Friday, November 11, 2011

Lap Books and Things I said I'd Never Do

I like to post photos of the lap book projects that the kids do for a couple of reasons: first, they are so proud of their work and think it's very cool that Mom is proud enough to show the world on the blog, second, lots of people are looking for lap book ideas, and I hope to provide some inspiration.

I should begin with this disclaimer: I don't particularly enjoy doing crafts with my kids. I don't like big messes, I get irritated when I have to buy a long list of supplies of weird things that I may or may not use again for a project, I do not sew, and I don't like things sitting around collecting dust, just because the kids made it. When I first saw lap books at the annual convention in Richmond, they fell into that category of things that we would never do, along with sewing period costumes for my kids. I thought, "Oh right - overachieving, uber-crafty homeschoolers. That is SO not my style." Then I started reading about them and seeing other examples online, and I thought I'd try it with Matty, just for fun, to wrap up what he'd been learning about ancient Greece. I was probably feeling guilty because he loves crafts and and I thought I was depriving him. I figured I could handle some cutting of paper and pasting. He loved doing it, and for me of course, his desire and enjoyment for the project directly impacted my willingness to do another one, and so we did. Long story short, this past quarter, for our unit celebration with our Tapestry of Grace group, both kids prepared lap books to display and I (gasp) sewed a costume for my daughter. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of both of these things I thought I'd never do. And this, dear reader, is why I am called the "Accidental Homeschooler."

So, if you have read this far and resonated with any of the above sentiments, indulge me while I display for you their most recent lap book accomplishments. My son, who is 10, used his to summarize the content of the first unit of year three of Tapestry of Grace. My daughter, who is 6, did a lap book specifically highlighting the Lewis and Clark expedition. I used a couple of elements from a prepared lap book for her this time, but for the most part I have them choose their mini-book designs from a folder / pouch of templates that I have collected, and then we glue the content into the mini-books, which we print out on colored paper. We do research on the internet to get interesting pictures for collages, cut out pictures, write sentences, narrations, and timelines and figure out ways to display them creatively.

Molly's Indian mini-book

Map and timeline of the journey

Front cover of Matty's

Main section, map fold-out of Louisiana purchase not shown

Conflict between Hamilton and Burr

Timeline of Jefferson's times

In my opinion, the process of planning and designing a lap book synthesizes so many valuable skills. First there is the process of visualizing a finished product and planning the various elements that will be included. Often this changes along the way, but it is an important first step--that of learning to set a manageable goal. Along with this is the accountability aspect--if you don't finish the project, you have the ugly reminders of half-finished lap-book pieces lying around reminding you that you did not follow through on a valuable learning opportunity. Second, there is the visual / graphic layout process. The ability to choose coordinating colors, arrange an aesthetically pleasing layout, with appealing visual elements is an important skill in today's graphic-intense world. Third, The ability to navigate the internet for both information and visual elements is another important skill. For each mini-book that is included, there is the content that must be researched and summarized. For Matty, this is an opportunity to write, developing skills of  summarizing and narrative writing. For Molly, this includes making collages of things that display what she has learned and narrating to me content that she would like written down. Matty is becoming a better writer all the time, but in the lap books I do not correct every mistake or insist on perfectly constructed paragraphs. Rather, I look for accuracy of content and flow of thought, so that it reflects what he learned about a topic. As he develops writing skills I will be more attentive to style in the mini-books. He is also just developing his typing skills, so not every spelling or capitalization mistake is caught, and that is fine. He will look back on these books and see his progress over time. In this particular lap book, he dictated everything in the timeline mini-book to me because he was tired, and he wanted to ensure that the handwriting was nice. Normally I would not write for him, but in this case for the sake of time and fatigue, he dictated to me everything he wanted me to put down. Altogether his book included three maps, one timeline, and eight biographical summaries. It doesn't look like much when it is all folded up, but when I consider the amount of time and writing that he put into this project and begin folding out those little reports, I am very proud of the job he did! It was proportionate to his age and ability, and he has something to show for his work. He loves to go back over his old lap books, which is a natural review, whether that is his intention or not.

Now that you are feeling inspired, stay tuned for part 2 of my best advice for getting started with the projects.

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