Beating Afternoon Boredom

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Who doesn't battle afternoon boredom?

Let's not take a show of hands. Rest assured, my hand would be raised. 

You know the story. Three o'clock. Children squabbling. A high schooler STILL needs help with Algebra. And dinner? It's frozen on the counter! 

Afternoons can be hard. Yet, after years of beating afternoon boredom, I know the efforts I made toward defeating "I'm bored" syndromes--in myself as well as my children--mattered. In fact, hobbies launched and rediscovered interests became catalysts for entrepreneurial pursuits, high school courses, and career choices.

Beating afternoon boredom is worth every ounce of time and energy we can muster. 

At a recent mom's event, a group of ladies gathered after to ask me how our family beats the afternoon wearies. 

Our strategies varied with life seasons. 

When we had two eager, active boys, we: 

  • spent many afternoons outside. 
  • visited local parks. 
  • had Popsicle and wading pool parties--adding measuring cups, a bucket, and garden hose to change things up--as long as the weather allowed.
  • ran around outside playing with squirt guns.
  • played in the lawn sprinkler. Notice the hose and water trend?
  • read a book together while sitting on a blanket outside or on the couch inside.
  • took an afternoon bath with bubbles and wrote with shaving cream on the walls (great for practicing letter formation).
  • took nature scavenger hunts. 
  • played hopscotch or jumped rope. 
  • created with sidewalk chalk on the driveway. 
  • painted the garage door with water and paint brushes. 
  • tossed bean bags. 
  • bought a basketball hoop and gathered children from the neighborhood to play. 
  • played wiffle ball in the dead end street.
  • created with watercolors.
  • encouraged outdoor adventures and independent studies. 
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When we had lots of littles with a few bigs who needed afternoon help, we:

  • sat on the floor in the hallway across from the bathroom so I could supervise littles in the tub while also helping an older sibling with math or editing papers.
  • spread a blanket under a shade tree for afternoon tutoring while the littles rode bikes around the driveway or played hide-n-seek. 
  • listened to audio books, our favorites being Jim Weiss recordings and Your Story Hour, again while mom worked with the bigs.
  • offered play dough, pattern blocks, old magazines to cut, or watercolor paints. 
  • enjoyed playing in the sandbox while mom and older siblings sat nearby and completed math or mom edited papers. 
  • used masking tape to create a "village roadway" on the carpet so littles could build houses and garages for their toy cars and play "village". 
  • made a masking tape hopscotch on the carpet for littles to be active when weather wouldn't permit us to be outside. 
  • asked bigs to go on a date and take learning to new surroundings. 
  • discussed the plot and characters of a current read while running errands or taking a sibling to practice. 
  • encouraged bigs to work on independent studies. 
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When we had a menagerie of ages, we: 

  • enjoyed front porch read-aloud time. 
  • created with Lite Brite.
  • went to visit great-grandma. 
  • sat together on the couch and read books of interest. Farm study was always a favorite. 
  • took a teen or young adult on a date to talk about things that mattered to them. 
  • used a coupon and bought five pounds of clay at a local craft store. 
  • spent time at a local park or community swimming pool. 
  • made brownies for the elderly neighbor and went to visit. 
  • built a fort outside. 
  • dug a hole in the backyard (not my favorite or my idea, but it was sibling generated and encouraged collaboration and working together). 
  • made impromptu afternoon library runs. 
  • created something yummy in the kitchen, often to "surprise" Dad when he returned from work. 
  • made cards for family member's birthdays.
  • enjoyed spin art. 
  • cared for our porch science projects
  • spent the afternoon creating with watercolor. 
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Go ahead! Beat the afternoon boredom. YOU can do it! It will be worth your time and effort. 

And, in the process, your children and young adults will learn valuable life skills: time management; collaboration; communication and conflict resolution; work ethic; teamwork; working independently; and caring about others ideas, thoughts, and feelings. 

Math Meets Art: Watercolor Square Collage

Have a creative learner who loves color?

If so, the black and white page of the math book may not be the WIN of the day.

I learned that lesson the hard way about thirteen years ago.

I told myself if I had another creative I would be intentional about offering math experiences which would nurture the artistic tendency of his or her brain. 

Guess what? God gave me another creative! 

Lesson learned; I get a do over! 

Squares--black and white lines of equal sides on a page. Or, squares--colorful cut outs with sides of equal lengths. 

Math matters to a creative, after all math and art have some of the same elements--shape, line, space. Add a bit of color, some construction paper, glue, and scissors and math may become of the highlight of the day! 

Yesterday, math was the highlight in our house! 

After talking about rectangles--two short sides and two long sides, four in all--and squares--four sides of equal length--we did a quick look around the living room and dining room for rectangles and squares.

Windows.

Glass panels in the kitchen cabinet.

Cloth napkins.

Pages in a book. 

Checks in the tablecloth.

While hunting an older learner asked, "What do you call the distance around the window? I forgot."

Perimeter. 

Another discussion ensued; children were curious. I had their attention. 

I excused myself to the junk box (who doesn't have one of those!) in the laundry room and returned with a measuring tape and a tape measure. We talked about the differences between the tools. One was flexible, one rigid. Reviewed how the tools were used. Each had advantages and disadvantages depending on what was being measured. 

Learners asked to play with the measuring tools. 

They 

  • measured the perimeter of the math book
  • measured the height of the dining table
  • measured the length of the computer keyboard
  • measured the width of the window sill
  • measured the circumference of my coffee cup

After moving and measuring with excitement, I introduced my idea. 

Let's combine math and art! 

I gathered a watercolor tablet of paper (rectangular!), the watercolor box (it was rectangular, too!), several brushes, a napkin for blotting (square!), and a cup of water to clean brushes. 

Handing each learner a sheet of watercolor paper, I instructed them to paint, anything, anyway they desired. Once painted and dried, we cut squares. 

The squares became a mosaic.

My artist met math, and spread her enthusiasm to others in the room!

I am thankful for a second chance at teaching a creative learner. 

 

 

Torn Paper Rainbows

"Cheryl, take the kids outside to see the double rainbow!"

Mom called, encouraged.

Out we went. Raindrops continued to fall.

Sun brilliantly overcoming wet shadows.

Children and I look up, mesmerized, awed!

Like a fresh watercolor. Radiant.

Learning moment launched.

"I want to make a rainbow!"

Pulling from my mind activity file, construction paper colors gathered. Glue found.

Together, thirty minutes, tearing paper-- fine motor strengthened--a colorful paper rainbow appeared.

Mesmerized, awed.

"Mom, look what we created!"

A together moment. A learning moment.

And a rainbow gleaming through water droplets started the process.

It was simple and it was glorious. 

Picture Pie: Fractions, Art and Fun!

One of our favorite picture books related to fractions is Picture Pie by Ed Emberley.

Learners often use fractions and dread in the same sentence. 

It doesn't have to be so.

Picture Pie by Ed Emberley allows fractions and fun to partner for intentional learning and retention. 

My children found the circle cutter in the scrapbooking cabinet, the one that hadn't been opened for quite some time. One child carried the circle cutter. Another carried twelve bright-colored sheets of construction paper. Each raced to the kitchen table, inspired by Ed Emberley's book. 

Within minutes, piles of rainbow-colored circles grew on the table. Elmer's glue flowed, spurted, then sputtered from orange tops as contents were drained. 

The results. Folds. Fractions. Art. 

Mastered. 

What we did?

  • Read the explanations and looked at Ed Emberley's collage work.
  • I explained fractions are parts of a whole. The bottom number is the denominator. It tells how many total parts are in the whole. The top number is the numerator. Itrepresents a specific part of the whole. 
  • Each child selected one paper circle from the circle piles and followed directions to fold the circle in half—two equal parts. Together, we unfolded and cut along the fold line. I had each child write the fraction 1/2 on each semicircle.
  • I encouraged the learners to select more paper circles to fold and cut into two equal parts. I demonstrated how each half circle could be folded in half again, making four equal parts. I labeled each part with the fraction 1/4.
  • I allowed time for experimental folding, cutting and creating. WOW! Creative. Fraction. Fun.
  • One child suggested using printed papers and aluminum foil. 
  • At the end of the afternoon, I offered our magnetic circle set, demonstrating equivalent fractions by laying pieces on top of one another. For example,  I modeled how two 1/4 pieces fit on top of one 1/2 piece with no edges    extending over, making the statement 2/4 = 1/2.

My learners not only understood fractional parts and equivalent fractions, they applied what they learned to create amazing art--an all-around WIN WIN WIN for fraction, fun and art. And we learned together!

Intentional. Real. Relational.

Clay Day

At a local craft store, my girls cashed in on a 40% off coupon, wrapped their arms around seven pounds of clay and hurried home to the kitchen table. Clay creations came alive. Our table was covered in gray dust. We used several resources to learn more. One, Fun with Modeling Clay, was penned by one of our favorite children's author illustrators, Barbara Reid. Barbara wrote Two by Two which she illustrated with clay figures. Creative and intriguing to my children. 

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Later, our oldest daughter made some cooked play dough, a huge hit with the little learners in our home. She used the crumbled water-stained recipe card* I used when I taught preschool. Gathering ingredients, she measured each and combined in a medium cooking pot, cooking on medium heat until the dough formed a ball. 

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Playdough

1 c. flour

1/2 c. salt

1 c. water

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 tsp. cream of tartar

*The old recipe was hand-written on a piece of scrap paper and given to me by a mentor teacher. No idea where the teacher found it.

Digging Deeper

On our clay day we spent several hours working with clay, experimenting with techniques, watching online tutorials, reading author websites, measuring ingredients for the homemade clay, following directions, calculating cost of clay per pound based on what we paid, and working alongside siblings collaborating while sharing and taking turns with tools. Much was accomplished with just seven pounds of clay!

As a family, we enjoy learning about the lives and hobbies of the authors we read. We always read the About the Author and connect with any links they provide. If we desire to dig deeper, we search for the author website online. These learning trails often offer opportunities to learn geography, history, and science. 

Benjamin West Mini Study

Celebrate the simple in learning from an intriguing read.

 

It's been a few years and a few children ago that we read Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry (yes, the author who wrote the beloved Misty of Chincoteague, another classic worthy of the read). The book introduced us to the Father of American Painting, an artist of whom we were unfamiliar.

Recently, the youngers were introduced to Benjamin and the olders were reacquainted while reading Benjamin West: Gifted Young Painter by Dorothea J. Snow, a biography from the Childhood of Famous Americans series. We were all intrigued, just as we were years ago at our first introduction.

Little known facts we learned:

  • Benjamin wrestled with how his God-given talent could possibly be woven with his Quaker faith, giving his family and his church a new perspective to consider.
  • Benjamin was creative and industrious, making the best of what he had, from colored clay (insert science study here) to using his cat's fur to make paintbrushes (there is a character lesson of truth telling here but I won't spoil the story).
  • Benjamin was a court painter for King George III.
  • Benjamin taught famous painters Gilbert Stuart (think famous portrait painter of George Washington) and John Trumbull (think Declaration of Independence)

Interesting new vocabulary we learned from our reading journey through Benjamin West: Gifted Young Painter .

  • Satchel
  • Provost
  • Ramshackle
  • Aghast
  • Daub
  • Folly
  • Hautboy
  • Chortled
  • Nape
  • Comely

We finished the COFA biography today. As I read the last word of the book, a little perked up, interested:

"We have to find out more!"

Yes, we can. And so can you!

Look up these painters in your favorite set of encyclopedia (yes, they still exist), explore Google images, and watch a few You Tube videos.

We:

A good story sparks an interest.

"Mommy, Benjamin influenced many artists. May we find out more about those artists?"

  • Charles Willson Peale
  • Gilbert Stuart
  • John Trumbull
  • Thomas Sully
  • Samuel F. B. Morse

A spark ignites an interest, lights a new fire.

More to do:

  • Differentiate between portrait and self-portrait. Paint or draw your self-portrait.
  • Create a time line of the American history occurring at the time Benjamin West and the other painters were painting. What events were taking place? Did the painters have anything in common?
  • Talk about other events in American history happening about the same time.
  • If you had the opportunity to meet Benjamin West, Gilbert Stuart or John Turnbull, what questions would you ask them about their work or the time in which they lived?
  • Learn about the Quaker faith and how it is similar or different from the faith of your family.
  • Read Barbara Brenner's The Boy Who Loved to Draw, biography of Benjamin West. If reading more than one book about Benjamin West, discuss how the books are similar or different. Compare facts in each work.

A spark ignites an interest,lights a new fire.

That's the ever giving blessing of cultivating a love of learning.