Sunday, February 28, 2010

Running with a theme

Just as I am thinking of finishing up our current Shelters and Clothing Block, I had an idea of making a little doll of each character in my stories and an animal friend for each one as well. This has inspired me to pull out my needle felting materials after a long pause. The fact that our weather has turned cold and rainy again has made it easy for me to think of fun projects to work on inside the house!

This is Elena of Peru and her alpaca.Here is a polar bear to be a part of a scene with Ulli, the Inuit boy. I still need to create an Ulli doll.
This is Tim of the Northwoods. I think he should have a pet dog.

And here is Rowan working on a rhino horn for his Noah's Ark Play costume. The big performance is a week away! It is so fun to watch our home school group really begin to create some magic together in the play as well as memorize group poems and individual lines.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More Rainy Day Fun

Rain has come again! In our yard that means mud and mushrooms! We have discovered Elfin saddles, Witches butter, Candy Caps and more well-named fungi all around our house. In honor of our Clothing and Shelter block, Rowan and had some fun with wool felt and natural dyes, including two different mushrooms that grow near us. The one in the photo above is a coral mushroom. The dye was fairly boring, but it was fun to watch the color in the pot change and to see the very white wool felt become a pale tan color. The second dyer's fungus, the Dyer's Polypore, produced the lovely golden sheets you can see in the upper right hand photo. I love getting out the dye pots and mixing up funky brews! This is what my stove looked like that day.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Weeks Flying By

Wow! It has been very hard to sit down at the computer lately. When the weather turns fair, I feel this primal urge to pull weeds and dig! Our weeks in the school realm have been moving rather slowly, but it feels just right. I have continued to unfurl a shelter's block, moving from China and silk to the woods of North America. Of course, we had to get out into our own woods here and enjoy the lovely early spring weather and all of the beautiful mushrooms that the previous weeks rain blessed us with. We made Valentines and some heart shaped cookies to share with friends and we managed to build a small tree perch that may or may not become a tree house someday.

Last week we also had a meeting with our lovely education specialist who helps us keep our records for homeschooling through a charter program with the state. Our Waldorf work samples always satisfy and I do not really do anything extra to be "in compliance", with one exception: STAR testing! In order for this charter to receive state funds (which it passes on to families in the form of a stipend), we all must submit our children to the state standards testing in April. I try and take a very Zen attitude toward all of this, not placing any pressure on Rowan, not really worrying about how he does, coaching him on good guessing, but I swear, reading the sample test questions makes me hot under the collar every time. I just find it so absurd that this is what schools spend time teaching kids. I want Rowan to learn to read in order to enjoy reading books and other things when he grows up. I want him to learn math in order to get along in the world of numbers, measurement and money. I want him to listen to stories so that he will have a deep understanding of history and poetry, tragedy and comedy. The standards tests seem to be determined to suck the life out of learning and place kids in a world where knowing how to fill in a bubble and follow nonsensical directions is more valuable than knowing how to build a house! Ok, enough ranting. I will dutifully take Rowan in for his testing on the proper date but I will not let it get in the way of the real learning we do every day.

This week Rowan had a cold so we took things slowly. I began a story about a boy named Tim who lives in a log cabin in the woods and then the next day Rowan asked me to continue it. I had not planned on doing this, but I launched forward and this boy ended up getting in a canoe and travelling along a winding river and meeting different Native American tribes along the way. First he met some people who live in the Pacific Northwest and carve beautiful totem poles. We had some fun with needle felting after that one.

After some time with this tribe, Tim said goodbye and got back into his canoe and traveled for many days until he came to some foothills and met some people who live in earth lodges. Soon he will meet tribes of the plains who hunt buffalo and live in beautifully decorated tepees.

During one of our mushroom expeditions, we discovered candy caps! These little orange mushrooms have been growing all around me for years and I only this year made the connection. We picked some and let them dry. The easiest way to identify this particular edible mushroom is its unmistakable aroma. It smells like maple syrup as it dries. Next we need to crumble them up and bake them in some cookies!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Shelter and Clothing

Ah, the whole week passed me by and I did not get a chance to post a blog. We had a very nice, very regular sort of homeschooling week. We finished the igloo that we had started the week before as we learned about live in the arctic.

Next we travelled to China in our imaginations. We studied from library books about all the different sorts of houses that are traditionally built in China. From this, I created the story of Yin Lin, a young girl living in southern China in a stilt house. Her family grows rice in the fertile moist land and also raises silkworms with the abundant mulberry trees growing all around Yin Lin's house. This led to a side lesson on silk and silkworms. Rowan had much to include in is main lesson book.

It seems that all this talk of shelters is sinking in. Rowan asked if he could make a house out of the couches and various pillows and blankets in the house. I said ok and he went to work. A cozy next was produced. It looked a lot like an Afgan yurt to me.

But Rowan was particularly excited about the two books I had found at the library on the subject of TREE HOUSES! For many years now I have avoided building a tree house. I have built a fence around the garden and a chicken coop for the chickens but in the 16 years since first giving birth, I have resisted building a tree house. Now it seems, the time has come and it is the last chance for me with these children of mine. We found a good tree and took some measurements. Next we will head to the lumber yard and begin on the foundation platform. If only the rain will hold off for a few days so we can see some progress...