Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Learning at the Spring Fair

On Friday, we took a trip with Grandma and Grandpa to the local Spring Fair. Friday is normally one of our homeschool days, and the fair had lots of learning opportunities for little people, especially in the agricultural/homesteading department. So you know, it was just our style.

There were lots of animals to see. Bee is checking out the alpaca and a turkey (yes, that's what the gray blob in the corner is). I'll admit that seeing all the animals gave me a pang of nostalgia for the good old days of critter ranching. This most recent incarnation of the Flapjack Homestead has but a few fowl. That time will come again though, I'm sure. Now that Bee is older, I'm thinking that it's actually quite near. Raising livestock is a life skill after all, it's central to the kids' education. 

Oh my, that was a bit of a tangent. Back to the fair...

 What could be more fun than stomping around in a sandbox full of corn. Plus, dump trucks! I suppose the educational sign on the wall behind the exhibit that explained all the diverse uses of corn in industry made it feel more like school, but hey, this is how the littlest learners get started.

Chobie had a chance to brush a (pretend) horse. Earlier in the week, we read a great Gail Gibbons book about horses that talked about their grooming needs. This was a great hands on application. 

Then there was the milking cow. The udders are latex and it's filled with water, so the kids actually got to squeeze the "milk" out into the bucket below. While this is different that acutal milking, since any squeeze technique would work, it was still fun. 

 Pedal powered mini-tractors to ride? Yes please. Both little guys loved this!

And of course, there were lots of rides to enjoy. Grandma is a big ride enthusiast, so we actually spent a lot of the day on the rides. I just didn't have as many good pictures of these.

That was our day at the fair.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Our Trip to the Zoo

We're finishing up with our animal theme, and decided to take a trip to the zoo to see the animals up close in real life.

It was a bit of a tough call, because let's be honest, "zoo" is code for animal jail. But today, the reality of it is that animals are not being plucked from the wild and stuffed into tiny cages. Instead, most of the animals were bred in captivity and cannot survive in the wild, and many zoos are participating in conservation efforts for wild animals and even recovery programs, like this one at one of our local zoos.

Then there's the fact that animals are constantly, um...cartoonized in books. I believe in the value of having concrete experiences at a young age. Seeing a real elephant instead of Horton or Gerald (we do love Mo Willems' Piggy and Gerald series!) is important.

So with that rationale behind us, we set off for the zoo.

The kids had a good time, although Seattle's zoo is so big that it was a bit much for those two. We went with the family though and Grandma was clever enough to bring a wagon for the kiddos to ride along in. It saved the day.

Bee did have enough energy to ride this hippo though.

We'll be studying bodies, bugs and our typical seasonal goodness next, so stop in soon for updates!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Our Play Bakery

Hello folks and welcome back to Lydia's Handmade Life. As I mentioned in my most recent post, there has been a lot shifting for me, especially in my work/professional life. During my long winter hibernation from blogging, things have shifted a lot in our home school life as well.

The Worksheet Wars of 2015
As you already are aware, I like to take a laid back approach to homeschooling with a lot of room for creativity, self-directed play, and art. Leaving the traditional type academics to be taught as my children begin to show interest. Well, that was until I started reading the common core standards.

It was innocent enough, when I began my initial Google searches. I just wanted to get an idea of where a kindergartener would be mid year in a public school. But then, well learning all the math and science concepts seemed like great ideas. Not to mention all of the cute little worksheets I could get from Teachers Pay Teachers! And how about these ones from 3Dinosaurs to go along with our Bob Books?

I have fond memories of dot-to-dot worksheets. I felt so grown-up filling in all my letters on the railroad paper in kindergarten. Worksheets are fun! Right?

Three reams of printer paper later, I found out that Chobie really doesn't think so.  

Maybe he just needs to get into it, I thought. Maybe it's okay to struggle a little to reach a worthwhile goal. Learning to read, do arithmetic or write legibly, like anything else we might learn, isn't always easy. So I got pushy with the worksheets. I even rigged up this whole sticker reward system as an elaborate form of bribery.

I think I was so excited for him to get excited about worksheets and earning stickers, like I had been (coerced to) as a child that I was missing his cues during our homeschool time. You know when your kid gets to that point where they are mentally spent? They can't focus any more so they start to wiggle (writhing on the floor is Chobie's preferred method) or find something to fidget with? Yeah, normally I know to stop or switch it up at that point. It was just that the worksheet wasn't done. We couldn't stop then!

In the end, after several wasted hours of frustration and exhaustion, I surrendered. I switched the focus back to imaginative learning and play.

The Homemade Bakery
In the last few days we've been working on a play bakery. I initiated the project, and Chobie has been enthusiastic from the beginning. We printed out some play money from Donna Young and whipped up a batch of salt dough to make our baked goods from.

Here are the kiddos "frosting" the goodies they made with paint.

As usual, I got over-involved and created my own little tray of salt dough treats.

Chobie, always interested in mechanics and "inventing" as he refers to the process of creating anything (as in "Look at this sign I invented!"), used some cardstock and a box to make an oven for our bakery. I love that Chobie invests himself in these kind of projects and adds his own ideas. It feels so much better than worksheet bribery. And he is still learning. Right now, our focus in math is on learning addition and how to recognize and count money. As we place orders and total up the amount owed, then count out money to pay for it, he is learning all of these.

What kind of homeschooling activities have you been doing lately? Feel free to leave a comment or link below, I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Brief Status Update

Hello friends, casual readers, and passersby.

I just wanted to leave a quick update here, as it's been several months and I see that some folks are still dropping in. Without fully intending to do so, I have put this blog on the back burner (on my stove that is about 24,000 burners deep). Somewhere in the holiday rush...amid launching the Etsy shop I dreamed of for years and hand-making all of my sons' holiday gifts, I got out of the habit of posting. I hate to blog about blogging and I especially hate to blog about how I haven't been blogging, but I do feel I owe it to my loyal readers to offer some form of explanation for my absence.

That said, I am hoping to keep Handmade Life going, though perhaps at a slower pace than before, skimming just the cream of our homeschooling, homemaking, and homesteading endeavors to share, instead of trying to publish each project.

I am also going through some big professional shifts in my work from home life, moving into areas I'm more passionate about than my current work and focusing more on writing. I'm incubating the possibility of starting a side project blog that features more of my writing and interests outside of the (wonderful) realm of hard-core housewifing. Don't get me wrong, I love and deeply value that work and would do it full time, but unfortunately no one is paying me to be awesome at it and with the standard of living these days based on a two income household...blah blah blah, I have to pay the bills, so my professional life is getting a bit more attention and overshadowing my blogging life.

So stay tuned for periodic domestic updates, and news of any new directions and new blogs. And if you're feeling really nice, wish me a little luck as I set of on my new career ventures.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Homeschool Update: Kindergarten Continues

I remember being in kindergarten, back when it was really just a half day for everyone. My best memory is of playing with some beans at my desk.

Yep. Not some cool art project, or a field trip, just the simple pleasure of dried lima beans and a wooden desk.

Now I'm helping my kiddo create some kindergarten memories of his own, without the least so far.

Immersion in nature is one of the biggest priorities of our homeschooling methods. Just like last year for preschool, we do a lot of talking about the seasons, where we are with our wheel of the year. We use our waldorf style nature table. We go on nature walks and sit on the porch watching and listening to the woods behind our house when we need shelter from the rentless fall rain showers of Western Washington.

We also do a lot of art projects.

I'll admit that this keeps getting edged out since this year it's officially kindergarten and all the reading and writing stuff feels even more important than it did last year.

So there's letter writing and number making. We're still plugging along with our Bob Books and working off of a literature based math activity book to reinforce Chobie's number sense and early math concepts, like making and recognizing patterns.

So it continues. I wish that I had some deep insights to share, or kindergarten life hacks to magically make your kid two years ahead of her peers and simultaneously reorganize and galmorize your learning space. Instead I'll leave you with this list of links to projects and resources that we've used recently...

 These free printables from In Lieu of Preschool to go along with our Bob Books. We've been using these for the past week and they are awesome. It's fun to change it up from just reading and re-reading the books over and over. We used this dough recipe from Buggy and Buddy with the word mats in the printable packet.

We've been practicing our sign language with these printables. I've had this clip art pinned for a while that could also be helpful for making sign language learning tools.

How are your learning at home adventures going? 

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Let the Handmade Cat Parade Begin!

Welcome to the Handmade & Eco-Friendly Giveaway Hop, hosted by Happy Mothering, Easy Green Mom and Brittleby’s Corner through the Green Moms Network! To help raise awareness about the importance of giving eco-friendly and handmade gifts, we’re offering giveaways to help you get started (or continue) with your holiday planning. We hope you’ll discover some brands that would make wonderful gifts during the holiday season. After entering my giveaway, be sure to hop around and enter all of the other giveaways listed on the linky at the bottom of this post for your chance to win more handmade and eco-friendly giveaways!

After months of preparation, my new Etsy shop Handmade Cat Parade is opening its (virtual) doors!!!

In honor of our grand opening, I am doing a giveaway of one of the Cat Softie Dolls from my shop. I've joined up with the Handmade and Ecofriendly Holidays Giveaway Hop to promote ecologically and socially conscious gift-giving this holiday season.

This is Leo, not quite a lion, he is an upcycled little fellow that spent his previous incarnation as a t-shirt. Now he's as a cat softie doll instead...

Like all the other friendly little cat softies at Handmade Cat Parade he's made from eco-friendly and recycled materials.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

After you've entered here, don't forget to continue on with the giveaway hop, featuring this gorgeous grand prize:

Be sure to enter the grand prize giveaway! One winner will receive a $300 handmade, eco-friendly dress from Janelle Funari New York . A second winner will receive an eBody Cloth Set from e-cloth and a $50 gift card and a Berglund Cotton Women’s Scarf - a $154 value!

Disclosure: This contest will run through November 24, 2014 at 8:59 pm PST (11:59 pm EST). The winner will be chosen the following day and announced on Lydia's Handmade Life. No purchase necessary. US entries only. Must be 18 years or older to win. The sponsors provided me with free samples of these products to review, and I was under no obligation to review them if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You understand that you are providing your information to this blog and not to Facebook. Please note that Happy Mothering, Easy Green Mom, Brittleby's Corner, the Green Moms Network and the Handmade & Eco-Friendly Holidays event bloggers are not responsible for sponsors that do not fulfill their prizes. We have represented each sponsor with the expectation they will fulfill their prize and in a timely manner. We will contact the sponsor regarding your prize(s). The sponsors, in most cases, are shipping their items to you directly. I will make every effort to assist you obtaining your prize. If there is an issue with a sponsor, please notify the blog you won a prize from within 4-6 weeks for assistance, after that we may be unable to assist you.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Skeleton Softies: Pinned It...Did It!

I found these adorable skeleton softies on Pinterest a while back. When we were on my Halloween board seeking some decoration and crafting fun inspiration, Chobie picked these out as a must have.

The original link from the pin is just the picture, but the top is watermarked with this Brazilian blog Tutitati, which is totally worth the visit because it's full of all kinds of other cuteness, even if you need to brush up on your Portuguese. There is also a Tutitati shop where these skeleton dolls and other adorableness is available for purchase.

So, since I consider all pins on Pinterest an invitation to DIY (I'm actually like that at any craft fair, vendor's booth or even retail store...) I made my own version. Since this one is not actually a tutorial, I won't do the whole thing where I review the project and whatnot.

I added a little hat to one of the skeletons and gave them both hearts.

These were actually the only Halloween decorations that I got done this year, so they're the centerpiece of my decor, along with the fake spider webs that Chobie is obsessed with.

What have you been making this year? What kind of Halloween decor did you come up with?

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