project-based homeschooling

Kids and photography

Published by Lori Pickert on October 1, 2007 at 08:18 PM

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Cameras are an important homeschooling tool for us.

The boys' photographs never fail to impress me. They notice and focus on things I didn't see. They capture the experience from their own kid perspective. And they never fail to highlight the things that mean the most to them.

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Invariably, I think their pictures tell a more accurate (and more humorous) story than mine.

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We use cameras for snapshots, making art, communicating with friends and family, field trips, journaling. We also use them just to help us focus more — taking them on a walk in the woods, for example. We notice so much more when we bring our cameras, because we're really looking — looking to see what's there, searching for things that are interesting — instead of just talking and walking.

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I notice that they tend to zoom in closer than I would sometimes, and often they step back and take much more in than I would.

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They are very creative, and they come up with ideas I'd have never thought of.

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Like other types of artwork (drawings, paintings), photographs give us a starting point for interesting conversations and the boys have a different, non-writing way to take notes. They can catalog interests, questions, ideas. The boys' photographs become a jumping-off point for conversations that might lead to something as simple as looking up a type of tree and as complex as what the symbols on cemetary markers mean. The cameras are our tools, and their photographs become our resource materials.

All photographs except the top one were taken by my sons, at ages 4 through 10.

In praise of high-quality art materials

Published by Lori Pickert on September 27, 2007 at 10:43 PM

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For the seven years that I ran my private school, we had an art- and project-based curriculum. Soon after we opened, I discovered the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education, and learning about their methods inspired and informed the remainder of our days in the classroom.

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One of the tenets of the Reggio approach is that children deserve high-quality art materials.

Why buy expensive high-quality materials for children? They just burn through whatever you give them. Can we afford to buy them expensive paper, when they can produce 25 drawings in one sitting? And that sitting only lasted 20 minutes?

Giving children high-quality materials sends a message. It’s not enough to say, “I think your work is important.” If I give my children cheap paper and paint, what can they produce? Muddy-colored paintings that dry and flake off cheap, thin paper that tears easily. My words are saying “Your work is important” but the materials are saying “Your work is not important.”

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It’s true that you can’t just hand children a pile of expensive paper and a basket of high-quality markers and walk away without a backward glance. You need to convey your respect for the materials and show children how to use them properly and put them away so they’ll be good for next time.

The youngest children in our classroom — just-turned-three-year-olds — were capable of washing out their paintbrushes and palettes and putting them away. Age is no excuse for not taking care of your materials.

It’s also valuable to teach children when it’s appropriate to use “regular” paper and when an artwork deserves the better, more expensive paper. The lowest-quality paper I can accept is copy paper — not too expensive at 500 sheets for a few dollars. We use copy paper to make marker drawings, pencil drawings, mini-books, etc. We go through a lot of it. But we also have watercolor paper, large loose sheets of drawing paper, and heavy paper for painting with tempera and acrylics, charcoal, and ink. Children can learn to use regular paper for sketching, everyday drawing, and early drafts and use the best paper for their best work. Talking with them about their intentions before they work can help them decide which is appropriate. You can also encourage them to pull out the good paper after they’ve done several renditions of a drawing on regular paper.

There are many steps to introducing high-quality materials and tools to young children and teaching them how to use and care for them. For now, I’ll just say the following:

• High-quality materials convey to children that their work is important.

• High-quality materials inspire children to work more slowly and carefully.

• Children's important work deserves high-quality materials.

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The wider the range of possibilities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences. — Loris Malaguzzi

A writing place

Published by Lori Pickert on August 30, 2007 at 03:08 AM

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As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. Or so the saying goes.

We want to encourage reading, writing, and drawing as daily activities, so we purposefully have several spaces that are very inviting for curling up with a book, drawing a picture, or writing a letter. (Or, this week, drawing a comic book.)

In preschool and Kindergarten classrooms (and sometimes, if you're lucky, older grades), there are usually "writing centers". Sometimes these areas are a bit school-ish (institutional) and perhaps big enough for several children.

A great writing space is big enough for two children to work side-by-side, so you can work with a sibling or a friend. You can use a thrift-store or garage-sale desk or table and stock it with all the things you would find in a regular desk: stationery, envelopes, stamps (blank labels cut into squares can be decorated by the sender), address book, etc. We like old-fashioned rubber stamps. And writing isn't only about mail -- we always offer small handmade books with decorative covers (the easiest of these are just folded and stapled copy paper), clipboards for taking surveys and doing pretend office work, and etc.

Even the smallest space can fit in a tiny corner for a desk that will beckon to children to sit down and write a letter, a poem, a book .. or a comic book. And small spaces are nice, even when you have a lot of space to work with. There’s nothing like a cozy nook to draw children in, whether it’s a single floor cushion half hidden behind a curtain for reading or a tiny desk with cubbies stuffed full of found papers and office supplies for writing.

soulemama's corner of my home: his desk

geninne's studio/homeschool

israel's desk

little birds' new drawing corner

maisie's desk

syko's drawing corner

duchamp blinks' desk

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