Glass Blowing 101

There is a glass art studio that just set up at the Orange Beach Art Center called the Hot Shop.  You can watch the artist create with glass usually just on the weekends.  They also schedule field trips and groups so some members of both the Lake Forest Home School Club and BEACH homeschool club attended a class at the Hot Shop today.  We learned about the history of glass, the science of glass and watched as the artist went through each step, including blowing the glass, to make a wavy bowl.  He incorporated color and ridges.  He taught us about the furnace and how it works versus the “old fashioned way”, how the glass cools and handed out a sheet of paper with glass and glass blowing terminology on it.  At the end of the presentation, anyone interested could pay $20 to make a glass ornament.  It was a treat to watch one of our students, Nick, do this before we left.  His job was to blow into the blow pipe at determined times.  The artist would gather the molten glass, roll it on a table, add color and when it needed an air bubble in it to make it grow into a ball, Nick’s job was to blow into the pipe.  He said it was really hard.  The pipe is long so just a little puff of air isn’t going to do much. You have to use your lungs.  In the end, the artist produced for Nick a red glass ball with a glass hook attached for hanging.  It needs 12 hours to cool, so he and his mom will have to make another trip to pick it up.  The red glass, when it is hot, looks brown so we’re anxious to see the cooled product.

rolling molten glass in a fine glass coloring

rolling molten glass in a fine glass coloring

reheating the glass

reheating the glass

he's added larger chunks of purple glass for more color

he's added larger chunks of purple glass for more color

using tools to shape the glass

using tools to shape the glass

after making an opening and reheating the glass it is spun to resemble a flat plate

after making an opening and reheating the glass it is spun to resemble a flat plate

then the glass is hung down; gravity pulls the ends together to make a wavy effect

then the glass is hung down; gravity pulls the ends together to make a wavy effect

The art center was a treat, too.  The art was beautiful; mostly beach-related subjects and reasonably priced.  There is a gift shop.

The Hot Shop is open to the public on Saturdays and holds classes from 10am to 2pm.  They offer the opportunity to make an ornament for $20 or a paperweight for $35.  We saw some paperweights in the art center and they looked like oversized marbles with a flattened part to rest on.  The colors used for the swirl inside the glass was very pretty.

The Orange Beach Art Center is located at 26389 Canal Road.  From the Foley Express turn left on Canal and the center is on the left.  If you pass the blue water tower you’ve gone too far.  Check out their website: www.orangebeachartcenter.com.

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Homeschooling Along the Gulf Coast

So far, we’ve homeschooled our children in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.  I hope we don’t have to move again…sorry Louisiana.

My boys have had some incredible experiences.

We started homeschooling when we moved to Mississippi.  We hooked up with two fantastic support groups: Olive Branch Christian Homeschool Educators and the Hernando-Nesbit Homeschool group.  Outside of group activities I took the boys on lots of field trips in Memphis TN.   We learned how to be birders and kept journals and a lift list.  We loved going to the Lichterman Nature Center.   I bought us each a copy of a nature journal in their gift shop.  The idea of the book is to return to the trails during each season of the year and answer questions about particular stops along the trails.  By the end of the year you have a completed book with nature notes, observations and drawings.  I remember on one day we had a lot of fun because we picked off the ground (in Autumn) as many different kinds of leaves we could find.  We stopped at the pole barn with the picnic tables and did rubbings or drawings of the leaves in another book we kept, searched through a field guide to identify them and label them in the book.  The boys loved it.  Other things we enjoyed were: the Memphis Zoo (we’d concentrate on a different section each visit), the Pink Palace Science Museum and IMAX theatre, the ducks at the Peabody Hotel, trips to Little Rock and their museums, and Shiloh battle field.

We moved to TX in June of one year and left that October.  During that time, the boys learned to identify more birds, since we were in a different fly way.  We went to NASA and the science museum in Houston; took trips to Austin and saw the bats, the black swan and swam in Barton Springs; went to San Antonio to visit and learn about Missions including the Alamo.  We traveled down the coast to Corpus Christi and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to see the Whooping Cranes (we saw one on the way but none along the coast).  Did you know the artist that made the Presidents Park in Williamsburg (www.presidentspark.org) has his studio in Houston?  We visited the studio/warehouse and saw some of the president busts.  It was so cool.  Also on the grounds were sculptures of the Beatles http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1407/549618589_7fa0b47543.jpg  and some other famous people. We lived only an hour from the Blue Bell ice cream factory so we made an effort to get there for a tour and a free taste.  Yum.  When we started school that August we joined the West Houston Homeschool Educators.  The group offered a lot to its members in terms of support, activities and enrichment/co-op classes.  Too bad we had to leave them.  The moms I had met were super.

In Florida we spent our time either with our noses in our books or on the beach learning about beach and marine life.  I do think we spent more time outdoors.  We joined Learning and Families homeschool group.  I’m still a member, only with website access.  What a fantastic group of families and the support they provide was outstanding: co-ops (which we didn’t do), field trips (which we did a lot of) and support meetings and gatherings for the kids.  The boys also joined a 4-H club and entered projects in the county fair.  In Florida we studied more birds, learned to fish, kayak, siened in the bay, kept a marine fish tank (which we still have).  We attended wonderful exhibits at GWIZ (the science museum), Ringling Museum, and Selby Gardens.  We were chased by flamingoes, collected shark teeth and sand dollars (I have over 300).  We experienced tropical storms and hurricanes off the coast (most notable Gustav and Ivan);  found octopus and man-0′- wars on the beach; kept watch over the nesting snowy plovers.  We made it to Sanibel, Captiva, San Marcos Islands; traveled through sugar cane farms to West Palm Beach.  And, attended spring training baseball games. 

We’re members of the Lake Forest Homeschool Club in Alabama: a great group of families.  I suggest anyone homeschooling in Baldwin County join this club.  They have a ton of activities so you’re sure to find something for your children to do with the club.  School just started so we haven’t done any field trips yet…oh there was a get together at the lagoon in Gulf Shores and Fresh Air Family hosted a group outing to learn about turtles.  We’ve done a lot on our own since moving here including visiting New Orleans (there’s our homeschooling connection to Louisiana). The way we live (moving here and there often) we never know how long we’re staying so we have to look at each opportunity and take it.  Just read past blog posts and you’ll see what kind of educational stuff there is to do here in Alabama and Baldwin County specifically…we haven’t even scratched the surface.  Hope we’re here long enough to. 

Homeschooling has given us the lifestyle to search out adventures and learn about things outside 4 cinderblock walls.  It’s a lot of fun to homeschool along the Gulf Coast.   So far we’ve enjoyed our adventure.  I do hope God protects our freedom to homeschool in America.  We pray every day about it.  Hope you do to.