Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Kids Book Review: A Drop of Water by Gordon Morrison

A Drop of Water by Gordon Morrison is becoming one of my favorite books to read with my kids.

We picked it up last year while we were doing a water theme, and I liked it so much that we are reading it again this year as one of our morning circle time books.

The book follows the path of a drop of water from raincloud down a mountain into a brook in a farmer's field. The water winds past plants and animals that depend on the water source. My favorite part about this book is that the illustrations of plants and animals are so realistic that you can teach plant, animal and bird identification from the book.

My kids like flipping through the pages and pointing to the animals and plants as I read about them. It shows the connections between living beings with each other and with their environment. This is a great book for cultivating an appreciation of the natural world and the importance of clean water.

The ecology in the book is not a perfect match for the Pacific Northwest where we are, so if I could change anything about this book it would be the setting. But for all of the folks who do live out east, this aspect wouldn't be a problem either.

Overall rating:

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Stories of the Autumn Gnomes plus Tutorial

Look who we caught crawling around in the fallen leaves outside...

Yes, the gnomes are making their last minute preparations before they move underground for the winter.

I stitched these little cuties together, feeling all Waldorf-inspired this last week.

Then I handed them off to the littles to play with. With a few questions like, "What are the gnomes doing to get ready for winter?" Chobie was galloping about the yard immersed in his make-believe world.

As part of our homeschool life for this week, we'll be translating his imaginative play into a creative writing project.

After playing with these gnomes for a while, we will sit down together to recall the gnome adventures. Next we will write it down, then make a little book that we can illustrate together.


While we work on that you can make some little fall time gnomes of your own.

First cut out the pieces from felt in colors of your choice. The body is 3" tall by about 2" wide. The hats are just a bit wider than the bodies at the base. Select complimentary colored thread. I used two threads of embroidery floss to emphasize the stitching on this project.

The hats are just triangle shaped instead of rounded at the bottom like they should be to turn out completely even around the bottom edge. I would do that for a larger doll, but these little gnomes are so tiny that it's not very noticeable in the end.

Next sew the edges together for the bodies. I used a blanket stitch around the edges to make it a bit more fancy. Leave an opening at the neck to insert the armature and attach the head later.

Again, I used blanket stitch around the bottom of the hat

then joined the edges with the final stitch.

Without cutting the thread, I did a few quick stitches to the top of the hat.

From here we run into a little problem. How do you hide the knot when you tie off and cut the thread?  Re-thread the needle back through the hat to get it out the bottom. Then tied the knot on the inside of the bottom instead.

The body armature is next. I made them from pipe cleaner. Fold a full pipe cleaner in half first

then fold the arms

and the legs, using the body piece as a guide for get the correct length.

Getting the armature into the body is a little tricky, but the pipecleaner bends enough to give it enough give to wiggle in there. To get around that, you could make the armature first, then sew the body around it.  I pressed the legs together to get them into the neck hole.

Once they are inside you can manipulate the pipe cleaners through the body to get them into the perfect place.

Finally, use some hot glue on the stem sticking out the body to attach the head. Put the stem through the hole in a 25mm wooden bead.

Attach the hat with hot glue too, and allow to dry.

Repeat with as many Autumn colors of felt as desired.

Happy gnome making!

What fall crafts have you been working on?

This post is part of the
Mum Of One

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Dump Truck Math for Kindergarteners

Learning basic math concepts, like addition and subtraction, one can only play with counting bears so many times before it's time for things to get a little more exciting.

And when I say exciting, let's remember that we are trying to heighten the enthusiasm of a four-year-old. So, one day when we got tired of counting bears, we created...


It works like this:

"One dump truck carried a rock to the construction site, and another dumptruck brought another rock. How many rocks are at the construction site?"

"What if each dump truck brings two rocks?"

Three? Four?

"What if there are 10 rocks and a dump truck comes and takes away three? How many rocks will there be?"

This gives the kids a chance to actually act out the story problems that they are solving, plus they get to play with dump trucks and rocks. Always a good time.

I imagine that as the year goes on and Chobie gets better at math, we can make more complicated scenarios to act out, like:

If a crew needs 10 more rocks to finish the cellar for the house they are building, and two dump trucks are coming, how many rocks should be in each dump truck to make 10 rocks all together?

What kind of creative ideas have you used lately to help your kids learn?

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Friday, September 26, 2014

5 Ways Homeschool Makes Life Better for us Grownups

The days are growing noticeably shorter, apples are falling off the trees, and we are getting back into the rhythm of our normal routines after a much too long hiatus caused by our move.

But as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder (it's still Lady Cluck who says it in my head). I really missed homeschooling during our summer break. Coming back to it, I feel a renewed sense of passion and vigor. While all of the things that I love about homeschool are fresh, I thought I'd put together this little list just in case I need to look back on it for inspiration come the dark and dreary days of January.

I know that homeschool is the best choice right now for Chobie, but I have to be honest: homeschooling is a huge time commitment. There are times when I would rather work on my own sewing project than call Chobie to sit down and read the same book to me. So this list is also a reminder of how I benefit from homeschooling.

1. The Rhythm and Structure is brings to my grown-up day.
Maybe it's just me, or maybe it's just my Saturn return, but being a stay at home mom of two little guys all of the days can kind of run together obscuring my best intentions at keeping up on my own projects and interests.

With a homeschool schedule planned out, I know exactly how much time I do have so I don't end up taking on too much, or thinking that I have an infinite open ended amount of time to work on things, because I know when those two hours of nap time arrive, they are the only two hours I'll get.

2.  The chance to Learn More, often about things I never knew I could care about. As we follow Chobie's interests and find answers to his questions (how long does it take barnacles to grow? why do balloons shrink in the sun?) I find myself wondering more about the world around me. Honestly, I never thought I would want to know more about cars than how to make one take me where I wanted to go, but with Chobie's curiosity inspiring me, I'm about to call up dear old dad and actually ask for a lecture. Well...at least I've thought about it.

3. A good reason to Get my Craft on. I've always been a crafter, but when it's tied in with my child's education, crafting becomes a priority. Plus, more crafting = better crafting skills. Already, I've improved my hand-stitching skill. All of those handsewn Waldorf style figurines for our nature table are paying off.

4. More motivation to Socialize. Yes, I know that one of the number one concerns with homeschooling is that homeschooled children will not be allowed outside of the confines of the four walls of their homes, and thus reach adulthood without the ability to interact with other humans. But what about those lonely work-at-home moms like myself?

I know that Chobie and Bee need other kids to play with, and having them at home instead of in school gives me a good reason to get out of the house and meet other families with kids. Not that I don't have my own friends that I like to spend time with, but honestly, with work and crafting projects and gardening all at home, I can spin myself into a little self-contained, socially isolated vortex. Taking the time to get out with my kids helps me to socialize too.

5. My Kids. I love being with my kids all the time, watching them learn and grow and try new things. Like when Bee started singing the alphabet song earlier this week but only with the letter "A." It keeps my oxytocin going being around these little people. Love is a good feeling to be immersed in every day. And with that as a baseline, I know it makes the frustrating, stress-ridden moments a little bit easier too.

What do you love about homeschooling? 

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Cabbages and Kindergarteners

Last week, we started our year of kindergarten. Yes, it's at home, and we've already been homeschooling for a year, so I didn't really think it was going to feel like a big deal to me so I was surprised how sentimental I felt about it.

I abandoned the theme thing that we were doing last year in favor of a more flexible approach, sometimes I had great ideas, or he got interested in things that didn't fit into the theme, so they got overlooked or just didn't get as much energy as they could have.

One of the big focuses right now is practicing lower case letters and learning name writing.

Chobie stamped out his name in letters.

And of course, we have been doing crafts and handwork.

In the spirit of the changing season and the continued harvest, we found this giant cabbage at the farmer's market. We'll be making sauerkraut soon.

Yes, that is a regular sized egg.

This last week has been really fun, since we've been getting ready and making decorations for Chobie's birthday party that's coming up this weekend. More on that to come.

How are things going getting back into your fall routines? 

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Fire Safety and Preparedness

Welcome to the September 2014 Natural Living Blog Carnival: Family Preparedness. This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and the Green Moms Network. Since September is National Preparedness month, our members are talking about family preparedness this month. Be sure to visit all of the posts listed at the bottom of mine to get ideas on how your family can be more prepared for a potential disaster or emergency.
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Chobie’s enthusiasm for playing fire fighter, inspired by his papa’s graduation from fire academy, has gotten me thinking about fire preparedness in our home. We all know about “Stop, drop, and roll!”and having a fire escape plan that we’ve discussed with our kids, but what about fire prevention strategies? 

As it turns out my crunchy home furnishing choices have advantages for our family besides aesthetic appeal and being non-toxic. One of the less-often discussed aspects of natural material products in the home, compared with synthetics, is their fire resistance. Natural materials like wood, wool and even cotton naturally burn less readily and quickly compared with synthetics, even those that have been soaked in carcinogenic flame retardants. This is part of what inspired our switch from synthetic couches to a wood futon with a cotton mattress. 

Besides natural fiber furniture, snug fitting cotton pajamas are a natural alternative to synthetic pajamas with flame retardants, as many of us already know.

Our fire prevention strategies:

  • Safe storage of fire-making materials (matches, lighters, etc.)
  • Fire extinguishers near the wood stove
  • Favoring natural fiber home furnishings and bedding
  • Cotton pajamas 

To be prepared for a house fire you can also:

  • Check smoke detectors regularly
  • Have a fire escape plan that you have practiced, with a designated safe place to meet outside
  • Keep fire escape ladders in upstairs windows
  • Talk to kids about how to use 9-1-1 in an emergency

What do you do with your family to prevent or prepare for fires?

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Visit Happy Mothering and to learn more about participating in next month’s Natural Living Blog Carnival! Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed:

Saturday, September 6, 2014


Despite my best intentions to take a moment to share some photos of our stacks (and stacks, and stacks) of boxes on the blog that have occupied every waking moment of time during the last couple of weeks, I'm just now getting around to posting. 

We have moved and unpacked the essentials.

I've been using the excuse that I haven't had time because I've been busy with other responsibilities in my life, which is mostly true. The first eight weeks of kindergarten have officially been planned! We're due to start next Monday, so this weekend's major goal is to get all the homeschool stuff unpacked and organized.

Meanwhile, here are a few sneaky peeks at our new place...

 In the yonder woodlands there lies a little creek for splashing and playing where the salmon run and river otters also play...Hooray!

The house itself is an old 40's farm house that has been redone with all kinds of cute and whimsical details like the spiral above...
...and special even littler details like this little green man hiding in the corner.

  The house also has lots of built in storage, which I love. This is a corner of the room that will be the office/homeschool/project zone. Likely where I will be spending most of my time.

 How about these wine crate shelves in the kitchen?

Cast iron match holder by the wood-stove.

Our new chicken coop and tiny flock of chickens. I took this pic on our way out to feed the chickens.

Here is most of our flock, enjoying their breakfast. 

The future site of our food production (or at least some of it) and our winter garden. 

More woodland views.

And finally, this enchanted little spot for gnomes and fairies and toddlers to roam.  It is underneath an enromous mulberry tree. No not mulberry bush, mulberry tree. I was thinking that this would be a cute place for a fairy garden.

We've got a bit of space here, I'd say enough to officially drop the idea of "urban" from my homesteading pursuits. If you've been a long time follower of Handmade Life, or if you've taken the time to snoop around the archives, then you'll know that this family has mostly lived rurally and that last year we did a bit of urban living. Our new place is definately rural, but it's close enough into town that I still feel like I'm practically in town, like getting groceries is not a major excursion like it has been in the past.

Anyway, I'm so happy to be here with littles and critters roaming around this beautiful place. Hopefully we can finish the unpacking in time for homeschool to start on Monday!

How are your end of summer transitions going? 

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