Sunday, April 19, 2015

How Can Picture Books + Crafts Inspire Kindess and Service?

This month is dedicated the the Holy Spirit.  Undoubtedly, one of the ways the Spirit works in and through each of us is through acts of kindness.  So today, I thought I would share about the Creative Girls Service Club, a club my daughter began in January for the sisters of boys that are in her big brother's newly formed Duct Tape Battle Club, which has paired picture books with creative craft making to inspire service and kindness.

The Creative Girls Service Club meets monthly and includes anywhere from 7-20 girls, from tots to teens, at each meeting. Club meetings are rather informal and follow a simple format.  The girls gather to:

  • pray.
  • share a story.
  • enjoy a craft connected to charity, service or random acts of kindness.
  • free time to chat and play.

Crafting stone necklaces...

To kick the club off, my daughter planned activities for the first few meetings, and I helped her find corresponding picture books.  So far, meetings have unfolded with four successful crafts!

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Kindness Crowns

At the first meeting, we shared a special picture book that Nina received some years ago as a gift, I'd Be Your Princess: A Royal tale of Godly Character.  (I believe this sweet book is out-of-print now, but used copies can be found at Amazon for a penny right now!) 

Then, the girls brainstormed ways that they could show virtues, much like the girl in the storyThen, they selected homemade and pre-cut paper crowns to craft...

Once they'd selected which type of crown they wanted to make, per Nina's idea, they drew images or wrote phrases, on the inside points, which described kindnesses and services they wanted to extend to others.  Then, they decorated their crowns.

Nina's idea was that the girls could take their crowns home and as they completed each act of kindness or service, they could fold the points down or place gem stickers on them

Prayer Pockets

At the girl's second meeting, they picked between reading Katy No-Pocket...

...and A Pocket for Corduroy.

Then, they chatted about virtues and kindnesses displayed by the characters in the books before setting to work sewing their own pocket designs made from the arms and legs of upcycled kids' clothing, ribbons, yarn and bric a brac.

The idea was that they could:

  • fill the pocket with the names of people they wanted to pray for and pray for those people regularly.

  • fill the pocket with a note of thanks, prayer or love and give it to someone.

  • fill the pocket with tiny treats to give to someone.

The girls loved this project!

Handprint Lilies

For the girls' third meeting, Nina intended to share one of our favorite Easter season books, The Parable of the Lily, but we could not find our copy of it and the local library copy was already checked out.

So, instead, we brought a print out of a story we found online called The White Lily and our copy of  Small Acts of Kindness, which has nothing to do with lilies and which we typically read closer to the Christmas season, but also which we felt was apropos because our lily project was all about literally sharing small acts of kindness.

The project was to make handprint lilies.

Basically, the girls traced their hands to make the petals of lilies and then attached them to chenille strip stems or to pencils, much like my children and their friends had done previously when making paper plate lilies.

After this, the girls chose to make copywork sheets of a poem I had adapted from one I had found on DLTK or used laminated tags of the poem that another mom had brought for us.  They attached these to their lilies with ribbon and, later, gave the lilies away to elderly neighbors, loved ones or friends they visit in nursing homes.

Off to deliver lilies to elderly neighbors.

The poem read:

This isn't just a lily.
As you can plainly see,
I made it with my hands,
which God made a part of me.
It comes with prayers and love,
especially to say:
May light and love bloom for you
on this Easter day!

Smile-Inducing Stone Art

For our fourth meeting, we were considering reading You Are Special, and, then, chatting about how we are all beautiful and special in God's eyes, before making foam eye glass cases to donate to nursing homes and vision-based charities.  

However, the mom who was to bring the majority of the supplies ended up having sickness hit her home.  So, with inspiration from a picture a friend had taken on a recent hike, we made  a quick switch of our plans and decided to do stone art instead.

At the last minute, we had hoped to grab a copy of
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble from the library to share and chat about, perhaps focusing on how relationships and family are more important than material possessions, but we were unable to do so.  So, this meeting was story-free and my own children and I read the book afterward.

Since it was a beautiful day, the girls worked outside.

Using Sharpies, glue, googly eyes, yarn, etc., plus their own imaginations, they created rock art.

Our idea was that after club, the girls might do one of three things with their creations:

  • Write people's names on them and use the stone art to remind them to pray for these people.
  • Gift their art to someone they love but are often separated from, so the person could keep the stone close as a smile-inducing reminder of a loved one.  For example, a parent could use the rock as a paper weight on a desk at work or an elderly relative could put a cheerful rock on a bedside or windowpane. 
  • Leave the rock along a trail with a collection of others to bring a smile to a hiker.

My daughter, in particular, enjoyed this activity and has continued to add to her stone art collection, which she is using mostly for prayer.

Stories, Crafts and Service 
The girls in our club look forward to continuing to enjoy more time together sharing stories and crafts that can relate to service.  We already know what we are doing at our next meeting, but would love your ideas for future ones.  So, if you have one, please do share.

We hope some of the simple things we have done so far inspire you and yours to enjoy stories, crafts and service and welcome your suggestions!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

One Resource that Will Help You Enjoy Art Anywhere {A Review}

Do you want an easy-to-implement art program that you can pick up and go almost anywhere with?  We've found just such a resource with Early Elementary K-3, Book 2: Stories of Artists and Their Art by ARTistic Pursuits!

Last year, we fell in love with ARTistic Pursuits' open-and-go resource: Book 1: Introduction to the Visual Arts.    In fact, I was so impressed by ARTistic Pursuits' fun, easy-to-implement approach that I have since found myself recommending it to homeschooler after homeschooler, and even some traditionally schooled friends.  

Last Year
Last Year

Why I Love ARTistic Pursuits

Image Credit: ARTistic Pursuits

ARTistic Pursuits comprehensive books blend art appreciation, history, and techniques together into one all-in-one art curriculum.  Each book on the ARTistic Pursuits Book List is targeted to a different age range and, together, provide an art program that spans from preschool through high school and beyond.  For in our family's experience, even the books meant for young children can be enjoyed by adults, too!

Each book in the collection encourage students to observe and explore through experimenting with such things as:

  • drawing 
  • mixed media
  • painting
  • pastels
  • printmaking
  • sculpting

...and more.  They also, as I have already mentioned, include art appreciation and art history.  What more could anyone want?

Stories of Artists and Their Art in a Nutshell

ARTistic Pursuits Review

Stories of Artists and Their Art has been around since 2003 and is in its third, expanded and revised printing. Its opening pages contain parent/teaching information in the form of a materials list and tips on teaching observational skills.

Then, the 36 lessons in the book start with Cimabue, an artist from the Gothic period and progress through Millet, an artist from the Realist Period.  Units of work include:

  • stories about specific artists that can be enjoyed as read togethers
  • art appreciation pages with full color reproductions of famous artworks
  • project ideas that use a variety of media and connect to artist biographies and reproductions
  • full color examples of art works created by other children
  • special projects, such as creating a color wheel
  • technique tips

The book concludes with a complete bibliography for further research, study and exploration.
How We Used Stories of Artists and Their Art

When our review copy of
Stories of Artists and Their Art came in, I immediately turned to the handy materials list page to see what supplies we already had on hand and what I needed to use discount coupons at our local art supply store to pick up.  

Shortly thereafter, the children began selecting which readings and projects we wanted to experience first.  For while the book is organized into 36 consecutive lessons to take students through an entire year's worth of art curriculum, our family prefers to pick and choose which lessons interest us on a given day.

Typically, we began the lessons we chose by gathering supplies and then reading (or re-reading) the corresponding artist biography together.  

I loved the way these biographies were preceded by introductions written to draw children in and connect them immediately to the artist to be studied.  For example, one introduction said:

What kind of job do you dream of having when you grew up?  Anguissola may have dreamed that she would travel to another county to work for a queen.  That is just what she did all because of her love for painting.

From there, we went on to read the clear project information and instructions and began creating our own works.

Some of our favorite experiences were:

... having "girl time" when, upon the suggestions included in project 1, my daughter and I went for a walk to look for inspiration and then experimented with watercolor paints.

...when we brought some simple supplies and the book to a friend's house to share a project together.  The mixed media collages from Project 13 ended up taking new directions as toddlers to preteens enjoyed art together.

...when we gathered as a family around the kitchen table to read about Giotti, play with expressions (since Giotti was "well known for his skill panting people with expressions and emotions") and, then, enjoy creating scratch art together as described in Project 3.

Often, we found ourselves inside or outside learning about art history, appreciating great works and experimenting with specific techniques!

Final Thoughts

Obviously, I love ARTistic Pursuits and am thrilled to have added Early Elementary K-3, Book 2: Stories of Artists and Their Art to our homeschool endeavors this year!  Among the things I most appreciate about the curriculum are:
  • how thorough it is!  As I move through it with my children, we all learn more about artists, art history and art technique!
  • how open-ended the projects are.  The children learn and experiment with techniques but never come out with "cookie cutter" art.
  • how portable it is.  More than once, I have simply grabbed the book and a few supplies and been able to take art outside or to a friend's home.
  • how easy connect to other learning it is.  The book focuses on Gothic, Renaissance and 18th Century Academic Art, making it easy to tie into history studies.  It also includes open-ended projects which can be adapted to connect to almost anything you are studying.

As for the kids, when I asked them for their thoughts about the book, my seven-year-old immediately shouted with delight, "I LOVED the scratch art!" 

My nine-year-old added, "I like learning about the artists."

My four-year-old concluded with, "I like doing all the art and artists."

And, then, my seven- and four-year-olds went and grabbed supplies to do a scratch art reprise.  

I would say their enthusiasm to revisit a lesson sums it up: Early Elementary K-3, Book 2: Stories of Artists and Their Art by ARTistic Pursuits is a complete art program with high appeal that inspires kids and can be used almost anywhere as long as you have a few materials handy!

Find Out More

ARTistic Pursuits Review

See how 100 Schoolhouse Review Crew families implemented pre-k through high school art lessons with ARTistic pursuits.

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Crew Disclaimer

What You Might Leave Outside to Inspire Creativity and Fun

Loose parts!

Natural objects.  Random plastic ones.  Anything without a defined play purpose or even objects that have typical uses, but that can be used for other things.  That is what I like to keep on hand in our yard, and, oh, the creativity, imagination and fun that unfolds!

Just the other day, yet another example of loose parts at play developed right outside my front door.

The kids were in the front yard as I prepared a picnic meal.  When I walked out to lay the food on a blanket, I found the pathway blocked by "a boat".  It seems "the ship" (our home) was sinking and the children were trying to rescue all that they might need to survive.  Imaginations, muscles and cooperation had been at play and the scene was unfolding with fun!

It brought such joy to my heart to witness how sunshine, sibling relationships and simple loose parts came together to inspire the "work of childhood" -- play!

And, since you are never too old to play, I joined the children in their imagination.  I dodged floating and sinking debris and found my way to an "island" (our picnic blanket).   Eventually, I let my almost-sinking shipmates know I had gotten to an island where we could await rescue and had been able to prepare a meager meal to keep our energy up... if they could just make it to the island eventually made their way over to the "island".

They did, and our adventure continued.

Such simple, wonderful fun inspired by loose parts!

What do you keep outside at-the-ready to inspire imagination and creativity?


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