Time & Space

I’ve been trying my damnedest to carve out time for my pursuits as well as to facilitate the children’s interests.

It is hard.

I’m taking Lori Pickert’s Project-Based Homeschooling master class. It is email- and forum-based with (so far) reading and journaling/observation assignments. So far I have been so absorbed by the reading and writing of it that I have barely glanced at the forums. (Naturally I am beating myself up for not getting the most out of the class, but rumor has it we all learn at our own pace and it seems that my pace is slow.)

I have allowed myself to start designing full(ish)-time again, and am doing some freelance work for another designer, writing her newsletter.

We need better workspace. The children have a great play area and an art table but I can see that they need more. A lot more.

imageThis is not their only space, but it’s the most central.

I have the whole loft, which I am very slowly getting into shape. I sold my beloved sewing table because I hadn’t used it in about a year, and bought some great storage furniture from my friend Leah, who moved away this summer.

imageShelves are primarily yarn storage.

image I gave it a lot of trout thought and made this my photo/camera storage. The inside needs a lot of organizing!

The rest of the loft is still a mess. I am working on fabric and project storage. I have an enormous pile of junk that is theoretically filing but probably mostly trash, with some boxes of photos buried somewhere near the back and assorted “keepsakes” scattered throughout.

Boy, I tell you. I am kind of over being a pack rat.

It’s coming along slooooooowly, in part because it is one million degrees out right now and even with the air on all day the loft is sweltering. I am SO ready for fall.

The Weight of the Worlds

The space shuttle Endeavour flew over my head a few minutes ago. The children and I waited for it on the rooftop porch. Sam was hot and bored. “Mama, there’s an airplane,” he told me, pointing to a regular old plane flying over the Hollywood Hills. “Now I need to watch TV.” I made him wait.

I am feeling totally overwhelmed by the experience, so here are the six photos I took as it flew by.

These photos are full size and uncorrected. Click to enlarge.

(All rights reserved. Please contact me for permission if you would like to share these anywhere.)

P.S. Sam thought it was pretty damn cool.

Here’s the thing.

In less than two months, I’ll have been blogging for TEN YEARS. I love this blog: this blog is me.

I let my hosting expire this month due to severe lack of funds, and I felt SO LOST when this site was suspended. I wandered around in a fog, trying to come around to the idea of a free blog and not able to. Finally my mommy took pity on me and paid the bill.

I will never give up this blog, but I discovered something during that week of playing around on wordpress.com: starting over has its appeal.

So I’ve started a new blog. Not to replace this one, but to take care of a different need. This is my brain dump, my creative outlet, myself presented to you in internet form. The new blog is a place to chronicle the home schooling journey I am taking with Sam and Grace. Sam is officially school aged now, and it seems like the right time to do this.

Plus, I can give the link to the new one to my grandparents. I won’t say FUCK there.

So here it is: Little Frog School. Enjoy. (I’m still working out a few kinks in the template. It’s been a while since I’ve worked with a prefab design!)

The Ringing of the Bells

I bought Sam this alarm clock today.

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It is dual purpose: we use the clock to show him when he will be allowed to do things like watch the Mario Bros. Super Show (as well as to show him when it is time to stop doing things like watching the Mario Bros. Super Show) and we are working on telling time. Obviously these are related.

When we got home I put batteries in the clock and showed him the alarm. HE LOVES IT. In fact, we had to banish him to the bedroom. Because he won’t turn it off.

OH MY GOD IT IS SO LOUD.

Fun fact: Sam can’t say the L sound. Think about that.

While the cat’s asleep…

(For “cat,” please read, “little sister.” Thank you.)

This afternoon Grace took a second nap and Sam and I got some rare one-on-one time.

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We built a huge castle, using these blocks (we have two large sets), and then we knocked it down with Sam’s amazing, handmade catapult (the artist who made it does not have a website, unfortunately). After that I tried building tall, skinny structures with regular blocks. He is so good at aiming that catapult that he knocked every single one down on the first try, except for ONE which he got on the second try.

This? Is homeschool preschool. And I think it is awesome.

School Supplies!

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We are still not doing a formal curriculum (and I can’t really imagine ever starting), and I have no real plans, but I am collecting supplies for my guy!

(The picture above links to the etsy shop, whose photo I used because there was no light today.)

I first read about sandpaper letters on Sew Liberated, which is the blog formerly known as Montessori By Hand. I do not agree with a lot of things in Montessori theory, but there is a lot in there that I do like. (I won’t get into many specifics, partly because I am tired and partly because I am not very knowledgeable about it.) This tutorial on making your own letters also includes an explanation of how they are used. The idea, in short, is to trace the letters and speak them phonetically with the child.

I’m not sure how Sam will feel about these. He is, well, not very fond of things that are supposed to be played with in a certain way. Which I think is wonderful! But it makes it a little difficult for me sometimes. I don’t really anticipate using these “normally” (i.e. as intended) but I hope Sam will be interested in them.

I just spent 30 minutes picking up broken glass…

…and I was happy to do it. Here’s why:

We never gave Sam sippy cups or anything like them. He has a few melamine dishes but for the most part we give him the real stuff and have since he was, oh, about seven months old. I believe (and it is part of the Montessori educational philosophy, which is one of the many concepts that have been incorporated into my educational philosophy) that giving children real tools make them feel important and teaches them that they are part of the world. That doesn’t mean that I think using sippy cups teaches children that they are unimportant, but it was a priority for me to use real dishes with my kids. Besides, Sam wouldn’t touch sippies. It’s also worth mentioning that he’s always been careful with dishes, which I’m sure is just part of his personality. Some kids might require a lot more supervision with glass and china, and I know I might not be willing to put forth that effort. But the stars aligned and my ideals matched up with Sam’s needs/wants, so there you have it.

In nearly three years since he started eating solids and drinking water from a cup, three or four things have been broken. TOTAL. (Not counting stuff that Will and I have broken. Which is probably about the same. Making Sam our equal.)

So just now, when I gave him some ice in a bowl at the bar and he dropped it, shattering it all over the carpet? I was not thrilled at having to clean it up, but only because (nearly) seven months pregnant is really no time to be on hands and knees picking up shards of glass. I had to take a couple breaks. But a broken bowl is really not such a big deal.

***

I wrote this on Friday and didn’t publish it for fear that it comes across as smug rather than anecdotal. But now I’m thinking it comes across fine. I hope I’m right!

Making Art

(As an aside, Arthur is one of the names we’ve tossed around as a possibility for Hypothetical Next Baby, and I’d like to assure you that should we ever have a baby named Arthur I will not be blogging about making him. Also, we would not call him Art; we’d call him Wart.)

So lately Sam has been showing a renewed interest in his art supplies. I think he’s finally made the connection between his actions and the resulting pictures, and he’s being much more deliberate in the way he holds the markers and applies them to paper.

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He’s also showing a great deal of interest in colors, choosing each one carefully and bringing it to me to open. He won’t use it until the lid is properly attached at the end. He hasn’t even noticed how much markers look like swords, so I know he means business. Er, artsy business.

My father was going to get him a bicycle for his birthday, but I wonder if we should be thinking about an easel and colored pencils instead. Hmmm…

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Making Changes

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What happens when you take two artistic homebodies and match them with a ball of energy?

Well, you know. Like any parents we are floundering along, doing our best. It’s been an interesting couple of weeks — in between financial woes and illness, Will and I have spent a lot of time talking about the lifestyle changes we want to make so that Sam’s interests aren’t ignored for our own comfort levels.

I’d already been spending a lot of thought on how I want to facilitate his interests and encourage him. I’m hesitant to use the word education here, because it has so many implications and I don’t want to get into all that, but basically I am thinking about his education. Bethany mentioned how hard it is to sift through the options, which was quite timely on the heels of Lori’s post about choosing the perfect curriculum. I was raised an unschooler, following my own interests. My parents were awesome, and quite actively involved, and I’ve always assumed we would follow suit pretty closely — at least in as much as we would not follow a curriculum, but rather Sam’s interests.

What does that mean? So far, mostly observation. I have a running list of things Sam has shown interest in. It’s by no means complete. Some of the items are kind of silly, but I don’t think that means they should be dismissed. I mean, if I assume that his kicking everything in sight (mostly my shins) is not acting out but an attempt to express himself physically, then maybe we look into karate classes and he channels his energy into a real skill. (Note to self: look into karate classes. If he’s going to kick me all the time, he should do it properly.)

One of our observations is that Sam is bored of his toys. There are too many and they are all out. We would love to rotate so that only a few are accessible at a time, but where on earth would we put the toys on hiatus? Living in two and a half rooms is challenging enough. We’re going to try, but we think it’s equally important to not bring anything new into the mix. Let him explore what he has and really enjoy it, rather than become further overwhelmed by the choices. So we’re putting a moratorium on toys and focusing on — you guessed it — Sam’s interests. (There’s a few small exceptions, things I am planning to make that I’m really excited about. I unearthed my desk the other day, so maybe I will have something to show soon.)

Right now it seems that what Sam would like to do most in the world is be outdoors, preferably somewhere that he can run and climb and scramble. Playgrounds are OK, but National Forests are better. He’s had the time of his life in Joshua Tree and at Vasquez Rocks. At the latter he’s tried to climb upwards of 25 feet (Will didn’t let him go all the way up) and so we’re thinking about some climbing gear. There was a moment when it was time to climb down and Will had to trust Sam to stand still while he moved down — and if Sam had not listened to him, they might both have fallen. Sam listened. I stood below thinking about a nice chest harness that could attach Sam to his Dad. Will was thinking about helmets. I definitely do not want to go overboard — I hate the focus on safety that is prevalent in parenting these days and think it is more harmful than good. More than the safety gear I want him to have an extra pair of good shoes, a windbreaker, maybe some gloves if he will wear them. I want Will to get a new pair of sneakers. I would like a good fleece jacket for myself. But I want that harness too.

What else will Sam show interest in? What else will we find ourselves trying? I don’t know! We’re figuring it out as we go. I have to say, I am excited about moving toward a more outdoorsy life. But it’s a big change. (Will wants to try camping next. Yikes!)

Thank goodness his second-greatest interest is Star Wars. Much more my current speed.

How to make a Play Kitchen for under $300.

OK, the title is slightly misleading, in that there are plenty of ways to make (or buy) a play kitchen for under $300, but this is how I did it. I really want Sammy to have a play kitchen and have for ages, but I don’t want to buy anything less than heirloom quality and that is not exactly in the budget. So when Jessica put up this wonderful tutorial, I began plotting.

SPOILER ALERT! This is what I came up with:

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(Child made separately)

I chose to skip the sink portion, because I am not sure whether Sam would get the idea of a flat version – and anyway he helps us do the dishes for real, whereas this will be handy when I am cooking and he wants to help (of course I let him help for real when it’s possible). I also opted to make it look more like our stove, with four burners instead of two. It’s about 18 inches square – I used half a yard of wool-blend felt in 70s appliance yellow and cut it where the fold was from being on the bolt. Since I don’t have a working printer, I cut out burners and knobs by tracing a cereal bowl and a juice glass onto the black felt.

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I tried embroidering the red element onto the burner and it looked awful. Will suggested using felt, so I cut a circle to match the burner, cut it into a spiral, and then cut it in half along the spiral. I only did one burner both to save time and because I wanted to differentiate the left front burner, which on our stove is the largest and most frequently used.

I hand-sewed the stove top with embroidery floss and machine stitched it to the backing, which is a cotton print, black with red and green chili peppers on it. I managed to not get a photo with the backing, but I did get one of Sam playing!

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My sister bought a little set of pots & pans at Acorn, which is a wonderful local toy store, and Will bought a tea kettle in Chinatown. I’ve been collecting miniature utensils for a while (though the ones pictured came with the pots & pans). I also have a box full of sample sized condiments and airplane booze bottles that I will give him.

We bought some lumber (knotty pine 1×6 boards at 63ยข a foot) to make shelves to keep everything on. We may paint the wall first.

Altogether I think this cost around $50 and it could be done for even less. I’d planned to look for pots and pans at thrift stores, which would have run a few dollars, but my sister was willing to spend the $25 or so for the set and I let her. Aunties sometimes need to spoil their nephews.

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Part 2 forthcoming when we get the shelves built!