Friday, March 13, 2015

March is for Botany (because it's garden time!)

It's been pretty slow around here the past few months. Steady, sluggish plodding through the days. And I'm ok with that, really. Winter is for reading, writing, sewing, knitting (the oldest is knitting now!) . . . all of those quiet, indoor activities and projects.

But spring is coming, folks . . .

For real. I saw bluebirds last week. We only catch a glimpse of them in our yard for a few days each year, and right on their tails, the robins arrived. We've got hundreds of robins in our yard. I promise you, I don't put out a speck of bird food, so this is just their normal visiting pattern.

Our first mud pie of the year!

With the birds comes a little taste of spring. The seven-year-old brought me our first clover flower from the yard. Icy mornings give way to muddy days (along with lots of mud-splattered laundry). Puffy coats go back in the closet to make room for rain jackets and rubber boots. My joints ache less. We all feel a little pep in our steps. Yes, indeed, spring is here.

Every year, March is our gardening month. We assess our seed stash, prep the raised beds, and plan our little plots. 

My mom picked up a ton of flower seeds for us
on clearance at the dollar store last year!

When my kids were younger, biology involved mostly nature study. Exploring. Identifying. Digging in the dirt. Asking questions and looking up answers. It was more than enough. But now we're stretching and branching out. It only makes sense that we tie in our botany lessons with the time of year when we're already talking about plants, flowers, and how and where things grow. So March has naturally become our official month for botany. It might be April of May for some of you, or even an entirely different time of the year for our Southern Hemisphere friends.

This year we're adding in notebooking pages and diagrams and reading more books on the subject. We don't have a nice microscope (yet), but we have loupes and plain old magnifying glasses, and I can't wait for the flowers to arrive (come on, azaleas!) so we can take a closer look inside and identify the parts.

It's a natural extension of activities we were already doing. So far it's been a pretty painless transition this way, and I'm looking forward to finding ways to naturally incorporate more rigorous studies into our seasonal rhythms.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Sewing Projects

Hey there! I hope your year is off to a great start. We're . . . um . . . still settling in. Mmmkay? We were sick most of January (some of us are actually still on round 2 or 3 of this freaking cold), so we got off to a slow start. I figure if we spent the month getting back into some minimal routines we're at least off to a good start in the right direction.

With not much else going on, I thought I'd update you on some project work. My oldest (11) started hand sewing a few years ago. She started with big tapestry needles, embroidery floss, and felt, and I'm really impressed with the progress she's made. More importantly, I'm impressed with her enthusiasm and creativity and her ability to jump in fearlessly with a new idea. It's especially great to see that from a kid who at time struggles with anxiety. Sometimes, the biggest benefits of a project have absolutely nothing to do with the product or even the project itself.

It all started with simple stuffies from drawings.

Then she moved on to create a whole Pok√©mon menagerie . . .

. . .  and a really cool dragon with lots of pieces. 

There are more dragons now.
Of course.

Recently, she's been inspired by video games. Another interest I sometimes wish she focused less on, but they're inspiration for crafts, stories, and other creations. This creature is (I think) something from StarCraft.

The cool thing about it is that the little "babies" on its back are removable. I don't even know how she made those tiny little pocket holes. This is also one of the first projects in which she used the glue gun without any help. The glue gun makes it easier and faster (she's all about SPEED) to apply tiny eyes and details.

I love how these are all her own designs, too. She gets an idea in her head and runs with it. Somehow she knows instinctively how to make and assemble all the individual pieces to achieve a desired outcome. I think this is my family's engineering gene at work. It . . . ahem . . . skipped a generation.

About a year ago, I introduced her to the sewing machine. She was very hesitant with it in the beginning. Seriously, she'd go so slow I had to leave the room while she sewed a straight line, because it drove me nuts and I didn't want her to feel rushed by my impatience. And she was so slow and careful that I really could leave the room without any fear that she would hurt herself. Her first machine projects were pillowcases for the dog and cat beds for Christmas gifts. Motivation and purpose for the win!

Sometimes she checks out books from the library for inspiration. When she gets books with patterns, she tends to us the pages more for ideas and techniques than for recreating specific projects. Her favorite book right now is Creature Camp: Make Your Own 18 Softies to Draw, Sew & Stuff. She's actually making the projects in this one, because each teaches a different skill. Then she uses what she learned and applies those new skills to her own creations.

Seriously, my first zipper
didn't look nearly that good!

She has (mostly) free rein over my fabric stash, so while the stuffies are taking over the house, my fabric piles aren't. If she wants specific materials for a special project, she knows she has to plan it out, make a list of fabric types and colors and accessories needed, and figure out how much she needs of each. I love watching her go through the fabric store with her list. Love, love, love.

While we've had books and supplies hanging around here for a loooooong time, she only tried embroidery last month. She completed a fox cross-stitch kit that she received as a gift a long time ago. Foxes and sewing . . . the perfect meeting of two interests! She wants to knit, but so far she finds it frustrating. Hand stitching is just the sort of quiet, purposeful handwork she's been missing.

She's taking a break at the moment, but my sewing area is still covered in her books and supplies, her signal that she'll be back when she's ready. She checked out a new book a few weeks ago, so I'm excited to see what new methods she'll want to experiment with next. It won't be long before she's teaching me how to do things!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

CENTER: My Word for 2015

Last year, I pushed myself to do a lot of new things. Doing so required me to carve out time and space for myself. It was great in a lot of ways, and I created some amazing things with all of that hard work. I was also on the outside a lot. I spent a lot of time on the periphery, doing my work while the rest of my family played together. While it was a sort of necessary evil, I have to make sure it was only a temporary setup. That's partly why I chose CENTER as my word for 2015.

I want a reminder to stay in the middle and to surround myself with people, places, and things I love. I want to experience the joys of life with these people, not just arrange activities for them while I work in a corner. Of course, there will still be times when I have to do that, but my goal is to set a better schedule for myself so it doesn't happen as often. 

And then there's the personal application of the word CENTER. The peace and quiet pleasure I've been missing. A lot of it is my own doing, so I'm giving up coffee and sugar, and one day I hope to feel human again. In the meantime, I'm pushing myself a little less. I'm setting big goals, then stepping back and looking at them a second time, asking myself if I can realistically get these things done while still taking care of myself and while giving my loved ones the time and attention they deserve. I've had to make some Not Fun choices in my planning already, but I feel better for scaling back. Allowing myself room to breathe and grow.

I don't have a handle on some perfect-for-me schedule yet. This isn't one of those things I can decide to do on January 1st and *POOF* it's done. It's probably going to take the whole year to figure out this dance, but I'm convinced it will be worth it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

2014: Our Year in Review

Apparently, I this is only my fifth post this year. YIKES. In case you missed the other four, here they are:

 I'm definitely not ready to give up blogging here, but I did need to take some time this year to focus inward. To push my own goals forward and to regroup a little as my kids move into different stages. Shifting. Lots of shifting. Good things, though. Part of my plan for next year is to visit this space more often. At least once a month.

While 2013 was a hard year for me personally, it pushed me into much of the hard work of 2014. This was an upward momentum year, for sure, but all of my small successes were the result of hard work, commitments, and habit-building. The great thing about homeschooling is that while my kids witnessed me stumble last year, they also witnessed my perseverance and my bumpy road to making things better. Our school lessons are still important, but I hope my girls also take away important lessons from this year about resilience and how hard work pays off.

Here are a few notes from our year:
  • My oldest doesn't want photos of her public, and I respect that. I'm also only sharing photos of her project work if she previews and approves the photos first. That means less for me to share here sometimes.
  • Harper is learning to read and is pushing past the frustration stage. We're all very excited for this!
  • She is also (finally, in December) playing alone more often. It's been a frustrating year of her not wanting to do anything without her sister. I've have a hard time navigating that and my tween's increased desire for privacy and independence (as well as a tendency as the oldest to dictate the younger sibling's play), but I think we're finally turning a corner with this issue.
  • Ella has been taking classes through Minecraft Homeschool and loves them. I do NOT recommend this as a way to justify an interest in Minecraft (It needs no justification. I should probably post more on this at some point). The classes are separate from her project work. She picks her classes and does all the work, and it's a way to dig deeper into history/geography/math/whatever through her minecraft interest. She also enjoys the social aspect of interacting with the other kids on the class server.

  • Ella's (11) interests & projects - sewing (more on this later), Minecraft & video games in general (a developing interest in game testing and in video game story development), storytelling 
  • Harper's (6) interests & projects - cooking/baking, Minecraft, chemistry & mixing "potions," foxes

  • I made a serious commitment to writing fiction. :) I'm posting updates here:
  • I learned how to FINISH this year. I've been a dabbler most of my life, and this year I saw large projects through to completion, and to the point of sharing with others. It's no coincidence that my word for 2014 was COURAGE. 

I hope you have a wonderful end to this year. 
See you all back here in 2015!!!

Much love,

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Ripple Effect of a Desk Hutch

It's been pretty quiet around here, huh? Never fear, we're ok. Just busy with homeschooling, health stuff, and writing. I may be sprucing things up around here over the next couple of weeks while I have some down time. This is the first of hopefully several posts I have stored up. 

This summer, we made a project table (more on that later) and reorganized the office/music/art/storage room. We made it a functional project space and we are now referring to it as The Studio. The name isn't sticking yet, but it's definitely serving that purpose. Around that same time, my mom mentioned that she had a desk hutch she wasn't using. Hmm, I already had one of those, and my desk was still a mess. But since I didn't have any better ideas, I thought, Sure, let's see if it works.

To be clear, I haven't seen the surface of that desk in over a year. So, yeah. It works! My current freelance projects, novel notes, and homeschool folders each have a home that is visible but off the desktop. And my cords and chargers are tucked away. Sweet.

The best part of this one tiny change is that it had a ripple effect on the rest of the desk and the rest of the room.

Then, like MAGIC, the piles on my bar counter had a place to go, so that space also became a clear surface. Ta-da!

Never mind that pile of newspapers in the background. I've been saving those to mulch a walkway. Never mind that I've been saving them for almost two years now and they're still sitting there. Baby steps.

Think a tiny change won't have a big enough impact? Worried that organizing your office/art/music/crap room is a gigantic job, and it will take a year to tackle it? Don't let it overwhelm you. Focus in on one, tiny, solvable problem area. Let the ripple effect do the rest.