Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sick days

This week I have been down with a nasty cold. I jokingly told my husband on Monday that I was taking some sick leave, because we all know there are no sick days for the stay-at-home mama. I thought I would share a few moments from my sick days.
  • I snuggled up with my kids to read "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" by C. S. Lewis. We have been working our way through the Narnia stories since mid-March.
  • My youngest pretended to be my doctor while I was lying on the couch. She brought me her favorite fleece blanket, tissues and some water.
  • I worked with my oldest on Life of Fred Fractions while I was propped up in bed settling in for some rest. My sweet husband worked from home one afternoon so I could catch a nap.
  • I got to witness some amazing fort building.
  • My girls wanted to do my hair while I was resting. So they each got a brush and were combing a section of my hair while I was lying on my pillow.
  • I provided some oversight of the girls' baking project. They made a cookie recipe from Smyrna. So we also looked up some information about Smyrna and found it on the map.
  • I watched some of Julia Child's cooking videos with my oldest daughter.
  • My two youngest daughters drew some illustrations for a story and had me write the story for them.
  • I read "A Pair of Red Clogs" by Masako Matsuno to the little girls over and over again this week. They set up a market like the one from the book and used glass jewels for money.
  • Yesterday I drove my son to his art class while still wearing my pajama pants and realized too late that I needed to run into my office to pick up mail. I managed to get in and out unseen.
  • For myself, I read "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown. It was so good that I'm going to read it again!
Although my house could be tidier, I think a fair amount was accomplished while I was on the couch this week. And the cleaning will certainly wait for me until I feel better.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Weekend's Work

After reading Project-Based Homeschooling, I got all fired up about making some changes in how we organize and work in our home. I decided to begin by organizing our workspace.

We generally live and work in the dining and living room area. We have kept art and writing supplies in three drawers near the kitchen table. I thought shelves would be a better option, but the drawers were empty and available, so therefore worth a try. I had a basket for paint supplies, a basket for clay and play-dough supplies, a basket for sewing supplies, and a basket for glue and craft sticks. We had baggies of jewelry supplies, stacks of different kinds of paper, boxes of colored pencils and crayons, and stacks of coloring books and drawing books. Even when the drawers were organized, some shifting had to be done in order to find things. The drawers never stayed organized long. I was frequently cleaning them and telling myself each time that something about this system was not working.

We also had a tall shelf in the dining area where we kept books for the kids on the lower shelves and homeschooling resources for me on the upper shelves.

What I decided to do was move all the picture books to a different, smaller book cabinet. This made room on the shelves for all the art and writing supplies. Although I do think it would be better to have lower, longer shelves, I think we can all agree that sometimes it is necessary to work with what we have. These shelves are what I have. So I kept my resources on the top shelf and filled in the lower shelves with the kids' supplies. I used some containers from our recycling bins to hold scissors, pencils, and craft sticks. I pulled baskets from around the house that weren't being used in order to group together origami supplies, paint supplies and jewelry making supplies. I got some dividers to hold up the different kinds of paper, notebooks and drawing books. It is now easier to see where things belong. I also left the two bottom shelves empty for projects in progress.

As we began to work with this new system, it became obvious quickly what little things I had forgotten to make accessible to the kids, so I made those corrections. So far it seems that it is easier for the kids to put their supplies away. The shelf has remained organized for three whole days now, which is truly some kind of miracle.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Project-Based Homeschooling

This week a friend recommended I read "Project-Based Homeschooling" by Lori Pickert. I devoured that book in two days. After I had my third child, someone described Attachment Parenting to me and I was so excited to learn that there was a name for this thing I had been doing all along! Because once I had a name for it, I knew I could find more information about it and more importantly, I could find other people to connect with. I had a similar experience when reading this book. Now I have a name for this thing we have been doing, a way to find more information about it and I can now make connections with other people who are doing this thing too.

Lori Pickert's blog is also an amazing resource! It is taking me longer to wade my way through the blog than it took me to read the book. She provides a Quick Start Guide, articles describing how others use PBH in their homeschools, and on Fridays I enjoy all the links she shares to the blogs of others. Then I can see how other families are using PBH in their homes. She has even written about some things that have been on my mind lately: Dealing with Haters and Getting Support From Family and Friends. Lori's words from Dealing with Haters are going to be my new mantra.

This book has inspired me to rethink the organization in the main area of the house. As I look at our shelf, I see many resources my kids have no interest in using and I can think of several things I could put there that would support their current interests. I also see that some lower shelves would serve them much better. Having tall shelves in a kid's space makes the top half of the shelves a complete waste!

I also felt encouraged and validated as I read about ideas we are already using. I already provide time, materials and space for the kids to pursue their own interests. I already recognize "mess" as a positive, a sign that my kids are doing creative and important things. When people walk in our home, our values are reflected. This home looks different than other homes. People do things and learn things here. Right in the central part of the home, instead of a china cabinet, there is workspace.

I will write more as I make changes to our workspace so you can witness the transformation!

Monday, April 8, 2013


My oldest got a tablet computer for a Christmas gift. He and I have spent many nights since playing Scrabble on the tablet. It has been interesting to me how different this game really is when played on a computer.

When I played it as a board game long ago, I looked at my tiles and tried to think of words I know that use the letters I had before me. I tried to aim for using as many tiles as possible. I kept a dictionary at hand to settle disputes about spelling or whether or not someone has spelled an actual word.

My son, who was completely new to the game, was absolutely killing me every time. His strategy is to use the letter tiles that have the highest points. He doesn't draw from his vocabulary, but instead he uses high point combinations and allows the computer to tell him whether he has found a real word or not. We have kept a dictionary at hand to look up these real words that he stumbled upon in his merciless efforts to win so that we can learn what these words mean.

This weekend we were given a Scrabble board game. My four and six year old girls wanted to play it this morning before breakfast. At first I said they should wait until I have a chance to teach them how to play. But then I realized there is no harm in them using the pieces to make their own game. As I was folding laundry, I walked by now and then to see how it was going. The older one was showing the other one how to build words. She showed her how each letter makes a sound and when she put those sounds together, she could make words. They didn't get correct spelling all the time, but they had done their best to spell real words.

My son and oldest daughter showed up to join the game. They wanted to play a little closer to the real rules. My son got out the dictionary. They didn't play very long before he decided he didn't like the board game as much as the computer game. And I'll have to say, it really is very different.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Study of Plants and Trees

  • We spent many days at my husband's family farm to look for seeds and to look at the parts of plants.
The creek banks provide a good opportunity for observing tree roots.
  • We took cuttings from mature plants, put them in water, watched them take root, and planted them in pots.
  • We planted bulbs in clear containers inside the house.
    On the left are several of our plant cuttings. On the right are Paper White bulbs. The seed in front is the avocado seed we soaked in water for several weeks before it took root.
  • We soaked an avocado seed, watched it sprout and now have a sweet little tree! It took a long time for it to take root. We nearly gave up. But once the tree started growing, it grew pretty rapidly. The kids had fun measuring it each day to see how much it had grown.
    A March picture of "the guacamole tree"
  • We tried planting the top of a pineapple, but did not have success with this project.
  • We transplanted iris tubers in the yard.
  • We read "Grocery Store Botany" by Joan Elma Rahn. It has project recommendations at the end of each chapter that can be done using fruits and vegetables that most people have in their homes. It also talks about common vegetables and fruits and explains what part of the plant is eaten.
  • We planted our own garden in the backyard.
  • We learned to identify several different trees that can be found in our area by looking at the leaves and the bark.
  • We learned the names of common wildflowers and weeds in our area.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Dying playsilks

Several years ago, we bought the kids playsilks for Christmas. They have been used to play pirates, doctor, picnic, forts, dogs, babies, etc. My youngest daughter has many different ways to feel like she has long, flowing hair, but this is one of them:

So the playsilks have been used heavily and after several years, several were worn out. Over time I had forgotten how very much I had paid for those original playsilks. My husband and I did some looking to see if we could make our own. We found some links about dying playsilks with Kool-Aid:

I ended up using suggestions from both of the above links. Here is what we did:

We bought 35" x 35" scarves , 3 packages of Kool-Aid for every color scarf we wished to make, and a jug of white vinegar.

I filled a large stock pot halfway with water and put it on the stove to boil. Once it was boiling hot, I turned off the heat, added 1/2 cup vinegar, and my three white scarves. I let this sit for about 30 minutes.

In another stockpot, I brought two quarts of water to a boil. I then added 1/2 cup vinegar and 3 packages of Kool-Aid. Then I added one of the scarves that had been soaking in the hot vinegar water. At this point, the kids stirred the scarf around in the colored water for 5 minutes.

We poured the Kool-Aid water and the scarf into the colander and rinsed until the water ran clear.

The scarf then went into the dryer on low heat for about 10 minutes. Once I rinsed the first scarf, I refilled the stockpot and got it on the stove to begin the next scarf. It took us about 45 minutes to dye, rinse, dry and iron the three scarves. With a helper working on each stage of the process, everyone always had something to do and we were able to move right along. This is how they turned out:

We are really pleased with the results. We have already ordered more scarves so that we can try some new colors.