TH Art Guild – Nevelson – Aug. 17, 2016

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Every 6 weeks, our group meets for Art Guild, a hands-on art class based on the book, ‘Discovering Great Artists‘ that provides easy to do art projects in the style of the artist the lesson is focused on. This month, our subject was Louise Nevelson, whose massive monochromatic found-art sculptures are both interesting and inspired. We took a page from her book and gathered all kinds of junk, from paper and plastic tubes and bottles to keys and other bits of metal and bric-a-brak. The kids used a combination of school glue, hot glue and tape to create a single, stand alone work of sculpture and then spray-painted it to mimic Nevelson’s style. Once all the pieces were painted, we assembled them all into a somewhat uniform larger piece. Though our work was not quite as impressive as Nevelson’s, it was a great introduction to modern art, and hopefully gave the kids a glimpse of what is possible for their own experimentation with art.

 

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TH STEM-Egg Drop Contest – April 27, 2016

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Today, we hosted an ‘egg drop’ contest! Everyone brought all kinds of things from home to build a capsule capable of protecting an egg from a 10′ drop. We had so many neat ideas! From a cradle of straws, to a fully-insulated cup; foam, paper, fabric and everything in between. If you’re looking for a neat science-focused activity, this one was a winner!

TH Art Guild – Toulouse Latrec – March 9, 2016

 

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Each month, we get together for our Art Guild. We’re using the book ‘Discovering Great Artists‘ as our guide, and so far, it’s been great! Several of our families have the book, and work lessons into their personal curriculum during the interval between art classes. This month, we’re studying Henri Toulouse Latrec, and the kids made event posters inspired by his style.

If you’re interested in joining us for our next class, visit our group on Facebook!
TH

San Jacinto & Battleship TEXAS – March 2, 2016

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Teen Homeschool Book Club – February 10, 2016

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Every month during the school year, the Beaumont Public Library hosts a homeschool book club. The club is divided into three sections on two days, based on age/grade. The Children’s Book Club is usually on the second Friday of the month, and the Teen Book Club is on the second Wednesday. Each month for the teens, Librarian Robin Smith chooses a selection of books for the students to choose between. Her selections represent several categories, including contemporary fiction, sci-fi/fantasy, humor, and classics. They’re also allowed to choose a book from the College Recommended Reading list.

At the discussion, the kids have a list of questions that are generic and applicable to any book, dealing with the setting, plot, thematic elements, conflict and personal opinions. Sometimes after, sometimes before, we team up and play a game to break the ice. Mind Trap was this month’s game, but we’ve played Apples of Apples, Mad Gab and others as well.

Since we’re so close to Valentine’s Day, one of the moms brought cupcakes and toppings, and had the kids decorate their cupcakes to represent something from the books they read.

 

For more info on the book clubs, please contact Robin Smith, children’s librarian at the Beaumont Public Library.
TH

Big Thicket: Kirby Trail ‘Armadillo Amble’ Night Hike

If you’ve never been  on a nighttime hike, then you’re definitely missing out. Something about being out in the woods after dark makes you feel like a kid again – and there are tons of things to see that you just can’t see during the day.

In Southeast Texas, both Village Creek State Park and the Big Thicket offer occasional nighttime hikes that are family friendly. They’re often themed; in this case, we were hunting armadillos, but past themes have included bats, black-light reactive critters (like scorpions), and insects.

If you’re a nighttime newbie, there are some great tips in this article from How Stuff Works, including tips (like bringing a red-light flashlight or headlamp to help see without destroying your night vision).

If you’re a fan of nighttime hiking, how’d you get started? What’s your favorite location? What do you like best? Feel free to comment and let us know!
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Secular Homeschool Conference – Roger’s Park

Triangle Homeschoolers Summer Mini-Conference

Today, our group held the first ever secular homeschool conference in Beaumont. It wasn’t a big fancy affair; there were a total of 7 moms and 12 kids there. But you don’t need a huge group for an event to be successful!

Our seminar covered the basics of getting started. I said that I would post links to many of the things we talked about today, so here they are:

*Homeschooling and Texas Law*

Homeschooling Law in TX  (synopsis)

HSLDA website

  • In Texas, homeschool families are considered private school and as such, are are not subject to regulation by the school district or state (this includes standardized testing and compulsory attendance edicts), and are exempt from school-time curfews (with identification).
  • Since homeschooling is legal in Texas and operate independently from a school district, you do not have to allow the school district representatives to ‘review’ or ‘approve’ your child’s curriculum.
  • The only the requirement for legal homeschooling in Texas is to homeschool in a bona fide manner, with a written curriculum consisting of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship. This can be as simple as a sheet of paper with these subjects written on it.

*Methods and Philosophy*

The method an philosophy has to do with how you think that children (your children) learn best, and what you think school should be. We all start out with preconceived notions about these things, and sometimes, we find that we were right all along. Other times, we may need to choose a new direction. Reading about the various styles of homeschooling that are out there gives you a ‘niche’ for what you are already thinking. For the most part, why re-invent the wheel? Homeschooling has been around for generations. Though each new generation adds a new twist on an old idea, when you’re just starting out, knowing where you fall in the ‘structured…. unstructured’ scale can help find resources that will be closer to what you’re looking for and makes a good place to begin your research. Here are overviews of some of the more well-known methods and philosophies out there:

*Learning Styles and What they Mean to You*

Everyone gathers information about the world through three sensory receivers: visual (sight), auditory (sound), and kinesthetic (movement). Some people rely most on visual cues, others prefer auditory input, and still others learn best through movement. Educators refer to these differences as learning styles. How does knowing your child’s learning style help? By identifying your child’s dominant learning style you can tailor their education to lean heavily in that direction so that they learn best. Public schools tend to be ‘one-size-fits-all’ in their approach. Homeschooling with an eye toward your child’s learning style will help make schooling more enjoyable for you and the, and maximize their learning potential.

 

Learning Styles

  • Auditory – listeners: They may learn to talk early on, and may enjoy listening to tapes and playing musical instruments. Auditory learners are often talkative. They may like to read aloud, recall commercials word for word, or do tongue twisters. In school, they may memorize math facts much more easily in a song or poem than from flash cards.
  • Kinesthetic – hands-on: Kids who love taking things apart to see how they work, or who are obsessed with building toys may be kinesthetic learners. Kinesthetic kids are often in constant motion, their movements are well coordinated, and they are anxious to crawl and walk as quickly as possible. In a classroom, kinesthetic learners can be fidgety. They’ll often be the first to volunteer to do something —anything—active. They want to do an experiment not watch it or read about it.
  • Visual – watchers: As babies, they are often drawn to lights, colors, and movement. They revel in colorful toys and piles of picture books. Visual learners enjoy and learn easily from pictures, handouts, videos, and films. In school, they can learn science principles by watching a science experiment rather than having to conduct the experiment themselves.

Not leaving the teacher out, there are different teaching styles, too. One of the great benefits of homeschooling is the ability to tailor-make your education program. Everything is yours to try, tinker with or discard in favor of a new or changing idea or need. As a teacher, you’re interacting with your child in a different way than as a parent. The two are closely related, of course,  but what you want for your child may be different at an age, o what they need from you may call for more or less structure. So learning your teaching style is also helpful. I am sure there are more, but the way I like it explained best is Directive, Guide and Facilitator. All of these can work with basically any schooling philosophy or method, though it might take some finagling.

Teaching stylesTeaching Styles

  • Director – had total control over all aspects of the child’s education. Parent sets mood, tone, lessons, materials, and every aspect of what the child learns. I see this as more of an elementary level style of teaching, though some children who tend to be easily distracted may work better having everything laid out for them.
  • Guidance – Parent still sets most tone, but has slightly more input from the child. Parent helps guide the child to subjects, activities and research that are in-line with his/her interests and goals. I see this as more of a middle-school style of teaching, though may work for independent children who work well alone.
  • Facilitator – Parent is solely there to facilitate – to learn about and promote learning through the child’s interests. And/Or the parent is there to help, but the child’s education is largely self-directed. I see this more of a high-school age style of teaching, but also works well for children who are very self-motivated and who need little by way of encouragement.

Obviously, this list is not complete, but may help you determine what your style is, and what your child may need from you. Often, if you have more than one child, each of your children may need something different from you.

*Curricula – Finding What Works*

Finding the exact right curricula can be absolutely overwhelming. There are literally hundreds of options, and often many options associated with different methods. Finding what fits your family can be challenging at best. First, knowing what fits in line with your personal philosophy and what method you want to use is important. That will eliminate may curriculum options right off the bat. Identifying your student’s learning style and your teaching style will further narrow the options. Once you have those things out of the way, there are several places you can begin.

Grade level (or age/peer group) can be a good place to start. If your child is being pulled from school, unless you know they were behind, you should be able to pick up with that grade level work. If your child was consistently getting lower scores, it might be worth it to drop down a grade and work on cementing the previous foundations before moving on. Don’t feel bad if you need to do that; your student will soon catch up and even surpass his peers.

Many parents feel that it’s a good idea to have a ‘spine’ – a framework that tells you what your child ‘should be’ learning. This is often found in the scope & sequence. What is ‘scope & sequence’? A couple of options are:

Core Knowledge K-8th Grade Sequence 

Texas Education Agency Scope & Sequence

You also want to figure out your schedule. Many homeschoolers take more frequent, shorter breaks than public schools. We school for 4 weeks, then have a week break, then pick up again. Others have different schedules; you’ll find out your own. That may be closely aligned to the ISD, or may be totally different. Do what works for your family.

*Getting Started – Homeschooling, Year One*

Tip #1: Don’t buy anything ‘big’ the first year – no curricula, don’t re-model your house. There are PLENTY of free homeschooling resources that you can use the first year. The last thing you want to be is locked into an expensive curriculum that both/either you and/or your child hate(s).

Tip #2: Look at your first year as an ‘exploratory’ year. Try different styles, experiment with times and days, try out different methods. See what works and what doesn’t. After a fully year, you’ll have a much better idea of your teaching style, and of your child(ren)’s learning style. You’ll be able to spend that whole year trying new things and ideas and will have a much better idea of how YOUR homeschool will work when you start planning for Year 2.

For me, setting up our space helped get me in the frame of mind. Having our school space separate from the ‘home’ seems to help us all focus a little better. That’s not to say that we’re trapped in here during school. We’re just as likely to work on the living room floor, retreat to their own bedrooms, have school on mom’s bed, have school outside, pack up and head to the park… all totally valid options. But just having that space helps me out a lot.  Of course, that’s not practical for every family, and many families just don’t want that. Again, do what works for you! There are so many options – if you don’t know what you want right off the bat, start with one thing, then change it if it doesn’t work. Flexibility is one of your greatest ‘teaching tools’.

 

Another tip is to join a homeschooling group. If there’s not one in your area, start one and you can learn together with the other th logonewbies. If there is absolutely nothing in your area, find a good forum or group to join online. Having someone you can talk to to vent, praise your children bounce ideas off of, share resources, talk about your latest field trip, gripe about your non-supportive family or in-laws… whatever – having that support is absolutely essential in my opinion.

The blogosphere is awesome, too. I have learned so much from reading other blogs! Moms that inspire, Moms that I am in awe of, Moms that make me laugh, Moms that really make me think… there are SO MANY homeschooling moms of every variety, of every style and method – it’s truly amazing how much these bloggin’ mamas share. Feel free to check out my sidebar – there are tons of links!

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If you were able to be with us today, THANK YOU for coming out! If there is anything missing from today’s mini-con, please comment and let us know! Hope to see you soon!

TH

Symphony of SETX Side-by-Side Concert 2012

For the last couple of years, the Symphony of Southeast Texas has hosted a ‘side by side’ concert, during which, students from local high schools are invited to perform on stage with the Symphony.

This year’s Side by Side Concert theme was ‘Musical Stories’. It was all about storytelling – how the music tells a story, how the story is enhanced by the music and how we associate the stories we know with music.

After the Star Spangled Banner, Maestro Tipton led the musicians in Entrance of the Gladiators, a piece by Czech composer Julius Fučík. Then Overture from the Pirates of Penzance by Arthur Sullivan. After those two pieces, Maestro Tipton talked to the students about opera and how the story relies on music to set the tone. Then he changed the topic to ballet and talked about how the music leads the dancers to tell the story. We were led in ‘waltz 101’ with a group clapping session to learn the beat of the waltz, and then heard Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers.

Next up, we discussed how music plays a role in our lives without us even realizing it. Without being told what music was up next, the sympnony started playing. It was amazing to see the twittering among the students; how many of them recognized it immediately. To preserve the mystery, I am just going to link to it rather than tell you what it was. When asked for a show of hands after the song was finished, nearly the entire audience had their hands in the air.

After that, students from Westbrook high school came on stage. We recognized Karen Ji from previous performances, and Maestro Tipton introduced us to senior Dan Jacob Ellis, who plays the cello.

The first piece that the students joined in on was An American Symphony, composed by Micheal Kamen for the 1996 movie, Mr Holland’s Opus. The link is to the full song; the part that was played during the SBS concert begins at 5:13 if you want to skip ahead. The final piece was final from Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky, The Great Gate of Kiev.

In all, it was a fantastic performance by professionals and students alike! It is always such a joy and pleasure to attend these performances; we’re so very grateful to the SOST and their sponsors for hosting them.

 

 

If you’re interested in making a lesson based on these selections, here are some resources that might help:

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The Man Who Planted Trees – Lutcher Theater

We took a field trip to Lutcher Theater in Orange to see ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’, a story about a man who lived in a barren area of France and spent his time herding sheep and planting acorns. Eventually, the acorns grew, and turned the desolate plain into a lush forest.

This particular performance was by the Edinburgh-based Puppet State Theatre Company, which is known for  its clever combination of puppetry, storytelling, choreography as a multi-sensory experience.

I have to say that this is one of my favorite performances we’ve been to in a while. Since it was a small play; just the two gentlemen pictured and a small set with a handful of puppets and props, the theater opted to hold the performance backstage – so the kids got to see how ‘behind the scenes’ works. It was such a nice, intimate feeling.

The artists, themselves, were amazing. Very calm and they just made it such a great experience! They sprinkled lavender essential oil on a huge fan and wafted the scent through the theater, spritzed the kids with water-guns, waved birds on strings right over our heads and wrapped up with the scent of fresh mint. It was really a wonderful performance!

If you’re interested in seeing the story, there’s an animated version of the book on Vimeo here. A slight content warning from 7:00 to 7:40; and from 14:00 to 14:15,  if you have sensitive littles, but other than that, it’s very similar to the performance. There’s a study guide for the performance at Lutcher Theater’s website here, if you’re interested in using this as a unit study.

 

From a secular viewpoint, there are a couple of mentions of God and creation, but depending on your viewpoint, this could be simply a figure of speech shaped by culture, especially in light of a comment made about ‘man being as effective at God in something other than destruction’, and about Elzéard Bouffier’s accomplishments ‘being worthy of God’. There are references to Lazarus emerging from the tomb, and to the land of Canaan – again, this could be a literary reference rather than a religious one.

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Gator Country

Gator Country is always a big hit with our group. Between the educational program, getting to see the big ponds full of gators being fed and holding a croc of your very own, what’s not to love?

This trip, we were part of a huge group of school field trips. It was crowded, but not so much that we missed out. We did get to experience the educational presentation, which is similar to ones we’ve been present for at the library and other places over the past few years. Even though it’s the same information, it’s fun to see the kids pick up on different parts of it each time.

We made a Crocodilians Lapbook to coincide with this trip, so the kids were eager to show off their knowledge!

 

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