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.

Parents are Teachers: Calling for Backup, by Apryl

 

Sometimes in the homeschooling journey, we run into subjects we cannot or do not want to teach. Sometimes our children need more interaction with the world at large. Sometimes mom just needs a small break. When these times arise, calling for backup is warranted.

8468785617_e65415c436_b

Outsourcing is an important part of homeschooling, especially as your children reach the teen years. Depending on your area, income level, and family preferences, outsourcing opportunities can look very different from family to family. I will be discussing some of the ways our family has met these needs.

Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way to expand your child’s view of the world. There are so many unique ways your family can serve others in the community. My oldest child, in particular, has been a very active volunteer.

When she was twelve, we managed to talk our vet into letting her help at his office. She was able to observe surgeries, interact with adults, and learn a bit more about the profession. This experience allowed her to realize that she really did not want to be a vet like she thought, but she also learned that she has a very strong stomach!

Her love of animals, and that iron stomach, have led her to be a volunteer at a rescue center for birds of prey. There she has learned so much and developed a great relationship with the woman who runs the center. Now she is a pro at cleaning up bird dung and handling mouse guts.

She has also volunteered at two different libraries, one that was part of a metropolitan library system and one that is a small town library. Working at a local food pantry was another volunteer position she had and she learned so much about people there.

The girls have all spent time volunteering at nursing homes. They have gone with homeschool groups, scouts, and our church and have done everything from putting on a show to doing arts and crafts projects with the patients.

All of my girls will be volunteering at a summer camp this year. They will be mentoring and teaching younger kids in a science camp.

In order to find volunteer opportunities in your area, just ask around. Don’t be afraid to ask local businesses and services if they can use help: the worst they can do is say no. You will have more luck with older children and teens than with young children, but even when they are small you can volunteer as a family.

Religious Activities

Church is a large part of our lives, and I consider the things we do there as part of our outsourcing. The kids have attended Awanas, worked in the nursery, sang in the choir, helped with events, and attended regular services. Again, they have learned things they could not pick up at home such as relating to the elderly, caring for small children and infants, meeting some of the needs of the poverty stricken, being part of a choir, and socializing with larger groups of people. They have also learned more about our faith, and grown stronger in it.

Park and Play Groups

This option will depend on how many homeschoolers there are in your area and how far you are willing to drive. Most larger metropolitan areas will have park groups. A group of this sort usually meets on a regular basis to play, go on field trips, or organize things like field day. Don’t limit these to smaller children. We were lucky enough to belong to a teen park group that met once a week just to hang out and play. On warm days we met at a large park that could handle 20+ teens and other days we would meet at various homes. The kids developed some very close friendships, and also got some much needed exercise. They often played things like zombie tag, or “everybody’s it” tag, dodge ball, Frisbee, or just ran around and had fun.

8479190468_a581b8b124_o

Groups like this also have the ability to organize group field trips, often at a discounted rate. We were able to see plays at school rates, attend an astronaut school, visit museums at school rates, take farm tours, and more.

8470119237_fe13256c0b_b

It did take us a while to find a group that we felt comfortable in. We have had the most luck with inclusive groups. While we are Christian, we have found that exclusive groups simply weren’t a good fit for our family.

Online Classes

Sometimes you need a class taught by someone else. There are many reasons for this, from a parent needing a teaching break, to the parent just not feeling comfortable in their ability to teach a subject. We are fortunate that so many classes are available online. There are paid and free options, with the paid options giving you more time with a real instructor.

Our personal experience with online courses have been with both self-directed classes such as ALEX math and Kahn Academy, and with a class that had a live instructor and certain class times. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Self-directed courses allow more flexibility in scheduling and pace. However, if you run into difficulty, it can be hard to get help. With live classes, you will have an instructor that can help the student, but you are also tied to the class schedule. We have found both types of courses to be valuable to our homeschool instruction.

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) should also be considered as part of this option. This is a rapidly growing area in which you can find self-directed courses on just about every subject you can imagine. There are both free and paid options from universities and teachers around the world. Some of the most popular MOOC providers are Coursera, EdX, and Udacity.

Co-ops

Co-ops are parent co-operatives in which parents come together to teach (or hire someone else to teach) classes to homeschooled children. Co-op styles and structures vary greatly and it is important to find one that fits your family’s needs. There are religious and secular co-ops, inclusive co-ops and co-ops that require a signed statement of faith. There are co-ops that are entirely parent taught, and there are co-ops that hire professional teachers for their classes. Some co-ops focus more on extra-curricular classes, and some are more academically focused.

We have attended three different co-ops over the years. Our first was a very small, parent taught co-op that focused on extracurricular classes. This was a good way for the kids to do some fun things a few times a month. Since it was so small, however, a little bit of drama between families made the entire co-op uncomfortable. We ended up leaving.

Our second co-op was huge. It was in a large city with a very large number of homeschoolers. It was run like a large one-day-a-week private school, and there were waiting lists to get into classes. We weren’t there for very long due to a move, but it was a good way for the kids to get a few classes in, like acting and choir, that I couldn’t do well at home.

Our third and current co-op has been a huge blessing to our family. Now that the girls are all in high school, there are some needs that I find hard to meet at home. Our current co-op is fairly large. While it is a Christian co-op, it is inclusive and does not require a statement of faith. We attend one day a week, and the kids change classes during the day much like they would at public school. Parents are required to volunteer and the classes are taught by paid teachers. The quality of the classes and teachers is very high, with many classes taught by former professors and degreed teachers of their subjects. The girls take all of their foreign language classes there, along with some very interesting electives like Ballroom Dance and Fencing.

Clubs and Sports

Most communities have various clubs and sports organizations for children. You often do not have to be part of the public school system to participate. I know our rural area has Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, basketball, soccer, softball, baseball, rowing, swimming, summer camps and more.

In some areas, you may also be able to participate in public school or private school sports teams. The laws vary from state to state. Some homeschool organizations even have their own sports teams.

Other Sources

Finally, don’t forget some of your most valuable resources: friends, family and neighbors. Grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles, neighbors and friends all have talents and abilities that they may be willing pass on to your children. My father-in-law has taught the girls about gun safety, archery, botany, and more.  A friend organized a writing club for our children, and a friend of a friend ended up being our piano teacher.  The people in your life can become wonderful mentors to your children.

8477941867_ef81a577c6_b

Most of all, don’t let the thought of being responsible for your child’s entire education intimidate you. You are essentially the director of their education, and you can find the resources you need to accomplish your goals, regardless of where your own strengths and weaknesses are.

 

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.

Memoria Press Review by Apryl: Traditional Logic I

 

We were recently given the opportunity to review the Traditional Logic I set from Memoria Press.  This set sells for $75.00 and includes a student book, an instructional DVD, a Quiz and Test book, and an answer key.

Traditional Logic I is an introduction to formal logic for grades 7 and up.  We used it with my 17-year-old Junior, and it seemed to be at a good level for her.  The text was clear, and the DVD gave an alternative method for lesson instruction.  We thought the set could stand easily on its own without the DVD, but our family doesn’t care for DVD instruction in general.  It can be used as a semester-long course if stretched out a bit, or it can be combined with Book II in the same semester.

This curriculum covers traditional, or formal, logic as laid out by Aristotle.  It does not delve into informal logic or modern logic.  From what we have seen, it seems to be a good foundation for delving deeper into the studies of the other branches of logic.

Traditional Logic is written with a Christian worldview.  While we did not find it overly preachy, a non-Christian may take issue with some of the exercises that include views on the Bible as truth.

Overall we thought Traditional Logic covers the topic very thoroughly in an easy-to-follow format.  My daughter thought it a little dry for her taste but did not find it difficult to complete.  We would recommend it to anyone looking for a logic program for a high school student or even an adult.

Be sure to read what our other reviewers had to say about this and other Memoria Press products.

I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review on the Sandbox to Socrates blog. Opinions expressed in this review are the opinions of myself or my family and do not necessarily reflect those of the Sandbox to Socrates blog. I received no compensation for this review, nor was I required to write a positive review. This disclosure is in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

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.

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!

13630562273_5bd79702cb_b

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.

13630168913_cbbbf63175_b

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.

13630496294_8c06b1c7a2_b

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!).

13630168963_581432a630_b

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.

13630562393_0fd1863d8e_b

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.

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.

13717032083_ee1c427a98_o

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.

13717014845_eaaeb2eaea_o

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.

13717398664_4015359992_o

Yes, sometimes their creativity ran away with them…

13717401314_2f50959512_o

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

13717015355_b38eed23ca_o

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.

13717002505_9225f70585_o

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.

13717009425_ac2a8791cb_o

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

13717027493_1a60e8770e_o

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

13717006515_5457994af9_o

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.

13717029173_d9eb7a475f_o

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

13717028823_10a33b4585_o

And plenty of opportunity for complete silliness.

13717397424_01c06a12a2_o

Their adventures led them to all sorts of imaginary places.

13717384464_e527c0e760_b

And sometimes even turned up an Oompa-Loompa.

13717022983_26524825e7_b

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.

 

Why Classical and Why Now? by Apryl

 

Our homeschooling adventure did not start out with Classical Education in mind. In fact, I had never even heard of Classical Education, nor did I know a thing about educational theory. I just knew that I could provide a better education than my children were receiving at school. They were in the 3rd and 6th grades when they came home to stay.

We started off, as many new homeschooling families do, with an all-in-one curriculum. Then, as I discovered the gaps in my children’s education and began to see how they learned best, we moved towards a literature-based curriculum. I began to read more about homeschooling methods and began to frequent homeschooling forums online. That is how I came across The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer.

The Well-Trained Mind put into words the thoughts I had swirling around in my head about the kind of education I wish I had had as a child. It made me realize that I wanted something better for my own children.

We began to study history in a four year cycle. Latin and Greek entered our home. Great Books were read. While I never followed The Well-Trained Mind methods exactly, our homeschool began to have a classical flavor that it didn’t have before. The girls learned how to ask questions. They became familiar with the great minds from our past. They developed critical thinking and a desire to obtain wisdom. They began to show an intellectual maturity that I did not see in many of their peers; they could ask the deep questions and have deep discussions.

13778511075_67c4be15b4_b

Since Classical Education entered our home fairly late in the game, our eclectic methods have only a strong flavor of the classical. There are things I wish I had done differently, or had learned before my children ever set foot in a public school classroom. Now, though, my thoughts are shifting away from their education, and more towards the future of education in general.

I have begun reading more about the Great Conversation, and begun to think about the studies I want to pursue at home, for myself, such as logic, and a deeper study of the classics. The developments in the public education of our youth are becoming more of a focus for me, and the ways a Classical Education could improve the ability of future generations to problem-solve are becoming more apparent. I am realizing that the failure to pass on the ideas of the great minds of the past to the potentially-great minds of the future would be tragic.

So why do I care at this point in the game, when we are so close to the end of our homeschool journey? I care because it doesn’t end with my children.  Someday they too will have choices to make about their own children’s education, and I want to be there to help them. However, the scope extends beyond my own family. There are millions of parents out there who are looking at homeschooling for the first time; I want to be able to facilitate homeschooling for those families. I want to be able to explain the benefits of a Classical Education and point them towards the resources that can help them achieve it.

Finally, I want to do it for myself. A spark ignited in my mind as a small child, lit by my father: He gave me books. They weren’t easy readers or picture books. He gave me Aesop’s Fables, Bulfinch’s Mythology, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. They were gloriously thick, hard-bound editions that were not watered down. He handed them to me with the expectation that I could and would read and understand them at the ripe old age of seven or eight. He encouraged reading in a way that was nothing like what I encountered in the public school system. It sparked that desire to learn for learning’s sake, a desire that has stayed with me far beyond my school years and I expect will be there for many years to come. I want to fan that spark into a flame and watch it spread to the next generation.

13778514893_e587c42943_b

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

― T.H. White, The Once and Future King

 

 

Apaprylryl–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.

Arts and Crafts Explained: Clay! by Apryl

 

If, as a homeschool mom, you have ever considered going beyond Play-Doh for teaching your kids a little about sculpting,  you may have noticed that there are a lot of choices out there for clay.

13330497025_bfb56069d3_z

The type and brand of clay you choose ultimately depends on the desired end product. If you just want to sculpt some objects and let them dry on their own, then you will do best with an air dry clay. If you want hard, cured sculptures but don’t want the hassle of using a kiln, then polymer clay may be what you are looking for. If you want to go all out, buy a kiln and fire your work, then natural clay is where it’s at. This post is going to explain in a little more detail the differences between these types of clay and even mention a few of the best brands.

Air Dry: 

There are a wide range of possibilities in air dry clays. Many of them aren’t even technically clay at all.

As a first step beyond Play-Doh, I would recommend Crayola Model Magic Modeling Compound. Model Magic is a fun starter sculpting medium for kids. It is easily mold-able and quickly air dries. The finished sculptures are extremely lightweight and feel kind of like Styrofoam.  It is paintable, and we have also had success coloring the clay using markers.

Not to be confused with Model Magic, Crayola Air Dry Clay is another option. It is a bit more dense than model magic, and will take longer to dry. It is closer in texture to traditional clay. After drying it can be somewhat brittle and is prone to cracking. This medium can also be painted.

AMACO Air Dry Clay is a natural clay that can be air dried or kiln fired. If left to air dry, the pieces will be very fragile. There is the tendency to shrink and crack when air dried, as well. This clay can be used for pottery or for sculpting and handles just like any other natural clay. This can be a good transition for working with kiln fired sculptures.

Polymer clay:

Polymer clay is a plastic based product that is heat cured. This clay will stay pliable until it is baked. Since it is a PVC product, it is recommended that you use a dedicated toaster oven to cure the projects in. Undesirable fumes can linger in your oven after baking and can permeate any food cooked in it afterwards. You can usually pick up a used toaster oven for a few dollars at a your local thrift store or garage sale.

I recommend using the Sculpey III Polymer Clay brand if possible, as it is the easiest to work with. Other brands will take more conditioning before use. (Conditioning is the act of rolling out and gradually warming the clay to make it more pliable.) A quick way to condition polymer clay is by using a pasta rolling machine. Again, use one that is dedicated to use with clay and will not be used for food again. Craft stores also sell them as clay conditioning machines, but they are really the same thing.

Polymer clay can be painted, and it also comes in a wide variety of colors.  (Paint AFTER heat curing!)

Natural Clay:

There are many brands and varieties of natural clays, but they all require kiln firing which is beyond the scope of this article. If you want to work with kiln fired clay, try looking for pottery classes in your community.

Tools:

To begin sculpting, all you really need is some clay and your hands. However, there are many tools available that can add to your enjoyment of the process.

A starter set like this is a good place to begin: Sculpt Pro 11 Piece Pottery and Sculpting Art Tool Set. These tools allow you to easily cut away, smooth, pierce and shape your sculpting projects.

The best way to get started is to choose your desired type of clay and just begin to play.  Practice making balls, ropes (or snakes), coils, and other shapes. Use old cookie cutters or press things into the clay to make different textures. Aluminum foil, floral wire and other objects can make great armatures (foundations) to build your sculptures on. Be sure to use non-flammable/non-melting armatures for any clay that will be heat cured.

Most importantly, have fun!

 

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.

The Science of Color, by Apryl

Art and Science Collide

 

To understand color, first we must understand how we see it. Our eye is much like a camera. It contains a lens that focuses the light, an iris (aperture) that controls how much light is let into the eye through the pupil, and the retina (the film or the image sensor). The retina lines the inside of the eye and receives the light that comes in through the pupil. It is made up of photosensitive cells called rods and cones. The cones are the cells that allow us to see color. Cones vary in their response to light, with over half responding most strongly to red light, a third responding most strongly to green, and a very small percentage responding most strongly to blue.

When light enters the eye, the retina and its combination of photosensitive cells detect the light waves which vary in length depending on the color. Information that the cells detect is then passed through the optic nerve to the brain, where it is then perceived as color.

With only three different types of color receptors, you may wonder how we can see such a wide range of colors! When light enters the eye, it will stimulate different receptors at the same time. All the colors we see are simply combinations of three primary colors. For example, if you see magenta, then the lightwaves are stimulating red and blue receptors, but not green. When all of the cones are stimulated equally, we perceive white.

How do light waves mix to form colors? Light is made of waves of energy that are grouped together in a spectrum. Our eyes can only see a portion of the light spectrum. At the shorter end of the visible spectrum, the light waves are perceived as blue. At the longer end of the visible spectrum the light waves are perceived as red. Green is in the middle, and all other colors we perceive fall in between. Light waves that fall outside of the visible spectrum are not visible by the naked eye, but may become visible with aids such as night vision goggles or x-ray machines.

When mixing colored light, you are essentially starting with darkness, or the absence of light, and then adding in light that falls along the visible spectrum. For example, green light plus blue light gives you cyan. All three primary colors of light mixed together will give you white. This is called the additive color system, and this is how all image capture devices (such as cameras, video, etc.) handle color.

When creating artwork, it is important to know how the light spectrum works, and how the additive color system used in controlling light color differs from the subtractive color system that is used in mixing pigments for paint and ink.

Objects, photographs, and artwork all express color by absorbing some light wavelengths and reflecting back others. For example, a white sheet of paper appears white because it is reflecting back the entire visible spectrum of light waves. A sheet of black paper appears black because it is absorbing the entire spectrum. To illustrate the example further, picture a white sheet of paper. It is currently reflecting back all the light waves. When you add a circle of cyan paint, it subtracts the cyan light wave from what it is reflecting back to you, essentially absorbing the cyan light wave. The eye perceives this and interprets it as a cyan colored dot. If you layer a yellow dot directly over the cyan dot, it is subtracting cyan and yellow from the light waves that are reflected, and your eye perceives green. In theory, overlaying the three primary pigments cyan, yellow and magenta would absorb the entire spectrum of light waves and you would perceive black.

Often, when mixing paints, the colors are not pure and the results are muddy. This is why when mixing paints or inks, pure pigments are needed to get accurate results. Also, since light itself is color, your light source will change how different paints and inks are perceived.

Try your hand at mixing colors in this virtual color mixing lab:  http://sciencenetlinks.com/tools/mixing-primary-colors/

Here is a beautifully designed App from the Exploratorium called Color Uncovered  https://www.exploratorium.edu/explore/apps/color-uncovered

References:

O’Haver, T. (2001, January). In Living Color. Retrieved February 19, 2014, from Inform.umd: http://www.inform.umd.edu/MCTP/Courses/ColorLesson/

Pappas, S. (2010, April 29). How Do We See in Color. Retrieved February 19, 2014, from livescience: http://www.livescience.com/32559-why-do-we-see-in-color.html

unknown. (n.d.). Understanding Color. Retrieved from RGB World: http://www.rgbworld.com/color.html

Apryl–Born and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the country aprylwith 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.

Ten Great FREE Science Apps! by Apryl

Homeschooling With Technology

 

Technology is changing and allowing educational opportunities like never before. The world is literally at our fingertips! If you are able, a great way to learn through this technology is through the use of apps on a tablet.

Below I have collected some of my favorite FREE science apps for the iPad. Some of them may also be available for Android based tablets. None of these apps require purchase for use. The final app does offer more to play with for a purchase, but it is worthwhile in the free mode as well.

Many, many more apps are available; you just have to take the time to search them out.

1.  WWF Together app (FREE)

12864786783_3bd74d777e_q

This is a beautiful app that explores the life and habitat of several different animals in an interactive format. While it’s clear this is a plea for donations, it is still an app worth downloading.

2.  Hopscotch Coding (FREE)

12865263964_c6ca264c82_q

This is a fun, colorful app that introduces children to coding. As a bonus, teachers can sign up for an email newsletter about teaching with Hopscotch. And they have a blog!

3.  Shout! Science (FREE)

12864878615_13048cdbaa_o

This pretty little app offers up three scientist biographies in an interactive format. Learn about Anton Van Leeuwenhoek & Microbes, Maria Sibylla Merian & the Lives of Insects, and James Hutton & the Theory of the Earth!

Biointeractive has several apps that are great for high school science:

4.  Bacterical ID Virtual Lab (FREE)

12865302874_ecce693a36_q

Learn how scientists obtain DNA sequences from bacteria to identify them. Also find a very interesting virtual lab with a lot of information.

5.  Click and Learn (FREE)

12864956543_a120e83d14_q

This app is a hidden gem with over 40 presentations on Geology and Biology. The presentations are well done, interactive, and include teaching notes.

6.  Earth Viewer (FREE)

12864991853_827070439d_q

This app is an interactive globe that allows students to explore geographic time periods and the changes of the earth.

7.  American Museum of Natural History Apps (FREE)

12865357744_5b12ce8daa_m

AMNH offers several beautiful apps for topics ranging from Space to Dinosaurs!

8.  NASA apps (FREE)

12864914825_a46ed8d1ab_o

NASA offers a full page of various apps covering aeronautical and space topics.

9.  ROBOTS app (FREE)

12864982755_0dd2d018a6_q

This is a very cool app that allows to you explore videos, and interact with and view photos of over 151 robots.  You can also learn how to get started in robotics.

10.  Nuclear (FREE)

12864984905_f04485070c_q

This app allows you to manipulate atoms to form elements.  The first 54 elements are free.

BONUS! Elements 4D (FREE)

13002801453_2df31316ac_q

Part educational story and part game, the Elements 4D app offers a new, fun way to experience augmented reality and learn about real-life chemistry.

AprylaprylBorn 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.

Science At Our House: Elementary Through Graduation, by Apryl

Teaching Science at Home

 

As a family, we tend to really enjoy science. We watch science documentaries. We love shows like How It’s Made and MythBusters. We get excited about trips to science museums. Our dinner time is often filled with discussions about science and technology. So what does science in our homeschool look like?

8471229730_21d99802ca_z

Over the years, my methods for teaching science have shifted according to the needs of my children. During the elementary school years, our studies were very relaxed and exploration based. We watched the Science Channel and checked out books by the basketful from the science section at the library. The girls did some notebooking and we also did a lot of hands-on projects. We picked up a curriculum occasionally, but usually drifted back into the informal science we loved.

10019441145_46ddc10fca_z

As we moved into the middle school years, we started using more formal curriculum. I was enticed by a textbook science program for my oldest, but looking back, I think it was too soon and too dry. We limped through science in middle school for her, but by the time the younger two hit that age I had a better idea of what we needed for science. For them we chose more historical science texts like the Joy of Science series, did some hands on experiments, and filled the last year with Rainbow Science with labs. We also did many of the labs with a fellow homeschooler.

8477943221_438385d511_z

High school science has presented us with a lot of choices and opportunities.  My oldest was able to spend a year working on a Anatomy and Physiology course that I put together myself. She also studied Biology at home, and is currently working through Chemistry while doing labs with another homeschool family. And while this isn’t typical, she has spent several years volunteering at a raptor rescue center learning about the science of veterinary care for birds through hands-on experience. My younger two are taking Biology I at co-op. This has been a great experience for them, and has pushed their abilities. Their teacher is a former Biology professor and hasn’t taken it easy on them! They have also benefited from learning to take notes from her lectures and forming study groups.

I am not sure what next year will bring for our family in the subject of science, but here are our tentative plans: My oldest, who will be a senior, technically doesn’t need another science credit for graduation but is thinking about taking Astronomy.  She will be taking a portion of her classes at the community college as a dual credit student, so her science choice may change. One of my soon-to-be 10th graders is planning on taking Astronomy next year as well, and we will make sure there are plenty of labs to make it credit worthy.  My other 10th grader is planning on taking a high school Forensic Science course next year at co-op. She is extremely interested in the field and I think this will be a good intro for her.

The nice thing I have discovered about high school science at home is the opportunity you have to tailor it to the interests of your child.  Think beyond the typical high school science classes and explore what is out there in the field. Give your child the opportunity to specialize in a branch of science if she has a passion for it. Explore the options in your community for your child; you may be surprised at what is available. Seek out volunteer opportunities and mentors. This will take some leg work (and in my case a lot of driving) but the rewards are worth it.

Apryl–Born and raised in Tennessee, Apryl is a southern girl at heart.  She lives out in the aprylcountry 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.