Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Some fine arts stuff


We borrowed the "Beethoven's Wig" cd from our library awhile back and the kids loved it. I returned it when it was due and they missed it, so I borrowed that and a few others. They would like me to purchase it to keep.

The format of these is such: the first half of the cd are tracks from various composers of classical music. The twist? They've added lyrics, often about the song itself or the composer. Really silly, too. The second half of the cd are the songs without words.

Vivienne is currently obsessed with Grieg's Hall of the Mountain King. She likes to pretend she's hunting for treasure in a temple, finds it, and then needs to "run for her life" when found by the guards. Oh my.

I just bought a book/cd combo to help the kids learn about the individual instruments in an orchestra and how they work together.

Yesterday, we attended a free performance put on by 5 members of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. It was part of their Teddy Bear series designed for young kids. The performance helped acquaint the kids with the violin, viola, cello and bass and at the end the kids could try a violin themselves. Fun!

It is hilarious to hear J and V request a particular composer's music and talk about their favorites. Johnny's current fave is Bach's Minuet in G. He heard it a few months ago around Christmastime and thought it was a Christmas song. He couldn't remember what it was or how it went, and it was driving him crazy for months. He heard it again on Beethoven's Wig #4 and was like !!! We have the full version and he is listening to that one on repeat. Also? They love the Star Wars theme song and they all do their interpretive dances -- even the baby.


For visual arts...oy. I am not an artist. I can't sketch, either. I would like my kids to learn how to sketch at the very least, so that when we are doing our nature study and recording what we're seeing, the kids (and myself) can have better confidence in our sketching skills.

I'm interested in a few DVD courses. Not sure if I'll get some or all at some point ;).

First, I recently placed an order for a cartooning DVD and an Easter DVD. Johnny loves creating his own comic books and he has used the cartooning DVD twice now. My two gripes with the DVD are: no chapter divisions so it makes navigating to a certain section a pain, and the web URL is displayed at the bottom the whole time. Huh?

For the Easter DVD, we did one project of the 3 so far. Whoops, I didn't have chalk pastels so we used oil with different results, but it was still a nice creation.

The set includes a black light (!) which will be used with some (or all? I dunno) of the projects. Fun!

See the Light Art also has a 9-volume (36 lesson) DVD set with lessons in drawing, color blending and so on. It says grades 1+ and I think it will be something Johnny and myself will enjoy. Plus, the lessons include some art history and scripture woven in.

I haven't picked up this set yet, but it's on my wishlist. Especially now that I see how Pat the artist does her lessons, I think we will like them.

After Art Class vol. 1, we can follow up with Art Projects -- 9 different projects on DVD. You learn about a particular artist and then create a piece in that artist's style. Looks fun.


I considered a DVD series called Home Art Studio. These seem totally different from the above -- more of an artsy craftsy elementary art class kinda thing vs. more of a fine arts approach. There are 6 DVDs available, K-5th grade.

The instructor teaches some art theory and concepts, talks about some artists and demonstrates various techniques. Each project is different (with like 15-18 projects per level). These seem sort of fun and cute. We don't do many of these types of projects at home -- I'm just not wired to come up with different ideas, I think.

I might have my kids try a sample lesson online to see how we like it. If it's a hit, I'll pick up a DVD or several. The sample projects though -- I'm just not really excited about the end product. They seem more like something to stick on the fridge until the next project comes along, vs. art instruction. Dunno.

Right now, Homeschool Buyer's Co-Op has these for 45-50% off (reg. price $29.99), but they are also available through a few other sources for $24.99 each. Perhaps I can find a coupon code to bring the price down.


The last art DVD series I'm considering is Creating a Masterpiece. This is the program recommended by Simply Charlotte Mason, and the SCM store is the only place where you can buy the DVDs now. Otherwise, you'll need to buy a subscription for video streaming from Creating a Masterpiece.

I love how the end products are supposed to turn out, and there are young children who can create impressive works.

I kind of am tempted to get some of these DVDs for myself! Part of me wants to grab some DVDs from SCM now, because apparently these aren't going to be available anymore? For one DVD it is $35, or 6 for $179. Or, it is $39/month or $299/12m on the subscription site. Pricey.

With the subscription site, I'd have access to more projects, but will I do enough to get my money's worth? Nope.

I think for now, I will wait with this one.


Art as part of our co-op:

We are joining a new Charlotte Mason-y co-op coming up! We are starting out with Spanish, poetry recitation, physical movement, and art creation. Luckily, one of the moms is a trained artist and art teacher! EEE! Excited!

Monday, March 9, 2015

I have to gush about Scribd -- unlimited ebooks AND audiobooks what!

It started with the Read-Aloud Revival podcast, getting me to think about audio books again. They have been hit-or-miss with my children, and it was fairly infrequent.

We have had a really good week with audio books, and I wanted to share why I think it's working, and gush about Scribd.

What is working:

  • Letting them listen to books they are familiar with (either I've read it to them before, or they are familiar with the characters, etc.)
  • Letting them listen at bedtime
  • Listening in the van 
  • Short books/short listening times
I have borrowed CD books from the library, downloaded some for free from the library, bought some cheap ones from Audible, and I now subscribe to Scribd. Scribd is my favorite thing right now! I wish there was a referral program. Bummer.

I also signed up for a promotional price deal from Audible, but I won't likely continue with it. The deal is 3 months at $7.49/month, and 1 credit per month. One credit = one book. With membership, you can also purchase titles at at least 30% off regular price.

If you own a Kindle ebook version, you can sometimes get a discounted audio book of that title.

So, I can buy 3 books or collections of books (whatever they are selling for 1 credit) for $22.47 during my promo time. After that, it is $14.95/m for 1 credit. 

Or. I can spend $8.99/month with Scribd and have unlimited access to tons of audio books and plenty of ebooks. Yep, the Netflix for audio and ebooks is an appropriate description. From what I've seen so far, there are many duplicate ebooks from Audible to Scribd.

The downside of Scribd, for some, is you need to use either your computer, smart phone, tablet or Kindle Fire to access the Scribd app. You cannot transfer files to a more basic MP3 player. You CAN save files for offline listening.

I don't care for the search feature, in that there is no filter. I don't want to search for a children's book and have some steamy romance novel cover show up. My kids don't need to see that. So, I save books ahead of time in their own "collection." 

For what we get for the price, you can't beat it. You can't buy an Audible credit for that price aside from promos, and public libraries typically have digital limitations. My own allows us only 5 digital titles at once, and I'm unable to return the downloaded audio book ahead of time to free up space for another book. I can return ebooks, though. Of course, if your library has a good selection of physical audio books, that's something to keep in mind. Mine is lacking.

Soo....if you enjoy digital books in any form and have a capable smart player, go get your free month trial. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How I am looking forward to the laundry mountain and dishes

I'm the kind of person who usually needs to let an idea marinate for awhile before I do anything with it. Here's one example: podcasts.

I love to READ. Eyeballs looking at words on a page. That kind of reading. I like to read blogs, though admittedly my blog reading today looks very different from how it looked a few years ago.

Podcasts have been around for a decade or more. I've listened to some on occasion but it wasn't really a habit.

Awhile back, my friend Laura mentioned how she is really into podcasts these days. I thought, hmm, interesting. And that's as far as it got.

Then a week or so ago, I discovered some free MP3s from a previous homeschool convention. I listened to a few sessions while doing some laundry and dishes, and really appreciated having something interesting to do while I was doing something so mundane.

I told my friend C. about it, and she pointed me to a wonderful podcast (Laura listens to it, too!) called Read Aloud Revival. Oh, it is just so good. The topic, guests, editing...I love it!

I am working my way through it and I'm hooked.

It's just so simple to subscribe to a podcast and choose an episode while I'm a'scrubbin' or a'foldin'. It is helping me look forward to those chores and other organizing that I'm trying to do.

Do you listen to podcasts or MP3s of something? Let me know what you'r into lately.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Some of what we're actually doing right now

In my last post, I wrote that we are only doing bare-bones of My Father's World kindergarten at this point, pulling in the literature, science topics/projects, arts & crafts, and Bible discussions.

This semester, we are doing:

All About Reading level 2 -- this phonics program has been wonderful for my son. I omit some of the activities, as they are overkill for him, but he does all of the fluency pages and stories in his readers. We don't use the magnet tiles, though I suspect I will use them when we start spelling. We also skip the activity pages. We did them for level 1, but J would rather just read the words instead of doing some sort of workbook page. The activities are fun, but eh. The goal is reading fluently. Workbook not necessary for that.

I did a quick online reading level assessment to see where his reading level might stack up. He placed between 4-6th grade reading level, depending on the test. Cool.

Today, he finished lesson #29/51. We'll wrap this level up at some point soon. I'm not putting the date on the calendar, in case we hit a wall or something. I own AAR level 3 already and I expect we'll just keep trotting along with that.

RightStart math level A -- we took a huge break with RightStart awhile back, and resumed in January. J has completed lesson 51/132ish. So. Hmm. I refuse to say that we are "behind." Behind WHAT? Nothin', that's what. We will keep moving at a comfortable pace, and we'll finish when we finish. I know that level B will cover a lot of the same concepts early in that level.

Handwriting -- Handwriting Without Tears K -- oh, handwriting. Somehow it is the subject of most resistance at the moment. We are still in capitals. Johnny enjoys writing on his own, but his letter formation is off, he doesn't do lowercase, and the sizing and spacing isn't so great. I know a lot of this will come with time and continued practice, plus other fine-motor activities to help those little hand muscles do their work.

I liked that I could sneak some handwriting practice in the other day, when they were signing Valentine's cards for their friends! We are going to a Valentine's Day party next week with some other homeschoolers. I'm bringing some books to read-aloud. So excited.

Bible -- we start our day off with something Bible. Sometimes I'll pull it from the MFWK materials, or I'll grab a devotional, or the Bible coloring book and accompanying storybook we have. It's nice.

My goal is to hit the 3Rs plus Bible at minimum for a school day. You might be surprised at how quickly we can accomplish it. It's focused work. Everything else, the frequency varies.

History -- I'm slowly starting some history. We've read the first 7 chapters of History for Little Pilgrims, which gives a very quick overview sweep of history. I have added some library books to go along, pulled from my All Through the Ages book guide. I'll probably stick with that approach for a few months. Perhaps I'll start adding titles from our TruthQuest History guide, or maybe I'll wait until the fall.

Poetry -- I love Charlotte Mason's ideas, and as part of "spreading a feast before my children," I want to add these elements to my children's education. I've read poetry to them before of course, but now I'm being more deliberate with the frequency. Even a few minutes of reading poetry can be beneficial. I am using "Favorite Poems of Childhood." So far, so good. After that, "Favorite Poems, Old and New."

Mason advocated sticking with one poet for a time, lingering with that poet. Read a biography about him or her, soak up the poems, maybe do some narration. (More on poetry the Simply Charlotte Mason way, which is a leeetle different than Charlotte Mason, I think).

Music -- We had a blast playing Christmas music from late November through oh, now, slowly tapering. An added bonus, the kids really learned a lot of songs. It helped that they were part of the Christmas program at church, but I think playing Christmas music on Pandora helped them know the songs. I would like to keep that going with hymns and other songs.

I have the composer study CDs from Simply Charlotte Mason (Bach, Beethoven and Chopin). Really cool series. I haven't read the bios to the kids yet. So far, I've just played a CD here and there and told them who the composer was and left it at that.

I would like to get a book/CD combo to help them learn and recognize the various instruments of the orchestra. Something like this book, perhaps. My library carries another title, and I'm going to borrow it to see how that goes over. This all may be a little beyond them right now, and that's fine. Just playing beautiful music is nice. It takes no extra effort to play something while they are coloring, Lego-ing, play-dohing, whatever.

Phys. Ed. -- Squee! J and V are participating in a class put on by the park's department of a nearby town. There's a preschool group and a homeschooler group, and they meet at the same time. The first part is in the gym where they were doing various running around activities. The preschool group even got out the awesome parachute. I hope the other group gets a chance with it at some point. Then, they were in the pool. J and V are in the same swimming group with 2 other kids. I'm cautiously optimistic. They are having an absolute blast so far. They need this outlet so much, especially in the cold winter.

Roughly, that's it. There are a few other things that might make an appearance in our day. I have a walk-in closet full of educational toys, games and manipulatives + craft supplies. We keep our library crate full of books and make regular visits. Some audio books thrown in (and I like to grab a paper version for Johnny to follow along with). Oh, and some Netflix. Heh. So nice, especially in winter.

We have days that go really, really well. I try to remember so many details about those days. We also have days where it's like everyone (me included) just is having a rotten day and nothing is going right. Total disasters. Just roll with it, I figure. The good outweighs the bad, and thankfully, by far.