Tag Archives: music

Read, Write, and Learn…With DevoKids!

About a year ago, I first found out about DevoKids.com, a fun and safe site for students. Part of Christian Devotions Ministries, DevoKids’ mission is to entertain children while sharing with them the love of Christ. There’s so much for kids to read and learn about — and they can even contribute, too!

Devotionals are posted weekly on the site, and each one is based on a particular scripture or passage. The link “Music Dudes and Divas” contains articles about different types of music and various musicians.  In “DaVinci’s Playground,” kids will find ideas for crafts and experiments. There are also links for puzzles and games, cooking ideas, nature and history articles, and money tips.

And there’s more! You’ll find two writing sections to the website, “The Write Buzz” and “Write Now!” In “The Write Buzz”, award-winning author and teacher Christopher Maselli answers questions about writing, while the “Write Now!” column features tips for kids by published authors such as Margot Finke, Carol Baldwin, Donna Shepherd, and Patti Shene.

One of my favorite features of DevoKids is that the site is open to submissions from students, too! What can kids send in? They may choose to write devotions, or they can give directions for making their favorite recipes. If they’ve found a good way to earn money, they can send that in, too. DevoKids is also looking for students with stories about saving, tithing, investing, and giving. Or, if your child has an idea that would fit in the music column, he can submit that as well.

DevoKids is constantly adding new articles, so it’s a site to return to again and again. And because it has so many opportunities for children to learn, create, and grow, you’ll want to do just that.

Why Take an Art Class?

This past week, we started back with our co-op classes. Instead of teaching the younger elementary students, though, I’m teaching classes to middle school and high school students, and one of those classes is Sr. High Art. As I introduced the course, I asked the students why learning how to create art is important.

At first no one answered my question — I wasn’t sure if they were just shy, or if they just didn’t know. Finally, someone said, “Because it’s fun.” And that’s a great reason. For many people, creating art — whether they are working on a two- dimensional piece such as drawing or painting, or whether they’re making a three-dimensional carving or sculpture — is very enjoyable. It can be a way to escape the stresses of the day and concentrate on something else for a while.

And there are other reasons. Art encourages children to use their imaginations — to do more than sit and watch a television show or video game. Also, the arts often help children develop a their self-confidence and self-esteem, as students can look with a sense of pride at something they created themselves.

Since our co-op is a Christian co-op, I shared with my students yet another reason for taking the class: sometimes the arts can reach people with the message of the Gospel when logic and reasoning cannot. Half of the people in the world out there are  logical thinkers, who want to hear something that’s black-and-white, cut-and-dried. The other half, however, — those creative-type thinkers, may identify more with the images and emotions conveyed through the arts. I can remember so many times I have been moved by a painting, a song, or a melody.

God, as the Creator, is the greatest artist of all — and he’s created us with an appreciation for beauty along with the desire to create beautiful things. And we can do that for His glory — what better reason could there be for taking an art class?

Photo by mindexpansion

Music Lessons Again — This Time, It’s Personal

When I first began homeschooling, my husband bought me the book The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jesse Wise. For a few years, I tried to follow many of the recommendations outlined in the book before I realized that’s what they were: recommendations. I then used it more as a springboard as I planned the new school year. One thing I did appreciate, though, was the authors’ view of music study. Every child, they say, should have two years of piano lessons as part of their education. I agreed, thinking this would help build self-discipline, self-esteem, and an understanding and appreciation of music.

This didn’t quite happen with my daughter Lillie, though. As I’ve written before, she’s struggled with the lessons and practicing, not because she couldn’t do it, but because she didn’t want to put forth the effort. In order to have a good practice week, I would have to sit down with her every time she practiced and make sure she did it — as she fussed and whined and told me I didn’t know what I was talking about (I don’t play the piano, but I did study music from middle school through college). I was unsure if I should let her quit or make it stick with it until I saw some positive changes in her attitude. I let her quit at the end of the school year.

Then, this summer, a new opportunity came along. Both of my girls were given the chance to take violin lessons from my sister-in-law who moved nearby. Lillie was very excited — and I was surprised. It would be a year’s commitment, I told her, but she agreed. We started the lessons three weeks ago.

Because they are beginners, I’ve been sitting in on the girls’ lessons and helping them as they practice. The first week of practice went well. When we began the second week of practice, though, Lillie began complaining the chin rest was uncomfortable. She spent much of the practice time fussing about it, but when we went for the next lesson, she didn’t mention it to my sister-in-law at all.

This week of practice has brought out more of Lillie’s woes: the chin rest was still uncomfortable, her fingers couldn’t reach the right strings, she was tired of standing, and on and on. I finally asked her why she didn’t tell her aunt about all these problems; after all, her aunt was the one who would know what to do about them. “It never happens at her house,” Lillie told me.

Exasperated, I finally laid down the law. “No more grumbling in this house,” I told her. “If you have a problem with your violin, you can’t tell me anymore. You have to tell your aunt.” Suddenly, the complaining stopped.

I know Lillie wants to please her aunt; after all, she’s not just a music teacher Lillie sees once a week, but she’s the aunt who lives close by and has a pool in her backyard and invites us over for cookouts and looks through Lillie’s whole collection of silly bands. I’m sure that this time, Lillie will learn a lot more than music notes. 🙂

Photo by earl53

Free Things to Do in the Summer

Our lazy days of summer haven’t been too lazy yet. We’ve had family visit, spent a week with art camp, and worked on math. There’s so much we can do, and even for those (like us) who are on a tighter budget this summer, much of it is free.

If you’re looking for things to do as a family, check into some of these:

Library Programs:  Many times libraries will bring in presenters for programs. They might be magicians, animal handlers, scientists, musicians, or puppeteers, and the hour-long program can be a lot of fun. Some libraries also offer free craft classes for kids.

Kids’ Movies: Check with your local movie theater to see if any free movies are being offered. Our area has three theaters that offer free movies in the summer, usually once or twice a week. One of our local universities is even offering free kids’ movies in the evening.

Concerts: Often, community bands will offer free concerts in the summer. Check the Sunday paper or your city’s website for more information.

Festivals: Our state has festivals going on all through the summer, from the Peach Festival to the Watermelon Festival to Fourth of July Festivals. Take along some extra water and enjoy the arts, crafts, and music.   

Parks: Enjoy the outdoors with your family with a picnic at a city park. Pack your food in a cooler, take along a Frisbee or football, and enjoy!

Zoos and Museums: Depending on where you live, entrance into the local zoo and museums may be free as well. Check your city’s website or visitor’s guide for more information. You might even want to get a group of friends together and make it a field trip!

Whatever your family does this summer, be sure to slow down and enjoy it!

Order in the Classroom!

gaveljanjpgThis school year, like many of our previous school years, has gotten off to a bit of a rough start. But I’m working on changing some things that hopefully will get things flowing a little more smoothly.

Recently, I read an article online that said homeschoolers sometimes have a difficulty with delayed gratification. They are often used to having a question answered right away, and they have the freedom to make comments during a lesson. Although I know this isn’t true of all homeschooled children, I can say it’s true of mine. They interrupt me if I’m reading a science or history lesson aloud, often saying something that has nothing to do with the subject. If I’m helping one with math or reading, the others are quite comfortable breaking in with a question about their own work.

I know it’s not the children’s fault — this is how I’ve been schooling the last few years. I used to feel like I was multi-tasking, answering a question for one while teaching a concept to another while handing out an assignment to a third. But I wasn’t really multi-tasking — we were just losing time, as nothing was being accomplished efficiently. So this year, I’m bringing more order in — for their sakes, and for mine!

For the first hour, I’m working with my Kindergartener while the other three work on their math. If they have a question about a problem, they just have to skip it and go on to the next one. Their math work will continue into the second hour, at which time I’m free for questions.

After math we’ll go into our group lesson of history or science. Then it’s back to individual work in Language Arts, giving me time again to help with grammar, spelling, and writing if necessary. Reading and music practice are subjects they can do on their own.

The next few days will be hard — reminding the children again and again that they will have to wait. But once they get used to the new plan, they’ll have an easier time with school — and I will too!

Snuggle Puppy

Chickens-Cover3cDuring our visit with family this summer, we had a chance to hear one of my nephew’s music CDs. It came with a book entitled Philadelphia Chickens, written and illustrated by Sandra Boynton. The songs in it are so silly and so funny that when we found the book and CD at our library, we just had to check it out. As we were listening to the CD in the car, one of the songs really made an impression on me. The song was “Snuggle Puppy,” and the chorus goes like this: 

Ooo, Snuggle Puppy of mine!

Everything about you is especially fine.

I love what you are.

I love what you do.

Ooo, I love you.

These are sweet words for a children’s song, but they really made me think. My youngest child, Luke, is five years old, and he is extremely snuggly. It’s easy to fit his name into the song and sing it to him, hugging and squeezing him. Yet when I sing the lines “I love what you are, I love what you do,” my three older children come to mind. 

I wonder — do they really know that I love them just because of who they are? That I love the quirky ways they behave sometimes, the funny things they say, their uniqueness, their talents that are just their own? Or do they mostly hear me say what I hear myself say: “Don’t do that.” “Quit that.” “I don’t understand why you act that way.” “What’s the matter with you?”  

Well, to all four of my Snuggle Puppies, I do love what you are, and I do love what you do, and I plan to work harder at letting you know. We all need to hear words like that, and the song “Snuggle Puppy” is a good reminder for me. Now, about the song “Please Can I Keep It”….

Garden of Praise.com

cohdranknbarbarabushroseI first came upon this website over a year ago when I was teaching art lessons in my home. I was centering the lessons around famous artists, and I was looking for information online about the lives of the various masters. While I was glad to find the biographies of famous artists on this site and used them regularly as a resource, Garden of Praise.com offers so much more. 

One of the first sections you come to on the site is entitled “Online Tests.” After registering, teachers and homeschooling parents can have their students take tests about famous Americans or lessons in the Bible. After a test is completed, it’s instantly scored, and if any incorrect answers were marked, the correct answer is revealed. 

The biography section features leaders such as presidents, scientists, inventors, and educators. Each story is written at the elementary level and includes seven printables, including a study sheet, a coloring page, a word search, a crossword puzzle, a word scramble puzzle, a worksheet, and a test. Links to other helpful sites about the individual are provided as well. 

A Spanish section has songs (with music) for learning the months of the year, colors, and the parts of the head. Quizzes are available for numbers, the days and months, and the names of shapes in Spanish. 

You’ll also find pages that include literature-based reading lessons, plays, musical activities, and children’s Bible lessons. You can even view a slideshow featuring ideas for bulletin boards or wall displays designed by teachers. 

While this site is not an all-inclusive resource for any of these subjects, it does provide information, ideas, links, and printables to supplement the various subjects your children might be studying. And, best of all, Garden of Praise.com has made it all available for free!

A Week of Recitals

This week happens to be a week of recitals for our family. On Wednesday, we’re joining with other homeschooling families to perform for the residents of the local nursing home. The children will play musical instruments, sing, and recite scripture and poems. On Friday, we’ll go to the local college, where Cassie’s flute teacher (a music major there) will accompany her as she plays her solo in front of other students at the school. Saturday is the big piano recital at a nearby church, where John and Lillie will each play two pieces they’ve been working on for the past few months.

I’m not sure how all of these events made it into the same week, but I am sure that I want my children to participate in all of them. Ever since they were small, I’ve tried to take advantage of any opportunity to have them stand in front of an audience and perform. They’ve sung in church on Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and any other day the pastor has asked the children to sing. They’ve recited poetry at talent shows and 4-H Fun Day. They’ve performed in skits and plays.

Do they enjoy it? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes they whine and want to quit, but I have them do it anyway. I was involved in music in school, and I understand what it’s like to be anxious when you have to perform in front of others. Even today, I become nervous when I have to speak in front of a group, even a group of people I know well. But I also know it’s a great life-skill to have, and that the more you do it — the more you practice — the easier it is to do. Sometimes the children will mess up. Sometimes they’ll make mistakes. Sometimes they’ll perform perfectly. But every time is a learning experience.