Thursday, January 21, 2010

Indoor Camp Fire

I bet this is not what you were thinking! My daughter Cammy loves to choose indoor camping as one of her reward privileges. We have a box full of index cards that the whole family made, we each got to write down or draw fun things to do on them. Some of them are just plain silly like giving her baby sister a finger painting lesson in the bathtub or mixing your own bubble concoction. Others are really sweet like the one my husband wrote: Have a tea party with Daddy. When Cammy has earned enough pebbles in her jar she gets to choose a card from the box. The indoor camping is her favorite by far. She has only been camping once and that was with her Nana in the mountains. Sometimes we do a complete camping tent set up...sometimes we just make a classic sheet tent in the living room. This time we did the latter with a minor adjustment. It was raining outside so we couldn't do a fire in the backyard firepit to roast our marshmallows so I did smores roasted in the oven and we made this little pretend campfire inside and told stories. It was really easy to make. I have a box full of crafty recyclable stuff in the pantry. There was a drink cup holder and some paper towel tubes that proved to be the perfect fodder for a camp fire. Cammy colored the drink cup holder with red, orange and yellow markers and we ripped up a sheet of neon orange copy paper for flames and tucked them into the holes of the drink cup holder. Colored tissue paper would make nice flames if you have it. The paper towel tubes were our logs. I tried to get Cammy to color those as well but she said "Mom they are already brown!"

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Spinning in Circles

 Spinning in Circles

Our Monday morning chalkboard.  I love to draw a lovely picture full of symbolism for the week of studies and what they are supposed to be focused on. 
We are studying creation stories from around the world this spring.  I chose to focus on the circular form of the earth for a start.  Drawing and discussing the round form  helped us get centered.

We have literally been spinning in circles for two weeks now. I started off the new year with the intention of introducing some form drawing. We started off with two simple forms that are universally recognized among many cultures. We studied the spiral and the circle. I thought it would turn out to be fairly simple, we would draw and practice the forms and we would move on to new forms the next week. These two forms turned out to be more powerful for Cammy and myself than I could ever have imagined. We have been reading about community and the theme of being centered and of the connections we have with others. These two forms fit right into our current studies.

This list literally went on for another full page.
Circles were the clincher for Cammy. She embraced the circle wholeheartedly. She said the circle made her think of a hug:) So began our journey with the circle. I had Cammy make a main lesson book devoted entirely to circles. She included a circle picture dictionary with magazine photos of things that were circles with the words written beside them.

Cammy and Karma bubble painting.
We blew bubbles and attempted some bubble painting. We drew concentric circles by tracing cups, bowls, and lids from around the house. We drew abstract circle designs.
Here we drew concentric circles with sidewalk chalk on roofing tar paper.
We painted kinetospheres or energy spheres around ourselves. I had seen this in a book called Wonder Child by Peter Lorie. It's a book about staying connected with the magic that is childhood. It is one of my all time favs. The kinetosphere at the top is one of mine drawn with chalk on a sheet of roofing tar paper. When I was in college I couldn't afford canvas for painting class and I had found a roll of roofing tar paper at the home I was renting and took to painting on it. I love to paint and draw on a black surface much more than a white surface. The tar paper is also nice and stiff and holds up well to many mediums. I found that rolls of roofing paper were much cheaper than conventional paper so I still draw and paint on them to this day.

Cammy was so proud of her homemade paintbrush.
We needed long handled paintbrushes for our kinetosphere project so Cammy invented her own long handled paintbrush with a piece of cornstalk and some pine needles.

A flyswatter has a long handle...why not paint with that too.
Our kinetosphere experiment got very experimental indeed. The picture above is Cammy dipping a fly swatter in some of our paint.

This tickled.
We painted with our feet.
We painted with a sponge mop.

Here is Cammy circling herself with the paint to form a kinetosphere. It took her a while but she really built up her kinetic energy but it didn't stay in the shape of a circle for her. It went everywhere.
Needless to say ....when my husband got home he was slightly speechless.
Below is one of Cammy's kinetospheres. It turned out like a sun.
This kinetosphere was painted with a mop, a flyswatter, a pineneedle brush and feet.

We studied balls and motion and talked about kinetic and passive energy. We rolled balls and bounced balls. We made graphs of what bounced and how high.

For the second week we talked about how the spiral is symbolic of the path we follow in life. We drew spirals, we walked in spirals, we made spiral cinnamon buns,we looked at spirals in nature.

This was one our kinetosphere painting from week one and we just went in with our inspiration from the spiral studies of week two and painted the leaf together.  Cammy is getting the hang of drawing the spiral form without the lines touching.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Making Mittens

I have been trying to teach Cammy some basic sewing. She has been really fascinated with costume design for quite some time now. Cammy's all time favorite toy has always been paper dolls. If she is ever in a book store you can guarantee that she is going to want a paper doll or sticker doll book even though she probably has five already. She draws fairy fashions all day long....pages and pages of them. Every time we are in the grocery store checkout she wants to get a fashion magazine so she can cut the dresses out for making paper dolls. Her most recent fascination has been with a young fashion designer named Claire Prebble.

I came across Claire Preble a couple of years ago online and showed Cammy her amazing costume designs immediately. Claire won first place in the WOW fashion festival in New Zeland several years ago. She got her first entry in at the age of eight. Ever since then Cammy will occasionally ask if we can look at that girls costumes again Mommy? Here is a link to the WOW page you have got to check this out. The costumes designs are incredible. You will never see your fabric scrap bin the same way again.
2009 Winner Children's Section

It's been tough going....she doesn't seem to have much patience for it. I am trying to encourage her by getting her to help me make some mittens for her sister and herself. I let her pick through my cloth bin which often contains some old clothing as well. She chose a pair of velvety red pajamas that were too small for Karma anymore. We traced the girls hands to make a pattern. Note: add at least half an inch to the entire edge of your hand pattern to make sure there is enough space to stitch your seam. Cammy got a good start on hers but is obviously having trouble keeping her stitches small and straight. She has never been one to follow a straight path what can I do? Hopefully I can coax her into finishing them before spring gets here. I got Karma's pair finished and she loves them although they are a little too loose in the wrist.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Making a change for the better!

I recently came across Hip Mountain Mama
and have signed my family up for the One Small Change challenge. Our family has made many small changes over the years in an effort to be more environmentally conscious but we are not always truly religious in observing these. We recycle but I will admit that there is more that we could recycle...there is paper that makes it into the trash and yes the occasional plastic container of moldy food from the fridge that I'm afraid to touch to clean it out. Lights get left on. The bath water runs too long. All sorts of things need improvement around our house. So when I came across these challenges today it inspired me. Hopefully it will inspire your family too. For more information click on the links provided below and sign up your family.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sweet, sweet love

This beautiful and deliciously sweet heart was the accidental result of introducing some waldorf form drawing again. Somehow I found it deeply symbolic of the love I have for my family. In wanting to start the new year off with some more deeply rooted rhythms around the house and a little less chaos I have started trying to implement some more Waldorf form drawing. This week I introduced the symbol of the spiral for our form drawing lesson. We started off the week by making spiral cinnamon rolls. We are starting off the new year with a unit about various creation stories from many different cultures and religions . I chose to introduce the spiral because it is such a universally powerful symbol for the path that we follow in life . I am finding myself being ever more grateful for this opportunity to be one of my daughter's guides on her life path. Yes I am her teacher...but I am able to be so much more than that even. I am loving homeschooling my children because I am able to really dig into a subject in so many more ways than she could ever be able to experience in most public schools. I am able to let her mind go to places that would be shut out by conventional classroom learning. If she is suddenly enraptured with a book about Egyptian Pharaohs in the middle of our week about American Indians we have our way of dealing with that in our house. We just use our time machine. It is my belief that this creative flexibility can be a very powerful learning experience. As for the form drawing I have a deep love of pattern and form and texture. Being a potter and artist I use lots of rich textures and patterns on the surface of my clay. There is something very sacred about being physically engaged with a shape or a line. I am always amazed at the forms that I see in leaves, shells, the soles of shoes, flowers, the landscape etc. I have done a little bit of this with Cammy in the past with not much success. She is usually able to draw the form but not with the kind of spirited embrace of the form that I am intending to try to imbue or impress upon her. I have simply tried to connect the form to something we are studying. When we were studying the globe and the compass and maps I introduced the cross form and an arrow. We drew a huge compass in the road with sidewalk chalk trying to be as accurate as possible with the directions. We studied the clock at this time as well and drew clock faces incorporating arrows. We laid down in the floor and made arrow shapes with our bodies. we played a game where we laid down like the arms of the clock and posed each other having to try to figure out what time our partner posed us in. My intention and goal was to try to physically engage Cammy with the shape and how it played a role in her life. This leads to a deeper knowledge...a mind, body, spirit connection. Last year was quite possibly the most powerful and trying year of my life. I want to imagine myself wearing a hand sewn super mom cape for having made it through my first year of homeschooling a six year old with a one year old by my side and hers and climbing on the table and into the cabinet There were some incredibly difficult things that happened to our family last year that we have been strong enough to come through stronger than ever and loving each other more and more. I love being a mom I do, I do! With all my heart!

Adventures with the math gnomes

We welcomed the math gnomes into our family with a special candle lighting ceremony. Cammy made each of the gnomes their own hand rolled beeswax candle complete with their math symbol decorating it. She also decorated an advent candle for our family and we lit them all. I finally finished the math gnomes for Cammy for her Christmas present this year. She knew they were in the works because she has seen me working on them off and on for months now. We had such a busy fall that all my intentions to introduce her to many of the math concepts through the adventures of these curious little gnomes fell by the wayside. We have been doing lots of math all along but she has been so worked up and eager to do math with these characters I didn't think I was going to be able to contain her. Ever since we did a unit on Medieval and Renaissance times with our time machine she has been asking "Mom, when are we going to start with the math gnomes?" She has them linked in her head with that time era because I had my husband dress up and pretend to be King Equals one day and ask Cammy for her help in solving a dilema on how to divide a cake evenly among everyone who was invited to the royal ball. We did this by folding paper to see how many cuts would need to be made to make enough pieces of cake for everyone. Good King Equals was insistent that everyone's slice be the same size to be fair. Then we cut into an actual cake that we had baked together using the folded paper guidelines. The King was surely going to need more help in the future to count his treasures so he insisted that Cammy help him find the legendary math gnomes. Thinking I would have the gnomes ready right away she was charged with going on an adventure to find these math gnomes that were known for their knowledge of numbers. Needless to say the math gnomes did not get finished that night and we got sidetracked by about two months to be exact. She took a trip back to the present in her time machine and the benevolent King Equals was left to count his own gold and cut his own cakes.

Here are the four gnomes in their cave each with their own math symbol representing the four basic math processes: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
Well, needless to say she was thrilled when she saw the little gnomes complete with bags and hats along with a small King Equals by the Christmas tree. She wanted to do math with them that very day but we waited to go on any math adventures for a few days until all of our Christmas guests took their leave. By this time some of the gnomes had misplaced their hats. With my husband distracting her I surprised her and set up the gnomes in the front yard by the twisty wisteria and pine tree. I hung a blanket to make it more cave like and confined because the gnomes lived deep underground. It was very cold and windy outside the day we went adventuring with the gnomes and luckily the blanket blocked a little of the wind.

Here is the yellow gnome whom we have named Times Multiply climbing up through the twisting tunnels of the mine to get to the surface. Below is the blue gnome whom we have named Marcus Minus at the entrance to the cave.
I was inspired by several different Wadorf homeschool bloggers and their own math gnome stories. I took a bit here and there and pieced together a story for an adventure that I knew would fit into our studies. I got a great deal of my inspiration from Serendipity here is a link where you can get her math gnome stories. She has many marvelous ideas and pictures and has been amazing generous in making these available to download.
Download gnomes_and_gnumbers_lesson_one.pdf

Here is a shortened version of the story I came up with for Cammy.
The Gnomes ran out of jewels to gather and count deep in their underground cavern so they made their way to the bright surface. It was a long, winding and treacherous path through the tunnels of the mine. None of them had ever been to the surface before and didn't know what to expect when they came to the cave opening. They had never seen such a blinding bright light as the sun.
When their eyes had finally adjusted they saw before them a vast and beautiful land and they bravely began to explore sure that they would find huge troves of gems. They soon came across a huge pile of colorful gems at the foot of a great tree. The Yellow gnome having spotted the treasure first started grabbing all the gems for himself but the red gnome named David Divide suggested that to be fair they should divide the gems evenly among themselves. The gnomes had never had to count or divide such a vast treasure and were unsure of how to count so many gems. They thought long and hard wanting to be sure that the gems would be divided evenly.
Finally the green gnome named Adam Plus suggested that they use sticks to count how many gems there were. This got confusing very quickly as they laid out one stick for each gem that was counted and they were running out of sticks to count with. The red gnome suggested that they break the stick in half and make the shape of a V (like the shape between your fingers when you hold up five fingers) when they had five gems. The gnomes continued counting deciding that one stick before the V would be four IV and that one stick after the V would be six and so on. When they got to ten they decided to cross two of the sticks to make an X. We laid out the gems and practiced making the roman numerals with sticks that we found around the base of the weeping willow tree.

"The rainbows of life follow the storms"

On New Years Eve I was inspired to draw this on our chalkboard. It is a family portrait of sorts. We have been in our current home for two years, the longest time period that we have ever been anywhere since my oldest daughter who is about to turn seven was born. We do not consider ourselves to be the gypsy type but have found ourselves moving almost every year for some reason. Sometimes because of finances....sometimes because the neighborhood in question wasn't so safe. We consider ourselves very lucky to be in the beautiful home that we have now. My husband and I are both artists and we are able to eek out a living on what we love to do but a bank doesn't always like our numbers so buying a home was not something we thought we would ever be able to do. My mother generously offered to sell us her coastal home when she bought a new home in the mountains and we couldn't turn her down on this was pretty much the only way we would ever be able to buy a home. She didn't cut us a break on the price but she financed it for us as an amazing rate when no bank would ever talk to us. Now two years into owning our own home and we are finding ourselves again wanting to move for various reasons. One reason is that we had no idea how isolated we would feel moving away from the city into what is referred to around here as the"boonies". We live only 45 minutes to an hour away from the city where we lived before but no one will visit us because it is too far to drive. We are finding that to sell my pottery and art anywhere other than online my husband is having to go to the big city for the farmers markets and other events and we can't afford to all go together (it would take two cars) to fit everything. The real kicker is that a traumatic event happened to one of my children in the neighborhood and has left us feeling very angry and even further isolated in trying to keep to ourselves to keep the kids safe. I am juggling a lot of emotions about how to handle our situation right now. The mama bear in me wants to lash out. I want to feel comfortable in my own home and neighborhood again but I'm not sure how to handle it all. I know that this is where we have to be for now because of the simple fact that we can't afford to move....we have checked into selling and we couldn't get enough out of the property right now to pay off the mortgage in full. Part of me feels like we can't afford not to move for the psychological state of my family but I see no way out at present. So I find myself everyday trying to love where we are at. I am trying to put as much energy and love into not only the land and the physical home itself as possible but also to just reassure my children of the love that we have for each other as a family. There is so much more jumbled up in my heart and my brain right now battling it out for who will be on top when all I want is some kind of balance or peaceful resolution. So in greeting the new year I knew that I had to try to at least come to some kind of peace with being here.
It is as simple as the saying "Grow where you are planted....with love all things bloom!" This has become my mantra. For now our roots are planted here and with enough love we can grow as a family and bloom.
I have drawn our family inside of what is like an onion or flower bulb. The outer layers can be peeled away to reveal the fragrant, ripe goodness that is inside. Cammy has talked often as of late about how we might all have a little bit of fairy inside of all of us so I drew fairy wings on everyone. The layers of the bulb are like rainbows....inspired by a saying I read somewhere long ago. "The rainbows of life follow the storms." This sums it up. I know that there is light and love available to us here despite some of the difficulties and trauma we have suffered. We are taking all the steps (counseling etc.) to make sure that our family comes through this whole and capable of loving our neighbors still. I want my children to feel empowered and strong...not like victims. We have to take advantage of all that we do have here and focus our energies moving forward on thriving here for now. I know that we can and am looking forward to seeing just how much we can overcome our discomfort with this place and much we can bloom.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! We celebrated New Years a little early at the Children's Museum. They did a countdown at noon for all the kids complete with lots of confetti and plastic champaign glasses with white grape juice. The girls had a great time. Cammy saved her glasses and drank out of them for the next week. It made her feel grown up.
Here is my husband "Mr. Mark" the local music man. He performs at the Children's Museum at least once a month. Sometimes my oldest daughter performs with him if she is in a good mood that day. She was far too distracted this day with all the festivities.
I love seeing her this excited and happy.
Little Karma was in awe of everything. She tried to eat the confetti though.
This year is going to be great. Cammy is turning seven in a little over a week and Karma is starting to talk. Everything is going so fast. I love it when the pace is crazy. It keeps me on my toes. I tend to be an on my feet kind of planner and the year is off to running start already. I have loved our experiences homeschooling over the last few months and can't wait to get into our groove in the new year.

Our own little red gnome

Here is our own little red gnome Karma....she is really good at subtraction. She sneaks off with those jewels every time.

Here is King equals counting out his gems.
Times Multiply is stuck in a tree.
We had a great day of adventures with the math gnomes today.

Prismacolor Ice Sculptures

This beautiful ice sculpture resulted from two days worth of freezing coastal temperatures. It isn't often that it stays cold enough for more than a night around here for water to freeze outside but we have had a cold streak this week. Cammy and her friend have been playing by the icy ditches....throwing stones and sticks to try and break the ice in them all the while calling themselves the rainbow ice princesses. So we decided to take advantage of what mother nature was throwing our way and last night I let them loose with all the plastic containers in the cabinet and some food coloring and a pitcher of water. The next morning Cammy woke up early and went outside to the back porch (no shoes on) to check on her ice blocks before she did anything else.

These were our beautiful rainbow colored containers of ice the next morning. Cammy observed that the really full ones were still (wet) on the inside, but the thin ones were frozen solid. I found myself wishing that we had filled a few more containers to freeze. They were so jewel like.

Cammy got wise pretty quickly and got a pair of Daddy's socks to keep her hands from freezing since we couldn't find her gloves. Poor Karma couldn't seem to keep anything on her little hands and her fingers were bright red. Cammy was fascinated by the way the ice would actually stick to her hands or the socks and I was unable to give her a satisfactory answer as to why it sticks to things. I found myself thinking about that Christmas movie where the little boy sticks his tongue on a lamp post. Why does it stick anyway?
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