October Art Projects

If you read my earlier post on the art projects I wanted to incorporate into this year’s curriculum, you would know we intended to try dying fabric naturally and making Viking-style jewelry this month. While working with the clay last month, we just went ahead and made our jewelry pieces since we were having so much fun with it.

Viking Style Pendants

Vikings used the runic alphabet and carved in wood and in stone. We created our pendants in clay, carved them with a positive word, and painted them to look like stone. I found a runic alphabet worksheet online and we use that to write the symbols we needed for our words. Shi chose ‘focus,’ Ro chose ‘healing,’ and I chose ‘still.’


Rune Pendants: On the left, mine says ‘still’ and on the right, Ro’s says ‘healing’. I decided to turn mine into a Christmas ornament, rather than a pendant. I also added two wavy lines at the bottom that remind me of calmer water, still moving but slowly and calmly.

Shi has misplaced hers in the confusion of rearranging their room so I didn’t get to take a photo of it.

Rune Information Links:

Dying Fabric

We also started our study of using natural plants to dye fabric. It seems like a lengthy process and one which may take a good portion of time. I decided we’d save the practice until we are on holiday. We finished our study of the process and safety rules, as well as the terminology. I found my information at the following links:


Then we jumped to wood-burning. Ro is very interested in this type of art but I was skeptical. She’s almost overly careful and that can be equally as dangerous as not being careful enough. I have some small pieces of scrap wood for them to practice on so they can get familiar with the tool and learn how to hold it carefully. I do suggest using masking tape to hold smaller items down and make them more stable. This way, no fingers get burned.

We used tracing paper to trace a design we liked. Then we laid the tracing paper upside down on top of our wooden ornament. We used the same pencil to trace over our design to transfer the pencil markings to the ornaments. (You could use transfer paper instead.) Then we used the wood-burning tool to burn the design into the wood. My tool is in a box labeled “Walnut Hollow.” (I bought my kit at one of the craft stores but I see you can get it at Amazon, too.) After burning the designs you see in the photo plus one more ornament, it was getting too hot to hold comfortably. So I unplugged the tool to allow it to cool. This works for me because too much detail work really hurts my hands.

I believe this type of project is best done by adults. However, older children, at the very least middle-school-aged children could possibly do this with close adult supervision. Disclaimer! I feel my own children are ready for this type of project. You are the best judge of whether or not your own child is ready. You are the sole responsible party if you choose to do this project or any other project I discuss in my blog posts that involves any element of danger and something bad happens. If there is any doubt in your mind, DO NOT DO THIS PROJECT WITH KIDS.


This is my set of wood-burned Christmas ornaments. The girls are still working on theirs.

After we’re done with the wood-burning, I want to add some watercolor paint touches to mine. I like the way the transparent paint looks for this type of project. If the girls wish to paint theirs, they’ll do so in the paint of their choice. Then we’ll seal them with a clear glaze. I’m using Krylon spray triple-thick crystal clear glaze this year but ModPodge would work well, too. (No companies paid me to say either of those things.)

  • Again, please let me stress the importance of not allowing anyone under the age of 12 or anyone who has trouble with fine motor skills or anyone with the inability to focus for long periods of time to do this project. This project is not so awesome that it’s worth risking the safety of your child. 

I don’t have any helpful links for this project but I will point you in the direction of YouTube for tutorials of all kinds. I’m quite certain there are wood-burning tutorials there, too.

I hope you enjoyed this project and that it inspires you.

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)Copyright © 1998 by David H. Stern. All rights reserved.


Keeping Things Organized

I love an organized work space! I do, really. But it can be very hard for me to keep our school items organized when we have a limited number of bookshelves, bins and solid surfaces. Over the years, I’ve developed a system that works pretty well for us when I stick to it.

In The Beginning

When I was only teaching one child and he’d just started school, organization was pretty simple: one file box, one student desk with backpack, part of one shelf on my bookshelf. By the time our second child started school, I’d built up quite a collection of school books and papers. The one file box for our oldest still had some storage room in it and I bought another, thinking it would surely continue to work as a viable storage system. Not only did my file box system fail to meet our organization needs, our bookshelf wasn’t adequate either. This was a big problem since I needed to keep track of all the kids’ work.

Books, Papers and Filing All That Stuff

While my husband was still serving in the military, I bought two medium-sized bookshelves to supplement what was already available in military housing. That took care of the book storage problem for a while. But I still needed another box-filing system for the paperwork. I started using plastic bins. I’m still using those plastic bins but I learned that smaller is better. While being able to store two years worth of paperwork in one place was simple, it made it difficult to move around and difficult to find specific things. Also, clear boxes were something I opted for right away so I could see at a glance what was inside.

More Paperwork?

When the kids were working in a workbook, it was very easy to store the books where I could easily find them. Now they work in notebooks and on loose sheets of paper or printouts. I had to figure out a way to keep those organized. I opted for 3-prong folders. I started using this method before the stores started offering plastic options. I switched to the plastic ones as soon as possible.  Each year, I purchase one folder per quarter, per child. (I used to use a 6 week system but switched to quarters when we started schooling year-round.) That meant I had to purchase 18 of the folders. In order to keep track of which folder belonged to whom, I had the kids choose a color for the year, then purchased folders in those colors. The first year I did this, our son was green, our oldest daughter was pink, and our youngest was orange.

Here’s How It Works Now

The kids still choose their color for the year. I label each folder with the name, school year, grade level and the period. After that, I put them on the bookshelf and pull the folders for the current quarter to keep on my desk. As they finish a test or a worksheet, I punch holes in them after grading them and add them to the folder.

Worksheets That Help

Here’s a new twist I added in this year. In those same 3-prong folders, I use a grade-keeper sheet and a reading log, both created by Tina Robertson. Tina blogs at www.tinasdynamichomeschoolplus.com. She’s had a ton of trouble with people taking her worksheets and selling them as their own so her freebies are password protected. Subscribing is free and easy, though. It’s definitely worth your time! I use many of her free items in addition to the grade-keeper and reading log sheets, including her free unit study planner, her attendance chart, her school lesson planner, and some of her lap books. She has a few items that are available to purchase. I can’t purchase any of them at this time but if that option becomes available in the future, I will definitely do so. I’ve never been disappointed with Tina’s blog or her helpful worksheets.

All the Frills

  • phone and tablet calendar apps – I use the alarms to remind me when something important is coming up.
  • a lovely weekly planner – Here’s one very similar to what I’m using now. I love these because they are colorful and encouraging. I’m sure I’m not alone in needing encouragement by the time February comes around!  The one I’m using now is last year’s model but it’s another thing I really like about these calendars. Mine covers the months from August of 2015 – December of 2016.
  • Wall calendar – If you can do both the weekly planner and a wall calendar, I’d recommend adding something similar to a Mom’s Plan-It Calendar. There’s plenty of room for a medium-sized family to keep track of what each of the members are doing on any given day. I used this type of calendar for about 3 years. I had to drop back to using a plain calendar for a year or two, then moved to the weekly planner for it’s portability.

I love color and helpful quotes. I love a clean workspace. When those things come together in my classroom, it’s a win-win situation. Do you have any organization tips you’d like to share? Feel free to do so in the comments!


The girls chose navy blue and purple as their colors this year. Atop them is the calendar I’m currently using. ~ Photo by Melody Kittles

NaNoWriMo Nerves

Many of you may know about National Novel Writing Month, which is November. I’m getting extremely nervous! For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is an event that has at this time expanded beyond the boundaries of the USA to several other countries around the globe. It’s all about the creativity and challenge of writing a novel in the span of one month. To learn more about it, check out the website nanowrimo.org for more detailed information.

While I’ve know about NaNoWriMo for many years, I’ve never been involved before. I’m actually doing something even more nerve-wracking. I’m encouraging my girls to take part, as well. We’re incorporating this as part of our Composition course and we’re getting more familiar with creating digital art in Gimp. (Gimp is free to download!)

Any project you want to do well should start with some sort of plan. For me, that is especially true when the project looms above you, a seemingly insurmountable Mt. Everest. Here’s what I’m using to teach writing skills using NaNoWriMo.

YouTube Tutorials

  • Katytastic – She’s easy to listen to, inserts humor randomly, 4 stars! We watched her videos on character creation and world building.
  • Author Andrew Butcher – His instructions are clear and easy to understand. He doesn’t tell everything, though, because he offers a writing course you have to pay for. We just gleaned for now. From seeing his short videos, though, I’d definitely like to take that course later.
  • RandomHouseInc – This is the only publishing company I’ve checked out so far but when studying to excel, it’s a good idea to study the masters. Random House has been in business a long time. We found a nifty video featuring different graphic designers talking about how they design book covers before we started making our own in Gimp.

NaNoWriMo Curriculum

  • ywp.nanowrimo.org – This is where you’ll find the downloadable curriculum packets for your children or small group. There are also larger classroom packs available to order at reasonable fees. Teachers and students can create their own accounts through this site, though the teacher will be redirected to the main nanowrimo page.
  • National Novel Writing Month YouTube Channel – You can watch live-stream webinars here. There are also live write-ins you can take part in if there are no groups in your area to connect with.
  • Camp NaNoWriMo – The Nanowrimo folks host two training camps you can attend online at different times of the year. You can find out more about those by clicking the link. I haven’t tried it myself, but I think my oldest and I would enjoy this.

Other Helpful Links With Tips

  • World Building – When you write a novel, the more thought you put into it, the more believable your story will be. For people like me who may have trouble getting started beyond just a couple names and a general conflict idea, try using a general geography worksheet like the one from The HomeSchool Mom blog, filling in the relevant information as it pertains to the world you wish to create.
  • Character Creation – Having trouble picturing your characters? Try creating them at Doll Divine! Some of the designs you create can be saved, but not all of them. And none of them should be used as art for your book since many of the artists who design these doll games try to make a living with their art. But it does help you create a picture in your head if you have problems with that. The NaNoWriMo student packet has a fabulous interview for you to fill out for each character. Super helpful!
  • Making a Story Outline – I’m currently testing out an app called Character Story Planner on my android tablet. It’s a free app, so there are ads but they aren’t intrusive to the work area. I plan on doing most of my work on my laptop but apps can be helpful. I’m still trying to figure out how it works but so far, it seems to be nifty! With the option to add photos to each character page and your main story page, it’s a win for me. Note! You must fill in a title first before you can add characters!
  • Habitica – To help me stay on track with my over-stuffed schedule, I’m using Habitica, a free RPG type app which helps you stay on track forming good habits and tackling daunting to-do lists. It keeps me on track because I earn armor and find pets and food and all kinds of nifty things. The best thing about this app is the kids love it, too. My oldest is two levels above me! I run it on my android tablet and the girls run it on their cellphones.

That’s all I have time for this week! I hope something I shared this week is helpful or insightful or just plain interesting. Have a great week!


My first attempt at creating cover art in Gimp ~ art by Melody Kittles

“1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was unformed and void, darkness was on the face of the deep…” ~ Genesis 1: 1-2a (CJB)


Art Through Our Year

Art is always so much fun for me. Since the time when our son was a toddler, we made time to just be creative and make things out of the bitsies lying around the house. As our children have gotten older, the projects have changed and grown a bit but I still try to be as thrifty as possible without diminishing the quality of the product we create.

“If you’re not making a mess, you’re not doing it right.”Melody Kittles’ art motto

My Art Plan

My art plan for the year always undergoes change as the year progresses and as our budget dictates. I used to be able to buy everything we’d need in advance. Alas! I can’t do that anymore and we just have to live one day at a time, even in making our school purchases. Here’s a list of what my art plan looks like with the nixed projects crossed out and the revisions in italics.

  • September – mosaics (2 weeks)/ stone carved pendants (2 weeks) clay pendants created to look like carved stone
  • October – metal jewelry (2 weeks)/ natural dyes (2 weeks4 weeks)
  • November – embroidered samplers (2 weeks)(braided rug as a fall-back project)/beeswax candles (2 weeks)(wood-burning as a fall-back project)
  • December – art in Literature (poetry, play-writing, etc.)
  • January – Fine art with concentration on still life in pastels/charcoal, portrait art with video tutorials to guide, and watercolor vignettes
  • February – cardmaking (2 weeks)/culinary art with focus on candy making (2 weeks)
  • March – nature art such as floral designs and whittling
  • April – fashion design based on musical compositions
  • May – music composition

Tips for Purchasing Art Supplies

You’re probably wondering how one collects all the necessary supplies for all these projects. Here are a few tips I’ve learned about over time.

  1. Coupons! – Clip coupons, print coupons, use coupon apps like those from Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, and Joann’s. Even Wal-mart has a nifty app for your phone or tablet!
  2. Ask! – In the King James Version of the Bible, James 4:2 says, “Ye have not because ye ask not.In the Complete Jewish Bible it says, “The reason you don’t have is that you don’t pray!” Either way, ask around. You’d be surprised what people are willing to get rid of because they don’t want to throw it away.
  3. Bargain shops – I’m often surprised at the different things I find in dollar shops, bargain shops, and thrift stores. They offer a wealth of supplies ripe for the picking more often than not.
  4. Giveaways – Find some appropriate blogs to follow and join in the giveaways. It’s never a guarantee, but it’s usually fun. You may even find they give away short e-books on how to do different things just for signing up to receive their newsletter.
  5. Don’t buy! – Can’t afford curriculum? Don’t worry. Try one or more of these options! Blogs by artists, Blogs by artisans, YouTube tutorials, and there are tons more if you just dig a little!

Melody Recommends

Here are some of my favorite places to visit for art knowledge. Why not check them out!

  • Atop Serenity Hill – Consie is an artist and body painter who is full of positivity and has a beautiful technique. Her mixed media work is my favorite!
  • Hodgepodge blog – Tricia Hodges shares so many helpful tips and tutorials. Their family works with pastels and she often shares free tutorials. Tricia also offers a curriculum which you can purchase at a reasonable price.
  • DeviantArt – While DeviantArt is not necessarily a place you want your younger children going without supervision, it /is/ an excellent place to ask questions and have them answered. There are also many tutorials posted on the site from how to draw cartoon and manga characters to how to create GIFs. There is also an option to turn on the safe-surfing button so you can avoid most of the things you wouldn’t want your children viewing. It’s not foolproof, though.
  • The Toymaker – Marilyn Scott-Waters does beautiful work with watercolors. She also has tons of paper toys you can download and print free! If you like what you see there, be sure to check out the books she has for sale.
  • Brenda Swenson – This wonderful lady is a new discovery for me. I found her blog while doing research on vignettes. She works in watercolor and offers lots of good, solid advice.

These are only a few of the places I visit for knowledge, inspiration and encouragement in teaching art and art appreciation. Do you have some tips or helpful websites you’d like to share here? Please comment below! Thanks for reading!

Exodus 35:35 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

35 He has filled them with the skill needed for every kind of work, whether done by an artisan, a designer, an embroiderer using blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen, or a weaver — they have the skill for every kind of work and design.




TheRo creating her mosaic tiles ~ photo by Melody Kittles ~ We used Crayola air dry clay and carved a pattern into some of our tiles before cutting them. We found a craft knife worked the best to make clean lines in the clay. The clean-up was easy, too! We look forward to one day working with slip!


TheRo and theShi painting their mosaic tiles using enamel paint ~ photo by Melody Kittles ~ We chose enamel paint for its durability and sheen. Once our paint was dry, we sealed the tiles with a clear glaze spray paint which we hope will add to their durability.

Busy School Life!

Get Involved!

What an otherworldly week! We usually help out in our local theater at least once a year, though we missed last season. This year we were asked to help out with a play which would be the entertainment for a local charity group’s annual event. We had almost 4 weeks to work on our lines, but only 6 or 8 days to practice together. There were two songs to learn and only 3 days to practice those. The time flew by so quickly! TheRo was an extra in three of the short skits. TheShi was an actor in two. John was an actor in four. I had one speaking part and one silent acting part. We all sang. It was definitely the toughest stage job I’ve ever done but the ladies we performed for said they enjoyed it immensely. The smiles on their faces were worth all the hardship and forgotten lines and places where I botched my solo.

Why Theater?

When we first moved back to my hometown, we looked for ways to get involved in the community besides being involved in the church. We met up with an old friend of mine who encouraged us to come check out this play he was auditioning for as a possible way for us to get involved in an activity that would be good for the kids. We decided to go…and ended up staying involved in the theater since then. So here are some of the reasons I believe theater to be a good activity for homeschool families.

  1. public speaking – acting roles are great experience for speaking in front  of crowds
  2. confidence – being on stage builds confidence and teaches the importance of enunciation
  3. gets you involved in the community
  4. puts you in touch with people from all walks of life
  5. connections and networking
  6. new friends
  7. helps you see things from different perspectives
  8. …and so much more!

Only Theater?

No! Please don’t stop there! Theater might not be your passion and there are so many ways to get involved in your community.

  1. Community Gardens
  2. Community Art Groups
  3. Local attractions (i.e. museums, special city events)
  4. Volunteer services for charity groups that help those in need

…just to name a few. Don’t hesitate to scour your local newspaper or city website for up and coming events or organizations in need of helpers. There’s always a way to be more involved in your community.

I hope you’ll be inspired to try some new things in your own neighborhood and encourage your children to do the same for their families in the future. Let’s build on some positive influences and share some positive change!


A picture of our cast, taken by our director, Mrs. Jody Powell, who has been working with the Eunice Players Theater for several years.