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Toddler School: Tuesday

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

I love books. I really do – I only read about one adult novel a year at this stage of my life, but at most other stages of my life, you could find me with my nose buried in a story. I love all kinds of books, but a truly beautiful kid’s book has a special place in my heart. I remember the first time I saw Tuesday, David Wiesner’s gorgeous dreamy picture book. I was in high school, and one of the girls in my art class brought it in for some reason. I remember flipping through the book, just in awe of the lovely story I was looking at. I’m not sure if the books I read as a young child simply didn’t bring out that sense of wonder in me, but this was the first time I remember seeing a children’s book and just simply adoring it. It’s always had a special place in my heart, and once I had kids, I couldn’t wait until they were old enough to share it with them. I decided to do a week of Toddler School with Dexter based on Tuesday.

Every morning for the week of Toddler School, we read the book we’re working on and incorporate other related books and projects into our day.

The activities we did with Tuesday were:

Frog Puzzles

Frog Peg Board

Frog Bath

Frog Hats

Leap Frog

Frog Books

Frog Mat Games

Frog Bubble Print

Frog Oriental Trading Crafts

Frog Plate Craft

Frog Coloring

Build a Frog Pond

Frog Puzzles 

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

I drew and colored a frog picture on some card stock. The first day we did it, we started with two pieces – a top and bottom. Then we worked into three and four pieces. I also randomly have this puzzle set of 3-5 piece puzzles of the alphabet, and F is frog, so we worked on that one too.

Frog Peg Board

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Because Dex is a little young for the life cycle of a frog which seems to really be all that’s out there as far as frog-based projects and activities go, we pulled a lot from around the house. This amazing peg board set my sister gave us for Christmas had a frog, so out it came for some color matching.

Frog Bath

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

I belong to a couple homeschool swap groups on Facebook, and a lady I know recently started hosting foam bath swaps. I’d never heard of using them in a bath before, but it’s kind of genius. All craft stores sell foam sheets by the package, and you simply cut a few pieces into whatever shapes you need – holiday themes, etc. – toss them in the bath and, voila! New bath toys! We tossed in a blue bath bomb and made a pond bath, and this was absolutely Dexter’s favorite activity we did. I just cut out some lily pad shapes and some flowers, and he played in it until the water went cold and kept asking to have a pond bath the rest of the week. We’re absolutely incorporating more foam bath activities into our themed weeks!

Frog Hats

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Same foam sheets + glue dots + a headband = a super easy craft for a little. These were completely necessary for our game of leap frog that followed.

Frog Books

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

I brought out all the other frog books we had, and we read through these daily.

Frog Mat Games

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Someone mentioned the Mailbox had a bunch of $3 books in their closeout section, and I picked up a preschool mat book. We used this a lot this week – there were a couple different frog mats in the set (everything is pre laminated – it’s kind of an awesome $3). Because Dex is still a little young for board games, he decided these were his board games, and we played with these like crazy.

Frog Bubble Print

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

I love a bubble wrap print for a little – it’s fun to paint, and it gets a pretty awesome looking print, even when you just love making brown.

Frog Oriental Trading Crafts

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

The homeschool swap group I belong to does an Oriental Trading Co. mystery grab bag – and we had a few frog crafts in our Spring box so we rocked those out. I can’t begin to explain how much I appreciate getting cheap crafts without having to purchase a dozen. There are also some Oriental Trading Co. Co-ops on Facebook which allow you to vote on and purchase exactly the items you want by having a large group getting together to buy in bulk. Huge win:)

Frog Plate Craft

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Frog Coloring

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Build a Frog Pond

So, this was probably our big win for the week. We buy rolls of seamless paper (they are 9 foot wide paper used for photography backdrops) pretty often (you can get them from any photography supply store or amazon), and I always get a white roll for us to use for large-scale craft projects. We decided to make a large pond for the kids to play with. We started by taping a large section of the seamless to the floor and busted out the green and blue fingerprints.

Every time we do a large finger/body painting, it’s a pretty epic experience for the kids. This was Arlo’s first time being about to walk around while painting, and they all had a blast. As a head’s up – this project is NOT for the neat freaks. The kids get covered head to toe and in the excitement of making an enormous mess, inevitably walk off the paper, leaving little paint footprints around the room. If you’re an easily stressed out person, I definitely would not attempt this. Similarly, we only do this when there are enough parents to corral anyone too small to follow the “stay on the paper” instructions (aka two littles, two parents = a go), and there is always the NO RUNNING rule in place, because even just walking, the paint is slippery, and the kids will fall. That said, we have an absolute blast every time we do large-scale finger painting:)

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

After we built the pond, we cut out some rock shapes, lily pad shapes, and I cut out some flowers for the boys to curl the petals of for the pond. I had high ambitions here – we were going to do some cling wrap painting on the rocks for texture, but the boys wanted to play in the pond the minute it was dry, and there was no chance they were going to be interested in waiting another hour for the rocks to dry, as well, so we jumped in the pond, swam around with our friends and played frog.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

 

richandalyssa@nickelcitystudios.com - Okay, I just saw this because I’m awful! We’re out the door today, but I’ll email you tomorrow :)

Caitlin Szalkowski - It’s amazing that you’re blogging about this, Alyssa! I read through all of them this at about 4 AM while I was up with the baby, ha. And I learned things! It is so interesting to see what homeschooling is like from the parent’s perspective (especially outside of the “doing it for religious reasons” context). I’m curious to know how you guys arrived at the decision to homeschool Murph and what, if any, other options you considered or explored. We bought a house in the city and I don’t know anything other than living within city limits, but BPS are hardly recognizable from when I was a student. So we’ve already started the conversation about what we’ll do for school when the time comes (sooner than we realize I’m sure). Homeschooling is something that has crossed my mind, especially, honestly, after knowing that it was something you guys did and thus was not just a “religious thing”. Anyway, keep up the amazing work,
I’ll be reading along for sure!

Intro to Animation: Mini Unit Study

animation

I was talking to a friend of mine last night, and I realized this is our third year homeschooling, and I’m only beginning to get our “school” the way I want it. The first two years, I was so terrified of Murph falling behind, that I felt obligated to have curricula for everything. And lots of it. Seriously, I have books upon books of programs we tried out that didn’t suit us. Our first year was an all-in-one which I desperately wanted to work, but it dawned on me that as nice as a boxed curriculum would be, none of it would ever be right.

I can definitely appreciate the curriculum may have been perfect for the author or the author’s child or classroom, but it’s usually filled with literature that bores Murph to tears or science lessons we’ve already covered or math that’s well below Murph or spelling lists above him. It’ll never be right, even if it’s easy – and there’s a certain reassurance that it’s “up to code.” So, our second year was filled with individual subject’s collected from here or there. But we found that schooling at home was simply not the way Murphy learns best.

I think we’re in a better place, but I’m still not where I want to be – I have a bad habit of planning lessons that last too long and lose interest. It feels like if we spend more than a day or two on a topic, the project sits on the kitchen table, unfinished, because our interests are on to something new. But what I would like, eventually, for this site, is to create a bunch of unit studies, in mini-form. Lessons that cover a topic with lots of hands-on projects, easily doable in a day or two. Lessons I can pull for the littles when they’re older or any other homeschool families who need a substitute teacher day. Lessons that are more age and interest appropriate for Murph, since lap books and coloring pages may as well be cursive writing worksheets (a.k.a. what he gets threatened with when he’s misbehaving. Seriously, though, I need to buy whoever invented cursive writing sheets a drink as a thank you for being our bad cop, because they really may be the worst thing on the planet).

So, I’d like to present our first mini unit study: Intro to Animation. Now this does focus a bit on Walt Disney as opposed to Warner Bros., Studio Ghibli or any other major contributors to animation simply because this lesson is prep work for an upcoming vacation.:)I’ll probably do a second unit study with more of the studios and more actual animation projects later – this focuses more on the history that lead to animation and early contributions.

 

Intro to Animation

Magic Lantern

Thaumatrope

Phenakistoscope

Cartoon Drawing

Zoetrope

Kineograph

Watch Animation Clips

 

Intro to Animation

So, I created the following .pdf with some information – apologies for any typos. I haven’t slept through the night in three years, and I typed it in photoshop, so there’s no spell check there. Anyway, we started reading through it and paused and built the projects below as we went through.  pdf: intro_animation

 

Magic Lantern

This simply shows the idea behind the Magic Lantern – images on glass with rudimentary movement by having two plates of glass together, one with the “moving” piece manually manipulated. This also helped us with the concept behind cel animation (just briefly mentioned in the .pdf)

Instructions: Draw a picture on parchment paper. On a separate piece, draw the “moving” piece. Place together and show movement.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

 

Thaumatrope

Instructions: Using a circle cutter, punch or simply by tracing and cutting out a circle from card stock, draw a picture on either side of the circle – both facing up if you flip the paper over vertically. We made this mistake and had an upside down bird and an upside down heart on our first attempts. So, if you hold it up in the air, one side will be drawn upright and the other will be upside down – that you want to merge together. Also realize both pictures need to be very close to the center of the circle. Our heart was too high up which, when spun, put it just about between the man’s legs. Coupled with it being an upside down red heart… well, a seven year old definitely knows what it looks like when Mom bursts out laughing. Cut holes in the sides and tie strings. With the string between your fingers, rotate it as quickly as possible to see the images merge together.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Phenakistoscope

Instructions: We used this Howcast tutorial to make our phenakistoscope. We drew a picture of a fish and cut it out as a template for each frame to make things a bit easier.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Cartoon Drawing

Instructions: I pulled four “how to draw” tutorials from Pinterest/google, and we practiced a panda, a shark, Mickey Mouse and Jake. I pulled the panda and shark because they were pretty easy, and I probably should’ve just pulled four Adventure Time characters because he was super stoked to learn how to draw Jake and really couldn’t have cared less about the panda and shark.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Zoetrope

Instructions: We used this Howcast tutorial – though instead of using a marble, we stuck another push pin through the bottom into a pencil. It was was way easier. In hindsight, the phenakistoscope and this project were so similar, we should’ve only done one of the two.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios© 2013 Nickel City Studios© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Kineograph

Instructions: Otherwise known as a flip book. I wised up on this one since our drawing skills aren’t quite at animator level yet (I had to keep explaining for the zoetrope and phenakistoscope why we couldn’t animate a tennis match or a wizard battle), and we used a ball stamp I picked up at Party City for $.25 a while back and did a ball bouncing around the book. It was definitely the win since it took the frustration for not having the drawings exactly the way he wanted away and made the project more fun for him.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Watch Animation Clips

Then we finished our mini unit watching our YouTube History of Animation playlist to follow along with some of the animation milestones noted in the .pdf.  There’s also, randomly, “Let it Go” from Frozen. Because, uh, it’s the most recent CGI film, and not at all because Mom likes singing along to it. If you can watch it through a device on your television, I’d recommend it instead of crowding the computer – even without watching the full New Gulliver film, it’s a good hour+. Also, as a head’s up – you’ll need to skip ahead to about 17 minutes into the New Gulliver film to see the stop motion puppetry.

And the more I write in this blog post, the more I realize there is definitely going to have to be a sequel mini unit on stop motion and CGI. They just didn’t get the love here in this one:)

Happy New Year!

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

Chinese New Year, that is! I’ve been doing a lot of upcoming lesson planning, so sadly, photos went out the window this week as Murph was doing a lot of independent work while I researched. However, we took a break from our usual routine to do a mini unit study on China and Chinese New Year! One of our epic local homeschool moms planned a Chinese New Year party to start the week off. We got together at a local restaurant, and she had crafts (the black scratch lantern and horse craft, above) and treats for the kids, and we continued the study at home. There was a lot we did this week that didn’t get photographed, but some of the things we did were:

Chinese Inspired Art

Chinese Lantern

Paper Fan

Wood Scroll

Watercolor Landscape Scroll

Learned Our Names in Chinese

Learned Chinese Folktales

Made Magic Scratch Vases

Sticker Scenes

Country Study Worksheet

Brush Painting

Evan-Moor History Pockets Ancient China

Coloring Pages

Made Noodles

Made Pork Buns

 

Chinese Inspired Art

This was one of my favorite things we did this week, a potato print/watercolor based on this art.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

 

Chinese Lantern

The Chinese paper lantern (see image at the top of the page) has instructions pretty much everywhere on the internet, as it’s a pretty common craft project when working on China with younger grades. But it’s super easy, fold a red piece of construction paper in half, lengthwise, cut in 1″ increments from the fold to 1″ below the top of the paper, unfold, wrap, tape, decorate!

 

Paper Fan

Another super easy project (see image at the top of the page) we didn’t photograph as it’s another pretty common one – take an 18″ piece of construction paper, draw a picture on the top third, flip it over and continue the artwork on the (now that you’ve flipped it) top third. Accordion fold, bend in half and tape.

 

Wood Scroll

We learned all about inventions and contributions from China, as well as a bit of calligraphy. Murph built a wooden scroll and tried his hands at the boys’ names (google). I notched each of the craft sticks with scissors so the string would have a place to hold and tied knots between each stick, and it’s held together pretty well through a decent amount of handling.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

 

Watercolor Landscape Scroll

We used our fantastic watercolor crayons to do this lovely project from Art is Basic.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

 

Learned Our Names in Chinese

I suppose this is a bit out of order, since Murph was signing his art at the top of the page with his name in Chinese, but a quick google search found a ton of English names written in Chinese. Even though Arlo, Dexter and Murph were all represented, I have no idea what the characters mean, so ideally, I’m not posting a blog of Murph writing something obscene all over his art:)But I printed out the names, and Murph practiced writing his (see image at the top of the page). He’s got whatever name he’s writing down pat (seriously, though, please don’t let it be something horribly offensive!).

 

Learned Chinese Folktales

At the beginning of the year, Scholastic does a 50 books for $50 deal, which is a fun grab box of books. We got this small book of three folktales from China (see image at the top of the page) in our box this year, so we read them and reviewed folktales and fairytales.

 

Made Magic Scratch Vases

This was another lesson borrowed from the internet from arte a scuola. This probably took the most time out of any of our projects this week (aside from our pork buns), as it took a really long time to solidly color our paper, but then we needed a good four or five coats of paint before the crayon was remotely hidden. But Murph was pretty stoked to discover we could create our own Magic Scratch paper.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

 

Sticker Scenes

(see image at the top of the page) I got these off Oriental Trading – nothing terribly exciting or educational, but it was something the babies could participate in, as well.

 

Country Study Worksheet

(see image at the top of the page) I have a country study worksheet I created for independent research. Which is pretty handy for those moments when the babies can’t go without my attention any longer:)

 

Brush Painting

So, I’ve had this brush painting kit for a good seven years, and it was finally the time to bust it out! Murphy really took to it, and I thought pretty much killed this project!

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

 

Evan-Moor History Pockets Ancient China

The puppets, series of lanterns, postcard and folding dragon puppet (see image at the top of the page) all came from our Ancient China pocket. Not my favorite book, but I had it so we did it:)

 

Coloring Pages

(see image at the top of the page)

 

Made Noodles

We used this recipe to make our own noodles. They were kind of terrible (I’m pretty confident it was my error – it was our first attempt at noodles), but Murph loved them. I think mostly because he made them.

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

 

Made Pork Buns

Aaaand, I can’t find the recipe again anywhere, but these were amazing and are definitely going in our rotation. They were off the counter so fast there’s no photographic evidence they existed at all, but Murph made them and did fantastic.

 

Of course, we couldn’t let actual Chinese New Year go by without another mini-party, so we ate our noodles, shot off some poppers left over from non-Chinese New Year and watched Kung Fu Panda. And next year, we’re definitely getting our friends together and making a full-sized dragon costume!

© 2013 Nickel City Studios

miriam paternoster - Hi! Thanks for sharing my experience about the Ming vases on my web site! You are doing an amazing work! :)