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Tech-Free Family Night

Tech-Free Night Sign

We recently took a family trip (all six of us – two teens and four adults) for four glorious days up to the mountains. It became increasing clear to all of us that technology had become a part of everyone’s life. We had six cell phones (Smart phones, Blackberry, and various cellular phones), one Kindle Fire, two iPods, two laptops, and a DVD player. As convenient as it was to have so much technology, it was also a little distracting. We decided to gather the electronics, turn them off,  and spend time together since we had all made the effort to travel to a beautiful place and enjoy each other’s company.

What did we do instead?

  • Prepared and devoured loads of great food, with every person taking responsibility for planning at least one meal.
  • Long walks together in the beautiful surroundings.
  • Board games and card games.
  • Hobbies of various sorts. Amanda and I worked on a crocheting project. The boys were reading and discussing magazine articles. Mr. B entertained us with his juggling skills. We worked a puzzle together.

Did we spend all our time tech-free? No, but a great portion of our time was spent without the hum, buzz, ring, and screen-time of electronics. No regrets.

We are making tech-free time a new part of our weekly routine now that we are home and back to our regular schedules. I have to admit that even for my husband and I it is difficult to turn it all off. Our teens give us a really hard time about being tied to our electronics. My new Kindle Fire is awesome and it is easy to spend too much time staring at a screen when I still have two interesting fun teens around to enjoy. There is a time and a place for electronics, but there is no replacement for good old family fun for making lasting memories and building up family ties.

Can you go tech-free with your teens for part of the week?

I challenge you.

You are welcome to download and save the printable sign above for your family’s use. I post our sign on the refrigerator on our agreed upon day and then everyone remembers to look forward to Tech-Free Family Night.

Four Fabulous Fauvist Paintings to Study

Four Fabulous Fauvists Paintings with free printable lesson @harmonyfinearts
  • Too much of a mess!
  • Don’t know where to start.
  • I’m not talented in art.
  • My kids are not interested.

We can make lots of excuses for neglecting art appreciation. But why would we skip art when for children it can be such fun and bring joy to the whole family? The key is to have something interesting to share with them and then to have an easy follow-up activity to help build a memory of the picture study in their minds. Do you want to give it a try?

Have you heard of the Fauvist painters? Here are some basic facts about the Fauvists, four paintings to view, and some simple to understand instructions to guide you in your art appreciation. Printable instructions are included at the end of this blog entry.

  • The Fauvists were a small group of painters that were colorful and adventuresome.
  • Many people did not like this style of painting from the early 20th Century. In fact, that is where the word fauvism comes from. It means “wild beasts” in French. It is pronounced  FOE – vi – zim or you can listen HERE.
  • Henri Matisse and Andre Derain were the leading Fauvist painters and I would love to share four of their paintings with you and your children.

Four Fabulous Fauvist Paintings printable

I invite you to enjoy this mini art show: 
Four Fabulous Fauvist Paintings.Printable below!

Woman with a Hat by Henri Matisse
1. Woman with a Hat by Henri Matisse. 1905. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

  • View this wonderfully colorful portrait of a woman in a hat with your children. Have them describe the painting with as much detail as possible.
  • Ask them if they think it is realistic (like real life or did Matisse change things).
  • Can they make up a story to go with the painting? Give the woman a name. What is she thinking or feeling?
  • Use colored pencils or oil pastels to recreate your own woman in a hat.

Open Window by Henri Matisse
2. Open Window by Henri Matisse. 1905. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

  • This painting is such a great way for even the youngest artist to express himself. The easy to identify objects, the colors, and the feeling of this painting make it easy to talk about.
  • View the painting and then give your child a sheet of paper. Have them draw a big rectangle in the middle of the paper just like the window in the painting.
  • Spend a few minutes looking at the view from inside looking out a window in your house. Now have them draw something inside the rectangle, showing what is outside.
  • Finally they can draw the walls, curtains, or furniture that would be on the inside of the window. Remind them to use some Fauvist style by using colors as freely as they wish to express feeling and emotion.

Self Portrait by Andre Derain
3. Self Portrait by Andre Derain. 1903. National Gallery of Australia, Sydney.

  • Children love to draw portraits and a self portrait is always fun, especially when you can pick crazy colors and your own setting. Explain what a self portrait is if needed.
  • Spend a few minutes viewing this painting, observing the way that the artist used color to give a certain feel to the painting. How does the artist view himself? Why do you think he painted himself in this setting? Is it realistic? Did he use lots of detail (look at the face and hands)? How did he use black in this painting? If you could title this painting, what would it be?
  • After a period of viewing and narrating, use oil pastels or tempera paints to create a self portrait. Make sure to title your painting!

Charing Cross Bridge by Andre Derain
4. Charing Cross Bridge, London by Andre Derain. 1906. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

  • Allow time for your children to enjoy this painting by viewing it large online. First have them list colors and then have them list objects. Don’t tell them the name of the painting and have them give it a name.
  • This looks like a marker project so get out all your markers and have your children pull out the colors that they see in this painting and set the rest aside.
  • Give them a large sheet of paper and turn it landscape.
  • If you would like to direct them in this project you can have them use the following sequence: Draw the bridge (horizon), fill in the top with a city-scape, add the water (make sure to use dashes and dabs), and then add a few boats. Don’t forget to fill in the sky.

I have created a printable file for you that includes links to the paintings and instructions for this mini art show:
Four Fabulous Fauvist Paintings printable

Download the pdf and have it on-hand for an afternoon of art and fun!
(If you have trouble opening the file, try right clicking, saving the file, and then opening it on your desktop.)

Each project will be unique and colorful just like a Fauvist!

If you like this study, you may wish to check out the Harmony Fine Arts Mini-Units . There are currently three available and they include artist and composer study along with fun follow-up activities. Each mini-unit is no more than $3.95 and is appropriate for children of all ages.

World Geography for High Schoolers: Free Download

World Geography button

Edit to add the above link to the download of my complete year plans for geography. Please see this blog entry for more information:

Question from a reader:
I read on your website of your plans to do a study of World Geography and Cultures this year using the OurLosBanos materials as a guide. I see that they are referring users to a WinterPromise that will be out this fall. Then I saw your post here where you mentioned using Around the World in 180 Days as a guide and adding in other materials.

We’ve been doing chronological studies for quite a while. I’m praying about changing the pace this year and do something different. I’m wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing a few more details of how you plan to flesh out your plans.

Many of the resources below are ones that were suggested in the Los Banos plans so I will give a huge *thank you* to Jennifer at GuestHollow for all her hard work in originally putting the framework in place. I combined her work with the Trail Guide to World Geography with a few extras to make this course happen for our family. Please feel free to use and adapt for your family.

I suggest that if you want to offer a similar course to your high school students that you will need to sit down and develop a list of goals you are reaching for during your year. As for our goals? We want our boys to be confident about where things are in the world (generally if not specifically), but more than that we want them to feel the smallness of the world, know a little about the needs of other cultures as it relates to our faith, and a whole lot of the flavor and variety that people come in that live in other countries. We don’t want them to only learn about history and culture from our own very small town point of view. They need to know how this system of things that we live in works and how they can move about in the world. Those are lofty goals that will more than likely not be all achieved in one World Geography course.

I made a Listmania list on for your convenience in viewing the bulk of the materials we are using this year for high school World Geography.
World Geography-High School Level
In the list below, I have included much more than the resources listed on As noted in several sections, I will post separate entries to explain items further.

I also do not know how closely this plan follows any one sort of homeschooling philosophy …probably closer to project based learning than anything else or perhaps even a huge unit study. Most of the follow-up activities that are going to be offered are totally self-directed and could be considered various forms of narration: written narration, oral narration, commonplace books, map completion. There is also very slow reading of books, lots of free time to explore using a variety of materials, and lots of discussion as a family.

We will call it Harmony Art Mom’s Eclectic Style World Geography And Culture.

Giant Wall Map: Thanks to my husband we were able to frame this map that we purchased from and make into a work of art in our living room. It has been up on the wall for almost a year now and we all have gained a better idea of the world’s geography from just browsing the map at our leisure. The map is very inexpensive and he made a frame for it. He mounted the map using spray adhesive onto a piece of foam insulation board that he purchased at Home Depot. I think the whole project cost about $30.00.

Google Earth: Wow! What can I say? This tool has taken our study of geography to a new level. We daily are using it to find places we are learning about in our study. For instance, this week we are learning about the UK. We were able to find the British Museum, the Tower of London, and Big Ben. We also used Google Earth to watch the track of Hurricane Bill and then map it out on our wall map. This free program makes the world seem like it is at your fingertips. Beware. Once you get started you can spend lots of time looking up where your friends around the world live. 🙂

Edit to add: We are now enjoying using Wondermaps from Bright Ideas Press. This excellent product is a great tool for making your own customized maps. I love it so much I am now an affiliate for Wondermaps.

Trail Guide to World Geography: Here is what the plans for the secondary school level schedule say:
To develop proficiency at reading maps
To become skilled in using atlases
To know the location of important places in the world
To know key world physical features
To understand geographical terms
To develop critical thinking skills using maps and an almanac

I am finding that these are skills that the boys are honing using this curricula. They are learning more than geography by researching about each place in their weekly assignments. I am using the plans as a framework and requiring some memorization of countries and capitals that we frequently hear about in the news. Don’t be fooled by the simpleness of these plans.

As part of the Trail Guide World Geography plans, there is a complete literature unit using Around the World in Eighty Days. We also are using the Answer Atlas as suggested in the plans for the Trail Guide. There are two more resources that I have on the shelf to use as we feel like the need is there. Geography through Art and Eat Your Way Around the World are excellent resources for all ages. There is also a Student Notebook for High School level that you can purchase and it includes all the printables for you to use with this program. Notebook pages include animals, habitats, gems, plants, and more.

Geo Puzzles: I splurged last year and purchased the whole set of GeoPuzzles from Rainbow Resource. We have dabbled with them over the last few months but now we are working them every week to sharpen our skills. Most of the pieces are shaped liked countries…except where it is impractical. (The link above has a video about the puzzles.)

History Scribe: The World-Learn All About the Countries of the World: We are using these notebook pages to enhance our study. The boys like having a place to organize their research and it gives them a concrete written narration at the end of the week to share at our meeting.

Geography Coloring Book
: For weeks that we are studying a country that is not included in Trail Guide World Geography, I have assigned maps from this sophisticated coloring book for the boys. They will be using the detailed instructions to complete the maps which look like works of art when they are completed.

Leapfrog Explorer Globe:
I am listing this globe with reservations. Although it is a great learning tool, I think it is overpriced. I was able to purchase mine at half price last year and I would never have purchased it at full price. After saying that, I have to tell you that *every* member of our family enjoys this globe from youngest to oldest. My children have even taken it to family gatherings to share. I was amazed that so many of our family members had a blast with this globe. It is not only fun but it challenges you to learn more about geography. We play the challenge games against each other or we play as teams. This might be a great thing to put on a wishlist.

Geography Links for Research:
CIA World Factbook:
National Geographic Kids:

Online Videos:
The Power of Place: Geography for the 21st Century:
From their website, “Geography educators and content experts from around the globe shed light on the physical, human, political, historical, economic, and cultural factors that affect people and natural environments. Maps, animation, and academic commentary bring into focus case studies from 50 sites in 36 countries.”

We have found these to be a wonderful resource so far.
National Geographic Video online:
On the left side of the page, click on countries and there are many to choose from. Please preview any videos you think you might like to share with your children.

Netflix: We are using Netflix as a source of travel DVDs and other movies about various world cultures. I will post a list in a separate blog entry soon.

National Geographic Magazine:
Yes, I have gone ahead and subscribed for the next year to this magazine. There are things presented that I have issues with about evolution and such but as far as providing glimpses into other cultures and making things seem more real….this is a visual feast and my boys…all three including my oldest twenty-two year old….grab this as soon as it comes and devour it. Besides, we will use these as sources of maps and images for years to come.

Free Reading Books: We are using various literature books from around the world to enhance our study of geography. I will post a separate list of books in another entry.

Misc. Stuff: I plan on tapping into the blog world when I know of a person who lives in a different country. I am working on having the boys make up a list of “interview” questions to ask and have the willing participants answer. I already have the boys reading the Family on Bikes blog which chronicles one family’s journey from the top of Alaska all the way to the tip of Argentina. They have twin boys that are along for the trip and it is fascinating to watch their family’s progress every week. I think my boys secretly wish they could do something like that as a family. Sigh. If you know of any other blogs that would be of interest to our study or you live in a different country and would be willing to have my boys ask you a few questions about your life, please email me and we can get in touch. [email protected]

I think that covers the big stuff for our study. I am really just providing my sons with a framework and they are filling in the gaps with their own ideas.

The best part about the plans that we have for learning about the modern world is that it is flexible and roomy enough to veer off the plan but still be on track. So many of the resources don’t feel like schoolwork.

  • The giant wall map has become part of our everyday life.
  • The puzzles and the globe are used all during the week as the interest comes up.
  • The Netflix DVDs are family viewing since we do not have regular television or satellite anymore. Friday and Saturday night movie night is already a well established routine and now we are just mixing in a few of the titles from our geography plans. So far, no complaints.
  • I already explained that the boys enjoy reading the National Geographic magazine and it has become a source of great dinner converstation about trivia and interesting facts they glean from the pages.
  • The boys use Google Earth all the time now as something comes up in converstation. If during their current event they come across something that they can look up, they fire up Google Earth and share what they find. (This week alone we have looked at Guantanamo Bay, Hurricane Bill’s path, and Baghdad.) This really doesn’t feel like schoolwork but the boys are gaining such a grasp of how our world truly is connected now more than ever.

I am hoping to keep you updated as we work through the year. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I can see how this is enriching our life already. I love it when we are all excited and upbeat about a project. This is how we are viewing this more than anything…a family project.

Let me know what you think or if you know of any more resources out there.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Homeschool FreeBEE Fridays
Shared this on Jen’s Friday FreeBEE.


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