Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Medieval Studies and Quill Pen Writing

     This semester at our homeschool co-op, I am teaching a medieval history class to 3-5th grade boys.  There is a heavy emphases on knight and medieval warfare, since it's an all boys class, but I'm mixing in a lot of general history as well.  I though I would share some of what we are doing for anyone who might be interested in doing a medieval unit study with their kids.  I am letting Anna do all the activities that I have for the class at home, since it ties in with what we are doing in history. 
     So, for the first week we learned about Alfred the Great.  For a corresponding craft, I got some goose quills at Michael's, and cut them into quill pens. Here is instructions on how to make them.  We then made ink from soot and honey, and practiced writing with the quills.
     Here is Anna writing with her pen.  She wanted to write by candlelight, to be more authentic.  She is writing on these pages I got here, which help you make a medieval style booklet.  It also gives instructions on how to make the ink, but I think if you got the soot like they recommended, (by holding a spoon up to a candle) it would take you weeks!  I cheated and used soot and burnt wood from my outdoor fire pit.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Our Coon

     We finally caught him!  He managed to get the food out of the trap without getting caught about four more times before he finally got trapped.  Abriel, who was terrified of raccoons because of all the sounds in our attic, (Every time raccoons were mentioned, she would vehemently say, "I hate raccoons!") fell in love with it once she saw it.  Samuel was heart broken at not being able to keep it, but he seemed to feel better when we explained that the raccoon had to go live in the woods, where it would be happy.  We did take it to some woods about 10 mi away, but something tells me, that this coon will be seeking civilization soon enough.  He is a little too fond of garbage. 

     Here he is getting ready to go bye bye.  See all the insulation in the bottom of the cage?  Apparently he spent his night in captivity grabbing all the insulation as far as he could reach, and putting it in the cage.  Grrr.   So long Rocky. I won't miss you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentines Day

     Valentines Day.  Usually not my favorite holiday, (not sure why; maybe it has something to do with all the pink cheesiness) but this year I got into it a little.  I found some info and worksheets on St. Valentine, who was killed for performing marriages when it was illegal to do so; hence the romantic aspect to the holiday.  It made me feel a little fonder towards his day. 
        For the kids, I made these little felt pockets with cookies and notes inside, and then hung them on the kids bedroom door, to be discovered in the morning.  The twins were thrilled to find them, as of course, anything to do with cookies is great!  Anna didn't like hers.  I think she was disappointed that I had made her something, and she wasn't able to finish what she had been working on for me.  So she quickly finished it that morning, and gave it to her Daddy instead. Ah, motherhood! A thankless job. Anna is so sensitive and emotional, and all I can think is, "She's eight! These are suppose to be the good years, what will she be like at thirteen?" I shudder to think.
       For Dave I made his favorite kind of breakfast, (sausage, eggs, biscuits, and gravy, all from scratch) as this seemed to me better than getting him a card.  After all , you can't eat a card.  I had Anna help me make the gravy and get the table ready, and that helped perk her up. 
        On a completely different note; I have a raccoon (!) living in my attic.  We are trying to trap him (or her), but so far, the wily bugger has managed to get the food out of the trap without getting caught.  I can hear it right now.  I never thought I would be sharing my house with a raccoon.  I'm not sure what we are going to do with it once it's caught, but I am envisioning some pretty cool nature studies.  Then maybe we'll take it far, far away, and hope it never returns.  You can't help but admire such a clever animal.  I am just waiting to see what it will do tonight.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Creative Playing

     I love seeing my kids creativity in the way they play.  Anna set up a camp site in the living room.
This was their fire.  The red playsilk is the flames.
And of course, you've got to have a hammock.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Dyeing Yarn with Natural Dyes

     I decided to dye the wool yarn I bought to teach Anna to knit on, because I thought it would make the process more complete for her, and also because I really wanted to try out some more natural dye stuffs.  The process of dyeing wool is a bit different than silk; mostly because you always have to be aware that the wool can felt up, and it is also very fragile when wet.

The first step is to make your yarn into long skeins.  I am assuming the reason you do this is to keep the yarn from becoming hopelessly tangled while you're dyeing it.  Anna just wound hers on the back of a chair.  A very easy way to do it.

After you take it off the chair, tie it in a few places to keep it together.  Then the next step, I did not do, but really wish I had.  You are suppose to wash the yarn in a gentle detergent in order to wash out the lanolin, and make it absorb the dye better.  I thought that this yarn, not being hand spun, had surely already been processed enough.  Apparently it still could have used a wash, since the yarn didn't seem to take the dye as well as it might, and there was a oil sheen on top of the water, as well as a strong smell of lanolin.  So, live and learn.

Presumably, after you've washed your yarn, you need to soak it in a mordant.  I just used vinegar.  I didn't measure anything, but it might be about 1 part vinegar to 6 parts water.  It has to soak for at least thirty minutes, so I went ahead and prepared my dye stuff while it was soaking. 
      I used onion skins, turmeric, and pine cones, but added tea to the pine cones when they didn't make the water dark enough.  The onion skins I collected over a period of time.  Whenever I cooked an onion, I would just toss the skins in a mesh bag.  Doing this, I got a lot of skins without wasting any onions.
I boiled the onion skins and the pine cones/tea until the water looked pretty dark, and then fished out the bulk of the dye stuffs, but didn't strain it.  The turmeric, I put into the pot right before I added the yarn. It didn't need to boil. After that, I just added the yarn and waited..., and waited.  The yarn really didn't seem to be absorbing the colors like it should, so I gave up getting them any darker after about four hours. 

 After rinsing, and rinsing, (the turmeric took FOREVER to rinse out) I hung them to dry.  Not as dark as I had hoped, but still very pretty.  The turmeric is crazy bright.  It does not look like it was dyed with anything natural.  It's Anna's favorite.
     All in all, a very fun project.  I can't get enough of natural dyeing.  The results are so wonderfully unpredictable.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Planning for next year, already

     Come February, my homeschooling steam starts running pretty low.  That's when I start planning for next year, in order to get that "big picture" in front of me again.  Figuring out what books I need to buy, what additional resources I need to line up, and etc.  This is the stuff I love.  I could plan and research forever.
     In searching for Marco Polo resources tonight, I came across a wonderful film called In The Footsteps of Marco Polo I will definitely be using this as part of our Marco Polo geography studies, but I am wondering what else to do.  I like this Marco Polo book, by Demi, but I am still searching for blank maps of that area similar to the ones BF books has for the Holling books.  Does anyone know if one exists?  You would think, considering how many people study Marco Polo's travels that someone would make one.  Hmmm... maybe that's a summer project for me to do. 
     I have also been getting all the AO books for year 3, that are available, downloaded to my kindle.  I like actual books best, but boy! you can't beat free books.  I love my kindle for getting all those free or cheap classics, but as far as buying regular priced books on it; no thank you.  The way I see it, a kindle book is just on loan.  If you can't give it away, sell it or loan it out to whoever you want, than you don't really own it.
     Speaking of kindle books; a book I have recently fallen in love with (and have on my kindle) is Grammar-Land.  What a great little book!  I am definitely going through this with Anna next year.  I also love the fact that you can get free worksheets to go along with it.  I already have them all printed out and hole punched.  How's that for planning ahead? 
     I am tired.  I know I should go to bed, but Dave is working late- again. Blah.  After spell-checking my post, I know I need to go to bed.  This might be a record amount of typos for me.  I think I even spelt "year" backwards.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Happy Birthday Samuel and Abriel!

     My babies are three.  It doesn't seem that long ago that they were tiny little babies; not running, talking, singing, memorizing Bible verses, learning to count, toddlers. 

    They got their Birthday measurements done.  Abriel has kept her lead on Samuel.  I wonder if at some point this will bother him.  He sees himself as older, or at least more capable at doing things, and Abriel is more than happy to let him open doors for her, or pour her a glass of milk, so I don't think being a little shorter will bother him much.

     We had a very simple party for them, which I think they were able to enjoy more than if I had gone all out.  I made some permanent decorations this year, that all of the kids can have for their Birthdays.  This banner was fun and easy to make.  Even better because I didn't have to buy any thing to make it.  It was made from scraps I had leftover from other projects.
     The Birthday ring I bought from an Etsy dealer.  I love it.  The wood is so beautiful. I made the decorations for it.  I had a lot of fun thinking of what to put in it.  The snowman is because their birthday is in the winter, the heart is for February, the squirrel and the bunny are just because they like those animals, and of course there is a number three.  I also have a little picture of them as newborns.
This picture was taken when they were just a few days old.  Maybe I'm biased, but I think they were the most beautiful newborn I've ever seen.  When I was looking through the old photos to find one to put in the Birthday ring, Anna looked at baby picture of them, and said, "I miss them."  I know how she feels.  They are babies for such a short time, and then they're not.  However, as sweet as they were as newborns, I don't think I would like to re-live that time.  Newborn twins are tough.  That whole time is sort of a hazy blur. 

      Here's their cake.  Two little squirrels sharing one acorn.  Kind of like their life.  Being twins hasn't always made them the best sharers, but they are definitely familiar with the concept.  The idea for their cake came from my desire to not use dye in it.  I've been trying to cut back on the amount of dye the kids eat, and so I couldn't see avoiding pre made food with too much dye, and then adding a bunch into something I made for them.  Anna's birthday cake this year was simple, as she wanted a cheesecake (Yum!), but I wanted to do something a little more kid themed for the twins.  A girl cake is easy because you can dye it pink with raspberry or strawberry juice, but what can you do for a gender neutral cake?  So a snowy cake, (It's white!) seemed like the perfect solution.  They like snow, and they have really been into fir trees since Christmas.  When we are driving around, every fir tree they see is a Christmas tree, and they get soooo excited about a tree they see in the highway median.  We have tons of squirrels, (too many) so that seemed like a perfect animal to have on it.  I sprinkled coconut on everything to make it more snowy.   I think it turned out cute, and it was so easy to decorate compared with other cakes I have done in the past.
It was good too!  The cute little boy in the middle is their nephew.  He is two months younger than they are, and they just looove him. 
     They were so excited about their Birthday this year.  So much so, that next year I'm not sure if I'll tell them they are going to have a party until seconds before the guests arrive!  They woke me up at FIVE O' CLOCK in the morning, asking, "Is it Birthday party time?!"  And they continued to ask that about every five minutes, until it finally was BIRTHDAY PARTY TIME!