Thursday, May 31, 2012

First Camping Trip in a Long Time

I haven't posted in a while, due to the fact that I am busy enjoying summer!  We went on our first camping trip with the twins this past weekend.  Well I guess technically they were there the last time we went camping, but since they were conveniently packed in my uterus at the time, that doesn't really count. 
     Everything went smoother than expected, (not that I thought things wouldn't go smooth, but with little ones, you can never tell) so much so, that I think we will be going again soon.

     We spent most of the time taking walks and just hanging around the camp sight.  It was Memorial Day weekend, so the campground was packed.  People watching was quite entertaining.  Some aging hippies next to us befriended the kids and gave them cantaloupe and brownies.   The kids of course loved this, as we didn't bring any sweets except marshmallows; of which they were only allowed a few after supper. 
We tried to not over do it with the junk food, as it is so easy to do that when camping.  Instead, I pre-made most of the food we brought and went with healthier snacks, like pumpkin seeds and hummus.  It took me a lot quicker to recover from this camping trip than it has in the past, and I think this is why. 

We had to get a new tent, as our thee person one just wasn't going to cut it with this family of five.  We ended up getting a ten person tent because it was a good deal.  I though it might be over kill, but the extra tent space ended up being sooo nice.  The kids were able to go in there and hang out and color when they got bored, and you could walk in-between the sleeping bags. 

Anna entertained herself a lot making these little acorn people houses.
    The twins didn't really seem to get bored.  I think just the novelty of it all was enough to entertain them.  Also, they have been really into coloring books lately.  I got then a couple of new ones for the trip, and they would sit on a blanket and color for 30-45 minutes at a time. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What I've been working on

   I thought I'd share some things I've been working on recently.   I have a big list of things I want to make the kids for Christmas, that I really should be working on, but I find myself getting side tracked a lot.
      This is a crayon roll I made for Anna.  Not exactly an essential item, but I wanted to make one. 
I made the pockets for the block crayons a little too shallow, so that's kind of irritating, but other than that, it turned out pretty good.  Anna picked out the fabric with her favorite colors in it. 

These are the beginning of what will be a whole set of alphabet cards.  I had been admiring this beautiful set of German alphabet card, but being in German, I didn't see the need in getting them.  Then, The Wooden Wagon started carrying similar ones in English.  I was so excited... until I saw the price!  $13.00 for a little pack of cards is just ridiculous.  They were also a lot smaller than I had envisioned.  Sooo... I have started painting my own.  Yes, I am stealing their designs, but oh well.  I might change a few of the animals, such as, I would really like the A to be an alligator instead of an antelope.  I painted these during the kids art time today, and will probably take advantage of this time to paint all of them.  I haven't painted with water colors in awhile, so it was fun getting back in the groove.

     I am making slow but steady progress on the farm play mat.  The end is in sight at least.
I love the way the different colors and textures combine.  Although time consuming, this has been an enjoyable project to work on.  It is so mindless that I can watch a movie while working on it, or just zone out with it.  It's rather therapeutic.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Silly faces and strong wills

     Samuel has just started to draw faces, as oppose to his usual waterfall and rock pictures.  I love the special way that each little child starts to draw faces. 
    Samuel's faces have big eyes with pupils and one eye is always bigger than the other.  His faces also have whiskers, which I think is funny.  This morning, Samuel presented me with a face he had drawn, complete with whiskers, and what appeared to be a black eye.  He looks at me with a face beaming with pride, and says, "I draw you a picture, Mommy. It's you!" 
 "Oh... wow... thanks, I guess."  Vanity has prevented me from showing that one here.
     Samuel and Abriel have started to show an interest in writing their names.  I taught Anna to write her name when she was about this age, but I haven't worked with the twins.  However, Abriel picked up on her own (Or maybe Anna taught her) how to draw an "A", so now she signs her pictures, "AtAtAtAtAtAtAt", except it's upside down. She is very proud of her new signature.  Samuel wants to write his name, but is afraid to try, so he asks me to. He wants me to, "Draw me Sam with those tiny snakes." The snake being the "S" in his name. When I ask him if he wants to try it, he very carefully draws a strait line, then says, "That's a one.  I draw Sam with a one."  This is very revealing of his personality.  He wont attempt to do something that he might fail at, (as in drawing on an S) but in lieu of that, he does what he knows he can do well, and just says that's the right way. So a 1 becomes the way he writes his name. 

Paint pot holder tutorial

     A little while ago I made this paint pot holder that you can see at Anna's right.  This, being a prototype is a little rough, and the stain didn't work out very well.  I made a couple more for the twins, and they were so easy to make, that I thought I would share how I made them, if anyone didn't feel like spending $18+ dollars on one. 

Here's the materials and tools you need.

  One 1"x4" (the length will depend on how many you want to make, but you will need at least 2 feet to make one holder)
  Sand paper, in various coarseness.
Wood Glue.
  4 oz. canning jars.  I have only seen these sold in twelve packs, but they are useful for so many things.

  A saw. A hand saw would work, but a chop saw gets it done fast.
  An electric drill.
  A 2 1/2" hole drill attachment like the one seen in the picture.
Nice, but not necessary, is a palm sander, or any kind of electric sander.
     So here's what to do after you've got all your supplies. Cut two 11 1/2 " lengths.  On one of them, mark three spots to drill your holes.  Make a mark in the exact center, and then measure out from there.  On mine I measured 3 1/2 " away from the center on both sides.  Remember a 1"x 4" is not 4 inches wide.  They are usually 3 1/2", but measure yours to be sure. 
     Put a scrap piece of wood under your board, then clamp it down.  Drill your holes.
A hole drill makes a rough cut, so you'll need to sand, and sand, your holes smooth.  You will not be able to do much sanding on them after you glue your boards together, so get them as smooth as you can now, but only round the edge on one side.
Now, glue the two boards together, matching them up carefully and clamping.

After the glue is dry, sand it well and put a oil polish on it.  If you sand the edges and corners well, it almost looks like one piece. 

     Put your jars in, and that's it! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spider Hunting

I have gone on the offensive in regards to getting rid of the Black Widows around my property.  I don't like using insecticide sprays, but I also don't like the idea of one of my children getting bitten by North America's most poisonous spider.  So today, I sprayed every single cob web in my rock garden, and sure enough, every single one contained a Black Widow. 
I killed EIGHT just today, and I am now wondering if this is a problem I can take care of. 
Even the small webs that I felt sure didn't belong to a Widow; sure enough, after a few minutes one came crawling out. 
All these pictures were of course taken when they were dead, as I certainly wasn't concerned about getting a picture when they were alive!    I think Dave believes I am either exaggerating the problem, or that there isn't a problem; since he asked me the other day if I was sure I was really killing Black Widows, as, "You know that there are other spiders with red spots."  Well now I have picture proof.  I also know more about Black Widows (their webs, egg sacks, habits, habitation, etc.) than I ever would have if we didn't have so many of them.

Combining Waldorf And CM

     The past few months I've been teetering back and forth between Waldorf and Charlotte Mason.  Using CM methods and Amblside Online is working out really well for us, and it's not a dislike of anything that we're doing that is making me conflicted, but rather a like of too many things.  After reading "School As a Journey" by Torin Finser, I even temporarily thought of ditching CM altogether, and going with a complete Waldorf curriculum.  It all seemed so fun, and the block system is more how I approach subjects.  But only temporarily, because there is simply too much that I love about CM to completely follow a different method.  So I decided to make a list about what I love about  both, and then decide what I can combine.  So here it is.
  • The thing I love most about Waldorf, is the beauty of it.  Making everything beautiful and approaching subjects artistically really resonates with me.   I also like the attention payed to color, and how they effect our emotions. 
  • I LOVE the way Waldorf approaches early childhood.  Everything about it really.  I haven't encountered any other educational method that is as aware of the emotional needs of children as Waldorf is. 
  • The handicrafts are great.  Everything is very clearly defined; not only what to do, but when to do it, and what materials to use.  Using natural, high quality materials makes whatever the child works on look beautiful, and the handicrafts teach practical skills. Knitting, crocheting, weaving, and wood working, are skills you can benefit from your whole life. 
  • I like the block system.  Illustrating your lesson on the black board, delving into that subject for two to four weeks, then moving on to something else is a lot how I naturally learn.  I also really love main lesson books, and that fits into doing blocks.
  • I like the stuff.  OK, who doesn't.  Silk, beeswax, wool, and smooth polished wood.  These are luxury materials, and anything made with them is going to be sublime.  Waldorf toys aside, (which of course are wonderful) Waldorf school supplies are nice. Usually made with natural materials, they are high quality, durable, and look like something you want to use.

Charlotte Mason
  • At the top of my list for CM is the books.  Wonderful living books written by the words best authors.  I don't have to be the best teacher in the world, and be an expert on everything.  All I need is access to a book written by some one who is.  And lets face it, I just love books, so a curriculum based on books couldn't be more perfect. 
  • I really like nature studies and the way CM recommends doing them.  Not picking things apart, and destroying in order to learn about it, but using observation and respect for God's creation to learn about it. 
  • Narration.  This is sometimes the hardest thing to implement, but it's so effective.  Learning to narrate well not only helps you to remember what you're narrating, but teaches your brain how to organize your thoughts to effectively communicate. 
  • I like having my children exposed to the master composers and artists, through the use of composer and artist studies.
  •   I like the short lessons.  I know this seems like a contradiction to my liking blocks, and it is sort of.  The deal is though, that although I like the block system, Anna does better with short, varied lessons, and since she is the student, we will be sticking with short lessons.
So, how am I going to combine these two sometimes similar, and sometimes quite different educational philosophies?  Here's my plan, for now at any rate. ;)
     I'm sticking with CM for the most part, but am going to add in a few Waldorf elements.  For instance, CM recommends that children do handicrafts that are useful skills, so I will be following the basic Waldorf plan for teaching handicrafts.  This is an instance where they combine easily.  Where they are too different to combine, such as CM teaching directly from the source with good literature and living books, and Waldorf having the teacher tell stories in order to make them more personal, I will be going with CM.  The kids love when I tell them stories, but I  am not the best teacher in all subjects, and I really feel like reading strait from a good book is the best way to go. 
     I will be making a even stronger effort to present all subjects artistically, and make the environment of our home warm and peaceful.
     We do wet on wet watercolor painting once a week, not just for their artistic benefit, but also emotional, as there is something very soothing in this painting method.
We get outside as much as possible and just observe, observe, observe the word around us.  We do nature studies whenever the kids find something they want to learn more about. 
     We read a lot, both for school and for pleasure.  I try to make our days follow a rhythm.  We have very limited screen time.  The toys I choose for the kids are simple, natural, and generally homemade.  I also try to limit how much stuff we have.  Are all the kids toys "Waldorfy"?  No; I still consider legos one of the best toys ever, and I don't refuse to let other people buy them anything that isn't made with 100% natural materials.  I do refuse to have any electronic toy. Period.
     The main thing I strive to do is to instill a sense of curiosity and a love of learning in my children, no matter what educational philosophy we follow.  Of course all of this is pointless without God being the center of our lives.  If I can teach the kids to love God with all their heart, soul, and mind, I will have succeeded.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day

     I've never done anything for May day before, but this year I thought it would be fun to do a little something special for the the kids.  After all, just being May is a wonderful reason to celebrate. 
First I made the kids a special breakfast.  A soft boiled egg, yogurt with blueberries, and buttered toast.  I would have made Dave some too, but for some reason he doesn't like any of the above.  Who doesn't like blueberries?

It takes a little practice eating an egg out of an egg cup, but even the little guys are getting the hang of it. 

After breakfast we went to the park till it started to get hot, then we went to the store and let the kids each pick out their own May Day flower.  Only Samuel could look this excited over a flower.

     Of course, even if you are only moving your flower five feet, you'll need to have it in your wheelbarrow.
     Then you'll need to make sure it's all cozy in it's new bed.      Happy May Day!
     Now, for something that happened today that was completely unrelated to May day.  A couple of nights ago I had a very real seeming, and slightly disturbing dream.  A Black Widow spider had gotten into our house, and I was trying to squish it with a jar or something not ideal for squishing insects. I couldn't quite get to it because it was in a corner, and while I was trying to kill it, it bit me. 
     I'm not prone to arachnophobia, and there is probable reason I had a dream about a Black Widow.  For some reason Black Widows like my rock garden; I found and killed five there last year.  Since the weather has gotten warm, I've been on the look out for their webs when I've been working out in my garden, but I've never had one in my house... until today.    Anna spotted it in the kitchen above the fridge, so not the easiest place to reach.  Without really thinking it through, I was about to grab the first available thing (a jar!) and climb on the counter and try to reach over and smash it.  Then I remembered my dream, and thought, "On second thought, let me go get the bug spray."  I thought the whole thing was rather odd.  Was my dream a warning?  All the Widows I've killed outside were under rocks and had probably been sleeping, so they were rather sluggish, but this one was quick and alert.  I wonder if I had gone ahead with my first plan, if I would have been bitten?  Very strange.