How to Plan a Homeschool Art Show

As I had done a few years ago in Central Oregon, I recently coordinated an art show for the local homeschool community.  I highly recommend this to anyone interested in art and connected to community of children – whether through the home, charter, public, or private school circles.  There is truly little work required on the part of the coordinator and the students and families get so much out of the experience.

The first thing I do is reserve a space to display the art.  Ideally, this is a public space that is free to non-profit use.  I used the public library which has a large conference room with tables, chairs, and presentation equipment (pull-down screen, podium, etc.) available.  I elected to allot a four hour window for the show as the conference room at our library is not a secure area.  In the future, it was suggested that I make arrangements with the librarian to have the students’ work on display for a full week in another part of the library (perhaps in a display case) so that more people would have an opportunity to enjoy it.

Once the date was nailed down, I created a flier and registration form that I posted on our local homeschool board.   To encourage the kids to try something new, they were allowed to submit up to three pieces of art, but each must be from a different medium.  In addition, I required that the work be relatively recent (within two years).   Each family was asked for a $5 registration fee to cover the cost of prizes.  In the future however, I think I will seek out donations from local art supply stores, online retailers, and even other local artists to make the event more accessible to all.

I also notified the local newspaper and community magazines, inviting the public to come out and enjoy the students’ work.  The kids, in turn, invited extended family, friends, and teachers.  Everyone was given an opportunity to vote for their favorite pieces – one vote for the 8 & under age group and one vote for 9 & older age group.  This year, there were only 14 participants so I used only two age divisions.  If there are more participants in the future, I would consider using more divisions.  At the conclusion of the day, the votes were tallied and winners (those receiving the most votes) were announced.

The greatest thing about the show was the fascination the kids, parents, and community shared with the students’ work.  Everyone was blown away by their skill and creativity.  Many were taking notes and asking questions about technique.  The kids were so proud of their work and delighted in sharing it with others – with friends and even strangers.  It was indeed of inspiration and recognition.

[Admin Note ~ This year, the show was open to only homeschool students.  Next year, I may consider including a division for parents.]

Curriculum Plans 2012-13 (5th and 3rd grade)

Like most homeschooling families, our curriculum is hand picked each year by me. In doing so, my choice is dictated by the learning style of each child. Fortunately, they both really enjoy listening to me read aloud from Story of the World and both have had great success with Singapore Math. They both respond similarly to other curricula I’ve used so this makes making new choices easy – as well as less expensive since they can use the same textbooks (I need only to buy new consumables or workbooks).

One of our favorite components of our history curriculum is the use of a Book of Centuries or Timeline Book.  Buddy began his just a year ago and while we were setting his up, Sweetie decided she wanted to redo hers.  She was not happy with the way she had done hers previously so I helped her set up a  new one.  Essentially, they both now use a spiral bound notebook with hard covers (found at Barnes & Noble).  On the left side they adhere the timeline figures which we print onto sticker paper.  One the right, they write a brief sentence about the figure(s).  Sweetie’s book is pictured in the forefront of the photo below and mine is in the background.  My book is different in that I matte the figures onto color-coded paper (one color for each continent) before adhering them into the album.

“All men who have turned out worth anything 
have had the chief hand in their own education.”
~ Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832)

The most recent choice we’ve settled upon is First Language Lessons; as I hadn’t formerly taught English grammar lessons to Sweetie – the kids are working through this together.  We started with volume 2 a year ago and are now underway with volume 3.   Though some of the material has been redundant, I make an effort to skim through the lessons ahead of time – sometimes choosing to omit or modify lessons according to taste.

As we proceed with our education, I am beginning to see evidence of their growing maturity. Sweetie is taking on more responsibility for her own education – working through Life of Fred independently before we continue with Singapore. She generally also completes her assignments for Mandarin with little or no guidance from me – choosing to email her tutor when she has questions. This works very well since she is truly becoming bilingual and I am not able to help her with the nuances of the language. This year, she will also begin working through a writing curriculum on her own, Writing With Skill Level 1. I look forward to seeing her blossom into the young woman I occasionally see glimpses of today.

Fifth Year Quarterly Review #1

I can hardly believe this is Year 5.  We began our new school year in August, coinciding with our move.  I have had many talks with them about expectations and goals as well as developing a daily schedule to which we have all agreed.  They’re excited, I’m excited; we are ALL excited. It is evident that we are more focused this year, more driven.

I thought I’d take a moment to review how we do things.

History – We will continue to use Story of the World and as before, we aren’t in any hurry to complete a volume. Presently, we are using book 3 – Early Modern Times and we integrate other subjects (art, cooking, handcrafts, science, etc.) whenever possible.  We check out books from the library that correspond with the current chapter.  A Book of Centuries will accompany along with mapwork and narration exercises that follow the history reading

Geography – We have just begun to use Mapping the World by Heart.  We’ve only done a few lessons but so far, we love it.   The maps that accompany Story of the World are also helpful and we incorporate real-life application whenever possible.  We were in San Francisco earlier this week and I encouraged the kids to navigate us through the city from our hotel to Chinatown and later to Fisherman’s Wharf.  In Scandinavia, they were both more adept at reading the public transport maps than we were!   We have also started a Postcard Album with which we fill out a notebook page for the postcards we’ve collected thus far (working backwards) and will continue to receive from friends, family, and fellow-homeschoolers around the world.

Heritage – We continue to be active in our local Sons of Norway lodge.  With grandparents so far away – the lodge holds a special place in our lives.  

Foreign Language – Both munchkins are now studying Mandarin (Chinese).  I don’t know if it is the change of teacher or the fact that Sweetie is again working 1-1 with LaoShi, but her confidence and ability have improved dramatically.  When she is doing her homework, she will often read aloud the passages from her text (using characters only!!).   We continue to use Better Chinese … she is presently in volume 3 of My First Chinese Reader.  Buddy is using the Pinyin for Everyone book.

Language Arts   While we had begun First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind and were enjoying it, much of our grammar work is now provided by the umbrella charter with whom we are working.  I hope to re-incorporate FLL2 soon as I learn to mold the umbrella more to my style. 

 – Select readings will continue to be narrated as in all years of a CM education.  

Shakespeare –   We will begin reading two plays each year.  I will also encourage them to come up with creative narrations of the reading, such as dramatized narration, comic strip, etc.  One of the plays we will study this year is Romeo & Juliet.  The second has not yet been determined. 

Free Reads – 30min/day as a suggestion.  They are reading more and more every week.  It is really becoming more natural for them and they look forward to their quiet time with a favorite book.

Writing –  I will require weekly:  

  • 1 or 2 – written narrations or  literature response from their choice of readings (gently edited);  
  • 1 – science lab book entry 
  • 1 – history narration;
  • 1 (or more) commonplace notebook entry;
  • 1 0r 2 – dictations;
  • 1 blog post (gently-edited). 

Grammar –  two lessons/week using First Language Lessons.

Memory Work & Recitation
 –   We were off to a good start in the spring, but with all the change in the summer and the demands placed upon us by the umbrella charter, this area has fallen away.  

Math – Continue with Singapore math – 1 lesson/day. Sweetie will begin Life of Fred Decimals – 3 lessons/week. 

Science – We’ve resumed focus here … one of our successes has been that I ask the munchkins to select a hands-on activity from my extensive collection of inquiry (scientific method) resources. Presently, we are focused on physical sciences which will also include a study of chemistry this year.    We’ve also just begun to incorporate the Giants of Science biography series.  We are presently reading, Isaac Newton, and the kids love it!

Nature Study – Our aim this year was to incorporate this more regularly (1 lesson/week minimum) and thus far we are nailing it!  Of course, moving to a new area certainly helps.  Entries may include any of the following: sketch an object w/ watercolors or colored pencils, monthly tree observations, maintaining bird & plant lists, recording phases of the moon, etc.  

Artist & Composer Study
 –  Oh … how I wish we were doing this.  Little by little … hopefully, we’ll be able to reincorporate this soon.

Music –  Because it is a part of the Tuesday Homeschool, Sweetie is now doing violin lessons 1x/week.  Initially, Buddy was taking guitar lessons but that has been inconsistent and the structure of the class isn’t a good fit for him, so we will be returning to piano soon.  I need to find an instructor.  They are expected to practice their instrument for at least 30 min daily.  

Adult Skills
 –  We will continue with our chore list and begin to ‘apprentice’ to learn additional skills: cooking, auto maintenance, etc.

Physical Education / Sports
 –  Swim Team with 2-3x/week. Taekwondo has been put aside.  To be honest, I think I miss it more than Sweetie does.  She loves swimming but I keep thinking we should continue with TKD … she’s so good at it!  Swimming has been a wonderful new addition – both the kiddos love it!  

 –  Sewing, embroidery, quilting, polymer clay … their interests change regularly.  However, we’ve begun a time-intensive project that we are all very excited about!  Stay tuned – I hope to share it with you all very soon.  


Nature Journal – documenting our observations and love of the natural world
Writing Notebook – whereby we write everything (narrations, science labs, copywork, etc.)
Commonplace Journal – to take down memorable quotes, living ideas as stated by other authors.
Book of Centuries – recording the events of history as we discover / read about them
Personal Journal – personal/spiritual, private

Starting Over, Starting Fresh :: 2011 Fall Schedule

Over the past few months, we have undergone significant changes in our lives.  We have relocated and started upon a new adventure in Northern California.  As such, we have been evaluating our schedule looking for areas of improvement.  We’ve openly discussed what we liked and what we felt needed to change.  The following highlights some of the areas in which we have chosen to make changes – some are simple, some more complex.

  • New nature journals … a spiral notebook with larger pages
  • New writing journals … simply a new composition notebook – I asked if they wanted a separate book for science but they said no
  • Mandarin … I did my research before we moved and sought out a Mandarin teacher from afar.  This was one area I didn’t want to leave to chance and I wanted to continue our studies with as little interruption as possible.  Our new instructor has years of experience teaching in China and here in the United States.  Coincidentally, as we sat down with him and his wife, we discovered that they are acquainted with MeiLi’s former teacher. It is indeed a small world.
  • Buddy … who has requested to go by JiFu … is now studying Mandarin as well.   
  • In the past, I have enjoyed swimming with Masters at noon.  Unfortunately, the Masters team here meets only at 5:30 a.m.  With a husband that works in administration and thereby has long hours, this doesn’t work for me.  I’ve thereby moved my workout to 8 a.m. to assure it gets done – in doing so, we have discovered it does not disrupt our ‘school day’ as much as it did in the past.

We have revamped our schedule and have dedicated a day of each week to the subjects that are important to us.  I haven’t “scheduled” music practice or Mandarin homework / home extension activities.  Doing so made felt very restrictive.  As it is now, there is a block of time each day whereby we do our formal lessons and upon completion, we are free to relax, investigate things of interest, go to the pool …  I do expect the munchkins to practice their growing music and language skills daily. However, the time in which they choose to do this is up to them as individuals.  Of course, I generally have to remind them.  😉

  • This year, we have also decided to partner with a public school and take part in an ISP.  The  Public Independent Study Program  is the legal equivalent to enrolling your child in public school. Shocked?  I know I am.  Essentially it is a “home study” program offered by the school district. The benefit to us is that they provide support and guidance as well as a weekly enrichment day.
    The enrichment day is the primary reason we decided to pursue this option.  The kids have an opportunity to participate in a variety of rotations taught by certified teachers along side other homeschool students.  During the enrichment day, I can volunteer or have the day free to myself.  Imagine?! What I could do with a day to myself?  As I am a certified teacher, I may also have the opportunity to take on a paid position and teach one of the rotations as well but I am only pondering that possibility right now.  
    Thus far, the coordinator has been VERY flexible in allowing me the freedom to continue doing things as I have always done.  What has been great is that she provides another perspective and pulls additional resources that I can use if I desire.  The only true requirement is the bi-monthly meeting whereby we discuss/evaluate our endeavors.  During the meeting, though, I am required to provide tangible evidence (photos, writing samples, etc.) of our work and how it meets state standards.  I was essentially doing this already so it is not an issue. 
  • Another major change is music instruction. In Central Oregon, the munchkins were taking piano lessons in our home once a week.  We absolutely loved our piano teacher and knew it would be difficult to find someone that teaches in a similar style.  One of the other deciding factors regarding the ISP is that the kids had the option to take violin or guitar lessons.  MeiLi – inspired by her Taekwondo instructor – chose violin while JiFu chose guitar.  Best of all, an instrument is provided free of charge!    

How to Plan Your Own Science & Art Show

I realized early in the year that our homeschool community was lacking a Science Fair so … I took it upon myself to organize one.  Knowing that not everyone would feel comfortable doing a traditional science fair project, particularly since a fair hadn’t been available for years, I thought a companion Art Show would entice additional participants.  I was so right!

It was relatively easy … and the impact was huge.  There was a tremendous number of participants and everyone was so enthusiastic.  I know there may be a need in other communities so I thought I would share here how I pulled it all together.

Planning a Homeschool Science Fair & Art Show

Step One

Essentially, I first reserved a space …  for me, the choice was easy, our Sons of Norway lodge.  During the work week, the lodge is used very little.  I thereby selected a date in April to allow much of the school year for work our our projects.  Though an evening would have been ideal for all parents and even extended family to attend, I wanted to keep the cost to a minimum.  It is my guess that finding a suitable location would be the most difficult step involved.  Here are some locations to consider in your area:

  • A local fraternal lodge like Sons of Norway, IOOF, Lions, VFW Hall, etc.
  • The city library
  • A church
  • A public school (non-profits are generally allowed use of the facilities after school hours)
  • Hotel conference rooms (I haven’t checked into this option, but it seems logical and they may even offer a discount – doesn’t hurt to ask)
  • A common house within a subdivision – though I believe one would have to be a member

Step Two

The next thing I did was inform the homeschool community of the date (determined by the reservation of the space).  This was easy … I simply posted it on our Yahoo board.  In doing so, I also asked for volunteers to help with the following areas:

  • Snacks (just a couple of moms to bring refreshments and snacks)
  • Greeter (someone to check in participants at the door upon arrival, and direct them to the appropriate table to display their work)
  • Prep & Clean-up (one – two parents to help set-up the tables just prior to the start and to help break down the tables and clean-up afterwards)

Step Three

I created a registration form and posted it on the Yahoo board.  The form included a statement of my vision (what I hoped we could achieve – essentially an opportunity to share our projects and thereby glean inspiration from one another), a statement of liability release (I didn’t want anyone liable for a damaged project or piece of art), and rules / regulations (limitations to project size, limitations on subject matter and/or objectionable content or materials).

For a $5 entry fee, each participant was allowed to enter up to three pieces of artwork (different media) and one science project.  The money was used to pay for the lodge rental, cover the cost of printing participation certificates, the prizes and the snacks.

Those who wished to participate were required to fill out the registration form and get it to me within 2 weeks of the event.  This allowed me time to print the certificates and purchase the awards.

Step Four

I set up an automatic reminder in the Yahoo system to encourage procrastinators to get their forms submitted.  In this way, the Science Fair & Art Show was at the forefront of everyone’s mind.  As the date of the show drew near, I called the parents who had volunteered to help and discussed any particulars (time to meet for set-up, reimbursement for snacks, etc.).

The Fine Points

To determine winners (1st – 3rd place), the students were given slips of paper and were asked to write down the name (or entry #) of their favorite projects.  Each child was allowed to vote once for a science project and once for an art project.  The votes were tallied and the project with the most votes received the prize for first place, a $20 gift card.  Second place received $10 and third place received $5.

I had originally planned for judges to interact with participants (particularly for the science projects) – to inquire about their scientific process, etc. but somehow or another, there was some miscommunication and the two judges I had previously spoken with failed to show.  Ah well.


The show was a spectacular success! There were so many participants and guests (many homeschool families and friends came to the event simply to observe) – that I determined two separate times (or days) would be necessary to alleviate crowding when we do it again next year.

In retrospect, I would also require participants to arrive an hour (or more) prior to the start of the show to set up their projects and for  judging to take place.  Though I didn’t intend for official judging for awards to take place – I wanted it to be low-key and relaxed – I thought some feedback from real scientists would have been beneficial.

Curriculum & Learning Goals for 2010-11 (3rd and 1st grade)

I am still very pleased with the resources and curriculum I have purchased in the past.  Therefore, my learning goals for the year and the tools I will use to achieve them are very similar to last year.  I was much more successful in regards to accountability this past year but I am not yet where I want to be in this regard.  I feel I’m on a roll, however, and will continue to build on the successes we’ve experienced recently.

  • Reading: We’ve been successful with 30 min of independent reading but haven’t been doing it daily.  We didn’t reach our goal of reading independently for 60 minutes so we’ll reach for that again this year.  MeiLi has come a long way this past year.  She is reading more complex chapter books and doesn’t struggle as often.  She now will stay up late to read independently on occasion as well.  Buddy has grown tired of the Now I’m Reading series of easy readers, which to be honest, so have I.  He is now taking an interest in easy chapter books like Frog & Toad Are Friends.
  • Grammar & Writing: Integrated through science and history … copywork, letters to family and friends, creative writing activities, etc. We’ve been much more consistent here – partially due to integrating a daily reflection journal as part of our geology study, Explore Our World :: Africa.
  •  Shakespeare:  We studied The Twelfth Night this past year.  My intention was to take the kiddos to a performance at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  As I was looking up ticket information, I discovered they give a family performance in September for discounted prices.  I figured this would be the best option for our first time.  I don’t yet know what we’ll study this coming year as it will depend on what performances will be selected at OSF.
  • Handwriting: I don’t think we practiced handwriting more than once or twice last year.  We have a long way to go as a result.  MeiLi needs work in cursive and Buddy has been getting sloppy so he needs some penmanship practice as well.
  • Spelling: This is another area that I rarely bothered with last year.  Both kiddos seem to pick up words as they use them so it hasn’t been of much concern.  Maybe 2010-11 will be different.
  • Math: MeiLi continues to excel in math. She has just begun Singapore 4A. Buddy is also doing well and recently begun Singapore 2A.  I don’t see a need to change this as we’ve been very consistent with our math studies.
  • Science: We were very successful this past year with science.  We covered Astronomy and Geology units rather throughly.  Our goals for science this year include Simple Machines, Electricity, Magnetism, Energy & Motion.
  • Nature Study: We’ve begun to undertake a weekly nature study with our Roots & Shoots club.  When possible I try to coordinate with Barb’s challenges at Handbook of Nature Study.  I am also looking into the possibilities of volunteering regularly at a local horse ranch as a part of Roots & Shoots.
  • History: As we haven’t yet finished volume 2, we are continuing with Story of the World: Medieval Times.  We very much enjoy the accompanying coloring pages and map work.  As we proceed, we will be transitioning MeiLi to written narrations rather than oral.
  • Physical Education: We’ll continue with our study of Taekwondo.  We’ve been talking of potentially joining swim team but it is an equally big commitment.  MeiLi will be testing for her black belt early next summer so that has been the focus right now.  We’ll also continue to incorporate other activities  throughout the year.
  • Mandarin Chinese: MeiLi will be continue meeting with a private tutor for 1 hour each week.  We’ve been a little more consistent in doing the homework assignments and accompanying workbook activities. Though I still feel we could do better.  I don’t hear her speak so I really have no concept of how much she really knows.  Tinsel says she is doing well, though.
  • Spanish:  Buddy has recently developed a strong desire to learn Spanish.  I think this is in part due to the fact that one of his friends in the neighborhood speaks Spanish.  I am delighted.  It provides us with some structure when MeiLi is working on her Mandarin lessons.
  • Art & Music History: We will continue to use Themes to Remember to aide in our quarterly composer studies.  We’ll also continue to study an artist each term as well.  This is another area that fell to the side in 2009-10.  I hope to improve here as well.  Artists I hope to cover this year are:  David Wiesner,  Georgia O’Keefe, and  . Composers I hope to study include: Edvard Grieg, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and ?
  • Music: Both kiddos will continue to take piano lessons with Janellybean.   Buddy has also begun to study guitar.  MeiLi wants to learn flute.  However, I honestly don’t know how we can manage to learn two instruments.  I’d rather they focus on just piano right now but I don’t want them to get discouraged either.  I need to give this area some more thought.