Friday, March 9, 2012

Yards and Yards and Yards

After yesterday's co-op class, my 8-year-old K declared that she had found a new calling in life: creating yards and yards and yards of finger-crocheted chain. Let me tell you, she is fast! I went in the office for a few minutes to write that last blog post, and when I emerged, I found this:

  And when I ventured out to the dining room, I found this:

So, do you think we've got a future yarn bomber on our hands?

It might have had something to do with the fact that we read this delightful book (which I highly recommend, especially if you have any special love for yarn):

And, speaking of yarn bombing, have you seen this amazing work of fiber artistry? I am in utter awe!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Slip Knots and Finger Chains

For the past couple of months, we have participated in a semi-local homeschooling co-op. I had the pleasure of teaching a class I called "Creating with Fiber" to a group of 6- to 8-year-olds. It was very hands-on, very demanding, and very fun! We learned about wet felting, spinning, weaving, and "looping" (a very basic introduction to knitting and crochet), read some great fiber-related picture books, and hopefully ignited the fiber arts fire within the hearts of at least some of the young students!

I have lots to share about all of our projects and what I learned about what to do next time, but for now I just want to share one thing that I hope will be helpful to others. For our "looping" projects, I first wanted to teach the children how to make a slip knot. This seems like such a simple thing when you've been doing it for years, but for young children it can be a very complex process with too many steps to remember!

I asked my BFF Google for ideas on teaching the slip knot to children with some sort of rhyme or mnemonic. Unfortunately, this was one of the very few times dear Google has let me down! Unabashed, however, I set out to create my own. Here it is, complete with pictures to illustrate the steps:

1. First, place a ball of yarn on a flat surface with the end coming out to the right.

2. Place your left index finger on the yarn to keep it stable. Say, "A frog sat on a log."

3. Pick up the free end of the yarn and make a loop as shown above. Say, "A snake slid over the log."

3. Holding the yarn stable with the left index finger and thumb, make "fox fingers" with your right index finger and thumb. Say, "A fox came up from behind . . . " while putting the right-hand "fox fingers" through the loop from behind.

4. Say, "and snapped his jaws tight!" while pinching the yarn with your "fox fingers" and pulling it through the loop.

5. Pinch both yarn ends with the left hand while using the right-hand "fox fingers" to pull up the new loop of yarn . . .

6. until the knot is pulled tight. You should now be able to adjust the size of the slip knot by pulling on the yarn that is coming from the ball.

Some of my students picked up on this right away, and others needed a lot of support for a while. The "story" of the frog, snake, and fox really makes a difference, though, in helping them remember the steps. All of my students came back this week remembering the story, and most of them could still do all the steps as a result. (I also heard my 4-year-old whispering the story "instructions" to himself all week as he tied slip knots in everything that even remotely resembled yarn.)

The next step after the slip knot was finger crocheting chains. This was fairly straightforward to teach, since I just had them use their "fox fingers" to come up from behind and snap shut on the yarn, pulling through a new loop. Some of my students crocheted yards and yards of chain with this simple finger method (using a bulky yarn) and begged me to let them take some yarn home with them. Ummm . . . okay! Love to see the seeds of fiber-love being planted in the young!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Our Memorization Box

Recently, we joined a semi-local poetry club whose professed aim is to "rekindle the lost art of recitation." Families are encouraged to memorize poetry and scripture and then given a monthly venue for reciting the pieces they have memorized in the form of a friendly competition or "bee". If you are wondering why in the world anyone would want to do such a thing, Emma, the founder of the group, has recently published an e-book on the philosophy and motivations behind poetry memorization and recitation.

This has been a fabulous opportunity for us! Over the past several years, memorization of poems, songs, scripture verses, and other important words has become an integral part of our family culture. Now that we are attending the monthly poetry bees, however, we have an immediate reason to keep all of our memorized pieces sharp. All three of my older children are excelling in their capacity to memorize and recite, though we are still working on harnessing nervous energy while waiting for your turn!

A couple of years ago, someone on one of my e-mail lists recommended a memorization system that has revolutionized our recitation efforts. It involves a file card box and dividers that are labeled "Daily", "Odd", "Even", with the days of the week, and with the numbers 1-31 (for each day of the month). The basic idea is to work on a new piece daily until it is well-known, then gradually move it to less- and less-frequent practice sessions as you continue to introduce new pieces. (See the above link for further details.)

Previously, when we were each working on different poems of our choice, I used different colors of file cards for each person. Now that we are focusing on the same poems for the poetry club, I just write initials on each card to remember who is working on what.

I love how compact and portable the system is, which means that we are more likely to use it regularly. It has been a perfect addition to our family memorization efforts, and has been enhanced by our participation in the poetry club. I highly recommend both!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tot School: GeoBoard, Toddler Style

Tot School
P is currently 27 months old.

It has been a long while since we've linked up to Tot School, but it's time to come back to the party! Here's a quick look at an activity P enjoyed recently. We have a set of wooden geoboards with nails like this:

My older children go through phases where they play around with them quite a bit, and during a recent session, P decided she wanted to play, too. I wanted her to be able to join in the fun, but I was a little concerned about the sharpness of the tiny nails. "There must be something around here that she could put the 'rubbands' around," I thought. Then I remembered these plastic knitting looms I had in my closet:

Much more toddler friendly, wouldn't you say?

For more great ideas for toddler activities, visit Carisa's blog!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The First Week of Fall 2011

I'd say it is definitely time for an update to this long-neglected blog! I'm not going to let myself feel guilty, though. These past several months, I have made the choice to thoroughly enjoy living and learning with my family instead of trying to force time to record everything. What grand adventures we have been having! 

We have had a truly joyful spring and summer season, and perhaps as winter approaches I will find more time to spend on blogging. We shall see . . .

We officially began our Fall schedule this week. (We homeschool year-round with breaks when we need them, and scale back to a more relaxed schedule from June to August.) It was a good week to ease in to a more structured (but still flexible) school-day routine. This is what our week looked like:
  • Monday: J had to work despite it being Labor Day, and the kids were excited to start some new things. We went ahead and "did school", then hosted a fun barbecue in the evening with friends to enjoy the holiday.
  • Tuesday: a full "school" day that actually went like clockwork! I deserve at least one of those per week, I think!
  • Wednesday: We spent the morning at a poetry club in a nearby city (followed by a walk down to the river) that some friends inspired us to check out. This requires some driving time, but will be a fun once-per-month break from our schedule.
  • Thursday: It was B's birthday (the big "oh-four"!), so we did some "basics" and spent the rest of the day celebrating. 
  • Friday: Friday is always a more laid-back school day for us. We spent the morning doing some much-needed housecleaning, finished up a couple of school-related things, and enjoyed the summer weather that refuses to admit Fall is just around the corner! 
We are starting some new things this month. I hope to make time in future weeks to describe each more fully and how it is working for us. For now, however, a simple list will need to suffice:
  • The Student Writing Intensive Level A (SWI-A) course from the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) for N and K.
  • Primary Arts of Language (PAL) Reading and Writing (also from IEW) for B. (He is chomping at the bit for the reading portion, but we'll be taking the writing at a much slower pace.)
  • A daily character development mini-lesson I'm calling "Growing My Character", as well as mini-lessons on safety, manners, and health.
  • A twice-weekly study I've named "My Heritage", focusing on personal and family history, and branching out to include components of geography, state history, and U.S. history. This is going to be very "agile" in the sense that we'll let it take us where it needs to take us!
These are in addition to other great things that we have done in the past and will continue doing. Overall, this has been a fantastic first week of Fall! Here's to many more!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ancient Mesopotamia

We recently wrapped up our "World Investigations" unit on Ancient Mesopotamia. It took a lot longer to get to everything than I had planned (mostly due to the holidays and prolonged illness), but we had so much fun with it!

I used the History Odyssey study guide from Pandia Press (Level 1: The Ancients) as a starting point, adapting and adding in things to fit our style. These materials are built to be "agile"--a fabulous find for us!

In addition to reading, writing, and map work, we did several engaging projects to learn a little about the culture of the Mesopotamians. Here's a glimpse of the fun we had:

Making royal Mesopotamian costumes

Making "Sebetu Rolls", based on a 3700-year-old recipe!

Writing our names in clay using cuneiform symbols

We also read the first part of a kids' trilogy based on The Epic of Gilgamesh, ate lunch like Mesopotamian royalty while wearing our costumes, built multiple ziggurats out of Duplo blocks, and played an iPad version of "The Royal Game of Ur".

I honestly didn't realize just how much fun we would have with this unit! Now on to Ancient Egypt . . . .

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Where Am I?

Okay, so it has been a very long time since I updated this blog. I could tell just by looking at the photo of Baby P (who is no longer really a baby and has quite a bit more hair). I have not actually fallen off the face of the planet (though I've had a few days when I wished that would happen!). Sometimes, though, when you believe in flexibility, you have to be willing to give up something you care about. For quite a while, that meant this blog!

Now that we're starting to get back into the swing of our "normal" routine after the holidays, I find myself thinking a lot about blogging. The truth is, writing about our homeschooling adventure is an important part of how I process and evaluate what we're doing. I want to put time for that back into my schedule. (Somehow!) It will probably take me a little while to update everything. I may not be able to write as much or as often as I would like, and my posts may be less polished and less enhanced by photos than before, but I'm going to start writing again. I've missed it deeply.