Saturday, September 30, 2006

Senora Rosa

It seems we have a freeloader in our midst.

By day, Senora Rosa has been hiding out in my office closet. By night, the children are sure she has been having run of the house --scattering paper and yarn and small wooly toys all over the place. (Between you and me, I think it's the cat,) but maybe it could be Senora Rosa. She does look a bit devious if you ask me... like something you'd find in one of those voodoo shops in New Orleans.* Ah, but how the children LOVE her. She's one of the family!

Ultimately we decided it was high time she earn her keep. While our beloved Poppy is recuperating from a "very bad accident," (i.e. Sunburst stepped on her,) Senora Rosa will take over language lessons. She's got a good selection of songs going thus far:

From Cante, Cante, Elephante - Mary Thienes-Schunemann
Buenos Dias/Good morning
Uno, dos, tres.../One, two, three...
Pito, pito, colorito/Good morning, early bird (my absolute favorite thus far)

From Teach Me... Spanish - Judy Mahoney
Los mas que nos reunimos/The more we get together

From The Wind is Telling Secrets - Sarah Pirtle
Mi cuerpo hace musica/There's music inside me (a kicky tune, indeed!)

*Senora Rosa is a bit of Sara voodoo, inspired by the amazing work of my favorite puppeteer and dear friend, Ellen.
Stuff a medium paper sack (the kind w/o a bottom) with crumpled newspaper and a large dowel rod. Tie securely. Add strips of gooey newspaper to make facial features. Let dry. Paint with tempera or acrylic paint. Add hair, fabric, and voila! Your own homeschool mascot/voodoo doll comes to life. Be sure to put them to work!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Deviating from the plan

Remember The Clown of God form drawing lesson? Things are not going according to plan.

We got to form #3, the arch of rainbows over a horizontal line. We struggled with the mirror form, and it proved to be a bit harder than I had anticipated. Although she completed the form well enough to put in her book, the next form I had planned were those tricky circle forms. I looked at them, sighed, and decided to give the girl a break.

We deviated from the plan. Just a little. After all Giovanni doesn't just juggle circular items. As per the story by Tomie dePaola:
"First the sticks, then the plates, then the clubs,
rings, and burning torches.

Finally the rainbow of colored balls."
I'm not reading the story, just retelling it, so of course I messed it up a bit. First we did the plates.

Phew! Plates were challenging for her, but much easier to draw bottom to top, than top to bottom.

Next we did sticks. This one proved to be the simplest form yet.

Then the rings, or ring, singular. A simple circle. Very plain and round. We did this last year in our Robin Red form drawing block, but it was one of those forms she just had to accept as her best work and move ahead. It was terribly hard. A circle of dread. So of course we came back to it. That's what you do with circles, you circle back around.

She did pretty well in practice the first day. We worked together drawing circles, trying to see how many perfect circles we could fit on our chalkboards. When we messed up, we erased them. But each perfect one we saved. I think we ended up with 20 apiece. Then we tried to see how many near perfect ones we could draw in a row. It was perhaps the most fun we have had yet drawing forms.

Circles aren't easy. As you can see Sunburst had some good ones. She got to choose which ones we kept, both hers and mine. I think she was a bit tougher with my drawings than with her own. Her efforts are in pink, mine are in cream.

Then we took a day off from forms for our homeschool friends co-op... and then recovery from said co-op. Today when we returned back to our lesson her circle drawing was falling off on the end. She seemed to be racing back to the top, making deformed eggs or shaving the edges off as shown below.

So we went at it from a different angle.

"It looks like you're racing home," I said. "You don't have to hurry, you have plenty of time to see everything in the garden. Out here on the right are the lovely roses. Can you visit them on your way home? They do smell so wonderful just now."

Sometimes it surprises me that she doesn't look at me like I have three heads. She said something akin to, "Oh yes. I'd love to see the roses. I'll try to go over there next time." And then she slowed down and tried to round out that right side. Extend it a bit more rather than racing to an angular finish. While she practiced I sang a little song,"
"Oh~ go the lovely way...
Oh~ go the lovely way...
Oh~ go the lovely way back home."
Sometimes her circle still turned out wonky, but more and more she started going the lovely way and making a beautiful arch on that side. She even sang along with me! Once in awhile her circle went really awry, and we laughed about her visiting the garbage dump instead of the roses. Then we talked about how sometimes you might want to visit the garbage dump. Sometimes you might want that particular shape. You never know. But right now, we're making lovely round circles instead.

And she did great until we got out her book. And the circle she drew was perhaps her worst yet. I brought out her book from last year and we compared the two circles. I called this "information," and she called it, "Proof that she'll never, ever be able to draw circles." But she knew this wasn't true. When this happens in her book, as it has before, she gets to draw it on a new paper and we glue it in over top of the less than desirable form. Which is what we finally did. It's still not perfect, but it's better than last year and she's satisfied with it. That's what really matters to me. Acceptance reigns rather than defeat.

However, I think we'll be returning to this form again until it can work itself out. We must, since there are a lot of circular forms we haven't even hit upon yet.

We moved right along and approached the burning torches, or just the flame end, circles within circles. She made an even better circle in her book and worked the repetitions of smaller circles inside of it. We have one more circle to make, "the golden sun in the heavens" before we move on to some different forms.

I'm ready for something more linear, myself.

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Lately I've been committed to tackling one thing a day in my house. There are certain jobs that I avoid at all costs, like the linen cupboard, that far corner of my kitchen counter, my sewing table, anything that lives under the couch... I could come up with plenty of excuses, and usually do, about why I avoid these things like the plague. But really I just haven't had the fortitude to deal with it... until now.

Today, during Kitty Bill's nap, I set the girls up at the table with some drawing materials and drinks and dove head first into the pile formerly known as my desk. It is the main dumping ground for lost art and broken toys. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here, or something like that. It was really a mess, but I won't get into that. It's better now. Not perfect, not finished, but I can see relative deskness. Hurrah! Hurrah!

In doing this great task, I feel like I can also see the surface of my brain. Very therapeutic this desk-cleaning business. But now I seem to have uncovered this enormous amount of artwork created by my wonderfully artistic and prolific children. Piles and piles and piles of it. A forest worth of paper in all shapes, hues, and sizes.

What do you do with this stuff? Do you throw it away when they're asleep? Do you scan it all in? Do you faithfully bind it up in booklets? Do you box it up and stick it in the attic? Do you wallpaper the entire house, including ceilings? Do you date it, and press it, and coddle it for the rest of their lives?

What do YOU do with your piles?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Welcoming Autumn

We totally and completely missed the Autumnal equinox last year. We were still living in Austin, Texas, snuggling in a new baby while simultaneously up to our elbows in moving boxes as we geared up for our move to the Midwest. It was sweltering hot then, and Autumn just never occurred to any of us.

Fast forward one year, and it's chilly out. The leaves are turning rainbow hues and dropping all around us. Slowly, but surely, one by one. We've been collecting them on our walks and noticing the quiet but steady drift into Autumn. We're singing lovely songs like "The Leaves are Green," and "Yellow the Bracken," rejoicing in all the crisp apples and fresh winter squash, and harvesting the last of our own summer garden. Drying and freezing and packing it all away for the cooler months.

It's a busy time, Autumn is. We snuck in a small harvest celebration to welcome the turning of the season. A few stories around the lantern*, warm food, and a familiar old song, "My Roots Go Down," one that we learned with some friends in Texas. It was our small way of honoring the good times we spent there and marking our journey here. This weekend it will be one year since our move, and Einstein is already applying for jobs for next Fall when his research grant expires. We're doggedly trying to put down our roots... to feel solid in the earth, even if we have to pull them back up again.

"My Roots Go Down" - by Sarah Pirtle

My roots go down, down to the earth.
My roots go down, down to the earth.

My roots go down, down to the earth.

My roots go down.

Every verse is different, made up on the spot. You sing a line, repeat it twice, and end it with "My roots go down." Then follow with the chorus.

The girls LOVED making up their own verses:

I am a dogwood shimmering in the starlight.

I am a climbing tree letting someone climb.

And our roots go down...

*We were inspired to make our own leaf lantern by our dear friend Aleisha. Not only did she turn us on to the wonderful book Exploring the Forest with Grandforest Tree, she's got a beautiful Autumn lantern up on her site as well. She's just full of cool ideas.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Royal Ball

This morning Sunburst wanted to do "school" which is different than the schule we normally do. She wanted to do "proper school" where she dresses up as the character of the day/week/month and pulls up a chair to the end table and says, "Teacher! Teacher! I'm ready for school."

Today she was Samantha.

Anyway, it seemed like a good time to pull out an idea that I had been thinking about but hadn't completely thought through yet: Math through paper folding. I totally winged it, and it turned out swell.

We started out each with a square of paper. It was the Royal Cake. How shall we cut it? Can we divide it into two slices? What about four? What if we fold it this way? Oh my, 8 pieces! Let's do that again! Wow, 16 pieces! Sunburst folded it in half and in half and in half until she couldn't crease the paper any longer.

It was a lot of counting, but Einstein helped out by writing our totals down on the chalkboard.

Hmmm... was there some sort of pattern emerging? Oh yes! 1+1 is 2. 4 is 2+2. 8 is 4+4. Sunburst noticed that every time you fold it in half again, you double the number of cake slices. "Splendid, just splendid dear," said the Queen. "Now keep folding, I say! Keep folding!"

She ended up with 128 slices of cake. Minus the King and Queen, how many guests could they serve?

But boy, were they puny slices! "This will never do!" Cried the Queen in her haughtiest voice. "Our guests are not mere mice! They shall starve on such a niblet! We shall have to cut larger pieces!" (Being a haughty queen is quite fun!)

So Sunburst looked over all the options and decided that the division of 16 made adequate pieces. Not too large, "We don't want them to start vomiting into their crystal goblets!" And not too small. "Our guests are not mice!" So then we started subtracting the King and Queen and the two Royal Princesses to see how many guests we could invite.

Of those 12, we mused how many invitations we would need to write. Twelve? What if some of them live together? What if they are families? Yes, what if there were two people in each family? Or three? Or four?...

When we finally figured it all out, then we had to decide how we would deliver these invitations. The Royal Horses all had the flu. Whatever shall we do? Of course, we'll send out the Royal Bird! We put all that paper folding practice just then to use making our own origami birds. They flew around the room and finally nested in the well of Einstein's banjo.

Moonshine also wanted a princess origami doll. So we folded one up and decorated it with stamps and such.

It was a Rollicking, Royal Good Time. And I dare say, we may have learned something.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Forms A'hoy!

We're chugging along with our form drawing. So far so good, though it's a bit premature to tell really. However, just two days into the lesson I'm already struck by how this form drawing stuff never ceases to surprise me. It's like some kind of magic.

I thought the first form I came up with, good old Giovanni juggling, would prove to be a bit more challenging. But no. We warmed up with some forms we did last year. Then we took our new form in parts, drew it in the air with our fingers, with our feet on the floor, used the chalkboard and finally pulled out those huge sheets of newsprint and went to town. Sunburst figured it out fairly quickly:

I like to let each form sit overnight before we draw it in the main lesson book. The forms seem to fix themselves overnight and just flow the next day. This is how it came out in her book:

Then I presented the crowd form. Whew! She said to me, "It's only the second form, shouldn't it be the second easiest?" Well, you never can tell which ones will be hard. Everyone is different. To her credit, Sunburst worked on it pretty steadily for quite awhile. I could tell right away though that it was a tricky one for her.

We worked inside for a bit then took it outside on the front porch. I drew it really large so that she could trace over it a few times and we could walk it with our feet.

While we were doing that, Moonshine (age 4) was busy at work drawing chalk bunnies. She came and pulled me away to show me that she had made Giovanni all on her own.

Obviously I let little sister listen in on our stories and lessons. I give her paper and crayons and she goes to town drawing her own things. Once in awhile she will draw an image from a story, but for the most part she is happily lost in her little dreamy world. Oddly enough, Moonshine drew the first form from Sunburst's first grade lessons, too. My curiousity piqued, I pulled out the newsprint Moonshine was working on while we practiced Giovanni.

Two females. Normal 4-year-old stufff, I think. Can you see them? See all the horizontal lines on that dress? Now check out the hair. Little spirals on the ends, like curls. She has started making these little spirals lately, as well as decorating dresses with layers upon layers of frill-- or running curves. I can't help but wonder what it will be like to teach her in two years.

Meanwhile, Sunburst was still having fits with this "crowd" form. "It's too hard! I'm trying, but I can't do it!" And then came the tears... not a bunch, but they welled up in her frustration. I've figured out that's my cue that I've selected the right form for her. And also, that it's time to shift gears and change the presentation.

I ushered her back in the house for a cup of warm tea and a snack. While the tea was brewing I asked her to practice it on newsprint again, just once more. I stood there looking at the form I had drawn on the chalkboard, and suddenly it occured to me that it was International Talk Like a Pirate Day. And oddly enough, that crowd form also looked like the edge of a pirate ship. All it needed was some help. Sunburst got so sidetracked watching me morph my form into a picture that she forgot she was "done," turned her paper over and started again.

This time she just looked at me and grinned. "Arrrr! Ship a'hoy!"

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Juggling some new forms

Our school supplies finally arrived, so last night I stayed up long after I should have and finalized my plans for our next lesson. I'm presenting a 3 week block on Form Drawing using the story of The Clown of God. It's a fairly intense story that circles the seasons of one man's, or clown's, life. It touches upon religion and purpose and a sense of something more. It's not a light story, but it seems to fit, and I feel good about it.

Sunburst has never heard this story before. I picked it up on a whim at the bookstore earlier this summer. It spoke to me when I read it and seemed to mirror the spirit world connection that's present in the Saint Stories for Grade 2. The more I looked at it, the more I realized how it was just brimming with forms. And voila!

I read through my pile* of form drawing books and printouts late last night and started sketching the possibilities. I came up with twelve forms that I'm really happy with. My plan is to retell the story in bits as we go along. The ending is really surprising and magical (ok, and kind of freaky,) so I want to leave that for later. The rest of the story is rich enough that it will sustain her as we go along.

I would love to see what forms other Waldorf homeschoolers are covering with their children, so in the spirit of sharing, here are the twelve forms I came up with, roughly sketched/crammed onto the chalkboard. I've tried to incorporate some metamorphosing forms (where you add onto them/change them,) running forms, vertical and horizontal symmetry, lemniscates, growing forms, inward/centering forms, invisible lines, and circles upon circles. A story about juggling really works for all these circular forms!

What's really crazy is how symbolic these forms turned out to be. #1 (top left) is a simple metamorphosing form of a young Giovanni juggling. Though it kind of also looks like a cross emanating rays of light. Our last form, #12 (bottom right) shows a simple lemniscate (numeral 8) and then working a lemniscate inside a lemniscate. It represents the statue of Mary holding the Christ child holding Giovanni's golden ball. But it's also this very solidly infinite thing... and really gives the sense of holding or being held. And yet, it's really not an overly religious story. The only thing that's really in your face is the magic, the mystery, the possibility...

Though you don't have to tell these long, drawn-out stories to do Form Drawing, it's a good idea to make sure the lines on the page represent something tangible that a child can grasp and roll around in their imagination.

The forms I've chosen will represent:
1. Giovanni juggling (Spring)
2. Crowd (young and old)
3. juggling the rainbow balls
4-5. different balls?
6. I think I'll shift this to #11, and make it be the balls rising higher than ever before
7. crowd applauding (Summer)
8. Little Brothers
9. Giovanni old and defeated (Autumn)
10. city scape
11. candle light (Winter)
12. Mary, Christ, and the golden ball

*For those genuinely interested, my pile of Form Drawing Resources includes:
Form Drawing Grades One through Four - Laura Embrey-Stein & Ernst Schuberth
Form Drawing - Hans Niederhauser & Margaret Frohlich
Form Drawing for the Homeschooling Parent - Barbara Dewey - Eugene Schwartz

Form Drawing for Young Children: Grades 1 to 3 - Marsha Johnson (WaldorfHomeEducators)
Journey to Numeria - Alan Whitehead, Spiritual Syllabus

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Remarkable Recovery

I just got a phone call... from my stepmom! She lives and breathes and talks!

After an entire month in ICU, having gone through some horrendous medical emergencies, she has made a remarkable recovery. Miraculous. She has definitely backed away from that precipice and I'm so ecstatic I want to shout!

But it's late. My children are sleeping. Must not wake them...

Hear my virtual joy! Hear my thanks for all the love, thoughts, energy, and prayers! Hooray! Hooray! There is nothing like hearing the sound of another's voice when you weren't sure if you ever would again...

I can't stop smiling! :=)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Great Smashitude

Yesterday, as we were driving home from the science museum, something smashed into our car and totalled our windshield. As you can see in the pictures the whole passenger side is pretty smashed up. Glass bits/shards/dust flew everywhere, including the tiniest bit into my right eye. It all happened so fast that I didn't see what hit us. It was crazy!

The girls both started freaking out. The crying was instantaneous. And I was caught completely offguard-- adrenaline pumping, rubbing my eye reflexively, and looking for a spot to pull over. It took me a minute to figure out what had happened, at least, to note that indeed the reason I couldn't see out of the windshield was that it was smashed, rather than what I immediately presumed-- that a large bird had dropped a tremendous amount of feces on our window. Or someone tossed a large boulder from a second-story window.

As I partly pulled over to the side the shrieking in the backseat only got louder and more frantic. Kitty Bill joined in and I couldn't see or think straight. I couldn't even see well enough to pull off the road. I took half a look at my screaming kids and just kept driving. This is how hit and runs happen, I thought later. By folks so shaken up by a sudden impact and overwhelmed with a backseat full of shrieking kids that they can't think straight until two hours later.... when they return to the scene of the crash, and find nothing. Which is exactly what we did.

I parked the kids at the dining room table and spooned food into their mouths to stifle the noise. I clutched Kitty Bill to my breast, rubbed my eye, and tried to figure it out. Luckily for me, I had Agatha Sunburst on the scene.

"Kitty Bill did it," she announced with great certainty. "I saw him do it."

Theory #1
Now how does a baby, sitting in the back seat in a rear-facing carseat, shatter the windshield of a moving car? Apparently with his favorite toy. Allegedly, Sunburst claims she saw him huck it backwards, up and over his carseat, with tremendous force, where upon it IMPACTED the windshield, and... get this... rebounded back into his chair. Like a boomerang. Tremendous force. Talent, even. Forget Kitty Bill, we should call him Baby Hulk.

And the toy? Wait for it....

A pitch pipe. Think harmonica-like.

Now, Sunburst almost had me with this one. It was the sincerity of her voice and the serious look on her face. She SAW it. Kitty Bill. In the Car. With a Pitch Pipe. But then I thought about it. If I had chucked it, would that break the window? It's metal. But small. How hard would I have to chuck it? Pretty hard. Over my head? Backwards? On a good day, maybe.... but I'm no Hulk.

Then we examined the windshield. Apparently you can tell whether the impact was on the outside or inside from the kind of damage present. Is there glass missing on one side? Does it bubble inward or outward? Is there debris?

That's when I saw it. Little, stiff, fawn-colored hairs embedded in the glass on the outside of the windshield. Definitely an outside job. But what the heck did I hit?

Theory #2
A squirrel?

I was driving 25 mph on a residential street. There are trees, but none were overhanging at this particular stretch. The entire right-hand side of the street was loaded with parked cars. So if it was indeed a squirrel-- the hair color is right... where did it come from?

And could a squirrel do this to a windshield? Really? I was only going 25 mph, it wasn't like I was speeding down the freeway. Wouldn't there need to be a lot more force involved?

Newton's Third Law of Motion. "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." I knew I should have taken physics in high school. So if a bug hits my windshield, both the bug and the car are exerting the same amount of force. By law. The bug splatters because it can't withstand the force... Now, whatever I hit yesterday SMASHED my windshield. So if my windshield looked like that... that same force exerted on a squirrel ought to have killed it. Don't you think? Itty bitty little thing like a squirrel. Smashola.

Theory #3.
What has the same fawn-colored fur as a squirrel but can be chucked out of a two-story window? A coconut? Think about it.... SMASH! Yep. A coconut could do some damage. But wouldn't it splatter stuff all over my windshield, too? Coconut milk, meat, shell debris?

I loaded the kids back into the car and drove back to the scene of the crime to look for bodies. Nothing. No roadkill. No coconuts. No boulders, birds, tree limbs, or people. Nothing.

Theory #4.
A squirrel with a coconut head dropped out of a black hole in the space-time continuum and smashed into my car and then vanished. Into thin air.

Theory #5.
Not some coconut-grafted flying squirrel... maybe Time bandits.

and then the POLICE came...

But it's okay. I called them. Just to make sure I didn't hit anyone or anyone didn't hit me. Just to be sure that if someone was chucking coconuts or lead-filled squirrels out of two-story windows in the University area that there was some sort of record somewhere. That the powers that be know about it.

The very nice officer that came out stood at my windshield and shined his flashlight on it for a very long time. He took a few notes and looked at the windshield some more. Clueless. Definitely an outside job, but clueless. I showed him the hairs. Aha! Evidence.

"A cat?" He pondered, and then shook his head.

"A coconut-headed cat," I suggested, and let him in on my crazy squirrel dropping out of the sky theory.

"No, this was no squirrel," he said. "Whatever hit you had some weight to it." He took another look at the hairy windshield and said with full sincerity....

Theory #6.
"Are you sure you didn't hit a deer?" Deers, squirrels, coconuts and Time bandits... all falling from the sky. Yeah, uh huh.

What else is there???

maybe... you don't think... could it be?

Theory #7.
Raccoons?.....Nah! But maybe...

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Gamble of Song

Welcome to The Singing Lottery, where every morning we each draw a song out of a hat, open our hearts, breathe deeply into our lungs, lift our heads to the heavens and SING. Together. I know it sounds strange, but hear me out.

This is my answer to the impossibility of a daily circle time. We would love to have a circle every day, and it sounds good in theory. But that lengthy, involved, lovely, composed circle with all the songs and fingerplays and recitations just isn't something we can do everyday in our house, especially with Kitty Bill competing for attention.

But... I still want my girls to sing. Daily. Together. In a lovely, harmonious way. As a guided activity, which is very different from the normal and contstant outpouring of their own creative song that happens throughout each day. In this I want them to listen. To memorize. To sing together. To work together, and to start the morning with song. Every day. United and present and lyrical and healthy.

I think it's IMPORTANT, but you don't have to take my word for it.

“Music is a strange thing. I would say it is a miracle. For it stands halfway between thought and phenomenon, between spirit and matter, a sort of nebulous mediator, like and unlike each of the things it mediates — spirit which requires manifestation in time and matter that can do without space.” --Heinrich Heine
"We need no convincing about how phenomenally good music makes us feel. There's nothing esoteric about the fact that when we sing, our pupils dilate and a rush of endorphins (our body's natural painkillers) surge through our bodies. Singing increases oxygenation in our bloodflow, tones the nervous system, heightens our immunity, and affects glandular secretions. Healers often use sustained vocalization of individual pitches for the purpose of resonating specific body areas to realign and rebalance." --Naturally You Can Sing

Singing promotes deep breathing, oxengenates the blood, stimulates brain activity, releases 'feel good' endorphins, reduces stress, builds self-confidence, enhances memory, and boosts creativity! --Beth Lawrence, Viva La Voice

"Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful." --Plato

Sounds great, doesn't it? Singing daily for health and inner peace and connectedness. It's a communal exercise. Turning it into a game like The Singing Lottery brings in the element of surprise, mystery, and fun. What will we sing today? My girls can't wait to find out! But of course there are rules, too.

The Singing Lottery Rules
1. Anyone can contribute a song to the hat.
2. Each song must impart a sense of goodwill, joy, spirit, and/or welcome.
3. The songs can be in any language.
4. Each person has to draw at least one song from the hat.
5. After each participant has drawn a song, the singing commences.
6. Each participant must sing standing up (posture and breath are important.)
7. All songs will be sung together, as a group.

We're having great fun with it, currently singing selections from Sing Through the Day, This is the Way We Wash-a-Day, Teach Me German, and the musical play of Peter Pan. Moonshine in particular has been heard repeating the songs throughout the day. Not just Moonshine though, me too. I can't help myself. It feels good.

What will you sing?

Feel free to play along.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Making Sidewalk Chalk

I'm getting things ready for our first form drawing block of the 2nd grade year. We like to draw the forms as large as we possibly can outside on our back patio. It's an activity that necessitates A LOT of chalk.

So we make our own.

It's really simple. We use plaster of paris, tempera paint, and water. Then we pour our mixtures into toilet paper tubes lined with wax paper. We set our tubes on a FLAT surface (i.e. hardboard) with a double layer of wax paper underneath. You let them sit overnight in the tubes, and then peel them out and let them finish drying. If the weather cooperates, it takes about a day or two for them to fully dry.

The ingredients are really inexpensive. You can find plaster of paris and tempera paint at a craft store. I buy the regular tempera paint, not the washable. And the chalk works great. You can add as much color as you like, so you get really vibrant results.

The original recipe can be found HERE.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

U Can't Touch This!

I decided to take advantage of the cooler temperatures last week and did some weeding out in the yard. To my surprise, and dismay, I discovered some Poison Ivy. Some here, some there, some... everywhere! I took the kids over and gave them the poisonous plant tour, doing my best MC Hammer* impersonation:

Obviously I didn't spend my summer weeding. Nor my spring. Heck, it wasn't until recently that I even discovered what Poison Ivy looks like. I grew up in the Sonoran Desert, and I can identify a cactus a mile away (who can't?) If we were lucky we had a few blades of grass. Ivy, of any kind, didn't stand a chance in the parched desert.

I'm not in the desert anymore, and luckily the internet exists. With pictures. And you can learn about anything. I thought this lesson was important enough to share with the kids. It fits nicely in the Natural Science category, don't you think? Health sciences, too.

"Ring the bell, school's back inBreak it down...."

What does Poison Ivy look like?
You can't touch THIS!.... or THIS!... or THIS!

What will Poison Ivy do to me?
Check out the Posion Ivy RASH Hall of Fame.

Why does it make you itch? And can I wash it off?

Read the FAQ.

Test your knowledge. Take the Quiz.

So now comes the hard part. Removing the poison ivy. It's all over the place.
Can anybody loan me a goat?

*Me? Quoting MC Hammer?
You never can tell what I'll pull out of that magic hat. But look, Hammer's got a BLOG, too. It's a small world afterall...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Modeling with Beeswax

This week I told the Grimm's story Allerleirauh, and it was great fun. We pulled out our Stockmar modeling beeswax and tried to capture the story in a different medium.

First I drew a representational picture on the chalkboard. Sunburst copied that picture into her main lesson book, and then pulled that image into her modeling. I didn't tell her what to make, I just let her lead the way. This is what she came up with:

The King is on the left, and Allerleirauh is on the right. You can see her bright dress peeking out from her fur cloak. In the middle is the stove where Allerleirauh stirred the soup, and the brown bit is a spoon on a rack of some sort. Inside the pot of soup, which you can't see, is a golden ring. Behind the King is a door with a window. Behind Allerleirauh is a wooden bough with dried herbs for cooking.

She probably worked on this scene for 45 minutes or so. I sat next to her and sculpted my own vision of the characters on the left. What a large pot of soup I made! I tend to make enough food to feed an army in real life, so why should I be surprised that my modeling should turn out any different? The chalkboard scene we worked from is on the right.

To get started on your own modeling fun, I suggest you check out this PDF from Stockmar. Other manuals for their wonderful art products can be found HERE.

Back to School...

This is Moonshine's "rainbow leaf." Yes, the autumnal change is upon us. The morning air is crisp and cool, the oaks are scattering their acorns, and a few leaves here and there are slowly turning. I love this time of year!

Last week we stuck to our rhythm fairly easily. We enjoyed the morning walks and the chill they left on our noses and ears. We pass a house on our walk that the girls have taken to calling "the castle." It's a grand house of limestone with two turrets, one on each end. It's really something to behold, especially on a street with fairly normal-looking houses. Some of them are just as large, but turrets? Lion statues poised on the steps? Not even close.

This house has really peaked the girls' interests in castles and what it would be like to live in one. As soon as we return home from the walk Moonshine runs to the costume box and gets princessed-out. More often than not Sunburst has joined in, and they've been queens of their own castle.

While I'm waiting for our shipment of school supplies (and for my grand plan to solidify,) I thought we would keep with the castle theme . We're warming up to the new school year with a few more Grimm's tales and accompanying writing practice. So far, so good. I'm bringing in a few of the "castley" stories that reference God a bit more, since we're going to delve into the stories of the Saints this year, it seemed like a good warm-up to the idea of godliness.

Sunburst isn't too comfortable with the idea of God, actually. Jesus, is easier somehow because there is a human form and baby worship, but God? She can't quite wrap her brain around it, all on her own. I once overheard her at a party debating with a table of mixed-age children about the existence of God and his/her gender. It never occurred to me that children would discuss this topic at length amongst themselves, but there they were... Sunburst adamantly espousing her disbelief and another child declaring that God is a woman. "But God doesn't sound like a girl's name," I heard before I walked away shaking my head and thinking they would get clearer answers from a magic eight ball.

I'm toying with the idea of starting into the second grade lessons with form drawing inspired by the story The Clown of God, told by Tomie dePaola. It has just that spark of the mystery of spirit and miracle that I've been looking for. And touching on our own personal needs, it's a good look at the circle of life, following one clown's life from early childhood to his death, from poverty to fame and back to poverty, and seems to encompass the spectrum of human/animal behavior we'll be covering this year in our readings. It's also a good introduction to St. Francis and the Brothers, which we'll return to in another main lesson. It's brimming with material.

Most of all, I love the passage in the story where Giovanni meets the Little Brothers:

"Our founder, Brother Francis, says that everything sings of the glory of God. Why, even your juggling," said one of the brothers.

"That's well and good for men like you, but I only juggle to make people laugh and applaud," Giovanni said.

"It's the same thing," the brothers said. "If you give happiness to people, you give glory to God as well."

"If you say so," said Giovanni...

I'll stir some nature into the story, plug in some forms, and be set to start when our new supplies arrive. I'm excited, actually. The weather, the story... it feels like I might have wandered back onto the path. In spite of everything. It feels good.
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