Monday, December 30, 2013

Boys sewing: Buckles and Bobbins

Zach (age 11 now) developed an interest in sewing a couple of years ago.  Unfortunately, he did not develop any patience to go along with it, so his sewing efforts have thus far been pitiful to say the least.  Sewing is not a speedy hobby, at least not in the beginning that is for sure.  Zach is a book learner to the core, so I started my hunt to find him some sewing books to aid my hands-on teaching.  Needless to say, the choices among books for teaching a boy to sew are few, or at least they were a couple of years ago.  [Anyone know of newer choices?]

We got a couple generic learn to sew books for kids to show how a machine worked, how to thread a needle, how to straight stitch and so forth (to reinforce the hands on componenent), and one complete with shapes to sew over to practice curves and basic manipulation of paper (leading to fabric manipulation while in the machine of course).  But then we had a lack of progress in terms of real projects beyond a pillowcase or other super simple things.  Most "first project" stuff really appeals more to girls (simple skirt and so forth).

Then I came across this book, geared for older boys.  It is a bit pricey honestly, but I have nothing but praise for the content.  It is a complete first sewing course with projects, and  not all of them are super super simple.  They truly put some thought into what would appeal to a boy, especially an older boy, and then taught them how to make it.  I think boys especially need a final product to be interested at all, and a pillowcase is not going to cut it.  Zach does not want to sit down and practice stitching with nothing at the end, or practice putting a button on nothing.  He needs a garment.  So boys will practice a zipper in an actual bag they want to use, or a cargo pocket on a fun pair of pants. 

This book has pull-out, full-size pattern sheets.  The kids will need to learn to trace off the size they need for the garments (size 8-16!!!!) on paper or whatever tracing medium you are using, then do the project.  The instructions for the projects are clear and concise, simple without being dumbed down.

We haven't made all the projects, but one we use repeatedly is the PJ pant/short pattern and simple V-neck, scrub-style PJ top with a simple facing.  Since his patience is low, I have taken over the sewing of these most of the time, but your child would have little to no trouble doing the pants on his own, slightly more with putting in the facing on the neckline of the top, but still very doable.  The pants have a modification from PJs to daywear with a pattern add-on of side pockets and/or leg cargo pockets. 

Again, I have nothing but praise for the very existence of this book to help boys, especially older boys, learn to sew with projects of interest to the age group.  The content is good, clear and simple without being overly simplistic.  They can create projects or gifts.  Fit on the garments for stated sizing may be a bit generous but not awful, and very compatible with other typical envelope patterns.  5 stars for this one!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

And still more Greeks ....

Yeah, we're still studying Greeks.  There is a TON to dig into during this period of course.  In terms of all of us together, we read The Librarian Who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky.

Kathryn Lasky is one of my favorite authors for kids, and this book did not disappoint.  It is a nicely-illustrated biography picture book about Eratosthenes, the Greek who came up with a way to measure the circumference of the earth.  It talks about his life, his intense curiosity about everything and finally the method he used to calculate the circumference of the earth (which was incredibly accurate by the way!).  Given the content and calculations, even though it is a picture book, it suits upper elementary better than lower elementary students.  My 6th grader liked it a lot even, and he rarely will admit to loving a picture book lately.  My 1st grader liked the story okay, but the calculations of course were well beyond her understanding, even with the good pictures and descriptions.  You really need basic geometry at 2nd or 3rd grade level to get much out of that part.  What a fantastic book though, and a great addition to our ancient history studies this year.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Homer and other Greek thoughts

For the past several weeks, the kids and I have been looking at Ancient Greece.  This is our second time through, Zach at least having done this roughly 5 years ago.  Obviously, he was very young and we didn't have the tagalongs we do currently.  I needed the same simple myths he did as an intro for Lily and, to some degree Noah, but also more in depth resources for an older and much more educated Zach.  Hence, we this time dove into "The Children's Homer" by Padraic Colum.  Not sure I will do this again.

Whew. If I did this again, I think I would get an audio version. The translator/author of this version clearly did not like commas. With complex syntax at times, and sentences that can wrap several lines of text, a few commas here and there would have really really helped this mom and her kids keep the flow of thought together during this read-aloud.

That said, it was a good version for my 3rd and 6th graders who were new to Homer other than very simplified/picture book versions. This was our "middle of the road" version for them, having done Greece a few years ago with the picture book tales. So, they came into it knowing the stories in brief. It does have illustrations (simple line drawings) each chapter. The story is understandable, with the very occasional vocabulary word new to my kids ("affrighted" being an example).

A good choice but not outstanding to us.

Next week we are moving back into Egypt for later empires.  I'm more than ready for a break from Greece after this book.  But, we'll be back to the Greeks soon enough.  :)