Saturday, December 31, 2011

Africa Wall Poster

Here's a picture of our Africa map in its current state-- only need to add in a few countries.  We've been learning about each country using Expedition Earth-- My passport to the World, by Cindy Horton (published by Bramley Books/Knowledge Quest.  This book tells about every country in the world!  We won't get through the whole world this year; we've decided to concentrate on Africa and Asia.  We're also using some internet video clips/photos and misc. other info to learn more about the countries.  

It's been fun putting on the colored paper cut-outs of country shapes on this large wall poster-- it is actually made from four pieces of white posterboard joined together.  The freehand drawing of countries that I did didn't exactly turn out exact . . . so some countries are a little wider than normal or otherwise unusual looking-- but it is close enough to get the idea of where things are and their general proportions.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chemistry Games . . . and more!

I just have to share the link to this fantastic website:  Ellen McHenry's Basement Workshop:

I learned about this on a homeschool forum. This site is like a treasure trove for those who are looking for interesting ways to study science and history.  Especially science; Ellen has written several science courses for children, available for sale on her site.  We have not used any of these yet, as we already have chemistry course materials for this year, but have really enjoyed using the free board and card games she has-- these are PDF downloads; it's easy to print them out and make the games.  

James and I have played "The Periodic Table Game" several times-- this game board is printed onto 4 pieces of card stock, and forms the entire Periodic Table.  To play the game you start on the element with atomic number 1, and go in numeric order across the elements, rolling a die to make moves.  At each stop, you acquire a certain number of pennies-- depending on the element, you may gain pennies or have to give some back.  Also, certain elements get bonus pennies or an extra roll if you identify them as being named after a person or place, or having certain characteristics.

"Quick Six" is a card game-- these cards are very interesting to read; there is a card for each element, and they have information about how the elements are used, with some simple artwork.  You read through a list of "clues," and see if any of the five cards you have been dealt match with each given clue.  You set aside the card, if it does.  The goal is to be the first to have six cards in a set aside pile.  A new card is drawn each time a match is made.  Chemistry info is both learned and reviewed by doing this game, and we have enjoyed playing it.

There are some other chemistry games, too-- we haven't tried them all yet.  

The games are all free downloads; we've found them well worth the effort to print out and prepare (very minimal work is needed, but cutting out cards can take a little while).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Out-of-Print Music Stories Book -- A Rare Gem

We've been reading this rare old book-- Stories of Great Musicians, by Kathrine Lois Scobey and Olive Brown Horne. The high school library in my hometown was purging all their old books when I attended there many years ago, and I am so happy to have been the recipient of this-- a collection of stories of classic musicians, in the "living book" Charlotte Mason style.

James and I have enjoyed this book a lot.  We learned about many composers-- Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann, Schubert, and Wagner; the stories are short biographies that span the entire life of the musician.

These are written in a way that is fascinating and has evident respect and affection for the musicians themselves. There are stories here that might not be found in a music history textbook-- such as how Beethoven wrote his "Moonlight Sonata" as a result of a surprise visit to a blind music lover who was a complete stranger.

I have read this a couple times through, with two different groups of my children, and each time I read it I feel so privileged to have a copy of this old book that is long out of print. The copyright in my copy is 1905.

Although this is out of print, there are some other old, used copies available on very inexpensively-- WELL WORTH the price to the fortunate people who purchase these remaining copies.  It is also available for Kindle readers.

Friday, September 30, 2011


We have taken a look at a few countries in Africa so far this year. Here is our wall map of Africa; the countries we've studied have colors and names. Our map isn't exactly in correct proportions, but we have the general size and shape of things. Needed to make an extension for the horn of Africa, after had already drawn in a lot of the rest of the map!

This is an interesting study. We're using Expedition Earth, by Cindy Horton. It actually has a page for every single country in the world-- unless some new ones pop up (after March 2011), like maybe in Sudan?
There are some interesting facts to read, and for some of the countries there are recommended video/photo links. We enjoyed watching and listening to the drummers of Burundi, on the computer.

Along with this book and our wall map, we're using two books in a series: You Can Change the World, by Jill Johnstone, and You Too Can Change the World, by Daphne Spraggett with Jill Johnstone. These give stories about people who live in different countries, or are in different people groups. They also have specific info about the religion of each country/people group.

It took a little preparation ahead to plan a reading schedule for the stories from the "Change the World" books so that they will line up with our main geography text (Expedition Earth). Also have found some misc other supplementary reading. For each continent, the countries are presented in alphabetical order. That's why our wall map is getting filled in with what looks like random geography.

There are country flag flashcards and country shape flashcards that we've been using to match up and help with review. I think putting the shapes on the big wall map does help a lot, too, in being more familiar with each country's location and shape.

We aren't planning to go through every country in the world this year, though . . . because we want to go a little more in depth, and at a relaxed pace. So will be looking at Africa and Asia. Those are pretty big continents, with LOTS of countries so it will be easy to spend a year on them.

You can learn more about the Expedition Earth world geography text here:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Butterfly Mosaic

Here's another example of what you can do with plastic lids-- all those milk jug, buttermilk, kefir, vitamin bottle, and misc. other small lids. We saved lids for about a year, and then had a really big collection. These colorful lids work great for making mosaic pictures-- LARGE mosaic pictures!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Big Pig

Here's a photo of our pig-- Molly and James and I made this big picture (it's about 2 1/2 feet by 3 1/2 feet), with recycled plastic lids. See, there is a reason to save odd materials like plastic lids . . . ! These came off a variety of milk jugs, buttermilk, kefir, etc. It took awhile to collect them, but then we had a big bunch of lids-- and they worked great for mosaic materials. We arranged the lids first, within a pencil sketched pig shape (on a large matboard lying flat). Then one at a time, we put glue along the lids' circular edges and pushed them on. The pig's tail is made of felt.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer-- the Set Up Season

Am so glad to have time during the summer to think about what we are going to be studying, and get things set up. The last few days I've been doing a lot of sorting and organizing and reorganizing . . .

Have found that using plastic tubs and toteable file boxes is a good way to store materials we aren't currently using. We have put them on some large racks in the garage. (When you see the above picture, don't worry that homeschooling is going to take over every inch of your house; it will-- that's part of the "learning lifestyle"-- but you have to keep in mind that we have a lot of materials, from 25+ years-- and for many of these things, out in the garage is a good storage place . . .)

James and I are going to be studying chemistry, physics (intro level)and some anatomy/health as well as looking at history during ancient, Bible times, and also world geography.

While setting up for our own school, I also am trying to set up some new e-books for sale . . . am working on a couple new titles, and if you're a CurrClick shopper, all of our e-books will be on sale there for 25% off during their "Back to Homeschool" sale (will be coming up in August). Here's a link to our products at Currclick:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Announcing: Bible Memory Passages - NKJV! And Bible Verse Songs . . .

We have a new freebie on our website; it is Bible Memory Passagesin the New King James Version. This e-book is also available in the 1611 King James Version. The NKJV is what I usually use, so I'm really glad to have gotten permission from the publisher to make the e-book in this version-- and to have it ready and up on our site!

Also, speaking of Bible memory, Here is a review of a different Bible memory product, available through another company, that I’m really excited about:

The other day, while doing some artwork, I was listening to a CD that a friend of mine created, that has Bible verses set to music. There is a verse to go with every letter in the alphabet.

I was so impressed with this music, and wanted to tell you about it; it is a great way to reinforce verses kids already know, or just to “slip” some in while they are playing quietly or doing art/crafts or household tasks.

I don’t think I could adequately describe these songs—you’ll have to listen for yourself—but these are some of the adjectives that came to mind when I was listening: delightful, charming, impressive.

There are a variety of musical styles—in general they tend to be mellow (no hard rock or rap here . . . !) and have some interesting solos as well as group singing.
The name of the CD is ABC Bible Memory Verse Songs, and the songs were composed by Mrs. Candace of Sonbeams, a homeschool curriculum company.

These songs can be used as part of a school routine, too, if you’d like to include them—Sonbeams has created a preschool curriculum for teaching letters and numbers and colors, etc. that also uses the Bible verses that are in these songs.

She has a special offer (that ends tomorrow—June 30 is the last day) for receiving a full month of lesson guides—these have some creative and kinesthetic activities as well as Biblical concepts. For example, for letter D the story of Daniel is used, and kids also write “D” in the dirt with a stick and glue over a workpage letter and sprinkle it with dirt! There are some fun matching card games in the letter lesson guides, too. Click on the following link to receive access to these lesson guides—you are welcome to save them to your computer for future use. These cover letters A,B,C,D as well as some numbers, colors and shapes, and Bible stories, and give a good idea of what the curriculum is like.

Candace has also generously offered two special coupon codes for friends of Gentle Shepherd, for the Bible Memory Verse Songs:

for 30% off the mp3 files and parent/teacher guide, use code GENTLEMP3
for 30% off the CD (without a guide- but this is a hard-copy CD that will come in the mail), use code GENTLE

Monday, June 27, 2011

More Knights . . .

OK, I admit I'm not a pacifist. Not a war-monger, either, but when my 11-year-old son asked me to make some felt toy knights, that sounded like a really fun project.

So here are the newest additions to the knights set-- swords and shields, lances, and horses with armor.

The lances have double-ended knitting needles sewn inside, to keep them straight. Coming up soon will be a princess, and a dragon. Maybe part of a castle, too . . .

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Spring Gardens

Here's a picture of our new strawberry bed-- a friend was so kind to give us some starts, and they are the everbearing type. Molly and James helped to prepare the bed, getting out rocks and hauling in some rich soil from an old garden area.

We also started some snowpeas, in the side garden . . . but mostly the slugs have eaten the seedlings, so need to get some other things planted there, and put out some slug traps.

What are you planting this year?

Friday, April 15, 2011


James was asking me to make some feltboard knights. So here are three! I found some silver craft foam that was sparkly, so now we have some knights in shining armor! Also found that a placemat that was made of plastic with a metallic look worked really well for armor, too. The plastic and foam are glued onto the felt backing with craft glue. I needed to handsew a black felt "inside" onto the grey felt backing, before glueing on the armor.

So now we are making swords and shields, and next will be a dragon-- and of course a princess, and horses for the knights, and maybe some parts of a castle-- but then we'll need a king and queen and lords and ladies . . . this project just keeps going!

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Sound of . . . Schedules

I so enjoyed listening to Molly and James singing this morning. It was one of those days that I felt hopelessly behind. I hadn't gotten plans made over the weekend, and so was busy trying to write the kids' assignments as they were getting finished with breakfast.

"I don't have an assignment page," said Molly, as she started on her usual morning schoolwork routine.

"I'm behind," I said, adding, "I'm working on it, now."

While I was doing paperwork, James practiced piano. Then Molly got out the ukelele, to show her sister a song she could play. Then James got out his guitar and started playing and singing "You Are," a Christian praise song he is learning. Then he asked me about how to play one of the chords-- an E minor-- on the piano.

At that point, Molly came to the piano and started playing all the chords and singing the song. It sounded great! They decided to try both playing together, with piano and guitar at the same time.

There may not be a sound more lovely than that of your children playing and singing a song to God. So I had this wonderful pleasant feeling while writing out the assignments.

Later, I thought, "Hmmm . . . maybe if they do this on their own I shouldn't bother even giving assignments . . ." But then, if I hadn't been already teaching them instruments on a regular basis would they have had the skills to spontaneously experiment like this? So that idea was allowed to "pop" like a burst bubble.

One thing I've noticed in homeschooling is that having a regular schedule helps things run more smoothly and ensures that things "get done." But there are always those serendipitous moments, whether arising from a planned activity or from someone's temporary interest-- where time and "plans" are no longer all that important, and the enchantment of learning and discovery, or some creative endeavor just "takes over," and we're so glad for the freedom to follow along.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Trip to the Turn of the Century

If you'd like an interesting way to take a look at turn of the century American history, find out if your library has a copy of a reproduction of an antique Sears, Roebuck and Co catalogue. We checked out a copy of the 1902 catalog that was published by Bounty Books in 1969.

James and I flipped through the pages from cover to cover, and commented on some of the amazing prices and interesting objects. We saw an early record player, in the "Talking Machine Department," and a piano could be purchased for $59.45, a guitar for $2.45, and a little wind instrument called the zobo was only 8 cents.

There were bicycles, guns, farm equipment, books, a basketball and basketball goal (an iron frame with cotton netting basket which appeared to be closed at the bottom).
There were buggies and wagons and sleighs to be drawn by horses, and an amazing "electric belt" which was battery-operated and worn around the waist as a health treatment.

This device was said to enable its wearer to "face the world anew," for $18.00. And what's more, the catalog said, "$18 will bring to you health and strength, vigor, manliness and happiness . . ." all with a money-back guaranteed 10-day trial.

There was a vapor bath cabinet, too-- this looked like a cube with a person's head sticking up out of the top-- and must have been a type of sauna, for $5.25.

We didn't look at every single page (there were 1161 pages), but enjoyed browsing through, and seeing china and clothing and cast iron cookstoves. Among the ladies' clothes was a long dress called a "wrapper--" that sounded like a curious name, to me. For some clothing, instead of using standard sizes, the buyer was requested to give certain body measurements.

Sears Roebuck had their name on the label of the "Arsenic Complexion Wafers," sold to preserve and enhance beauty. It was also on "Electric Liniment," a liniment that was electrically charged, enabling it to relieve rhuematism as well as sprains, bruises and sores.

After hearing our comments, Molly took a look at the catalog, too. She made some interesting discoveries, like a ring with two real diamonds that cost $2.75, and cameras that looked more like small suitcases.

I took a look at the shipping prices, too. To ship 100 pounds first class to Washington state was $3. But if you lived closer to Sears' Chicago warehouses, shipping was much less-- in Illinois it cost around 40 cents to ship 100 pounds.

This catalog was so interesting! It was a great way to investigate how things were in America at the beginning of the 1900's. So, for a trip to the wondrous year of 1902, look for this book!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dip Bowls-- A Preschool Art Teacher's Best Friend

You know a really good way to provide paint in separate colors for preschoolers' artwork? It's dip bowls-- those little bowls sold by kitchenware sellers for putting small amounts of salsa or other dips, in. They're fairly inexpensive, not as easily tipped as paper cups, easy for brushes to "dip" into, and easy to clean up when painting is done.

They have lots of other uses for crafts, too-- you can put out small quantities of sequins, beads, pom-poms, or other materials in these bowls. This is easier for young kids than boxes with dividers.

Also, they work well for putting glue in, and dipping a cotton swab or cardboard strip or wooden craft stick into, to apply glue for collage or other gluing projects.

These little bowls are great for crafts! You may be wondering why I am posting about doing preschool crafts when my youngest kids are 11 and 14 . . . well, my kids babysit for a young nephew, and I am also in charge of plans for crafts for young children for a Sunday School program. And besides that, these bowls are so handy that we often use them ourselves-- myself and my older kids-- when doing artwork.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Grimaces . . . and God's Good Gifts

Yesterday was a bad day. It was Monday, for one thing . . . and both my homeschooled kids were sniffling and generally feeling lousy from a cold. It was hard to tell if my teaching methods were a mis-match, or it it was just a "bad day."

Because I couldn't seem to get cooperation, I felt like what I was doing was a failure, and I felt like crying.

I did cry, last night, when I woke up in discouragement and despair. I prayed to God to help me rest . . . and He did (eventually). This morning, I prayed that things would go well for our school time today, and guess what . . .

Today has been a wonderful day. We started late, and didn't get all of our usual schoolwork done, but it's OK. Looking all over for something new to learn for piano (it's Molly's lesson day), we found a really fun piece-- that Molly likes, and is not too hard to play. And Later I had time to work on the artwork project I need to do. While I was going back and forth between "pencil" and "eraser" on the computer-- trying to get one spot to turn out just right, Molly said they were through with their other schoolwork, and we could do science now.

Well, science had to wait, and I kept thinking I was "almost" finished with the artwork, but while I worked, Molly picked up the guitar and started strumming, and James came and taught her some chords. I was so happy to listen to them playing the chords while I kept erasing and drawing . . . then he taught her how to play "How Great is Our God," and they were playing and singing . . . and then it looked like science was never going to happen-- I was really "almost" finished with the line art design, and Molly and James were starting on the ukelele, too. After James showed her a few chords, she played a song, and was pleased with how easy the ukelele was.

The art design finally reached its goal, so I stopped drawing and erasing . . . I hated to interrupt the kids from their ukelele playing, but I pulled out the science book to see if it was a long lesson or short one. After a quick glance, I knew this was a great lesson for tomorrow.

So anyway, we decided to just make lunch--since it was too late for science-- and I'm so thankful for God's blessing us this day with happiness . . . and success!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sticky-Note Flip Books

Yesterday it was Molly's idea. Though I know this particular technique has been done before . . . still, it was something very new to all of us.

We were going to make animation flip books. You know-- lots of little pieces of paper all the same size, stapled together, and a picture drawn on each page, to show animated action happening . . . like a balloon flying up and away, or a flower growing, or someone waving his hand . . .

Well, Molly said, "We could use Post-It notes . . ." And we had some, so we tried it out-- and discovered that sticky notes work really well for this, and you don't have to cut out lots of little pieces of paper. Compared to using 3 x 5 cards, the pages move more quickly, so the action looks smoother.

We just tore off a certain segment of the notes-- about a 1/8 inch thick stack-- to use. Because there is still a sticky surface on the bottom page of the stack, you can just add one note in reverse position there, so the two sticky parts connect, and then the bottom won't be sticky.

James's animation was "Monster Eating 1 2 3." The numbers gradually appeared, and then a monster with big teeth gradually ate the numbers. Molly made a smiley face that slowly appeared, and then grew arms, and then a balloon was attached to one arm.

This turned out to be a really easy project. It only took about 5 or 10 minutes, and we all liked flipping the booklets to see the action. (So give it a try, if you're looking for a fun and simple art project !)

Good idea, Molly!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Felt Fallout . . .

Here is a picture of a Christmas gift project; this was great fun to make. I made a collection of felt people in various races, and also a felt car and house and trees, and my husband made a flannel board-- built with two pieces of thin plywood, with a long metal hinge across the top, with the flannel covering glued on the inside. This allowed two kids to play at once-- on opposite sides-- and the board worked really well. The present was for our three granddaughters (ages 4, 2, 1) and the oldest girl found an interesting way to move aside certain felt pieces she was finished playing with at the moment-- she would toss them over the top (onto her unsuspecting sister . . .)!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Good Times

We were at the table at lunch Monday, and somehow a conversation started between James and Molly. "You tooth-brusher!" said one, and the other retorted, "You milkshake maker!" and it went on and on with "leaf-raker," "banana peeler" and other equally ridiculous "insults." Finally, James said, "OK, Molly, I wasn't going to use this one, but you've forced me to-- you . . . you . . . you . . . PUDDLE JUMPER!" Followed by much laughter. This spontaneous word game continued for a while, and included another phrase that James felt he had no choice but to use. I can't remember all the phrases they coined, but it was entirely silly, and also just one of those times that you feel privileged to be a witness to creative genius.

This is also a time that I am so glad the kids are homeschooled, and have such great comaraderie as well as me enjoying being there to see antics like this.