. The baby helped me peel the papers off of them and all three kids and I broke them up and mixed together our favorites, put them in muffin cups, and melted them down (200 degrees for about 20 minutes) to make new crayons. (Note: I still got wax on my muffin tin and it’s horrible to clean up).

First Try, before:

First try, after (flipped around):

Second try, some kids noticed they didn’t like the more mixed up colors:

They’re pretty fun to draw with. You never quite know what’s going to happen!

Spring 2012 Homeschool Portfolio Review: Health and PE, Art and Music, Other

And the rest of the subjects (decided by the State of Maryland) are in this post.


We continued what we’ve been doing all along: reading pages of the Kidpower books, fine tuning our eating habits and hygiene, learning how to play nice with others, and so forth. Just every day stuff that most people do for their kids already.

We studied facial expressions (also as a part of art) and body language to try to do a better job of understanding how people are reacting to how we are talking or behaving.

They learned a lot about going to the doctor and interesting tests they can order, and how to just take it easy and let yourself heal, thanks to me.

I think our trips and visits with family are also a pretty important part of health.

We studied safety in emergencies and fires, in the water, in caves, in hot and cold weather, and in thunderstorms and tornadoes.


We hiked and biked, played soccer, and went to gymnastics. We played with friends at the park, and ran all around the house.

Still, I think we need more. They do still spend way too much time on the computer or watching TV and I wish they were more active. Mostly they need someone to model that behavior — they simply do what they see their parents doing. I hope we can get more active soon.



We gave up on “Meet the Masters”. It had some nice ideas, but it’s just not my style or the kids’ style. So we continued freely exploring all sorts of different media: clay, watercolors, tempera paints, finger paints, markers, pencils, pastels, and chalk. We even made art with beet juice and liquids that turn beet juice different colors. We also studied facial expressions, warm and cold colors, and background vs. foreground.

We did a few more lessons from Drawing With Children, which seems to be working out well for The Girl (and for me!).

The boy is making some really detailed and interesting line drawings.

The Baby continued to decorate the walls, floor, furniture, and herself with paint, markers, crayons, and pencil.


The Boy finally got to sing in a concert with his chorus (other performances were cancelled due to weather or he was too sick to go). The kids enjoy dance parties in the living room to a wide variety of music. The Girl makes up tons of songs, and I especially like her fun little jazzy voice that she plays with when she thinks no one is listening. I’m working on trying to get them to learn to play some sort of instrument… but it’s going slowly. We’re also slowly working through lessons on MusicTheory.net to learn about notes, rhythms, and (recently) scales. They also attended a spectacular performance of their cousin playing the bass guitar. (How do I have no pictures of this?!)


They are all working on their computer skills, cooking skills, and building/tool skills. To the exclusion of many other things. 😉

The boy studied Japanese a little bit, and learned a little more about Javascript and HTML.

I Guess This is What Unschooling Is Like

For those of you who aren’t homeschoolers, or don’t know a lot about it, there are actually a lot of different categories of homeschoolers. These are really general categories and there is a lot of overlap and squishiness about the categories, but sometimes it’s helpful to explain to other people the sort of philosophy you have about these things. It’s not entirely unlike explaining what sorts of foods you eat — low carb, vegetarian, kosher, and so forth. Broad categories that everyone stretches this way and that to make it work for them.

I probably can’t do justice to all the flavors of homeschooler right here, but if you’re interested the Homeschool Diner has a list they compiled.

We don’t really fit into any particular group. We have fewer rules than many families, but we’re not radical unschoolers without bedtimes or required chores or anything. I like a lot of the ideas of classical schooling, such as using original sources and mastery of concepts, but we’re not obsessed with following anyone’s particular idea of it and no one is learning latin right now! I buy curricula, but we don’t necessarily follow it, we use it as another source. We sometimes do unit studies, sometimes not. In fact, anytime I try to follow any schedule or routine or list, the kids object.

We are dedicated to randomness.

Lately, I’ve managed to injure myself in annoying ways, or get sick, or find some other reason to be busy, or cranky, or unprepared, and we’ve had a week or two (ahem) here or there (cough) where maybe we weren’t all at the kitchen table doing math worksheets every morning, if you know what I mean.

But the kids still learn. It really hard to keep them from learning, as it turns out. Boredom actually causes them to do all sorts of things. And kids can make anything fun.

One day a few weeks ago, all of us were sick with a fever, a cold, or bronchitis, so my son was playing on the computer. He was using Minecraft, along with a friend of his half way across the country, and he managed to do an entire day of school-worthy activities in just about every subject we need to cover.

This is what a home school sick day looks like: he had to multiply out the gold he won in the minecraft RPG he and his friend invented and divide by 64 to see how many stacks that would be (math). He’s making logic gates to power his doors and traps (science). He has to type to me to communicate (English). He taught his sister about the immune response system (health). He made a sculpture of a creeper (Art) and composed a song about how it holds his treasure chests (Music). As soon as I fix the printer, he can print and mail a certificate for another Junior Ranger badge (history — it’s about Clara Barton). 

It’s semesters like this one that makes me wonder if I’m going to eventually just relax, let go of the reins of control, and just be an unschooler. I wonder how far away that even is…

Art Lesson, Drawing With Children

We found time to do another lesson from Drawing With Children. Now that they are learning the basic elements of shape, it’s time to see more ways we can use them to put together a nice drawing. The lesson also introduces the idea of representational art, where things don’t look completely authentic, and that’s fine. It also shows how to make mistakes into happy accidents, to use Bob Ross’ terms. And finally, to make sure your art expresses an interesting mood or point of view.

First, we warmed up:

She may not have the elements of shape all down, but this definitely has a mood!


He also made a face, but he used the random elements of shape  asked for (4 circles, two touching)
The youngest says this is many fish, and then she chopped up the edges with scissors

Then we did the lesson in the book, which was about drawing a picture of a lion (it shows step by step how to make it, and I do each step to show them how)…

I started drawing the example from the book and ran out of space


Embellished lion, and a scene with flowers, a tree, and a starry sky


The little one did her own thing, and calls this “Braaaaains!”

The boy decided he wasn’t inspired by the lion and decided to draw the plasma ball instead. At first he dashed off this tiny scrawny little drawing.

I pointed out that even people who draw cartoons (or anime or manga) often draw them bigger and then shrink them down to fit in a book in order to make sure they can get enough detail in the drawing. So he tried again, much bigger, and with more detail.

I was pleased with both kids. The Girl had a really nice scene with beautiful colors, and the boy really took some time to make something to be proud of.

Canning Beets and Playing Science

All sorts of everyday things become science, if you play with it. And really, that’s how people (including kids) get comfortable with it. It just happens all the time when you feel like it. Most people can happily correct a grammar mistake or a misspelling. But do you play math? Or science? For fun?

The kids’ grandmother often comes over in the middle of the week to cook with us. Sometimes we make marmalade or jam and the extra hands make it easier. We made 25 pounds of chili this week so there’s plenty to freeze. The kids get to practice using knives and measuring things, and we get lots of tasty food.

Last week we pickled beets. You have to boil the beets for a while to
get them soft, and you end up with cups and cups of beet-stained water.

It reminded me of when we boiled red cabbage to get the juice, which is a great indicator for pH. (That is, the juice changes color depending on whether it is mixed with an acid or base.) So, I sent the kids off to play with some pipettes, test tubes, vinegar, and baking soda.

Here is a picture of me showing the kids how it’s done. (Back long, long ago, your mom was a scientist…)

They had fun making their little volcanoes explode, and we got talk talk about what acids and bases are. We discussed the chemical structure and tested all sorts of liquids around the house to determine if they are acids or bases.

Some examples are lemon juice, Formula 409, dish soap, and mustard. I also showed them that turmeric is a good indicator, it just takes about 15 minutes for the color change to show up.

Then, while we were waiting for the beets to process, we used the beet juice and our acids and bases to make pretty designs on paper and paper towels. Suddenly it’s art time!We also tried dying an egg, and talked about the history of dyes.

So, spontaneously, a project about food became science, art, and social studies. It already contained math, since you need to do a lot of measuring and timing of things. Then we went outside and played in the snow.

(Thank you, Anne Kearns, for the great photos! :D)

The next week we went to Mount Vernon (or Mount Vermin as the 5 year
old called it) and the 8 year old bought a souvenir quill and ink well.
We made ink out of coffee grounds, tea, and also tried the beet juice
left over from the week before. It made pretty good ink, though it ended
up fading from the gorgeous magenta to a boring brown color.

Drawing Faces

A few weeks ago we did a little art lesson where we read a blog post by a caricature artist and how there are 5 basic elements of a face. You can play with those elements and come up with all sorts of emotions and people.

Then we tried making our own. First I drew while they called out ideas, then they drew their own ideas while the baby scribbled all over mine.


Drawing With Children — Bird Art Lesson

As part of Art, we’re using a book called Drawing With Children. For each lesson warm-up we practice making some of the “basic elements of shape” in a free form drawing. The book lists some examples you can use, or you choose your own. I, of course, needed it to be more random, so we roll a die. For example, I might roll that we need to draw 3 shapes that are closed, rounded, filled-in shapes (referred to as “dots”, even though they aren’t always dots.)

Some examples of our warm-up one day:

Still getting an idea of the shapes
I decided it was a virus
Then we followed a series of pictures to use the basic elements of shape to make a bird:
I followed the lesson pretty closely…
The girl made something basic at first
While The Boy had flames and fractal claws…
Then The Girl made a more involved scene
And the baby says this is an octopus
It went pretty well, though my kids don’t seem to actually take direct instruction all that terribly well. Never have, really. But at least it’s another idea for us to play with and see where it leads us!