Monday, August 8, 2016

Art History, the big Story approach

As my children are transitioning towards Elementary/Middle School, I am trying to apply some of the Montessori Elementary principles to what we do, going from manipulative/concrete to abstract and big picture.

This approach is working particularly well in the study of Art. Rather than approaching different techniques in random order, we are following a small booklet, "The Child's History of Painting", which is a simplified narration of the evolution of art, with plenty of activities related to each moment.

It gives children the big picture, in the same way "The History of the Hand" and "The History of Writing" do in the Five Great Lessons, and it helps them understand art in context, within its historical times.

I  usually start with the activities suggested in the book, but I also like to incorporate my own.

Here is an example of a fun activity we came up with, in which we combined history, art and a little bit of craftsmanship by a cool DIY scratch art paper medium.

The subject is Ancient Greece, more especifically the Red Figure and Black Figure in pottery.

In order to reproduce the effect, we simply created a scratch paper using only red orange crayon for the Red figure  and use red orange card stock for the Black Figure.

The Red -figure inspired vases

The Black-Figure inspired vases

When placed side by side, the effect is quite striking, and it helps understand the details involved in the change of background for each style.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Doll houses and creative juices

A few years ago my children got a beautiful doll house made of natural wood, and I was so excited... I love natural wood toys, and this one was particularly well made. But after playing for a little while (like, two hours) they never went back to it again...

I was puzzled, and attributed to the fact that boys and miniature houses maybe are not a good fit... until my 6 year old son started his "house project." He was so excited he worked on it for days. He would wake up in the morning with all these ideas he wanted to incorporate into his project, and it has been so rewarding for him. He shows it to everyone that comes to our house, and he always says (with a very happy look): "It's all homemade".

I learned my lesson... at least for my kids, the capacity to transform common things into something else is deeply satisfying, and giving them the final product is not necessarily what will inspire them to create.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Icon writing

Our Art History class for today

I have been searching for a good video to show the process of icon writing, and this one is one of the best.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A new art project

After working with Mona Brookes' book "Drawing with children" for a little while, we were searching for new challenges, and we discovered these wonderful step by step drawing videos on You Tube. They are very clear, with no talking at all, and can be followed very easily, at one's own pace. They are focused on drawing animals, but there is such a large variety that there is something for every taste.

This is what my 9 year old draw in around 20 minutes...

Here is a link to the tutorial video:


You can see the rest of the videos here

Friday, October 17, 2014

An alternative to narration

Narration is a very useful tool when it comes to reinforcing and understanding certain ideas with younger children. It basically consists of the retelling of a text by the younger child. It helps them organize ideas, grasp the gist, and differentiate between important facts and anecdotes.

But it can get a bit repetitive and yes, boring, over time. To keep our interest high, we sometimes recreate the story with home made cardboard figures. A few cereal boxes, some color pencils and a bit of imagination, and a child is ready to present the story in a more dramatic way. It's history, drawing and performing arts all in one. And it is FUN!!

Here is our latest, depicting

The Myth of Ceres and Proserpine


Ceres & Proserpine

Pluto, the king of the Underworld

Jupiter himself, in his palace....


Tuesday, September 30, 2014


I am always searching for new ways to incorporate handwriting to our day, and this time I found a fun one for Kinder age kids... The idea is quite simple, but it works wonders, especially with children that are a bit bored of the paper and pencil approach.

All you need is a blackboard, some chalk, a container with water and a brush.

The aim is for the child to "erase" the letters by tracing them using the brush and water.

Simple. Fun. Quite effective. :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Math materials III - Checkers board

The checkerboard belongs to the Montessori elementary material, and is aimed at children in the 6-9 classroom. Its main focus is on long multiplication.

We have just introduced it in our home, and it was a big success.

Here is a video of how to use the board that I found quite useful:

My DIY version is made using very simple materials, namely felt and adhesive felt, also known as presto felt.

I bough mine at Joanne's but I am sure Michaels and other crafts stores have it too.They come in individual 8" x 11" sheets, so you can buy exactly what you need for a few dollars.

Basically I cut a 22" by 11" rectangle of blue felt,  which doubles as a base and the blue squares in the board. After that I cut 12 green squares and 12 red squares, all measuring 2 1/4" x 2 1/4" in presto felt.

Using a picture as a model, I simply stuck them in order. Although not absolutely necessary, I use think strips of black presto felt to make a border around the board. Finally, I wrote the numbers corresponding to each column and row with a Sharpie.

Here is a graphic representation of how the board should look like:

This is our version:

An added benefit of the felt is that the beads do not roll on it so easily, so it helps the child keep everything in place, especially in very long multiplications.

As you have probably noticed, my beads do not follow the same color code as the original Montessori materials, but they were what I could get at the time I made them, and we have been using them successfully for five years now. :)