Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Wrap-Up

Notice anything new? Uh-huh. I took my new boots walking yesterday. Red boots need regular outings, fresh air, love. I am happy to oblige them.


Thank you Mamspark's for the offer of science help. My boys were so shocked at me for taking those tadpoles from their home. I think it is wonderful that they are concerned and conscientious, but mercy, it's a shame children these days have so many limitations, restrictions and boundaries. They may be safer than we were when we were children, but I like them to explore outside of textbooks. I had to convince them it was safe, ethical and even legal to scoop up tadpoles, and of course in this day and age, I am not sure it! So, if anything should happen to those tadpoles, and we all know stuff happens to tadpoles, then I will have a lot of explaining to do!

Thank you for all the encouraging comments and sweet praise for the children. Janece, you could totally be Amira's teacher. Think, who's been doing it up to now? Talking, dressing herself, feeding herself, sitting up, walking, reading!! for goodness sake, all of these skills have been learned under your watch! I take it one day at a time and I never assume I have all of the answers, and yes it is hard, but you could do it. You already are doing a wonderful job of it!

One thing that makes all the difference in the world as a homeschooling mom, is hearing positive feedback. It is an amazing boost, so thank you Tracy, and thank you Lesley and Laura Jane. I get a lot of morale boosting and support from Nikkipolani-Anne and Jennifer and from Anne.

Making New Friends:

Sometimes I get comments from people that do not include a reply email, which is one more excuse reason I don't get it together to reply to every comment. Other reasons include laziness, poor time management, life, the universe and everything. Well, I love comments, so please don't let gaps in the conversation discourage you from leaving any more comments. I read them all. I love them all. Comments are wonderful, and even if I am not answering them all, know that I am listening.

"YayaOrchid," thank you for adding me to your links.

Amy, it would be cool to get our little people together. You make good wishes.

Andylynne, I am still waiting for you to start a blog!

Y en Mexico tengo una nueva amiga, Gloria, y ella tiene un blog bonito..."En Búsqueda." Trato leer lo y quiero mejorar mi español. ¡Es deficil!

It's too easy to find something good on the internet, get distracted and then lose all memory of that great site, wonderful blogger, interesting article... well you get the idea.

I wonder if "BigBucketGirl" is still reading. Hello, BigBucketGirl. I love that you made crayons.

And "Judy in Kentucky," I hope you're still reading, and I hope you have started a blog too. Thank you for introducing yourself. Your comment was such a treat...
"Hi! I am one of your "other" readers who have not spoken before. I like reading your blog and enjoy the photos. I never know what it will be... buttons, chickens, kittens, cowboy boots, family gatherings, and I especially love the photos from Hawaii.
I am a "baby boomer" who lives with my husband and three cats. We have a daughter and three-year old granddaughter in California. I am new to the cyber-world, just got my laptop recently, and love all the sites to see and people to visit on the web. I haven't started my own blog yet cause I don't have enough know-how... but wanted to say "hi"."
I read this and grin, and blush, and sigh.

I have a suspicion that my Friday Wrap-Up won't get posted until Saturday. Writing this is taking some time, and I need to take care of a few things... I'll be right back. In the meantime, you have the option of playing with something I found thanks to Marisa's link in "Quilt Otaku." Here it is: This is a link to a super time waster, click at your own risk.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Archimedean Solids and Learning From Home

"Can you draw a rhombicuboctahedron?" Max is working on geometry. Alex is trying to figure out what happens when electrical circuits are overloaded. William is calculating Lego price values. When Max asked, " what is the difference between a rhombus and a parallelogram?" William asked whether any of us could draw a rhombicuboctahedron. Squares, rectangles and rhombuses are parallelograms. Alex can draw a rhombicuboctahedron, which is an Archimedean solid with 8 triangular and 18 square faces, and William added, "Leonardo da Vinci was the first person to draw one."

In 1 hour we drive to the homeschool headquarters, where we turn in work and share what we've been up to. The children have plenty to share and discuss. I, on the other hand, will be fumbling around, because the hardest part of homeschooling is being the teacher and the administrator. I would love to give up the administrative duties. I contend that there is not enough time to do the paper work and teach. So, I am scrambling to put my stuff in order, answer questions in science, math and literature, and visit Maria's kitchen where she is preparing a picnic and needs people to show some interest in her activities.

Unschool takes its own kind of discipline, but some days it is so tempting. This morning all of the children snuck into our bed. We shared drowsy laughs, then Geoff and I went to the family room to figure out computer/printer/telephone issues. When I went back to my room I found William reading to Alex, Max and Maria. He was reading "Amelia Bedelia" for his sister. They filled the bed and Maria was snuggled in the crook of her biggest brother's arm. They postponed the reading of "The Hobbit," because Maria wanted her book read first. Once Maria's wish was satisfied, they continued reading aloud from their book. Not a school book, not assigned.

They read aloud to each other most nights, and many mornings. Left to their own devices there are many things they seek and decipher, they take apart, figure out and calculate. Together we discover and learn a great deal, and somedays it seems our greatest stumbling block to actual learning is trying to fulfill administrative expectations, prepare for standardized tests and fill out forms. As Alex says when exasperated: Feh.

Max's most recent endeavor is to witness metamorphosis. He read 3 articles about the Pacific Tree Frog, a very common species of chorus frog... that's one part I remember from reading the wikipedia article. I have the best memories of scooping up tadpoles from creeks and ponds when I was a kid. We would drop them in a pail or wading pool or whatever and pretty soon we had frogs. It's magic I have been meaning to share with my children for quite some time.

Last week, while on a country excursion we found some tadpoles. We have them set-up in luxury accommodations, where Alex and Max have applied all they have learned about the needs and delights of the Pacific Tree Frog. We think there are at least 4 of them in there, and they are very, very small. Can you see the dark pea in the algae? That's one! Even when they first transform into frogs they may be as small as 1 centimeter. We will take them back to their creek home once they become frogs... congratulating ourselves for keeping them safe from predators until they are strong hoppers!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Buttermilk Biscuits in a Blue Dress

Maria couldn't wait for me to hem her new dress. She twirled and whirled the whole day, so I feel successful. When we sat in the shade of the oak trees, at the Renaissance Faire, I pinned and basted the gatherings on the four rows that make up the skirt. I love having handwork available when I am having a quiet moment. New patterns, like new recipes can be a bit tricky and slow, but now that I have finished this dress, I am anxious to try another variation. Of course... something like Meg's blouse. She's Sew Liberated!

The biscuit recipe was a new one, and I substituted butter for the shortening. Needless to say, with all of that butter, they came out very tasty. The best part though was sharing the hand mixing part with Maria and then rolling and cutting together too. She was up for the whole process! With the last bit of dough she spent another half hour rolling, cutting and dusting everything with flour.

I will have to thoroughly shake-out her dress before I finish the hem. I wouldn't want to wash it before hemming it, even though the edge is pinked. Over the years I have periodically sewn a few garments. It's not always easy to rationalize sewing clothes over buying them, when it goes as slowly as it does for me. Still, it's nice to know how to sew clothes and to have the option to make the styles I like.

I know the boys would love it if I dedicated myself to outfitting the family in Renaissance fashions. Throughout the day we were offering suggestions for our family guild. How about a Biscuit Guild?

Monday, April 14, 2008

We Should Start A Guild

At the market these peppers called my name.
In crisp peppery voices they said, "Psst. Natalie, come here. Check us out. Wouldn't we smell marvelous roasting on your stove-top? Take us home. Make chile rellenos. I promised a friend the recipe, and I think it would be a great one for documenting.

Making chile rellenos is quite an undertaking, and one I haven't tackled in almost a year. The beauty of these fresh Anaheim peppers, the saturated tones of the bells is inspiring.

The light box has its own home on the new school desk, which makes it extra convenient for a quick photo session. It's also comes in very handy for the latest family obsession... producing our own stop-motion animations. Alex, William and Max are thrilled with the new set-up and software. Years ago they mastered the Lego program. It's good they have a chance to reacquaint themselves with this process and art. Look for our YouTube links soon!

The changes we are making to the schoolroom and the garage/sewing room are coming along nicely. The latest ambition is to finish a hanging screen that will keep cats and children inside, while allowing fresh air to enter through the open garage door. Geoff set up a power strip, so the sewing machine is plugged in. I bought a 3rd table, because Alex and Max were drawn to the cleared space and wanted to work on their robotic and mechanical inventions. I like having their company. The room is taking on a creative vibe.

I have never, ever had a cutting table. A cutting table is an awesome tool. Maria and I spent an evening cutting a pattern for pants and a dress. She pinned her bunny drawing and thoughtfully measured and cut her handmade pattern, while I pinned and cut the pieces for her new wardrobe.

Yesterday we ran away and joined the Faire, and we would have stayed forever, living in a canvas tent and wearing tunics, boots, fairy wings and Irish skirts, but we do not have a guild. We really must form our own guild. Cooking, inventing, artists with interests in science and farming, handwork, singing weird songs and relaxing in the shade... we'll make our family crest and heraldry soon.

Max tried archery, which is a favorite activity of his. He is quite skilled with a bow and arrow.

In spite of the 98 degree temperatures we did and saw a lot. Geoff documented some of the elaborate battles and other faire activities. He has a new hobby too. Our guild will include stop motion and slow motion photography. More about our day at the faire later. It's time to open books and sharpen pencils.