Finishing Strong #44: Passions & Future Goals Edition

Happy Wednesday and welcome to Finishing Strong. We are a link up that supports families as they homeschool their middle & high school children.

Finishing Strong ~ Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years #44

Make sure to visit our co-hosts: Aspired Living, Blog, She Wrote, Education Possible, Eva Varga, & Starts at Eight

As our kids grow, we are given unique insight in to their passions and potential future goals. Recently, a number of bloggers shared their personal experiences raising children with distinct paths and interests.

Not only were they fun to read, but they were also some of our most popular links from last week.

How to Grow a Reader from Blog, She Wrote

Growing an Introverted Warrior from Education Possible

Growing a Musician from Eva Varga

Homeschooling a Horse Lover from Our Journey Westward

4 Tips for Raising a Crafty Kid from The Sunny Patch

What makes your child one-of-a-kind? What endeavors are you fostering while homeschooling your teen?

We would love to hear about your family’s experience teaching middle & high schoolers at home, so link up with us below.

Bloggers, by linking up, you may be featured on our co-hosts’ social media pages or our Pinterest board. We may even select you to be featured in a future post!

Guidelines for the hop:

  1. Link up to 3 posts from your blog. Make sure you use the exact URL to the post, not to your home page. You can add any post related to homeschooling middle and high school students. Posts unrelated to that will be removed.
  2. Please no advertising, individual Pinterest pins, Facebook, Twitter, or other link-up links!
  3. Grab our button to add to your post after you link it up. Each week we will be choosing our favorite posts to highlight on all 5 sites. If you were featured, make sure you add an “I was featured” button.
  4. The linky will go live on each co-host’s blog each Wednesday at 6am EST, and will be live until Tuesday at 11:55 pm.

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So tell us, what have you been up to?

We want to see your best posts that focus on homeschooling middle & high school students. Share your ideas, unique learning approaches, and encouragement.


Geography Activities: Geography Picture Dictionary {Free Printable}

I love to travel and explore new cultures, to learn new languages, and meet new people. Traveling offers us a unique opportunity to learn about the world around us. Field trips are therefore a major part of what we do and how we learn.

Whether we are traveling on holiday in another country or exploring historical and cultural treasures locally – I take advantage of every opportunity to expose my children to the world in which we live. In our homeschool, we dive deeply into history and immerse ourselves in other cultures via geography and language studies.

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This post contains affiliate links.

Geography Lessons Through Travel

Any type of travel is sure to include numerous opportunities for your kids to study the topics that make of the field of geography.

As your family travels and explores a new area you will most likely look at a map to help find your way to a historic landmark or to your hotel. You might decide to take a hike near a lake or through the mountains. You’ll likely also eat foods that are unique to the area.

All of these activities are included in the study of geography!!

The study of geography includes 3 major categories:

Geography Skills – including map reading, using tools like compasses and atlases, and understanding navigation and cartography.

Physical Geography – similar to earth science, this includes geology, meteorology, oceanography, ecology, and astronomy.

Human Geography – we can understand how people relate to their location and environment by learning about sociology, culture, religion, transportations, agriculture, and economics.

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DIY Geography Picture Dictionary

Years ago, I created a printable Geography Picture Dictionary for my children.  I knew it would be the perfect tool to document the physical geography we observed in South America. Therefore, in preparation for our voyage, I revised it – as the original boxes were really too small for quality illustrations.

While traveling through South America, we created a small illustration for each of the physical geography features we observed. Brochures we collected along the way also helped us. The process also provided us with a special keepsake.

If you are interested in learning more about how I utilized the printable in South America, take a peak at my Geology & Geography of the Galápagos.

Do your children enjoy sketching and doodling? Then a Geography Picture Dictionary is the perfect learning activity.

Download and print the free DIY  Geography Picture Dictionary here.

If you are looking for a high-quality and engaging geography curriculum for middle and high school ages, I encourage you to take a little time to learn more about the program we have been using this year – North Star Geography.  Created by Bright Ideas Press, it has helped my children delve deeper into the three main geography categories: Geography Skills, Physical Geography, and Human Geography.

It provides suggestions for course planning – whether you want to undertake the course in one semester, one year, or more long term. My family is learning more about geography than ever before and the materials make my job easier than I could have imagined!

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Linked up with The Massive Homeschool Geography Guide at iHomeschool Network.

Art Journals and a Winter Wonderland

Last month in my post Cultivating Passions with Art Workshops, I shared with you that my daughter and I were looking forward to a mixed media art class this winter. The class is now underway and we are delighted in the format and all that we are learning.

This post contains affiliate links.

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We were given free access to “Winter Wonderland” in exchange for our honest insights about how this course is working for our family.

 One of the first things Alisha shared was how to use an old book to create an art journal. Alisha slowly walks through each step of the creative process and we quickly fell in love with this process.

In fact, we have adapted many of the projects she later shared specifically for our art journal. We also began using art journals in our Writer’s Workshop and I’ll be sharing more details in later posts.

Our favorite project thus far has been the Birch Forest – a simple project that was quick and easy. It captures the stark beauty of a birch tree forest in the winter time. My son had shared a poem by Robert Frost in book club and I was thereby inspired to include it on my page.

The Winter Wonderland Mixed Media Workshop is a 4-week e-course which means classes are taught via videos in a private, password-protected site. Though the course began the first week of December, enrollment is still open and you will have access to the video tutorials for a full year.

Through the Winter Wonderland Mixed Media Workshop, participants learn to integrate a variety of art techniques and create 20 beautiful projects. You can watch them on your own time and adjust them to fit your family’s schedule.

The projects are a fun and creative way to express the spirit of the holiday season. I hope you’ll join us. 🙂

Cultivating Passions With Art Workshops

We have integrated art projects and sketching into our homeschool curriculum for years but I haven’t always been consistent. Recently however, my kids have developed a stronger interest in art, particularly my daughter.

She spends hours watching tutorials on YouTube. She has also created several original My Little Pony characters (are your kids into MLP, too?!) and enjoys drawing the mythical creatures from Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.

This post contains affiliate links

artworkshopsIt has become clear that they desire more in-depth instruction than I can necessarily provide. So we’ve begun a quest for art courses and mixed media workshops taught by professionals.

Earlier this fall, both kids enjoyed a mixed media art workshop at a local studio. In the course, they had the chance to play with Gesso for the first time and try out techniques that even I hadn’t tried. They both loved it!

When I discovered the online art workshops available at Flourish and shared the course description with my daughter, she jumped at the chance to enroll. “I really want to take this class, Mom. I can make many gifts for Christmas!”

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We were given free access to “Winter Wonderland”  in exchange for our honest insights about how this course is working for our family.  

 The Winter Wonderland Mixed Media Workshop that begins in December will integrate a variety of art techniques. Students will create 20 beautiful handmade gifts to give, ideas for Christmas cards, and simple homemade Christmas decorations and ornaments.

Each week through December, the instructor will email a link to a private eCourse with tutorials for four projects. The best part is that we can work at our own pace. We will receive access to this course for one full year.

We are really excited for this course. We know it will be the perfect way to celebrate the holidays. I can just see us sitting down to do art together with a pot of tea and plate of cookies beside us.

If you would like to join us, register today! Classes begin Monday, December 1st!

Early Registration price = $36 (through November 30th)
Regular price
 = $48 (beginning December 1st)

For more information or to register, visit Winter Wonderland: Mixed Media Workshop today.

Norwegian Folkarts: Rosemaling

One of the activities my children most enjoyed about summer camp was the opportunity to explore the folk art of Rosemåling in more depth. We had been introduced to this delightful art a year or so ago when I invited one of our talented lodge members to give a presentation to Barnesklubb (Scandinavian Kid’s Club).

You ask, What is Rosemåling? If you have seen the latest Disney movie, Frozen, you are likely familiar with Rosemåling.

Rosemåling, or rosemaling, Norwegian for “decorative painting”, is the name of a form of decorative folk art that originated in the rural valleys of Norway. Rosemåling is a style of decorative painting on wood that uses stylized flower ornamentation, scrollwork, lining and geometric elements, often in flowing patterns. Many other decorative painting techniques are used such as glazing, spattering, marbelizing, manipulating the paint with the fingers or other objects, etc.

When the kids wrote home, they hinted about a project they were doing in Rosemåling class but they didn’t give any details because they wanted it to be a surprise.  When I picked them up at the conclusion of camp, I was indeed surprised. Their work was astonishing … especially for beginners!

Pictured below are the two Mangebørds they painted in class. Traditionally, Mangebørds were made by young men wishing to marry a young lady.  He would place the Mangebørd on her porch or doorway and return the following day. If the Mangebørd had been brought into the house, her reply was yes. However, if the Mangebørd was still where he had left it, her reply was no. If he wanted to marry another young woman in the future, he would have to make another Mangebørd (on a cautionary note: beware of the man with many Mangebørds).

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Question :: Can you identify which style of Rosemaling is shown here?

Various Styles of Rosemaling:

  • Telemark
    The Telemark style is asymmetrical with a root center from which a scroll branches out with leaves and flowers that are varied and irregular. Designs are “fantasy-like” and transparent. (In recent years a shaded, opaque Telemark is preferred.)
  • Hallingdal
    Baroque scrolls and acanthus leaves wrap around a central flower. The designs are symmetrical, using opaque color and not generally shaded. Backgrounds are red, black-green, dark green, and a lighter blue-green.
  • Valdres
    Flowers are grouped in a bouquet or garland, gathered in an urn or hanging from a rope. Realistic flowers can be identified and given a name. Leaves are slender, long, s-shapes with a second s turning it at the end. Flowers grow from blue landscapes.
  • Rogaland
    In Rogaland, flowers are more important than scrolls and leaves. Tulips, stylized roses, 4 and 6-petal flowers, and the daisy pull-out are used. Designs are symmetrical. Opaque colors on dark backgrounds, and the use of cross-hatching, dots and teardrops characterize Rogaland.
  • Os
    Typically backgrounds are white or red. Designs include geometric shapes such as cubes and squares, and architectural motifs such as churches or fine houses. Flowers, both symmetrical and asymmetrical are grouped on stems. Heavy line detail on leaves. Transparent, bright colors,and saw-toothed borders are used.
  • Gudbrandsdal
    Gudbrandsdal style is an imitation of carving. Acanthus scrolls and leaves predominate in a C with an S extension. Shading gives leaves a 3-dimmensional look. The flowers used are tulips and 6 or 8-petal roses that center in the C and, again, in the S above. Often symmetrical.
  • Vest Agder
    Symmetrical and somewhat geometric. Typified by light colors on a dark background, teardrops by the dozen along the leaves and scrolls. Opaque colors, not shaded, and with red, black and white overlays are typically used. Oval flowers are split down the middle with contrasting colors.
Answer :: The Rosemaling style that is pictured above is Valdres.
 

Upon their return from camp, the kids said they wanted to explore Rosemåling in more depth and to earn the Cultural Skills pin. In Barnesklubb, we thereby kicked off the new school year with an introductory lesson.

My kids, now more knowledgeable than I, gave a short lesson to their peers about the styles of Rosemåling and then led them through a few simple strokes.

Insect Hotels: Nesting Habitat for Mason Bees

The plight of the honey bee and other pollinators is of concern to me.  Insect hotels or habitat for insects is the perfect project for our Roots & Shoots group to show care and concern for animals.  It was also a great introduction  to service learning for my STEM Club kids.  I thereby invited both groups to join us for a day of insect revelry.

I began by introducing the kids to the Mason bee, the common name for a species of bees in the genus Osmia, of the family Megachilidae (Blue Orchard and Hornfaced the best known species). They are so named for their habit of making compartments of mud in their nests, which are made in hollow reeds or holes in wood made by wood-boring insects.

Unlike honey bees (Apis) or bumblebees, Osmia are solitary; every female is fertile and makes her own nest, and there are no worker bees for these species. The bees emerge from their cocoons in the spring, with males the first to come out. They remain near the nests waiting for the females. When the females emerge, they mate. The males die, and the females begin provisioning their nests.

Osmia females like to nest in narrow holes or tubes, typically naturally occurring tubular cavities. Most commonly this means hollow twigs, but sometimes abandoned nests of wood-boring beetles or carpenter bees, or even snail shells. They do not excavate their own nests. The material used for the cell can be clay or chewed plant tissue. One species (Osmia avosetta) in the palearctic ecozone is known for lining the nest burrows with flower petals.

Females then visit flowers to gather pollen and nectar. Once enough provisions have been gathered, she backs into the hole and lays an egg. Then she creates a partition of “mud”, which doubles as the back of the next cell. The process continues until she has filled the cavity. Female-destined eggs are laid in the back of the nest, and male eggs towards the front. Once a bee has finished with a nest, she plugs the entrance to the tube, and then may seek out another nest location.

By summer, the larva has consumed all of its provisions and begins spinning a cocoon around itself and enters the pupal stage. The adult matures either in the fall or winter, hibernating inside its protective cocoon. Most Osmia species are found in places where the temperature drops below 0°C for long durations, like Canada, and they are well adapted to cold winters.

insecthotelsBuild It & They Will Come

Maintaining Mason bee habitats or insect hotels can be a simple, yet powerful way for people of all ages to intimately connect with the awesomeness of nature. Mason bees don’t sting unless they’re squashed or squeezed so they’re kid and pet friendly and don’t require protective clothing or training to work with. Since they’re sociable but solitary, there’s no need to coax colonies into complex forms. A well-designed and well-built habitat with ample nearby pollen sources will naturally attract mason bees, can allow intimate year-round observation of their lifecycle, and especially for teachers, parents and community garden programs be a powerful real-world teaching tool.

Mason bees are increasingly cultivated to improve pollination for early spring flowers. They are used sometimes as an alternative, but more often alongside European honey bees. Most mason bees are readily attracted to nesting holes; reeds, paper tubes, or nesting trays. Drilled blocks of wood are an option, but do not allow one to harvest the bees, which is vital to control a build-up of pests.

I found the post, Housing Mason Bees at Bees, Birds, & Butterflies particularly useful as I researched the how-tos for building insect hotels.  You can also purchase pre-made insect hotels from a variety of sources.  For example, Esschert Design Bee House. The kids had a great time building their own and it allowed their creativity to show.  Most of the kids recycled materials (soup cans, two liter bottles, etc.) to create a cylinder to hold bamboo and paper tubes. Many of the kids stated they wanted to build a wooden frame around their tubes and planned to finish their projects at home.

Attract Pollinators with Native Plants

To help bees and other pollinating insects (butterflies) you should provide a range of plants that will offer a succession of flowers, pollen, and nectarthrough the whole growing season. Patches of foraging habitat can be created in many different locations, from backyards and school grounds to golf courses and city parks. Even a small area planted with the right flowers will be beneficial those with small yards shouldn’t hesitate to do their part.

  • Use local native plants.
  • Choose several colors of flowers; particularly attractive to bees are blue, purple, violet, white, and yellow.
  • Plant flowers in clumps.
  • Include flowers of different shapes. Bees are all different sizes, have different tongue lengths, and will thereby feed on different shaped flowers. 
  • Have a diversity of plants flowering all season.

Contact your local extension agency to learn what plants are native to your area.  You may also find useful fact sheets provided by The Xerces Society.

Additional books & resources:

Homegrown Learners