Friday, July 31, 2009

Fine Arts Class 2009

School has officially started. My kids have been studying ancient history for a month now three days a week with my dear friend Heather who is an INCREDIBLE history teacher, and now we have started fine arts class with me on Friday afternoons. I guess the year never officially ended... but I have to say that I believe we have officially started this next year. I am starting to write down what we do and fully counting it towards the 3rd and 8th grade years.

The class that I started teaching today for our homeschool group was SO much fun that I may just want to go on forever. It is loosely based on the Meet The Masters program. Which, when I started thinking about teaching this class, was transitioning from a book program to a online program and wasn't available (it is now). The program is really neat though if you want to check it out... tons of ideas!

Meet The Masters

Stemming off of that, I started looking into the masters of art myself and seeing what fun projects I could come up with to have a full class of little artists.

Today was our introduction. We made our art portfolios and then we started class with a book called I Am An Artist by Pat Lawery Collins which describes how to look through your eyes at anything and see art in a very child friendly gentle way. I asked the kids to put their art eyes on, and look at a few painters with me. Then we looked at pictures of Vincent Van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, Piet Mondrian, MC Escher, Pueblo Picasso, and Claude Monet. I talked about the works and lives of each person very quickly, and then moved on to their differences in the way they saw the world. I read a page of Sunflowers and Swirly Stars by Joan Holub that talks about the differences between Theo Van Gogh (Vincents brother), Paul Gauguin, and Vincent... and the way they saw the world. Then I went on to ask about different paintings of Van Gogh's and what the kids thought of them.

"Was it hot or cold?"

"What about this one?"

We went a little bit in to technique just enough to start talking about texture. Some of Van Gogh's paintings took up to two weeks to dry. This means that there was a LOT of paint on Van Gogh's paintings. It also means that they were not flat... they had lots of bumps in the paint, lots of texture. This lead quite easily into talking about the way he used texture to convey movement and warmth (or lack of) and we did a few exercises.

Then we finished with a book called The Artist's Palette by Elizabeth Koda-Callen. That story came with a treat from me. A little artists palette necklace for each one of the kiddos that Cyan and I made.

I am tired, but it was such a fun class... I can't wait for next week! More about Van Gogh! (And hopefully more pictures.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Montessori for Cyan

Self correcting "Days of the Week" accordion folders.

I am calling this my strawberry series. Strictly because I have a bunch of squares of this fabric and other strawberries and I thought that she would love to have an ed series with all strawberry fabrics that I made JUST for her!

See that little fabric tag that says "1" on it? The days of the week are the first of this series. #2 will have the months of the year, then we will move up to alphabetical order. It was crazy easy to make, and Cyan was finished with it in under a minute. But I knew that this would be review. The others in the series may not be. So we will see how fast she does those.

These are self corrective... which Cyan LOVED. It gave her a real confidence to be able to correct them herself. :) I am hoping that the rest of the series will be as successful. (But hopefully the rest will actually teach her something.)

Monday, July 27, 2009


Ahoy matey!!

So last week, I got a wild hair and decided that I was going to do a pirate themed Muffin Tin Monday this week. I pulled out my pirate tin liners, pirate flag picks, and sword picks and started to think about what pirates ate. First thing I thought of was cheese and bread or biscuits (crackers). Then I started to think about what pirates needed to eat... and the idea of them living on ships and getting scurvy kept getting to me... so I added some very not in season, and not at all local, oranges to our lunch. Then it kept evolving... soon I had orange boats with pirate flags, star fish crackers, and left over chicken meat...

My friend called the other day and asked if she could bring her slip and slide over. PERFECT for pirate day! They all came dressed to jump over board and Cyan followed suit. (Pun completely intended.) Dressed in bandannas and swimsuits along with a token pirate hat from her son we were all ready to get wet and have a pirate day!

Top row: almond butter cookie... (I swear, it looked like a pirate hat in the store), chipped roasted chicken, orange boats with pirate flag picks.

Bottom row: Starfish goldfish cookies, cheese cubes, and crackers.

I guess the theme could have been orange too. lol! Becuase that is the only color there was (and not a vegetable in sight... just like true pirates!):

They all loved their lunches! Everything was eaten except one little one didn't like his oranges. They were playing with their pirate orange boats for quite a while... singing pirate songs and shooting each other with pretend pirate cannons.

After lunch came two more hours of slip and slide fun, followed up by an awesome craft idea (turned Pirate and Ocean themed) from my friend Valerie over at the Frugal Family Fun Blog.

Soon after, our pirate friends went home, but the theme went on. We watched Oceanography with Bill Nye the Science Guy (always a hit and he has TONS of DVDs at our local library)...

Even our nature table got into theme. We have tons more stuff still in the car from our beach trip to go on there so I left it open for the kids to cover in beach rocks, shells, and sand as they please.

All in all it was a great Pirate Day!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fun with Cork Stamps

Blueberry season is almost here! Only another week or so and we will have fresh local blueberries. It is a huge deal in this household. We eat pounds upon pounds of blueberries and we freeze about 30lbs each season for winter. We put them in oatmeal, feed them to teething toddlers, drop them into pancakes, and most of all, eat when we need a cool down.

A couple of weeks ago, I was surfing and I don't even remember what I was looking for.... but I stumbled across By Sun and Candlelight on accident and I was fully enthralled for quite a while. This mama is incredible!

So by this post I came by this craft.

It was so amazingly simple! You just take a cork (or a few different sizes) and stick a Phillips head screw driver in the bottom of it. Tap a few times on a blue ink pad and voila, you have a blueberry! The leaves I just cut half of the cork off to make a half circle. It was simple. I even used scissors! The kids were stamping away within minutes and were having a blast. :)

Logan, Cyan, and I had a great time doing making stationary for the upcoming blueberry season and then, like all things, the project evolved:

Grapes and cherries.

And here are all of Cyan's cork stamp creations.

My personal favorite... she called it "bush of currents". So cute!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mixes of educational philosophies

I have spent some time researching both Montessori and Waldorf philosophies, and I have found SO many benefits from both. I think the main difference in actual pedagogy is actually the colors. LOL! Well actually, that is what it looks like from the outside. The Waldorf school all pastel paint and silk with beautiful nature objects everywhere... and Montessori is set up with tables and chairs at the child's height and nicely set out primary color wheels with inviting neutrals and bright patterns that serve a purpose. But when I looked closer, on the inside, these are a few differences (and similarities) that I have found:

~ Waldorf focuses on the artfulness in everything. Many Waldorf teachers spend lots of time making the classroom or lesson beautiful, and the kids are more interested in the lessons because of this, making them have an emotional or in the case of art, body connection to the lesson. In my experience, ANY connection to the lesson that isn't strictly 'recite and regurgitate' has a greater impact on learning.

~ Montessori focuses on order. Which also brings children in. I know that my kids in particular, can't function if there is no order in a space. The act of getting a lesson out, being able to complete it in a single sitting, and putting it back when finished also creates that 'third connection' that will make learning easier and more fun.

~ That is not to say that there is no beauty in Montessori, or order in Waldorf... but the focus is a bit different. Like the difference between a deep royal blue, and a periwinkle blue... they are in the same family... but the main portion of the focus is a bit different.

~ Waldorf makes art and doing art a top priority. It brings painting, coloring, pencil drawing and other art into subjects like math... which for me, was very hard to picture before three years ago.

~ Montessori puts a lot of beautifully organized projects in front of the child and the child is naturally drawn to the subjects that you present. Many things in Montessori education are self corrected, so even the children afraid to fail will be able to successfully complete a project and have it done correctly, before they show it to anyone. This creates a wonderful ability to complete something all on their own.... which fosters a great amount of self esteem and independence.

~ Both philosophies have a strong belief that the environment is everything. A properly set up environment can bring a whole new level of understanding to a child's education.

~ Waldorf does not focus on speed of learning. Instead, it focuses on the entire child understanding the concept... body, mind, and soul. This requires more time... so children usually are a 'grade behind' whatever the public school system would put them in for their age.

~ Neither Waldorf, nor Montessori would send a child forward into another grade or lesson level unprepared. Both philosophies are child led. Which is the way I try to teach as much as possible.

Personally, I think both Rudolph Steiner and Maria Montessori were brilliant! I have loved learning about them, and even enjoyed some of the books that have stemmed from their work. They give tons of ideas and tools for education that I had seen, but didn't really know how to pull them off. I think that by combining these two I have brought a boost to our homeschooling that I have really enjoyed! I mean, really... who doesn't like more beautiful art and more fun organized activities?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sometimes, people... it just clicks.

Cyan has been saying that she "can't read" for months. She has been so convinced that she can't read, that she won't read even to me or Don lately. She has her brother read to her all the time because 'she can't read'... and of course, being the teen-aged brother that he is, he obliges her, enjoying the tiny bit of superiority he feels having a 'can't read' little sister (well, sometimes he is actually being helpful, as well).

This morning she was sitting next to a couple of her friends in her history class, and they were asking all the same spelling questions that she was asking. My friend said that she kept looking back and forth between her two kids (whom are both pretty fluent readers) and her work and seeing that not only did theirs look similar to hers, but they were asking all the same questions she, "the not reader", was asking. "What does this word start with? Oh wait. I know that one. Nevermind. What about this one? Oh yeah, an "M". Got it. Thanks." My friend said it was so funny to her, because it was obvious that Cyan wasn't far behind, but that she had just convinced herself that she couldn't do it.

So this afternoon, Cyan came in with a book and said "MAMA! I can READ this!" and proceeded to read the entire story of The Gingerbread Boy.

From 2009_7_21

This video is her 'not reading' the last page of the 12 page long story, and I should have kept recording, because after she was finished, she looked at me with the cutest 'see, I told you I could do it' expression as if she has been reading to us like this for years... it was priceless. Can't read... my aunt fanny!

Pencil roll for budding artists

Alex turned 13 yesterday. My baby is officially a teen. From Don and I this year, he got a good pocket knife, and some cash... but as I was going to bed, I realised that I really wanted to give him something homemade too. So I pulled out some of his favorite art supplies (and a new note book from a friend for his birthday) and made him a pencil roll with a sketch book holder.

It was super easy, so I thought I would share how, just in case someone has a budding artist in their family.

First, you gather the materials. You will need:

1 piece wool felt 10 X 12 inch wool felt
1 piece of 14 X 16 inch wool felt
1 8.5 X 4.5 small sketch book (bound on the long side)
at least 15 good colored pencils
and one big button and a piece of small elastic OR one old shoe lace

Then fold over the small piece of felt so that it fits almost the whole width of the books back cover and pin in place. Sew the flap down, coming in just slightly to make it snug on the book cover.

Measure the larger piece of felt and fold up the bottom 6 inches. This will make the pencil pocket and leave the piece about 10 inches high (just like the book holder piece).

Sew down the sides of this flap pocket as well. Then mark off and pin each 1 1/4 inch across the entire pocket.

Sew this pocket down on the 1 1/4 inch marks across the entire pocket. When you are sewing down pockets like this, you always start the needle ON the pocket, back stitch over the pockets edge on the fabric and then stitch down again. This way, the stress point is never on the edge of the pocket and it makes your whole project last longer.

Then you take the two pocket pieces (one opening on the left side (for the book) and the other (for the pencils) opening to the top) and pin them together. In that seam add the small piece of elastic to go around the button or, like I did, a recycled shoe lace. Sew up the seam with a small strait stitch and remember to back stitch a few times over the ties as this will be another point of stress.

Add all your art supplies and fold up to tuck into a bag or carry on bag.

Monday, July 20, 2009

MTM ~ More dips and sauces

Ok so we had dips and sauces for two full meals this week. lol! But the first time around I got so many great ideas that I had to use them, or like bubbles I would loose them. Maybe I need to start making a MTM notebook! Wouldn't that be cool? Michelle, what do you think? Do you have something like that?

So for Dips and Sauces round 2, we had:

First Row: Raw honey, Trader Joe's BBQ sauce, yellow mustard

Second Row: Homemade thousand island dressing, ranch dressing (Trader Joes again), and Thai Peanut Sauce

This is what we had to dip in them. Roasted summer veggies and all natural chicken nuggets with sword picks (cuz picks make any meal better).

We also had company! This is our sweet friend Shelby. She was over all afternoon and had dinner with us. She loved MTM! The kids tried everything. Cyan even decided that zucchini got a 50%/50% ok this time around. Mushrooms were still a no, but onions were ok. Esp dipped in BBQ sauce.

Dips and Sauces Round 3! Dessert!!

First Row: Strawberry Jam (Trader Joe's), left over frosting, homemade peach jam.

Second Row: Peanut butter, sprinkles, and cream cheese.

This one went over famously, as I knew it would. All three kids loved it! Logan esp, liked the dipping...

But even the girls liked the treat. I loved watching them find new combinations like cream cheese and peach jelly. Wow... that one was good!

Happy Muffin Tin Monday!

MTM ~ Dips and Sauces!

My kids are so excited that I unpacked the lunch trays. They are the only plastic dishes in my house and for some reason they are a favorite. They feed all of us really well too... even Alex gets full this MTM! This week, the Muffin Tin Monday theme is Dips and Sauces!

Top row: olives, alphabet graham crackers, yogurt to dip the grahams in.

Bottom row: Carrots and Humus, tiny crackers and spinach dip

Three kid lunches all in a row.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Science gone wild!

Our experiments moved with us. I actually took them over first in the van the night before we moved in offically. I put them in a similar space so we could keep the integrity of the experiments as much as I possibly could. And just see what happened!

Our tomato plant experiment we started April 24th:

Grew into this by June 1st:

And now into this:

The bottom one isn't producing as many tomatoes, but I think that has more to do with toddlers ripping the top branches off in May than anything to do with not being upsidedown. LOL! I am surpized to say though, that the Topsy Turvy has held it's own this growing season! Pretty darn amazing!

These are tomatoes hanging upside down my Topsy Turvy plant holder:

Isn't it amazing what three months can do? Soon these babies will have red fruit on them, ready to eat!

And our resident sweet potato has grown from this:

To this:
It is quite the pretty plant, actually. It has really beautiful leaves. I keep wondering if I keep it hydroponic, will it still start producing potatoes in a couple months? So I think we will keep it for now. :)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Early Ed ~ Mommy Logan Camp

This week Logan and I have had a couple days of "camp" just like Cyan. He is sorely in need of some mama time, and I figure there was no better time to give this to him than this week when everyone else was occupied.

Monday: a zoo trip where we got to see the budgies, and really enjoyed the show where we saw ducks, horn bill birds, bald eagles, a porcupine, and a beaver up close!

Tuesday: went swimming with daddy while Alex and I had our own little camp.

Wednesday: went to the free movie of Horton Hears The Who. Which was great and funny (and I was very happy it was free. ;) )

Thursday: We rode the train from Cyan's class area to the farmers market and picked up a bunch of wonderful veggies and fruits from our beautiful and bountiful state... and of course, a balloon sword from the Balloon Guy, and a half pint of blueberries which got eaten before we even got back on the train.

Most of these trips I didn't bring my camera, but for the zoo I was fortunate enough to have it with me.

"Hey mom? What's this stick for?"

"Um, WOW, there is a bird on that stick you gave me!?!"

Cute little bird.

We have had a lot of fun. And it has been nice being with just him... cuz as you mamas with more than two kids can attest to... it doesn't happen often. It has made me a very busy, tired woman... but I am ok with that. :)