Arts and Crafts Explained: Beginning Colored Pencils, by Apryl

 

Colored pencil has to be my favorite medium to work with. I love the control and the feel of using them, and I love the results.

“Emma” colored pencil portrait.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is a colored pencil and what makes it different from regular pencils?

For an interesting look at how colored pencils are made, check out this video from “How It’s Made.

What is the best brand of colored pencil?

Although individual preference can dictate which pencil will work best for you, there are some favorites among serious artists. Most often, Prismacolor pencils come out on top for quality and color selection, followed by Faber-Castell polychromos. Personally, I would recommend Prismacolor to start out with and then experiment with a few other brands. You can usually buy colored pencils from open stock at art supply stores, so you can experiment without investing in a full set.

What is the best type of paper to use?

While you can draw with colored pencil on just about any type of paper (and even wood!) some papers perform better than others. In order to layer colors and blend without marring the paper, you need thicker paper with a little bit of tooth. (Tooth is the rough surface of the paper.) I recommend using a heavy weight paper such as Bristol. Hot press papers will have a smoother surface, while cold press will be much more rough. My personal favorite is Arches Watercolor paper, 140lb Hot Press. It is smooth, but still retains enough tooth to allow several layers of color. I buy it in large sheets at the art supply store and cut it down into the sizes I need.

What do I need to start?

For a beginning artist who wants to seriously explore colored pencils, I would recommend the following:

Prismacolor Premier Colored Woodcase Pencils, 12 Assorted Colors/set. You can often find the larger sets on sale for half price, especially around Christmas.

Prismacolor Premier Colorless Blender Pencil, 2 Pencils

Strathmore 300 Series Bristol Pad – 11-Inchx14-Inch – 20 Sheet Pad

X-Acto Home and office Electric Pencil Sharpener (19210) Yes, I do recommend an electric pencil sharpener. Don’t go all out and buy the most expensive one, as colored pencils will be hard on your sharpener. That said, I’ve had an X-Acto similar to this one for several years now and it is still going strong.

Sanford Design Kneaded Eraser

Extras that are handy, but not essential:

Mini Dusting Brush, 10in for dusting off pencil dust without smudging your drawing

• Masking tape for taping off the edges of your work for a clean edge

• Rulers

TECHNIQUE

Outlining:

Colored pencil can be hard to erase, so laying out your drawing beforehand is recommended. I often draw a sketch entirely in pencil, and then trace it lightly onto clean paper for my final colored pencil drawing. I will usually use a light gray or brown colored pencil to trace with, and use a very light hand. For easy tracing, tape your original drawing to a window or glass door and tape your clean paper over the top. The light will shine through, making the tracing easier. You can also purchase light tables for that purpose.

As you can see in this photo, I am working on top of a lightly sketched drawing.

Laying down color:

Colored pencil drawings are slowly built up by layering the colors one over another. You nearly always want to keep each layer of color light, adding more light layers to make it darker or to modify the color. If you color with a heavy hand, the wax of the pencil will build up too quickly and you will find that you cannot add more color. It will end up looking blotchy. So, when coloring in your drawing, use light even strokes.

Keep your pencils sharp. A sharp tip will fill in all of the little hills and valleys that occur in the paper surface. This results in an even coverage and fewer white specks showing through. When your pencil is blunt, it will skip over any small valleys in the paper, allowing the paper surface to show through.

You will also want to begin with the lightest colors first, gradually building up your drawing, and finishing up with the darkest colors.

Here you can see where I have begun to gradually build up color and shading.

more gradual color building

A very handy tool when using colored pencils is a colorless blending pencil. These pencils are just wax, and can be used to blend and smooth your colors. This should be done near the end of your project because it will lay down a layer of wax that makes adding more layers difficult.

Beginning to blend the skin tones more with a colorless blending pencil. The eyes and lips are also blended.

Lifting or erasing color:

Colored pencil can be very difficult to erase, and will rarely erase completely. However, you can use a kneaded eraser to “lift” color. You do this by firmly pressing a small amount of eraser onto the area to be erased and lifting it. Do not rub it across the paper. This technique will pick up small amounts of colored pencil. Be sure to use a different area of your eraser for each lift, so that you do not smear color back onto your paper.

You can also use an electric eraser. I have read that people can get good results from them, but I have not tried it.

Highlights:

There are several ways to create white or “highlighted” areas in your drawing. If you are using white paper, you can leave the desired area blank. You can color it in with a white colored pencil (with no other colors beneath). You can “lift” an area of color with a kneaded eraser. Or you can use a knife or other sharp object to gently scrape the area clean of colored pencil. For very fine areas of light color (such as hair) I have used a needle or thumbtack to lightly trace the area, leaving an indentation. When you color over it with a darker color, the pencil will not hit the indented area, leaving it white.

Below I have used a combination of highlighting techniques. In the eyes, the light reflections were left uncolored until the end, and then I went over them with a white pencil. The forehead and cheekbones needed a little more highlighting to make them more rounded, so at the final stage, I went over the skin tone in those areas with a white pencil, lightening them slightly.

The finished piece. I left the background unblended.

PROJECT

In this project you will create a color wheel and learn how to blend colored pencils to create different colors and shades. If you would like to learn a little more about color theory, check out my previous article, “The Science of Color.

First download and print this mini poster onto paper. You can use regular copy paper, but you can also use artist paper cut to fit your printer.

For this project we will only use 3 colors: red, blue and yellow. I used Crimson Red, Ultramarine, and Canary Yellow. You can also use a blending pencil if you have one.

1. With your three pencils, color in the primary color wedges — red, yellow, and blue:

2. Color in secondary colors:

orange = yellow + red (because of the way colored pencils blend, I recommend laying down the yellow first. This will keep the orange lighter in color.)
violet = red + blue
green = blue + yellow

Remember, use a light, even hand and a sharp pencil when coloring.

3. Color in tertiary colors:

yellow-orange = yellow + yellow + red
red-orange = red + yellow + red
red-violet = red + red + blue
blue-violet = blue + red + blue
blue-green = blue + blue + yellow
yellow-green = yellow + blue + yellow

4. Now you can use these color mixing techniques to color in the pictures around the color wheel. Experiment using different combinations of the three colors to create shadows and contrasts. *

*Be sure to read “Pencil Control and Shading” for more on how to create realistic shadows and gain pencil control.

Below I have a photo showing the same image colored on two different papers. The paper on the left is just white copy paper. The paper on the right is Arches 140lb Hot Press watercolor paper. You can see the difference in vibrancy and that I was able to add more color depth. Also, if you look at the cherries in this photo vs. the cherries in the above photo, you can see where I have used the colorless blending pencil to smooth and blend the colors.

Have fun with your new colored pencil skills!

apryl

Apryl–Born and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the country with her husband and her three daughters. After having an unfulfilling public school education herself, and struggling to find peace with the education her girls were receiving in the public school system, she made the choice to homeschool.  When they began their homeschool journey, the girls were in the third and sixth grades.  Now she is happily coaching three teenaged daughters through their high school years.

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Arts and Crafts Explained: Our Chalk Walk Experience, by Apryl

 

Recently I, along with my daughter and niece, had the opportunity to participate in Knoxville’s Annual Chalk Walk. Each year they open Market Square to artists of all abilities to create a chalk creation on the sidewalks. This was our first year, and we learned a lot!

1.  Come prepared. They provided us with chalk. Anything else was up to us. We brought felt squares for blending and masking tape. I will post more at the end about what I plan on bringing next year.

2.  Have a plan. We had sketches of what we wanted to do. This was extremely helpful. It would be very hard to work on the fly with so many people watching you!

3.  Know some basic chalk techniques. This was my first time EVER working with chalk for drawing other than using children’s sidewalk chalk with my kids!

4.  Be prepared to shift gears. I had to redraw my sketch a bit for proportion. I also ran out of a color for the skin and had to improvise.

5.  Wear old clothes. You WILL get dirty!

6.  Have fun! We enjoyed ourselves so much, and cannot wait to go back next year!

This is the finished piece my daughter and niece worked on.

This is my finished piece. It was kind of unfinished, but my old bones had had enough of the cold concrete!

Here are some other beautiful works in progress:

Now, for what I would do differently.

First, I would definitely bring knee pads! That is what affected my artwork most of all. It is hard to work if you are in pain.

Bring extra chalk. Although they had a table for trading in chalk, the colors you wanted weren’t always there. So, especially if you know you will be using a lot of one color, bring backups!

Bring a chalk line and mark out a grid. Have your sketch on a grid. It is hard to keep the perspective correct when you are working on the ground.

Bring lots of paint brushes, some water, and plenty of felt for blending. The water allows you to “paint” on the chalk, and you can use paint brushes for detailed work. I had neither, and it was very hard to get much detail on the rough concrete.

And finally, practice! I plan on filling our driveway with chalk art this summer in preparation for next year.

Wondering what kind of chalk to use?  Try these: Pro Art Chalk Pastel Set, 36 Color

To see all of the beautiful artwork created, check out the Dogwood Arts Festival album on Facebook!

 

Apryl–Born and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the country with her husband and aprylher three daughters. After having an unfulfilling public school education herself, and struggling to find peace with the education her girls were receiving in the public school system, she made the choice to homeschool.  When they began their homeschool journey, the girls were in the third and sixth grades.  Now she is happily coaching three teenaged daughters through their high school years.

Lapbooking: A How-To Guide, by Cheryl

 

If you have followed my Biome study posts, you may have looked at the lapbook pages.  (If not click HERE to see them.) I used to look at lapbooks other people made and be overwhelmed at the thought of making my own. Instead, I downloaded free or inexpensive pre-made lapbooks. Eventually, I gained the confidence to start from scratch and discovered that it was not as difficult as I had once thought.

What is a lapbook?

A lapbook is a scrapbook of things you and your kids have learned. It can be anything. Most lapbooks are made up of “mini book” pieces, each piece covering a different concept or idea. You then glue the mini books into a file folder, onto card stock in a binder, or into a spiral notebook.

The idea is that you teach something, your kids make the mini books, then look at them again as they continue adding to the larger book. It gets them involved with the information three or more times. The more times they see the information, the better they remember it. Lapbooks are a great way to get things into their long-term memory. Plus, if you are in a state that requires a portfolio, they make a fun addition to the record of your school year.

Where Can I Get Premade Lapbooks?

Two of my favorite sites for finding these lapbooks are:

Homeschool Share – lots of free lapbooks on all subjects, and free templates for making your own book.

Currclick – lapbooks to purchase, including Knowledge Box lapbooks. I love the quality of Knowledge Box lapbooks, but the price prohibits me from purchasing many; I have caught a few that I really wanted when they were on sale at Currclick.

Some of the premade lapbooks give all of the information you need to teach a full unit study (I have purchased this Oklahoma State History study from Knowledge Box), some are made to follow a certain book (like this lapbook for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), and sometimes they require research to fill in the blanks (this Frog lapbook is cute and fun, but it will require some research). Often, the book we found did not have all the information the lapbook wanted. I wanted lapbooks to go with what we were learning and the books we used. I just did not know where to start.

I made my first lapbook for Lilly when she was 3. Aidan was studying The Story of the World Volume 1 for history, and we were making an amazing lapbook I found online (you can download it here.) Lilly wanted to make a book. She was studying a letter a week. On Friday when Aidan did his history lapbook page, we made a letter page for hers as well. I went to Homeschool Share and picked a template, printed it and while Lilly colored on it, I found clip art pictures in Microsoft Office. We printed pictures of objects beginning with our letter for that week’s and put them in the template. Easy! I can do this!

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When I started with my Map Skills lap book, I knew I needed something different. I had 12 students and I did not want multiple pages to hand out to each child. I needed each minibook on one sheet of paper. I had to design it all for that to work. It was about this time that I discovered Google Docs and all it could do. The drawing tool became my best friend!

I knew enough about basic mini-book parts to start with a few interesting pieces. Below are a few “how to” images for my favorites. (Click on the picture to see a larger image, or on the name of the piece for a downloadable version.)

Pocket:

pocket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wheel:

wheel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Dog Book:

hot-dog-book

Flap Books and Fold-in Books:

flap-book-and-fold-in-book

For pictures and diagrams you can draw in Paint, search the web for a picture that serves your purpose, have the kids search through magazines, or have your kids draw a picture! The idea is to reinforce what you are studying. Do whatever will help cement things into your kids’ heads.

Get creative and make your own types of mini-books. You can do anything! Start by looking at what other people have created, or the templates on Homeschool Share, and then start making your own designs.

Now, if you really like things neat and you want your hard work to look pretty – make your own lapbook! Again, if you have looked at the Biome posts, you see the neat and pretty books. Here is a big secret: I put that together, my kids’ books look nothing like that! Below you see two versions of the same book (our Map Skills Lapbook):

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My son’s looks nothing like my vision for the book. That is okay! He still learned, he had fun, and we have a record of what was learned.

If the thought of designing a lapbook still overwhelms you, make your kids do it. Print a few blank templates, hand one to your child, tell him/her what information you want to see, and let them be creative!

 

Cheryl–Ccherylheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.

Living a Beautiful Life…Before It's Too Late, by Genevieve

 

“Don’t turn on the news and kiss my babies for me.” My entire perspective changed with that one phone call. Almost two thousand innocent people lost their lives that Tuesday morning; what if one of them had belonged to me?

We had only been homeschooling a few weeks. I had read every homeschooling book I could get my greedy little hands on. I had a plan, and my plan included an hour of SAT test practice every day of high school. I was certain that high test scores combined with a solid early foundation would ensure my children’s success.

But what if?

What if it had been one of them? What if their lives had been severed that morning?

What if I did everything the experts encouraged? What if I planned every moment of their lives in preparation for that perfect test score, that coveted acceptance letter, that full ride — but their lives were cut short? It happens every day. Teenagers die of illness or car accidents all too often, right at the moment when they are to reap the rewards of all their labors.

I made a promise that day. I would not sacrifice my children’s childhood preparing them for an adulthood that may never come.

My goal was no longer to give them a successful future life. I wanted to give them a beautiful current one. We skipped school that day. Instead, we spent the day in the sunshine, on the patio, painting Halloween decorations on wooden boards we hauled out of the trash. As the children painted, I thought about my promise. I could never forgo Latin and Logic and books by the greatest writers who ever lived. What could be more beautiful than those?

I could balance them, though. I could fill our days with meaningful work,

arts

and crafts,

music

and travel,

sports

and healthy food,

time with family

and time with friends.

Almost thirteen years later, I have graduated two children and have another with one foot out of the door. It’s time to evaluate my methodology: Have I reached my goals?

“Are you doing what you want, Sweetheart? Are you happy?”
“Yes, Mom, very.”

 

*featured photo by Gretchen Phillips*

Genevieve–is a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been Genevievehomeschooling for the past thirteen years. In her free time she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on
Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy .

Arts and Crafts Explained: Needle Felting! by Apryl

 

Needle felting is a fiber art that has been gaining popularity, and for good reason. It is fairly inexpensive to get started and not difficult to learn. Your creations are only limited by your imagination!

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The basic supplies:

1. Felting needles.  These needles are barbed and come in triangle or star shapes. Common sizes are 36, 38, and 40 gauge.  40 are the thinnest and best for finish work. The lower the number, the thicker the needle. You can also purchase “pens” that hold multiple needles. This allows for faster felting of larger surfaces, and can be more comfortable to hold. Please be aware that the needles are very sharp. Accidentally stabbing yourself is nearly unavoidable, especially at first. Keep this in mind when allowing children to take up this project. It is really the only reason I would lean towards older children doing this rather than younger ones.

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2.  Wool roving.  Roving comes in many different colors and textures. The rougher textured wool will felt more quickly and feel firmer. The finer silky roving takes longer to felt and has a softer texture. You can find everything from lower cost, mass produced roving at the larger craft stores, to beautiful hand-dyed roving from exotic breeds. I recommend using the lower cost roving at first as you learn.

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3.  Foam block. The foam block is your work surface. It allows the needle to freely stab through the wool without hitting a hard surface ( or yourself!).

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That is all you need to get started! You can purchase a starter kit like this Round and Wooly Turtles Needle Felting Kit that come with a needle, roving, a small block and instructions to make an animal. I highly recommend these as it will give you an inexpensive taste of needle felting without investing in a lot of different items. I do recommend buying an extra needle or two, because they break easily and beginners break them often.

These are the turtles my 13-year-old daughters made from the kit linked above. It was their first attempt at needle felting.

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A quick search on Pinterest or YouTube will yield a plethora of tutorials from very basic to very advanced. Check out a few and then try it yourself!

Look for future articles in this series for more advanced techniques.

 

Apryl–Baprylorn and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the country with her husband and her three daughters. After having an unfulfilling public school education herself, and struggling to find peace with the education her girls were receiving in the public school system, she made the choice to homeschool.  When they began their homeschool journey, the girls were in the third and sixth grades.  Now she is happily coaching three teenaged daughters through their high school years.

What Does Creativity Have to Do With Classical Education? by Briana Elizabeth

 

What if I told you everything?

Stratford Caldecott in his book Beauty in the Word renames the Trivium’s Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric as Remembering, Thinking, and Communicating. Or Jenny Rallens in her video The Liturgical Classroom and Virtue Formation uses Lectio, Meditatio, Compositi and talks about the idea of Compositi being ‘honey making’.

Both Communicating and Compositi are creative.

As I was thinking about these ideas and remembering Bloom’s Taxonomy, I was getting excited about creative projects I could bring into my homeschooling! I’m a creative person; I could totally think up projects for each subject that would segue well with what my kids were studying. Unit studies, lap books, crafts! But the more I thought about that, I started to wonder, is that really the type of creativity that Bloom’s Taxonomy is speaking about? Is that true Communication and Compositi?

If I make a project for my children to use with their homeschooling, who is being creative? Me? And am I dragging them through something that doesn’t add anything to their learning?

I had already done that a few times by following a few other curricula, and what I learned that no matter what the projects were, my kids forgot them. I came to the conclusion that the only person being creative in these situations was me. It was another moment for me to realize that homeschooling is not about me, what I want to do, or what I think is fun. It’s about what is best for them, how they learn, and even if writing out Latin words in Light Bright pegs on a rainy afternoon sounds like fun to me, my kids might not think so.

I had circled back to my first question: How do I foster this top tier of creativity in my children? Is this even compatible with classical home schooling? And then I thought about when I had seen it in my children. After a semester on poetry (and years of poetry copywork), one of my daughters started writing her own poetry, without any prompting from me. Another had written her own poem and made a cross-stitched picture of it. My sons loved drawing their own comic strips and I had seen what they had learned in our medieval studies making their way into the strips. Another son used what he learned in the poetry semester to write music and obtain a merit badge. All of this was totally unprompted by me.

school

What I had given them was the scaffold to be creative. I taught them the skills (rhyme and meter) and gave them the tools (hearing poetry and a deep well of ideas).

Now, how can I more purposely build a scaffold, and foster even deeper creativity? What kind of schoolwork is making the creativity for them, and what type of schoolwork is giving them the ability to create with the skills and tools they’ve learned? What type of schoolwork enables them to behold glory and represent that glory in their own medium?

Something I am going to be trying is Charlotte Mason’s Book of Centuries. I recently read one of the best books on Charlotte Mason’s practices that I have ever read, aside from Charlotte’s own series, titled  The Living Page by author Laurie Bestvater. It is a book I am going to tell everyone about. What seemed like a murky idea in Charlotte’s books that I never quite understood, Laurie has teased out with a lot of research and devotion to her task, and she writes about it with eloquence.

Why the book of Centuries, The Nature Notebook, a Commonplace Book, and a Timeline Notebook? Because they are scaffolds. Here are the tools and here are the directions, but the end product is fully up to the student. It is about what they have assimilated through their reading and learning,  and taken as their own to be expressed on paper as only they can.

As an artist, a blank canvas can be intimidating. How much easier if the art teacher tells you to draw a still life in monochromatic colors, or complimentary colors? The notebooks have rules to follow which give the child support, and parameters. Freedom to create comes with parameters.

If you do narrations with your children, you have provided the skills, and the tools, you built the scaffold, and the narration is the creativity. The picture narration your child draws is the creativity. But you have also given the scaffold. You have read a story — the child is supplying an oral narration on that story. Or the child is giving a picture narration of the story. You’re not handing them a blank page and telling them to create. You’re not creating for them, and asking them to somehow ingest that lesson as their own.

This is something that I am going to be checking myself with from now on. Have I given them the skills? The tools? Have I built the scaffold? Or have I created something for them and asked them to fill in the blanks? I need to keep reminding myself that this is not about me, this homeschooling journey is about them. My job is to build the scaffold.

 

Briana brianaElizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.

Inspiring Creativity at Our House, by Apryl

 

Inspiring creativity in our children can be intimidating for some families. Many have no idea where to begin, or believe that since they aren’t artistic or crafty themselves, that they have no way to pass creativity on to their own children.

It can be done, and should be done. It will look differently in every home, but it begins with the same idea: exposing your children to the creative side of life.

This is what it looked like in our home when our girls were small.

Outdoor free play was important. Sometimes it was making a train out of lawn chairs.  Sometimes it was filling buckets full of earthworms or cardboard cities in the back yard.

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Music was vital. We listened to all types of music, sang songs and danced around. They made noise, played on instruments, and made up songs. Growing up, they knew the sounds of Bach, the Wiggles, the Beatles, Union Station, Guns and Roses and Norah Jones.

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Our home was imagination friendly. As long as they weren’t overly destructive, or in danger, they had the freedom to play. As you can see in the photo below, we had all sorts of things accessible, even as toddlers and preschoolers. The desk and drawers were full of paper, glue, markers, scissors, paint…you name it. And they were allowed to use them. They were allowed to empty closets of blankets and pillows to make forts. They were allowed to drag baskets of books under the table to read.

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Yes, sometimes their creativity ran away with them…

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But even then, it was an opportunity to learn about personal responsibility, caring for your home, and how to clean up.

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We had toys that had no specific purpose. Simple wooden blocks that provided years of entertainment and learning, marbles and balls, nameless dolls, boxes of odds and ends for inventing; all were available for play.

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We let them take some risks, like climbing trees, and playing in creeks. Yes, they fell. Yes they bled. And oh, did they get dirty! But they made some wonderful memories, and can still recall the elaborate dramas they created in their minds as they played outside.

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They used real tools, like scissors. Yes, hair got cut occasionally. It grew back.

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Sometimes, paint got eaten. (Non-toxic, of course.)

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Sometimes it was actual food…they learned how to cook and use real kitchen appliances. A real oven was used instead of an Easy Bake.

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They even had places to go for quiet contemplation or just to be alone.

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And plenty of opportunity for complete silliness.

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Their adventures led them to all sorts of imaginary places.

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And sometimes even turned up an Oompa-Loompa.

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The point is, creativity doesn’t have to be a beautiful work of art. It is often messy and a little wild. It is simply the freedom to let your mind play.

 

Apryl–Born and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the country with her husband and her three daughters. After having an unfulfilling public school education herself,apryl and struggling to find peace with the education her girls were receiving in the public school system, she made the choice to homeschool.  When they began their homeschool journey, the girls were in the third and sixth grades.  Now she is happily coaching three teenaged daughters through their high school years.