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Ten Days of RoadschoolingTeaching Kids About HerbsLego St. Patricks Day Mardi Gras

Thursday, October 30

Groove is in the Heart (Deee-Lite)

Yesterday, I brought you some of my more creative dress-making ideas.  Today, we're going to share some of the upcycling that we did this past summer from garage sale finds.  Everything we started with cost less than a dollar - or was even free!
We started with this Hawaiian-themed desk.  We picked it up - in really beat up condition, but with a good base - for a dollar at a garage sale, and completely overhauled it.  My eldest used some old curtain material for the seat and painted it.  I put in the tile and the chalkboard.   Voila!
This old captain's chair was out in our shed.  I have no idea where it came from or why it was there.  There were six of them...we gave all six of them different "classic" looks, and sold all except this one.  The desk was also out there, and we cleaned it up, painted it, and used an old pillowcase to make a matching seat cushion.  We resold them for a little 'piggy-bank profit.'
We snagged this dingy, nasty chair at an estate sale for a quarter.  It had good bones, and was quality vintage, but needed a facelift.  The boys cleaned it and painted it, and I made new a new seat and back for it.  Doesn't it look like so much more fun now?!  My sister (with her inexplicable love of the color yellow) was the inspiration for this one.....the little bumblebee...
These were during our "ocean phase," when we were visiting the aquarium. We had lots of temporary tattoos, and discovered that they attach quite nicely to old, leather suitcases!  They brightened this blue one up and turned it into a cute, kid-sized piece.  The old window sash was scraped, sanded, and stained before we stuck a poster-sized photo, which hubby had taken in Cozumel, behind it.
The end table was painted with a Dr. Seuss themed / outer space world during my eldest son's space craze.  The youngest was still into pirates, so I created a play table just for him out of some scrap wood we had laying about the garage.  Neither of the tables were painted by the boys, but they each dreamed up the designs for them.
A friend of mine had this old army footlocker that she wanted to use for her girls' toys...so I had her bring it over and got right to work.  This one only took an afternoon - all the kids were playing together nicely, so I was able to finish very quickly once the initial coat of purple dried.  Simple, yet effective, her girls still love it today!
Finally, I created this banner for my grandfather's airport wall, before he passed.  He and I spent countless weekends together at the airport, flying in the Alpha Charlie and bumming around with the other old men that spent their weekends there.  We spent each spring doing science experiments for the science fair at the airport (he was a retired engineer).  Can you tell that I still really miss him....?
 I hope that these projects have inspired you to go out and create something new with your kids - or just for yourself!  Don't be limited by what the mass-producers create....use your imagination, put your spin on it, and make it memorable

As Miss Frizzle would say.............get outside!  Get mess!  Make mistakes!  
.........and HAVE FUN!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 28

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Cyndi Lauper)



Sometimes, I wonder how the girl with mischief in her eyes turn into this wild-eyed half-crazed lady I see in the mirror....
I think about all the years I spent in school, going to a prestigious honors boarding school, graduating early with multiple degrees, getting that graduate degree...and then making the decision to stay home with my children.  Some days, it's a decision I struggle with...having been raised to work outside the home, and occasionally still being berated by unnamed family members for the decision.  On those days, I find myself like in this state...
THEN - I remember what it's all about.  We're raising future husbands!!!  (Well, you might be raising future wives...I got husbands.)  Not only is it my job to teach them manners and discipline, and meet their educational needs, but they need to learn how to have some fun along the way.  Who wants to marry a fuddy-duddy?  Hard worker - yes!  Fuddy-duddy - no.  And this was something that I had been neglecting, too...
I've always sought refuge in crafts, particularly with cloth.  My grandmother was an amazing seamstress in the 1940s and 50s, who had the ability to design and make anything you could dream up.  Unfortunately, that ability wasn't inherited, but I do have her sense of 'peace' when working on projects.  It made sense to begin sewing again.  Now, remember...I'm looking for fun here!  On a whim, I decided to make a few Miss Frizzle dresses.  Oh - you know what I'm talking about!  Miss Frizzle , from the Magic School Bus...she's making learning more fun than any other teacher I know!
Some of my patterns were missing or destroyed beyond use, so I had to create some new ones.  I designed a World War II airplanes sundress & a pirates & treasure dress.  Currently, I am working on a skeleton dress (anatomy & physiology) and one with autumn leaves (botany / seasons).  Finally, the boys picked out this insanely huge patriotic print that I can only imagine in maxi-skirt form...it will be last! 
Sure, they're sometimes embarrassed at how I'm dressed, but you know what?  My kids think it's pretty cool that mom is willing to dress up and have a little fun!  When we went to the USS Intrepid in NYC, we even got some behind-the-scenes action from a docent who loved how the dress fit with the museum theme!  There's only so much call for a Miss Frizzle dress, but it's a chance to keep those sewing skills sharp, teach the boys some basic sewing skills (thus getting them to fully create their own costumes in the future), and throw a little bit of fun into our days.   
Old Bertie was right....imagination IS more important that knowledge.  But when you combine the two, and get knowledge with enthusiasm, it's a whole 'nother animal!  Spice up your learning today....throw on a Miss Frizzle dress and take a field trip.  Get your kids excited - just be DIFFERENT.  God knows, if we all thought the same way, the world would be a boring place. 

Somewhere, I can tell you exactly which of my friends is shaking her head....and saying, "there goes my weird friend.  I just love her."  Trust me, y'all.  She says it all the time.  Especially when I show up for our field trips in one of these dresses......

Just for you:  here is a free unit on Elias Howe (inventor of the sewing machine) unit study.

Spiderwebs (No Doubt)


Your child's trick-or-treat bag will be a hodgepodge of candy........Crunch bars, Reese cups, Nerds, licorice, a couple of erasers and pencils, gumdrops, etc.  Think of today's post as your bloggy-trick-or-treat bag!  It's a Halloween hodgepodge!

That's so GROSS!

Nothing gets kids interested in science quite like nasty things....so we pulled out our Magic School Bus science kit about Bacteria & Fungi this week.  As you can see from the before picture, we were testing how effective the following are : 
  • (1) toothpaste at killing mouth bacteria 
  • (2)  antibiotic cream at killing skin bacteria 
  • (3)  soap at killing skin bacteria 
  • (4)  how much live bacteria was in our yogurt 
  • (5)  who had the dirtiest toe jam
 
I think it's safe to say we need to explore new options for soap and toothpaste.  Even our toes were cleaner!!!

Ticks, and Spiders, and Bugs...Oh My!

As part of our Cub Scout activities, we have been studying different types of spiders, and whether they are venomous or not.  Here is a handy little chart to help you identify that little bugger hanging by the front door...
Also, this is a bad time of year for ticks...those little hitch-hikers that like to latch on during your afternoon hike or frolic in the freshly-raked leaves.  Here is a recipe for using essential oils to help prevent hitch-hiking.

Spider Socks

Finally, we found a use for mis-matched socks.  These little guys will scare the socks off of you!  They're super-easy to make, too - the kids made these.
Start with a sock (I had some mis-matched black socks, but you can use any color).  Roll the sock up all the way so that it makes a tight little bun, with the toe seam at the middle.  Poke a hole through the middle and thread a piece of string or elastic through the hole...tie a knot to hold it there.  Take 8 black pipe-cleaners and bend them to create legs.  Hot glue these to the sides of your sock roll.
Hot glue googly-eyes to the front of your spider.  Tie a hook at the top of your string, and hang up your spider!  We used elastic, so that the spiders bounce a little.  The kids strung four of these in a row near the door, and scared the heck out of me in the middle of that first night!

Look for more nifty kid crafts over at Cullowhee Creates (a fairly new site).

Orange & Black - the colors of the season

Have you ever wondered how orange and black became the official colors of Halloween?  I know that I have....and if you have the answer, please squelch my curiosity by leaving it in the comments section below!  My orange theory is that it derived from all of the harvested pumpkins.  The jury's still out on the derivation of black...other than maybe it's the darkest / creepiest color?
My youngest is just getting into Legos, and he put together this black bat all by himself!  And these are the last five pumpkins from the huge, continual harvest that we came home to back in July.

Monday, October 27

Give It Away (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

  
Did you know that eating any kind of sugar has the potential to reduce your body's defenses by 75% or more for up to six hours???  Our children are about to go out scavenging for candy, and all of that sugar is going into their little bodies....just in time for the kick-off of cold and flu season!  Is it any coincidence that the holidays correlate with so much illness?  From Halloween to Valentine's Day, we eat our way through a sugary winter feast!
 
There are different options for the fate of this week's catch.  I'm not going to take all of my children's candy from them, but I'm also not going to let them eat it all.  We usually do some math, by sorting the candy and grouping candies with similar properties, then we let them eat whatever they want that night.  Sometimes this pays off big, if they get a stomachache and decide they don't want any more candy for weeks!  Terrible, isn't it?  But they've learned to regulate themselves this way.  I also let them save their favorite candies...whatever will fit into a sandwich bag.
 
After that, they get to help decide where the rest of the candy will end up.  Here are some of our favorite options : 
 
  • Save it for making a gingerbread house in December.
  • Create sculptures with candy and toothpicks.  (soft candies)
 
As the winter holidays approach, cutting back on your sugar consumption will help boost your immunity.  Another great immune booster is Astragalus.  For more information on herbs, check out our new e-booklet, Herbs for Autumn.

Thursday, October 23

Good Clean Fun (Allman Brothers)


Raise your hand if your living room, or any room in your house, looks like something from Martha Stewart magazine.   Okay....we clearly cannot relate to each other! 

For the rest of you, I've got a secret.  I used to be a perfectionist, and do my darndest to make sure everything looked "just so."  Then we had kids....but it was ok...I would just go behind them and pick everything up.  And then we started homeschooling, and all notions of perfection were lost.
And do you want to know what?  We are ALL so much happier for it.  Clean up, yes.  Don't live in a pigsty.  But throw that notion of perfection out the window...like an old couch being tossed out of a window after a house fire.  Incidentally, that makes a ton of noise and stinks to high heaven.  Just in case you've ever wondered.

Home Economics - Real World Style

About twice a year, spring and fall, we do a deep cleaning and de-cluttering.  It's a light week of school - mostly the three Rs with the emphasis on home economics.  Our children need to learn housekeeping skills, whether they be girls or boys.  If we take the time to teach them properly, then we can effectively work ourselves out of a job one day...and I don't know about you, but sitting back and watching them do the housework while I read a book sounds lovely.
It's a lot of up-front work, but it gives us a chance to bond over our dislike of cleaning the toilets.  It also allows me to teach them that we all have to do things in life that we don't like, because everyone relies on everyone else to do their part.  (And sometimes, that part is "math lesson.")
 
They usually go into 'deep cleaning week' with a lot of feet-dragging and whining.  Part of the reason is because they know they're going to do extra chores.  Part is because one of those chores is to 'clear the clutter.'  They have to pull out toys that no longer get touched, clothes that don't fit or need mending, and anything that just shouldn't be in their rooms.  Most of it goes directly into the yard sale closet.
We don't switch out the clothes each season because I keep everything in their closet and drawers.  All seasons.  Oklahoma's weather switches often enough that it's prudent to keep everything handy.  Plus, they have enough space.  We don't need eighty changes of clothing per person.  Enough to get through two weeks is more than enough.  The same rule applies to toys : you only need what you can play with.....except - I seriously think that the Legos are procreating in the middle of the night!
They also learn to mend clothing and other items during this week.  During our fall session, we discovered that several of the chair cushions were coming apart at the ties.  There was no need to toss them, as they were otherwise in very good shape.  We took an afternoon to put the ties back on - mostly with them watching, as those ties can be slippery!
 I created a worksheet for them to use as we clean the house.  It lays out exactly what needs to be done (no, they can't do it all yet) and how it should be done.  Details that you and I would take for granted are spelled out (eg, remove items from counter before wiping).  We've got a way to go, but they're definitely making headway, if nowhere else than in attitude.  They take pride in helping to keep the house tidy.
 

The Lure of the Souvenir

As we've travelled more, and begun collecting, my husband and I have talked about the option of choosing memories, consumables, and photographs as our souvenirs.  Right now, we tend to purchase consumables - artisanal foods from factory tours, activity books from a museum that we use for school, or postcards to mail to family members.  But we often find that the experience itself, and the photos and memories of it, are more satisfying.
Granted, the boys usually want something from everywhere (which they do not get), but we don't want to teach them to need things.  Two weeks later, they've usually forgotten the "thing" anyway, but they vividly recall what a place looked like, or how they felt when they visited.  That's not to say that there will be no souvenirs, but they will be fewer and farther between.  Hopefully, this will lead to less clutter, and more appreciation for the ones that are purchased.  On all of our behalves.