Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Homeschooling and Free Museum Admission

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the opportunity to provide tailored enrichment activities to accompany our lessons and cater to Pip's interests. If I were not careful, the cost of these field trips and hands-on experiences could add up quickly. So, of course, free and almost free admission opportunities are my favorite places to start when planning our outings! Today I've got museums on my mind.

Although I'm writing about these for use in conjunction with our homeschool, they could all just as easily make for great family days out.

Some venues are always free. The Owensboro Museum of Fine Art, for example, is technically free (although they gently ask a voluntary admission of $2/adult, $1/child). Pip loves to visit the rotating exhibits, but her favorite feature is Kaleidoscope Kave.

Some venues have a set recurring free admission opportunity. For example, when we lived in Atlanta, the High Museum of Art offered free admission to all Fulton County residents on the first Saturday of every month.

Some locations offer isolated free or reduced admission opportunities. Last winter, as a way to contribute to the Nashville food bank, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts offered admission in return for canned goods. This is not without cost, but it was a way to help feed the community while checking out the museum for less than the price of a ticket. (I would like to note here that we frequent the Frist, and children's admission is always free!)

Some organizations of which you may already be a part offer free or discounted admission to events and venues; if you are a veteran, a member of a credit or other type of union, AAA, etc, definitely check your member perks to see what you might be missing! Chris and I have a low limit, no annual fee credit card with Bank of America, and one of the perks is monthly "Museums on Us" weekends where BoA covers the cost of admission for cardholders and their children. There's a full list on the website of locations that take part in this program.

For me, the easiest way to keep up with free admission opportunities is through social media. I follow all my favorite educational venues on Facebook, including museums in our region. Occasionally I'll see a free admission day, and that's when we plan a trip or take a spur of the moment opportunity to visit. If I don't see any discount days coming up at a venue we'd like to see, I will call or email them and ask if they offer any discounts; the worst thing they can tell me is no, right?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Using Binder Clips to Create an Art Gallery

Our school room is constantly evolving depending on what we need from it at any given time. Lately its primary function has been as a catch-all for art projects.

Yesterday, I decided that we couldn't have all this artwork piled up on every flat surface any longer. Pip and I got to work with 8 nails, some kitchen twine, and a handful of small binder clips, all of which we had around the house, and we created a gallery to display her most recent pieces.

First, I placed one nail in the top of a door frame and one nail in the top of a window frame, knotted the ends of a pieces of kitchen twine, and strung it between them. Then we used binder clips to hang several pieces across that line.

Next, I placed 6 more nails in the wall below the line and above the bench, putting them roughly the same distance from each other. I hung a binder clip on each one and together we chose which pieces she wanted to display.

My intention is for this to be a rotating gallery of whatever Pip has recently created. When we stepped back to take a look at the finished product, she was proud of it, and I was happy with our return to clear surfaces.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Homeschooling and the Fine Arts Center

One of my favorite educational resources is our local fine arts center. The Glema Mahr Center for the Arts in Madisonville, Kentucky, offers "school day matinees" throughout the academic year with ticket prices at a fraction of a typical performance rate (this past season, they were $6 per seat). They welcome homeschool families, and we regularly join in the fun.

In addition to enjoying shows from the audience, Pip has experienced the magic of sitting onstage during several small-cast performances. Many productions, particularly those put on by traveling children's theatres, have study guides that teachers and parents can obtain in advance to help plan related lessons for before and after the field trip.

The Anne P. Baker Gallery, located inside the fine arts center, almost always has visual art on display as well. Each new collection is very different--from photography exhibits to student displays to juried art shows--and admission is free. It's a low-pressure way to experience a small taste of an art museum, and a chance for Pip and me to see a variety of beautiful work. It always sparks conversation and often inspires a new art project. She loves going so much that when her cousin came to visit last fall, Pip insisted we stop by to show her our local gallery.

This past season, the GMCA hosted two community choir performances that were free and open to the public. There were also a variety of family performances--like acrobats and musicals--available throughout the year. Although ticket prices are higher than the school day matinees, several of them were clearly worth the investment for us.

Our fine arts center offers an annual Summer Arts Academy for students from kindergarten through high school. There is a small tuition fee, like most day camps. Pip has attended the past two years and loved it! Participants sing, dance, act, and create visual art.

No matter what region you're living in, I encourage you to find your nearest Fine Arts Center. It can be a wonderful place to start when planning low-cost extracurricular activities for your homeschool.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Peanuts Notebook

With her love for Peanuts and her regular time spent writing and drawing, I was not at all surprised when Pip recently asked me for a Charlie Brown notebook. With a quick stop at the dollar store and a few minutes, I turned a plain yellow spiral notebook into a Peanuts inspired sketchbook for her that she thought was super fun.

The notebook was new, but everything else I had on hand.

I made the stencil from a piece of scrap cardstock. I cut the cardstock into 3" by 1 1/4" strips and then taped them together. I consulted an image of Charlie Brown and noticed that the zig zags on his shirt didn't look like right angles, so I tiled each piece to make those angles a little sharper. I then trimmed along the sides to get rid of the extra corners that were sticking out along each edge. You can see that the outer points are not actually single points--you can see the corner of each strip of card. When I went to trace it onto the notebook, I just followed the stencil as best I could and then filled in the little corners freehand.

I think it's great fun to take a known property and create something inspired by it. It's often much more affordable than purchasing the licensed item(s), and the act of putting it together myself can make it more meaningful, too.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Homeschooling First Grade

Pip is one of those homeschoolers who looks bewildered when people ask "what grade are you in?" Following the age requirements of Kentucky, where we currently reside, she would have just finished kindergarten. In our homeschool co-op, though, the first grade class was the better fit this past year. Fluidity is one of my favorite things about homeschooling.

As I plan her first grade/kind of second grade year, these are the books that I'm reading for reference and that I'm currently planning to work with when we get back into our "school year" routine this fall.

Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and their Parents) by Eline Snel
For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
Honey for a Child's Heart: The Imaginative Use of Books in Family Life by Gladys Hunt
Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors by Rachelle Doorley
Singapore Math Primary Mathematics 1A
The Usborne Classical Music Sticker Book
13 Artists Children Should Know by Angela Wenzel

This does not include the picture books and literature that will be utilized daily, as that will be a constant rotation based on her current interests. The majority of those will be borrowed from the library or purchased at McKay Books in Nashville--one of my favorite used bookstores! For life science we'll explore the world around us and take off from there, and history will be examined through the lens of children's lit. There will also be plenty of additional resources pulled in as we go along; this is only my starting point.

While I use the term loosely, and we have plenty of crossover between them, the subjects on my mind when contemplating her first grade education are music, reading, writing, science, history, art, math, and life skills. Much of her learning will be done through play (using Shopkins to explore math concepts was a hit this past year), and we'll take field trips to experience science, living history, and performing arts first hand.

This upcoming year is going to be a good one. I look forward to continuing to participate in Pip's day to day growth and learning process. It's an amazing gift.