Saturday, December 27, 2014

Make Big Paper Bugs -- FREE pattern!

Making BIG paper bugs was a recent project . . .  I did this with a class of first graders. They had been studying insects, so putting paper bugs together by using three insect parts (head, thorax, abdomen) plus legs and antennae fit right in, and helped to reinforce what they'd been learning.

It was great to see the variety in colors and insect types of the resulting big paper bugs . . .

Also, I was glad that the pattern pieces I'd come up with worked so well, and wanted to make the paper bug pattern available to others.  So here it is!  The pattern pieces are in a short PDF ebook called Paper Insects Project, and it is up as a freebie on the Gentle Shepherd educational materials website: 

Please feel free to share this link with others who may like to have a ready-to-go pattern for making HUGE paper insects :)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Van Gogh - style art pictures!

Van Gogh used a lot of tiny dash lines in many of his paintings.  So using this technique, I made some Van Gogh-style pictures.

First, a sketch --

Then with markers, lots of little dash lines; some of them go in twirly patterns, and some are in straight lines.

Next, color crayon is added -- to put in some more color flecks and shading.

Here is another set using felt pen first, then crayon added in:

This is a pretty easy technique, and the pictures turned out so nice; kids could easily use this method to make some beautiful impressionist-style artwork!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Apple Mosaic with Paper Squares

Last Friday I was helping a group a kids make apple mosaics.  This was a project the kids really enjoyed; they were around age 6, and I heard several of them say, "This is fun!" as they were working on it.

My part was to bring all the supplies, and some finished examples.  I also used pencil to draw an apple shape on the papers beforehand, so all they would need to do was glue on the paper squares (our time was limited, but if you have the time, drawing the apple shape could be an extra step and some kids would probably like drawing their own or using a template to trace around).

The supplies:

colored paper for a background, cut to the small size we wanted (about 7' x 8 1/2").  I offered the kids a choice between four colors-- light blue, dark blue, yellow, and pink.  I was kind of surprised when every single girl wanted pink . . . so most of my pink supply was depleted.  The boys mostly chose blue, though one brave fellow decided on yellow.

glue and some small plates to put it on, and cottons swabs to use in applying the glue.

paper squares, in various shades of red, pink, and orange-- I did have a small amount of these precut, but mostly just had long narrow strips (cut with a paper cutter) and went around cutting these off into squares with a pair of scissors, to replenish the squares as needed.

some long strips of brown paper (even more narrow) for cutting the apple stems-- I saved this for near the end, when kids were almost finished with their mosaics.

Here is what a finished mosaic looks like:

One thing I did to make some different shades of colors for the squares was to use paint (tempera and also watercolor) and paint some cardstock with reddish paint.  This also gave an interesting texture to some of the pieces-- because there were brush stroke lines. It also gave more variation in the color among the squares.  Watercolor paint gave me pinkish-red shades; the tempera paint I used was reddish-orange.

In the sample above, some of the squares were cut into rectangles and triangles, to better fit in along the lines.

An apple is a great subject for a fall mosaic, because apples are harvested in fall, and it is a simple roundish shape.  I think this could be also be very easily done for pumpkins or jack-o-lanterns.

If you'd like to see some more mosaic ideas, using all kinds of materials, there is an assortment here on this Pinterest mosaics board:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Dragon . . . Fly

What? Do dragons fly? Well, maybe some of them do . . . 

But this is actually a compound word, for beginning writers to copy (writing in the space below the letters) when they are beginning to learn to write -- all in capital letters. 

This page is from Easy Peasy Penmanship, an ebook with 141 different printable pages, all in capital letters. Children who are 4-5 years old are usually ready to start with these kind of penmanship pages.

You can see some samples of other pages from this ebook at

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Word Box Writing

Word Box Writing . . .
The way this works, there are six words in a box, that are kind of related -- for example, "cactus, desert, sand, water, lizard, prickly." Below the word box are some lines for writing, to write 4 sentences using all six words.

This takes some thinking! You can't just write one sentence with each word; some of the sentences will have to have more than one. . .

So what is the purpose of all this?

Well, number one is to have some fun doing writing.
Then also, there is the thinking part . . . and kids might like to use the words in the box as story starters, sometimes.

Would you like to see what these printable work pages look like? Take a look here:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

the Creation Story -- in felt!

This past couple of weeks I've been working on sewing some felt pieces for a "Creation Story" felt set, to use in kids' church.

Here are some pictures:

In this one, day four is represented (light, the sky, land and sea, plants, and sun and moon and stars have been created).

Here is day 5:  birds and sea creatures, fish

And day 6 part one: land animals

Adam and Eve have some skins on . . . this is getting a little bit ahead in the story, but oh, well . . .

Here is a close-up picture with people and animals together (this time they are on a brown rug, instead of a blue felt board):

For Adam and Eve, I used the "cookie people"- shaped patterns from Fuzzle Family Felt pattern set, available from either Gentle Shepherd or Fuzzlemania.  The tree shown in the earlier Adam and Eve picture is from that set, too.

This creation felt set is bright and colorful, and the pieces are easy to handle (most things are sewn with a double layer of felt so they are sturdy and can be played with off the felt board, too).  It was a joy to make this set-- and it came together pretty quickly because I already had a lot of sewn animals in my felt toys inventory-- the only ones I needed to sew were the fish and birds and dinosaur.  The piece that took the longest to make was the bright green tree with all the parts hanging down.  It is an interesting tree to look at, though-- I think it is worth the extra time.

Have you ever wanted to make a Bible story felt set?  I hope these pictures give you some ideas.  The story of Creation is a fun one for kids to help tell, too (putting up the pieces either with or for you).

Day 6 part 2: people

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Touch Typing -- A Simple System, with Stories . . .

When I learned to type, many years ago, it was in a high school typing class. We typed for almost 40 min every day, using the now antique electric typewriter (at the time it was exciting new technology). The things we typed were rows and rows of all kinds of phrases and sentences. The only one that sticks in my mind now is the saying, "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country." Such was touch typing in the '70's . . . and it served me very well. Because I had memorized the finger positions, I could type fairly quickly and even with my eyes closed (or while looking at what was being typed-- which was a useful skill).

When my kids learned to type, starting in the '90's, instead of using a typewriter they used a word processor. This allowed for all kinds of fancy and wonderful things-- you could easily erase (delete) what you'd already typed-- no need to use a correction ribbon or White-Out. . . and you could rearrange words, sentences, paragraphs . . . without having to type the whole thing again! This was almost magical, and truly a timesaver, though my kids never knew what they were getting out of having to do.

They used computer software to learn and practice their typing skills. I remember some fun games they had, with letters falling down from the sky and other strange things. For the typing lessons themselves, the kids typed lots of mostly nonsense syllables, at least in the beginning. Later on, they got to have some words and much later on, some sentences.

My oldest child thrived on competition, and the falling letters games were plenty enough to help her perfect her speed and accuracy. This software for beginning typing had worked fine for her, and we expected to continue with it. When the next child started his learning process, I decided to try out the program myself, to see what it was like. I disliked making assignments for things I wasn't very familar with. So I sat down to type the beginning lessons-- row after row of nonsense syllables, usually in groups of 3 or 4 letters. It might be because I already knew how to type that I found this process intolerably tedious and dull, but at any rate my reaction sparked a thought; why not make typing lessons that use actual words and sentences . . . maybe even an entertaining story, early on in the process?

So I started making lessons, and my second child switched to using them. He had 7 more siblings who would eventually go through the material, and in the process would help me discover a few things that needed changing. My husband taught technology at a public school, and found that his middle school students enjoyed these short lessons, too-- each one took only about 10 min, and within half a school year the entire course could be completed.

Later on, I created an ebook with these typing lessons, and began offering it online, through a new business we were starting, Gentle Shepherd.  And it is still available there, today . . .  if you'd like to learn more about this touch typing course, please visit the "Typing" page on Gentle Shepherd's website.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Omnibus is Back!

This is the third year of i Homeschool Network's ebook Omnibus.  And it is starting today! This is a huge sale with all kinds of homeschooling ebooks as well as mp3's-- this year there are 83 (yes, eighty-three) ebooks and 24 audios, and all can be purchased at once for the price of only $25.

And this sale truly has "something for everyone," as this photo shows . . .

There are curriculum resources such as an entomology unit study, Middle Ages history book and notebook pages, help for writing essays, Trees fact cards, and Gentle Shepherd's Picture and Writing: Older Ages creative writing work pages.

There are books with plans for preschool . . . several different idea books and complete preschool curriculum resources-- such as 101 Independent Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers by Mary Ellen Bream, God's Little Explorers Preschool Curriculum by Stacie Nelson, and Raising Rock Stars Preschool by Carisa Hinson.

There are all kinds of homeschooling planners . . . if you've been looking for ways to organize school and household plans, there are a variety of approaches presented among the ebooks in this Omnibus.

There are books with art projects, cooking, and lots of valuable homeschool advice (Help! I'm Homeschooling, by Tricia Hodges, Homeschooling 101 by Kris Bales, Homeschooling High School by Marie-Clair Moreau, Simply Homeschool by Karen DeBeus, Large Family Homeschooling by Amy Roberts, and more).

"Omnibus" means a volume with several items previously published separately. In this case, they are still separately published but all available at one time and place . . .

These ebooks are in both PDF and Kindle format, and if you'd like to have a DVD with the entire collection, you can purchase this for an additional $8.

Any way you look at it, this price is an amazing offer . . . and it will be available for this week only (the sale ends at 11:59 pm ET on Sunday, August 24, 2014).

To see more info and a list of all the items in this year's Omnibus, take a look here.

The downloads for purchased ebooks will only be available until September 25; please do not delay in downloading them.  See the FAQ or contact iHomechool Network for more infomation about downloading.

DVD's can be purchased until Sept 20 (and can only be purchased by those who have first purchased the usual Omnibus format).

The deadline for refunds is Sept 5 (Positively no refunds will be given if the file host shows that you have downloaded any files).

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fact Hunts! for research

I always looked forward to "Fact Hunt" day when teaching my kids, because of two things-- first, I knew it was an open-ended, interesting assignment that they would enjoy, and second, I would get to read the facts they collected and enjoy looking over the info; sometimes "ordinary" and sometimes very unusual.

We usually did this assignment once a week, with kids who were in middle school.  They would take a certain topic-- for example, "citrus fruits"-- and use whatever sources they wanted (since modern times and the internet this has always been online searches, but some of our oldest kids did use books back in the day . . .), making a list of 10 facts about the topic.

There were no requirements other than finding 10 facts-- they didn't have to write complete sentences, or find any certain types of things.  The whole idea was just to give them a short research project, to get them used to the process of doing "research."  (You know, the kind of thing you need to be doing when you're writing reports and research papers, and also just learning in general.)

To keep time and a schedule from getting in the way of just enjoying the assignment, the kids would do the fact hunt as the last thing in their morning schoolwork . . . so if it took them a few minutes longer or shorter, there were no worries or pressure.

Since this was one of our most favorite writing projects to do, I wanted to make a short ebook about it, with lists of suggestions for topics.  So now, (drumroll, please) a "Fact Hunts" ebook is ready!  And even more awesome, it is also a freebie, available to anyone on our website.

Here is what the cover looks like; there are 12 pages total, with ideas given for 4 years of fact hunts.
Come and see! Please download and try these out, if this sounds like something you might like to include in your homeschool.  And also, please share the freebies page link (but not the ebook itself; we'd like people to be downloading it from the website) and let your friends know about this research writing resource!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Home Learning Ideas -- Age Group Pages

When in the last few years of teaching our own nine children, I wanted to write out some ideas for home teaching.  I thought of some of the things we'd learned, and what might be helpful to others when thinking about the upcoming school year, and lesson plans.

So I wrote some articles with "ideas" for home learning.  They have been up on my Gentle Shepherd website for awhile, but just recently I noticed they needed a few typo corrections and some revisions.  So the newly revised versions are all up now--

There are five different documents; for preschool, kindergarten, primary grades, upper elementary, and middle school.  All of these are downloadable from the website (follow the instructions at the top of the page, to download), and they can also be read on the site.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Styrofoam Prints -- Easy to Do, with Great Results!

I was looking for a technique to use for printing that would be somewhat similar to lithography (a design is etched into something, then ink-- or paint-- is applied, then paper is pressed on).  But I didn't want to use regular oily printing inks, and didn't want to have to purchase expensive special materials for scratching into . . .

After a little searching, I found this idea: printing using styrofoam from styrofoam picnic plates!  This looked very interesting.  Styrofoam plates are easy to find, at very little cost. Some styrofoam containers could also be repurposed for this, such as meat trays or fast food holders.  Using a large styrofoam plate gives a pretty big flat area (the center) -- so the tilted edges can be cut off, and this flat area can be used for making a drawing.

Using a pen cap that is kind of pointed (not the pen tip itself; that would cut into the styrofoam instead of pushing it down), a simple design or picture can be drawn in the styrofoam.

Then paint can be added, by brushing some on with a paintbrush, and then a print can be made by either pressing paper onto the styro etching surface, or picking up the etched and painted styrofoam piece and pressing it onto paper.

As you can see, you'll get a mirror image -- so if you want to put words in the design, keep it in mind that you'll need to etch in a mirror image of the word (write each letter backwards, and write from right to left).

Each print made with this technique is a mono print; you can reapply paint to make more of the same, but if you try to make more than one without repainting you will probably not have a very vivid print.  Here are some examples: the tulip on the left is a first print, and on the right is a second print made without repainting.  Sometimes a kind of faded appearance does look nice; so you can experiment with doing reprints, if you want to achieve a lighter look.

So the next time you have some leftover styrofoam dishes or containers in the house, remember "styro-printing!"  You might like to repurpose some containers and try this out; or you can easily find a package of styrofoam plates at the grocery store-- I was glad to find that this material was so easy to make designs in (with a blunt, rounded but kind of pointy instrument-- a knitting needle or crochet hook could also work for this; I think another time I'll try using those . . .)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Savouring the Past but Moving Forward as a Post-Homeschooling Mom

This summer is the beginning of a new season for me . . . life as a post-homeschooling mom.  I think I will always see myself as a "homeschool mom" just because it has been my life for so many years (30 at least -- my oldest child will be 33 this year).  But things will be different now . . . just as being a mother never really changes but once your children are grown you have a different kind of relationship with them, there will be different ways now, for me to use my interests in learning and education, and to apply my own creative energies.

I'm going to keep designing and completing some more curriculum projects -- because I have a "ton" of files in my computer that are just screaming to get out . . . and besides that, it is just something I like to do.

I'd also like to really take the time to get training in graphic design things -- like uses of Adobe Illustrator/InDesign/Photoshop.  And I have some books for this already . . . they are here, just waiting for me . . .

Since I like doing artwork, I'll probably continue to experiment with various techniques and ideas, just as my own work instead of leading/teaching my kids.  But I also have the opportunity to volunteer in my grandchildren's classroom for art, so that will be a prized activity once a month :)

These past few years, my son James and I have really enjoyed learning about music history-- dabbling in it, coming across some fascinating things and interesting styles and people . . . and I will plan to continue this in my own way, as I write more posts for my Notes and Notions music adventure blog.

And while he is pursuing his own individual interests in music -- playing guitar, bass, piano, harmonica, singing and whatever else he decides to do either on his own or with others, I am going to be continuing independently on my own musical path, as a songwriter and composer.

So just because I'm finished with homeschooling, it doesn't mean this blog is going to end. Yes, it has been a "homeschooling blog," but I'm still here, still wanting to explore and learn and discover . . .  so I will be sharing bits and pieces of that journey here from this point forward . . .

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A New Literary Device Every Week? The Writer's Toolbox

Have you ever heard of "synecdoche"?  How about "chiasmus," "epistrophe," and "metonymy"?  I had no idea there are so many different types of literary devices -- tools that can be used in writing, to give clarity and embellishmentsa to communication.

Most people are familiar with a few of the well-known literary devices -- like simile, metaphor, irony, and alliteration.  But if you'd like to be introduced to more, just take a look at The Writer's Toolbox, by Patricia and Megan Samuelsen.  This mother-daughter team has written a book that can be used in introducing students to thirty-- yes, THIRTY-- different literary devices.

The format is to give examples, using short excerpts, from various literary texts, and with additional explanations, for one literary device at a time.  After demonstrating how it is used, there are exercises to help the student gain greater familiarity-- he/she is shown more short excerpts and asked to comment on how these are using the literary device.  Then, in a further exercise, the student writes sentences using the literary device.

This book is to be used with high school students, but I couldn't resist using a few of the lessons with James, starting in sixth grade.  We went through some of the more commonly known literary devices, and after doing the book exercises, he made a sentence and picture to demonstrate each writing tool, on a small wall poster.  Here is his first poster; we added to the poster with each new lesson.

And here is his second poster.

We revisited these lessons this year (eighth grade), just briefly, introducing one more of the literary devices.  The book is interesting, and the lessons have helped James learn quite a few tools for writing.

I can see that if used at the high school level, learning these literary devices would be helpful both for writing and for analysis of literary works.  They also present some very unusual vocabulary-- words like "liotes" and "polysyndeton."

The devices are arranged in four groups, and there is a written review quiz at the end of each group.  An appendix gives definitions and examples for all the literary devices, in alphabetical order.  And in another appendix there are instructions for two games (for a group of students) that can be played to practice the names and definitions.

The Writer's Toolbox is available online, at

How about it-- would you like some "synecdoche" with your "personification" and "alliteration"?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Mermaids Have Arrived!

The mermaids are here!  Yes, they're ready to swim right up to your couch, table, or felt board!  I made this design a couple of months ago, when our young granddaughter had a "Little Mermaid" birthday party. Then a little while later our son was in a youth theater version of Disney's Little Mermaid (he was a sailor and also changed costume to become a "tentacle" assistant to Ursula).  So I made a lot more mermaids and donated some to the souvenirs table at the play . . . and now there are some of these watery world creatures up in my Etsy shop, Fuzzlemania.
They all have long hair, but for some it is straight (like the one above) and for others it is wavy (like these two below).  I used the basic person shape pattern from Fuzzle Family Felt, and adapted it to have a mermaid tail instead of feet.

Here's a picture of the "Mermaid Assembly Line" in process:

As I said before, these mermaids can swim anywhere!  on a couch (as in this picture), table, rug, bed, or even on the kitchen floor (they are very magical and great at swimming); do you know any young girls who might like to play with them?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Leonardo (da Vinci) : To Mantua and Beyond . . .

     We have been reading aloud Catherine Jaime's series of novels about Leonardo da Vinci's life; the first was Leonardo the Florentine (about his years as an apprentice and early on as an independent artist), and the second, Leonardo: Masterpieces in Milan (he was hired by a duke, doing commissioned paintings, sculpture, and other works; this is where "The Last Supper" was painted).

     We recently finished the third book in the series. This isn't the last one; Catherine has already written one more novel that continues with Leonardo's further travels, inventions, and artwork. And she may be writing a fifth book in the future (and a sixth . . . ?)

We found this third book, Leonardo: To Mantua and Beyond, to be-- like the rest of the series--an interesting historical fiction account that gives us a picture of what life was like in Italy, and for an artist and inventor, during the late 1400's and early 1500's.

     In the Mantua book, the artist journeys with his friend Luca, a Franciscan monk, to the city of Mantua, Italy-- where he does some work for the Duchess Isabella-- because the French were invading Milan and it was not safe for him to stay. They spend a short while there, experiencing various entertainments with the Duke and Duchess while Leonardo also does artistic projects.

     If you've ever wondered what the city of Venice is like, the descriptions in this novel will give you an idea; later in the story, Leonardo and his friend travel there, on a project they've been called to-- to assist the Venetians in planning a defense strategy against a threat of invasion by the Turkish Sultan Bayaid.

     While in Venice they investigate the city and visit a print shop and glassblower, besides working on their military planning proposal.  Then they are about to head to Florence-- when the story ends (and we are ready now, to hear the next book in the series . . . !)

     I recently loaned two of these books to a friend who has also very much enjoyed reading them; what I like about these short novels is that they give so much description of the setting -- the Italian cities and time period of the late 1400's and early 1500's-- so that it is easy to imagine what it could have been like to be there during Da Vinci's time.  It is also a way to learn more about this famous artist and inventor and some of the things he did during his lifetime.

     Be sure to see Catherine Jaime's other books, too-- she is a prolific author with a wide variety of books-- both fiction and non-fiction.  Many of her books are about people or events in history, plus there are a variety of other topics.  She has books available through Curr Click and Amazon.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Painting with Tissue Paper

Maybe you didn't know you can paint with tissue paper.  I didn't, until I saw this post about it by Jeanette Nyberg at Artchoo:

She explains the process and has step-by-step pictures in her blog post.  I loved the idea of having a "surprise" painting project; it is a surprise because you put pieces of tissue paper OVER your design drawn with oil pastels, then use a paint brush and water to "paint" right over the tissue paper.  You don't know what the final picture will look like until after you let the wet tissue paper sit and "bleed" color onto the paper underneath.''

For some well-written instructions, take a look at Jeanette's post; I'll show some of the valentines we made here:

Please note:  To do tissue paper painting, you must use a special type of "Art Tissue" that will bleed color.  It won't work if you try using ordinary gift wrap tissue; I tried that before I knew what the difference was-- and the result was no color under some areas that had gift wrap tissue over them.  I had some of the right kind of tissue in our craft cupboard, but I had been trying to use a combination of both gift wrap tissue and art tissue.  In the picture at the left below, the white areas resulted because there was pink gift wrap tissue above.  So if you do want to have some white areas, you could use two types of tissue purposely.

I really enjoyed learning this new painting technique.  Of course, it doesn't have to be just for making valentines-- we'll be using it to do some other kinds of artwork, too . . . but since Valentine's Day is almost here, making valentines was a great way to try it out!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Hand Sewn Felt Family

Homemade felt people . . .

I enjoyed doing the beadwork for the mom and daughter in this family.

These felt people are hand-sewn, using a double layer of felt for the body and then adding clothing on both front and back.  A pattern set for making a felt family, Fuzzle Family Felt, is available through Fuzzlemania (Etsy shop) or Gentle Shepherd (also includes patterns for a felt house, trees, car, dog, cat, and more!).

Monday, January 20, 2014

Illustrated by Me! Story by McCollonough Ceili

Do you have kids who like to draw?  Here's a set of unique books where something is missing-- it is the illustrations!  These books are called "Illustrated by Me."  They have words to stories typed along at the tops of the pages, and large blank areas where children can draw in their own illustrations.

I think this would be a great way to investigate illustrating, drawing, and artwork while not requiring the child to compose a story him or herself.

The author of these stories is a homeschool graduate-- she was home educated from kindergarten through college!  She has Irish ancestry, and grew up on an island off the coast of Ireland, though now she lives in America; her name is McCollonough Ceili (pronounced Ma Call In Ah KayLee).  She has written various other books -- an autobiography, some poetry and literary fiction works, and some other children's books.

There are two books in this series.  Book One has three stories; Book Two has two.  Book One's stories are:

1- A Friend for Dinner (about a fire-breathing dragon who helps some hunters solve their problem of needing fire to cook with, and they help him, too)

2- Mama Has the Sleepies (about what happens when "the sleepies"-- with accompanying yawns-- spread through a busy family's day)

3- A Kitten for O'Malley (about a dog taken regularly to visit patients at a veteran's hospital who becomes friends with a new kitten his owner brings home)

Book Two's stories are:

1- The Remote is Missing (about a girl who understands that there is more to life than TV)

2 - Mama went to War (about a military family in which the mom is called to active duty, and she and her young daughter agree to both keep a LED candle nearby at night, as a remembrance)

My very favorite story is in Book One-- it's the one about "the sleepies"-- I think we can all relate to having sleepies sometimes, and this is one of those stories where the wording and actions just keep passing from one character to the next.  There would be lots of different drawings of people (family members, one at a time) in this book, as well as some of animals (family pets).

The concept of these "Illustrated by Me" books is similar to the writing and art work pages in Gentle Shepherd's printable ebooks -- My Alphabet and Number Pictures, Copy and Draw, and Picture and Writing.  I love to see activities that encourage creativity and making original artwork, and I think this storybook format is a great idea!

The drawings could be done gradually, as school assignments, and would eventually make a fun-to-read completed book.

Here is a link to McCollonough's Amazon writer page (all her books are listed there):