Monday, November 29, 2010

Nate's Favorites

Nate has three books that we MUST read each night.

1.  Freight Train
by Donald Crews

This is the simplest book ever and Nate just adores it (and has it memorized).  He has learned colors, counting and memorization all from this simplest of books.  Best of all, it takes NO time to read at bedtime!

2.  Two Little Trains
by Margaret Wise Brown

A poetic story of two little trains (one old and one new) going West.  Nate loves the rhythm and illustrations.

3.  I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track
by Joshua Prince

Nate just saw me typing this and SCREAMED with delight "it's ANT!".  This is his current FAVORITE book and we read it multiple times a day.  Cute rhyme story about an eastbound ant on a westbound track.  HUGE hit in our home!

Books We've Enjoyed This Week

1.  Uncle Elephant
by Arnold Lobel

Cute story of a little Elephant whose parents are lost at sea (it's never explained how or why Elephants are "at sea"...).  Anyway, the little Elephant goes to stay with his silly Uncle for a few days until his parents return.  Cute.  Kept both kids interest the entire way through.

2.  Small Pig
by Arnold Lobel

Nate LOVED this story.  It is the first story of any length that he has sat still and quiet for!  Cute simple story of a little pig who loves his mud.  When "the farmer's wife" vacuums up his soft mud, the little pig is so angry that he runs away and gets himself stuck in the city. 

3.  The Just So Woman
by Gary Blackwood

My just-so girl related to this story of a woman who needed to have things "just-so".  We read it multiple times.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

cig gal

i started this yesterday and finished tonight and i love it!
i have some extra studio time thanks to some time off from teaching for Thanksgiving break.

bobby gave me the walnut ink, it's my first time to paint with it.
i will be getting some more.

"cig gal"
walnut ink on paper
31" X 27"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kitchen "Helper"

I've been very reluctant to let my kids help in the kitchen with anything.  Really, they are still pretty little.  I've tried to let them help with mixing muffins, however, I end up with flour everywhere and kids sticking their faces in the batter and I just find it all very stressful and not enjoyable and therefore I kill the joy of it in my kids.  blah.

Lately, I've been having lots of conflict with Adrianna always wanting to be in the kitchen.  Usually she wants to be snacking.  Constantly.  It drives me CRAZY. 

Yesterday I decided that if she wants to be in the kitchen so desperately, I would put her to work!  She washed all the potatoes for dinner.  She "made" the green beans (got the beans out of the freezer, put them in the pot and put water in the pot).  She washed the dishes (minus the knives).  It actually was helpful.  And enjoyable.  And I really do need to lighten up a bit!

While dinner was cooking, we made up a joint story.  She wanted me to tell her a story, so I began but I made her fill in the blanks and create the story with me.  It actually worked out pretty well. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

I took the kids on a mini walk yesterday along a path near our house.  We needed fresh air and a change of scenery.  Adrianna found this:

We stopped and examined it.  We observed that it was growing on a vine in a swampy area.  We took a few home with us.  Then, googled it and we learned together that it is a prickly cucumber.  Very fun. 

Then, Adrianna proceeded to pick it apart completely layer by layer and bit by bit.  Later, she "narrated" it to Daddy, "we found a pokey cucumber and it had seeds in it.  It grows on a vine!"

Ok.  Maybe I can do nature study.

Monday, November 15, 2010


This morning I decided to put together a small care package for our World Vision sponsored child Nedira.  We have only been sponsoring her for a few months (our previous boy in India graduated out of the program).  We have had excellent communication with her family - it's been a delight to receive the letters.

Adrianna and Nate both decorated a card with stickers and drawings for Nedira and her family.  I also included a floppy Canada hat and a Christmas card for her family and a few stickers etc.  Anyway, while we were putting the package together, I took the time to gently teach the kids about Ethiopia and Africa.  Then we watched some videos on Ethiopian landscape and Ethiopian food, listened to some Ethiopian music and learned a little bit about street kids in Addis Ababa and the difference between their lives and our lives here. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Opera Company of Philadelphia "Hallelujah!" Random Act of Culture

Love it!

What We've Been Reading This Week

1.  For the Children's Hour
by Carolyn S. Bailey
488 pgs. Yesterday's Classics
Originally published in 1906 by Milton Bradley Co.

We've been reading one story a day in the afternoon at tea/snack time.  Adrianna is surprising me with her understanding of the stories as well as with her increasing attention span to listen even with no pictures.  So far we've read the first three stories:

1.  The Little Grey Grandmother
This story was too advanced for both of them, however, I think I'll revisit it in a few years when I focus more on character.

2.  Grandmother's Curtains
Adrianna "got" this one and understood what the little girl was up to.

3.  Hans and the Wonderful Flower
This story sparked a great discussion on what we do if we were given a bag of precious jewels.  Adrianna would make jewelry.  Nate would put them in the money box at church.  Cute.

Edited by Olive Beaupre Miller

I had the very good fortune of stumbling across the ENTIRE 12 volume set of this beautiful series in Value Village.  I paid a grand total of $10 for the entire set!  I had never heard of this book series before but I could instantly tell that they were quality books.  Turns out I was right!  Owing to the value of the books, I keep them safe in my room and bring them out to read to the kids at bedtime.  Adrianna thoroughly enjoys the stories in Volume 2 and I thoroughly enjoy the beauty and quality of the book. 

3.  The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh
by A.A Milne.  illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard
344 pgs.  Dutton Children's Books

Another Value Village find.  I paid a grand total of $3.99!  Wow!
Adrianna (and occasionally Nate), really enjoys these stories.  I caught her "reading" them to Nate (narration!!).  Cute.  I enjoy remembering hearing these stories as a child.  Just classic wonderful.

We've read the first three stories.  It was delightful to watch Adrianna "get it" while reading "In Which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle".  All of a sudden she yelled - "it's them!  It's THEIR own footprints!"  awesome!

4.  Tickety Tock by Jason Robert Brown.  Illustrated by Mary GrandePre
32 pg.

I thought this story was beautiful!  Who doesn't want to go back in time and do things differently?  But, I think the concept was lost on my kids.  Nate liked the "tick tock clocks" and I think Adrianna liked the rhythm of the rhymes, but I was the one who liked the story.

5.  Frog and Toad Books
by Arnold Lobel

We are thoroughly enjoying these books also!  Both kids will sit and listen to the stories.  Such gentle and real friendships.  Such emotion.  So few words and yet so much conveyed.  Love it.

Amazing Fungi Time-lapse

Adrianna loves trees and mushrooms and forests.  She found this (and other) time-lapse videos of mushrooms growing absolutely mesmerizing.  Very cool. 

Great Train Video that my Kids are Loving!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Get Those Kids Outdoors!

Here is a wonderful aticle about how nature study (ie: just being outside in nature) really helps the brain to absorb materiel and learn. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Fieldtrip

Homeschool day at Doon Heritage Village.  It's a great outdoor living museum of life in the early 1900s in our local region.  My kids went a little bonkers running around so I didn't get much pictures - just one while they sat and ate lunch!

The big hits:

1.   Train Engine 894 - a CP engine constructed in 1911.  Nathaniel LOVES trains right now.  We've been watching a lot of YouTube videos of trains and Nate literally squeals with delight.  Both kids spent a lot of time examining the wheels and climbing up to see where the coal was put into the tender.  At some point, Anna went into the station and looked at the pictures of a steam engine and really wants to know how a steam engine works.  Daddy will explain it tomorrow.

2.  Horse and wagon ride.  What kid doesn't love a horse and wagon ride?!  Nate's favorite was when the horses galloped - he yelled "going very very very very fast!!" and laughed his crazy laugh. 

3.  The church and Christmas hymn singing.  There was a simple organ and two ladies in period costumes singing Christmas hymns.  Anna leaned over and whispered "what IS this??" - she LOVED it.  Nate kept asking "piano? piano?" - he loves instruments and music.

We were all quite tired (and grouchy) afterwards but it was a nice day.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Unschooled Nature Study

The idea of unschooling fascinates me although I highly doubt I'd ever be brave enough to do it fully.  I love the Charlotte Mason methodology of short lesson plans and a big focus on nature and the outdoors.  To me it is the perfect combination of structured study and student, desire-led study.  Any homeschooling I do, I want there to be ample free time left for my kids to just be kids and to explore the world on their own terms and pursue their own interests.

With the change of temperatures outside, we have had a few cool "visitors".  The other day, a ladybug joined us for breakfast.  Both kids climbed up on the table to get a closer look.  Anna pulled out her magnifying glass.  Nate observed from a distance but did not want the bug to go near him!  Anna on the other hand, was delighted that the ladybug decided to crawl on her hand and arm.  She declared that the ladybug was her "bestest friend in the whole wide world" and Nate blew kisses towards the bug.  Anyway, we spent a good 10 minutes (eternity to young preschoolers!) examining and interacting with this ladybug and then Anna released her to the wilds of the front porch.  Very cool.

Later that same day, I walked into the kitchen to see a spider dangling mid-air from the ceiling.  I quickly called the kids in to see and asked how they thought that spider was "floating" there like that.  Anna figured it out immediately and was quite fascinated.  Nate again kept a safe distance and felt quite relieved when the spider made a hasty retreat back up to the ceiling. 

A few weeks ago, someone spilled some Coke and didn't clean it up properly.  Anna and I noticed a straight line of ants walking along the baseboard from the front door to the sticky pop drop on the floor.  We spent some time studying how the ants walked in a straight line and stayed close to the wall.  We also studied how they grouped together into a mass on top of the pop drip. 

Nature study in the comfort of our home. 

Thus far, Nate hasn't showed too much interest in nature or bugs.  He likes trucks.  And trains.  And "mighty machines".  And tools.  Today, I showed him a YouTube video of a freight train.  He screamed with joy.  Literally screamed.  And then demanded more.  And more.  And more.  He watched a good 15 minutes of video of freight trains going past intersections.  He was thrilled. 

I have a feeling, I'll have to keep my computer hidden for awhile unless I am willing to watch railroad crossings over and over and over.  His enthusiasm was adorable.

Daily Routine

I am working to establish a daily routine in the hopes that when it does come time to formally homeschool, it will be a much easier transition with a skeletal routine already in place.

My children are still quite young - Anna is 3.5 and Nate is 2 - so the main focus is definitely on habit training and fun at this stage. 

I let them wake up whenever they are ready and they get 30 min of TV while I stumble around and try to wake up myself!
Then, get dressed.  Anna does this all on her own now (yay!). 
Everyone comes to the breakfast table dressed and ready to start the day.  While the kids are eating their cereal, I review the previous day's Bible story (modelling narration) and read the current day's selection.  This is the Bible story book we use.  If I'm ever being lazy and not iniating the Bible reading, one or both will "remind" me!

Free play and chores after breakfast.  Then we go out somewhere.  Anywhere.  Sometimes to the "party church" - a local church with a GREAT indoor play park that is open to the public during weekday mornings.  Sometimes we go grocery shopping.  Sometimes we walk to the park.  Sometimes we go hiking at the local conservation area.  Sometimes we just hang out at home and do a craft.

Then it is lunch, stories and quiet time.  Nate still naps.  Anna plays quietly in the living room while I am on the computer or napping on the couch.  The last 30 minutes of quiet time I spend with Anna either teaching her to read or playing a game or doing some online homeschool at Time4Learning.

After quiet time, it is tea/snack time.  I have begun reading them a story from For the Children's Hour by Carolyn S. Bailey.  So far the stories are a bit over their heads - especially Nate! - but we push through and they get something out of the story.  I often "narrate" the story back to them (in a simpler version) afterwards to give them the feel for narration (which they will need in a few years!). 

After tea time, it is outdoor play time.  I'm aiming for at least 30 minutes in the backyard.  They're getting there.  They last longer if I go outside too.
Then it is free play time or occasionally TV cartoon time while I make dinner.
Dinner, bath and evening and bed routine time.

Thus far, I've been able to incorporate Bible reading and literature each day.  I'm slowing working in Language Arts for Anna as she wants to learn to read.  I play classical music in the car and sometimes in the kitchen while I'm cooking.  We do nature study as we stumble across it. 

I think that when it finally comes time to do "formal" homeschooling, it will be a pretty smooth transition.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Books We've Enjoyed This Week

I am so excited to finally begin reading some chapter books with Anna.  I am working to train her attention.  Some of the pages have a simple picture on them and some pages have no pictures.  She's able to follow the story over a course of a few nights (a week or so) and enjoy it. 

1.  Mouse Tales
by Arnold Lobel.
61 pages.  1978 Harper & Row

"Seven bedtime stories told by Papa Mouse to his seven sons. Lively little drawings add to the humor. Seven mouse boys lie awake one night, and they ask their Papa to tell them a story. Papa does better than that-he tells them seven stories, one for each boy."

This was a cute book.  We read it in two sittings and Anna quite enjoyed it. 

2.  Frog and Toad are Friends
by Arnold Lobel
64 pages.  1979

"Five tales recounting the adventures of two best friends - Frog and Toad"

Cute stories.  The friendship reminded me a lot of the George and Martha books.

3.  The Name of the Tree
A Bantu Tale retold by Celia Barker Lottridge
36 pages.  1990.

"When the other animals fail at the task, the slow but wise turtle finds a way to obtain the bountiful fruits of a magic tree."
Anna is fascinated with trees.  Her "tree books" are her special things that she doesn't have to share.  She quite enjoyed this tale.  Beautiful book.

by Salley Mavor
72 pages.  2010
The stunning thing about this book is the remarkable illustrations!  The text is classic nursery rhymes (good in themselves).  The illustrations are these amazingly detailed fabric and cloth embroidered and sewn scenes.  It's a gorgeous book. 

These are the stories that were a hit in out house this week.

A Week of Habit Training

This has been a week of focusing on setting solid habits.  Not much "schooly" stuff done but a LOT of life!

This week we've worked hard to drastically cut down on the TV hours in this house.  It's so very easy to let the TV keep the kids quiet while I try to get work done or do my own thing.  The kids still get 30 min. first thing in the morning (this is so I have 30 min. to wake up!).  They also get 30 min. (ok, sometimes it's more, but ideally...) in the evening.  I have occasionally put the TV on when I've had to take an important call or during a portion of Adrianna's quiet time when I need to nap (after working late).  On no given day should there be more than 2 hrs of TV - and I'd like to see that be only 1 hour max.  The kids are adjusting.  They are playing together more.  Adrianna is getting more creative in her play and learning how to entertain herself.  Also, possibly coincidentally, Adrianna is paying attention long enough to begin listening to chapter books!  yay!

Instead of letting the TV entertain them while I do household chores, I am also learning to actively involve them as much as possible.  This is a big adjustment for me.  Sometimes it just takes SO painfully long! Sometimes it makes more of a mess (ie: dishes!).  I will keep focusing on this goal though as I see the need to train them in habits of helping with the household chores and teaching them how to do so.

Scott and I have also finally got on the same (or at least a similar) page in terms of discipline.  Ask once and expect obedience.  Short and simple.  No obedience equals a consequence.  No more of this warning and cajoling and counting and negotiating.  Nate, being 2, is by far the hardest at this stage to teach to obey but he is getting it.  Adrianna has her own challenges.  She will obey but she will twist it in such a way so that she is not really or fully obeying.  We are working to get on top of that as it really is a form of rebellion.

We are also teaching them to work out their squabbles.  I keep them close by me so that I can see a fight begin.  As it heats up to the point of screaming, hitting or tug of war over a toy, I step in and remove the toy.  I sit the kids on the couch and ask each their side of the story ("I had it first", "I want it" etc).  Then I have Anna (mostly) think of a way to resolve it and usually they can! 

We're also focusing on "use your words" for everything!  Ask for a turn with a toy.  Ask if the other person wants a hug or a cuddle.  Ask if you need help.  Tell the other person how their action made you feel.  Ask for a hug if you need attention.  I find a huge portion of my day is spent on obedience training and teaching boundaries and conflict resolution.  The school of a preschooler!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

proposals, Fruit Stripes and Flower Power

These are images for my 2 proposals for Tigers Around Town, an event that will feature 100 large public art tiger sculptures to commemorate the Centennial Celebration of the University of Memphis, where I earned my Masters Degree in Painting/ Fine Art.

I am excited about this because I rarely do 3D work and I have never done anything on this scale (the tigers are HUGE!).

Wish me luck! I hope the Fruit Stripes wins, it's my fav.