Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Our Hallowe'en

Ahhh, the evening of ghosts and goblins and witches is coming to an end.  We had a little too much going on today, and were much to distracted by the solar system this week to really focus on all that could be Hallowe'en.  But we did honour a few Hallowe'en traditions today. 

I must confess, I have a love-hate relationship with Hallowe'en.  I love the idea of creating a costume, decorations and treats, especially when the littlest ones we love come calling.  I love the idea of dancing around the living room to Werewolves of London.  I love a night that exists for fun and fun alone.  I could do without all the processed stuff and commercialism and not-quite-from-nature part of it.

So today, we hauled up the pumpkins and Nicholas and Jaelyn had their go at designing them.  They felt confident enough to carve them, and so after a quick tutorial (keep the blade straight, cut away from yourself, etc.), they were off.  I think they came up with beautiful designs and did a really wonderful job carving them.

Next up were some healthier, home-made treats, made especially for our little niece and nephew, plus any of our Club friends who know us and trust us.  Nicholas made the candy apples that were coated with a mixture of coconut oil, honey, and our favorite dried fruits and seeds.  Jaelyn made some banana ghosts dipped in a mixture of cocoa and agave nectar, then sprinkled with coconut.  Yum.

And finally...trick or treating.  Our children donned their costumes (Nicholas in his handmade British soldier costume - McCall's pattern #M6143 - and Jaelyn in her hand-me-down Davey Crockett costume) and grabbed their flashlights.  Our first stop with the neighbourhood recreation centre, where they were serving up spooky crafts and snacks.  We made dolls, lanterns and decorated cookies before heading for home the long way.  The children wandered up and down a couple of streets trick-or-treating before they made their way home.

They came home with quite the haul.  Fortunately, they were eager to trade most of it in, as is our tradition, for simple toys and books.  We brought out the candles for their rooms again, too, and tucked them in with a kiss and a Hallowe'en poem to cap the day.

Happy Hallowe'en wherever you are!

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

It's gargantuan

We carried our solar system theme into today.  My goal today was to help the children understand the size of each of the planets relative to one another, and the vast size of the solar system (or rather, just the part that we know of).  Fortunately, we had picked up a fabulous book at the library, 13 Planets:  The Latest View of the Solar System, to help me out with that.  This was the same book I used to introduce the planets.

At the end of the book, the author (David A. Aguilar) provides instructions of using everyday pantry items to recreate a scale model of the solar system.  This afternoon, we gathered up these items and headed outside:

  ~ grapefruit (we used a small melon):  Sun
  ~ salt:  1 grain for each of Mercury and Mars
  ~ raw sugar:  1 grain for each of Venus and Earth
  ~ baking soda:  1 speck for each of Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris
  ~ cherry tomato:  Jupiter
  ~ grape:  Saturn
  ~ frozen peas:  1 pea for each of Uranus and Neptune
  ~ orange:  for the Sun's next nearest star, Proxima Centauri
  ~ chalk
  ~ tape measure

We started out on the corner of our block, then used the measurements from the book to measure out where the planets would be.  We got as far as Saturn before we ran out of real estate.  And that next-nearest star?  With the scale we were using, we would need to go to Halifax!

I'm standing on "Saturn", while the children are standing on "the Sun" at the end of the block!

Monday, 29 October 2012

I love Mondays

There was a time, not that long ago, when I really didn't want to get out of bed and head off into the "real" world on Mondays.  While I loved the idea of spending time with our family on weekends, the reality was that they were fast-paced as we raced to catch up from the week that was.  By Sunday evening, we had not caught up, felt further behind, and were drained - not really stuff that would make one bound out of bed on a Monday.

I've noticed that lately, I've really loved our Mondays.  While I can't say that we have indeed "caught up" on anything, I've perhaps let go of the illusion.  Instead, I know we've taken care of our bodies, minds, and souls when I feel fresh for the week ahead, knowing what awaits us...and accepting of the mess that we will leave behind as we start a new project, or the required logistics as we prepare for a field trip.

Today was a science day.  Jaelyn wanted to learn about the solar system, so we did a little reading about the planets in the solar system (there may be 13 now, not the 9 that I remember from my youth - check here for more info about why the number is in flux).  Then, we did some art, using pastels and watercolours, to draw and paint our interpretation of the solar system.  What I really loved about this was the opportunity to integrate several "subjects" into one lesson - art, reading, writing, math, science - it's all there!  I have a few more projects up my sleeve related to the solar system, which I'll share as we complete them.

Later, we worked on building catapults, so that I could prepare for facilitating a group activity at our next homeschool co-op meeting.  This included building different designs, building castles, and hurling little felt balls (which we made on the weekend, much to my delight) around our kitchen.  We talked about angles, release points, and tension as we fiddled with the designs.  We used glue guns and too many elastic bands to count.  It was messy, but it was fun.  I loved every bit of today!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

First tries.

We've been trying to rely only on our masonry heater and keep our main source off for as long as possible.  We've run into a bit of a snag, as our firewood delivery guy hasn't come yet!  So, when it was particularly chilly one morning, I decided it would be a baking day.  Nicholas grabbed the chocolate chip cookie recipe, Jaelyn and Astrin made some marvelous saskatoon berry muffins, and I decided I would try to make bread, and we'd get in a little science while we did it.

We experimented with yeast.  First, we learned about what yeast actually is (a fungus).  Then, we prepared three bowls with water of different temperatures - one cold, one warm, and one hot.  We watched, smelled, and learned how the temperature of water impacts yeast.

I've tried to make pizza dough from traditional yeast before - more often than not its been a flop - but never bread.  In the first few attempts, I didn't know anything about the science of bread or yeast and didn't pay attention to water temperature.  The recipes weren't that helpful either, as they mentioned "warm" water, which is open to interpretation (just ask my daughters if they think "warm" is the temperature that I draw their bath at).

Now, armed with a candy thermometer, a book devoted entirely to bread, and newly found resilience, we tried again.  And while the bread erred more on the heavy side, it did rise a bit and was satisfying.  After it all, the house was warm, it smelled marvelous, and we had home-made bread to fill our bellies.

The yeast experiment
Fresh bread!

Friday, 26 October 2012

A week in pictures

Since misplacing the camera a few weeks ago, I've struggled to get into the habit of having it handy and snapping pictures left and right.  My stash of pictures to choose from is quite small.  I've decided to use words, in hopes that you can create some mental pictures of the highlights of our week...

  ~ watching geese land on the lake as they take a break from their trek south
  ~ playing tag amongst 6-foot high round bales, and while carrying my almost two-year-old!
  ~ baking oh-so-yummy food with all three of my little ones
  ~ listening to the banter between children during our club meetings
  ~ taking Jaelyn and Astrin to a Hallowe'en dance and bopping around with them
  ~ playing The Farming Game with Nicholas

Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Club Day. The Nature Version.

Today, the Nature Club met, and we had a lovely time together.  The pre-work we did at the last meeting was used this week, as we made an eggshell mosaic picture frame with the eggshells we dyed.

I had originally planned to use thrifted picture frames for this project.  But then I changed my mind because I didn't want to deal with the risk that the eggshells wouldn't stick, or that the frames would be of mismatched sizes and the battle that could potentially ensue over them.  So, I decided to make my own. 

We picked up some fallen sticks when we went on our field trip to the nature refuge earlier this week.  I hot-glued them together to make the frame, then lashed the corners for extra strength and stability.  Finally, I made the mats out of a sturdy construction paper and hot-glued them to the stick frames.  Voila...instant picture frames.

Once the girls arrived, we ate a snack that Jaelyn prepared (saskatoon oatmeal muffins).  I had a book at the ready, I Feel Orange Today, which I chose because it gently introduces children to how colour can influence or be used to describe emotion, and because we were working with the coloured eggs.

The mosaic craft was inspired by a project in Green Crafts for Children.  We reviewed the plants we had used to dye the eggs, and the resulting colours.  The children broke their own eggshells, each in their own unique ways, and made their own designs by simply dabbing white glue on the construction paper and placing a small piece of eggshell on the glue.  We talked a wee bit about using the materials available to us and where mosaics originated from.  Once the girls were done, they transitioned to playing a game until parents arrived to pick them up.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Minding our B's and D's

I rarely write about the formal bookwork we do here at home.  While I'm not worried about how well my children read, our adventure into reading is important to me.  My son is a very strong reader, and he doesn't need to be motivated to read on his own.  I often find him reading in the morning, before he's even saddled up to the table for breakfast.

Jaelyn is just learning how to read.  She has a pretty firm foundation under her.  Our first small steps on the road to reading included saying letters by their sound and not their name.  We also had an alphabet placemat that listed the letters and pictures for each letter.  Any time that Jaelyn showed interest in writing, like creating birthday cards, she would bring out her placemat and we would help her write the words.  If she was writing "love", we would say the letter sound ("lllll"), then refer to the picture on the placemat ("like 'leaf'"). 

Somehow, we took a jump from these first steps to her trying to read on her own.  We've used several sets of books so that Jaelyn has some choice in the books at her reading level.  We started out with Bob Books, which are short, fun books.  For the beginning reader, there are very few words on a page, the words are easy to sound out, and they give that thrill of success because the whole book can often be read with little stress.  We also used Dick and Jane books, because we liked the repetition - once she sounded out a word, she could read it several more times in the same story.  Lastly, we've been using Primary Phonics books and the accompanying workbooks.  The workbooks introduce the new sounds and the books bring it all together. 

Lately, I've been noticing that Jaelyn is mixing up her "b's" and "d's".  I'm not pushing the panic button, but I wanted to find a way to reinforce what each letter looks like.  So today, when she mixed them up, we talked about it.  I wrote "Dad", and I told her that the bumps on the letters face one another because dads and their children look at one another when they talk to each other.  Then I drew faces on the "d's" to show them looking at one another.  Jaelyn surprised me by sharing a rule that she learned in kindergarten.  First, she drew a big "B", then she drew a smaller "b" inside, and said that the small "b" was a baby inside the big "B".  So, now she has a couple of tricks to keep in mind when reading and writing.

Going forward, I'm going to look into a few Waldorf books to see if there are any stories and pictures I can share with her to help her integrate everything together.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Club Day. The Birds of Prey Version.

Except for my own, the children in the Birds of Prey Club attend school.  Most of them go to the same school, so I pick them up from school and walk them back to our place to make things more convenient for their families.  In the days of September and early October, the students seemed to burst out of the school.  They seemed vibrant and alive and joyful.  Children merrily made their way to the playing field or to the play structure.  They lingered to bask in the fall air.  I had to work hard to spot my charges amongst the others happily playing.

Today was different.  It was a dreary day, as snow had fallen the night before and was threatening to dump more.  The ground was damp and the air was cool, but it was otherwise a nice afternoon for play.  The bell rang, and the pause between it and when the first child surfaced from the school seemed quite long.  The children trickled out one-by-one.  They moved slowly.  A small handful lingered to play after school. 

Once we got back to our house, the children were bursting with life and were full of endless energy.  I kicked myself for not having a book ready to bring them in for our activity, making totem poles.  They did their best, and I attempted to draw their conversation to the activity by asking them questions about totem poles themselves and the animals that they were colouring.  When the craft was all wrapped up, they enthusiastically ran outside to play the game they all love and that always changes - I assume there were still army generals and musketeers, but that the storyline changed somewhat. 

I wondered if they had many opportunities to get outside over the last couple of weeks.  And now that the weather has changed, they may be spending more time doing bookwork and other "thinking" things.  As we get closer to winter, I think I'll plan some activities that may better fit their bursts of energy and dramatic flair, including some more outside time.

Monday, 22 October 2012

To see what we could see

I am truly feeling as though a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and that I can be fully present in mothering my children.  I feel lighter, happier, more resilient.  And with the turn of a page and the start of a new week, it seemed fitting to get a little further from home and go on a field trip back out to a nearby nature refuge.  We headed out into the world after we read a poem about Autumn from The Waldorf Book of Poetry.

This is the same nature refuge we visited in early September.  I wanted us to get out to the nature refuge at least once a month so that we could see how things change as we roll through the seasons.  And what was different in October?  At first, I wondered.  There was the absence of leaves from the trees, but that felt almost too obvious.  Slowly, it came.  Once we settled our senses and just let ourselves "be" in that little patch of quiet, it started to come, like peeling the layers off an onion.  Yes, the leaves were off the trees.  But now we could see the nests that were once so nicely camouflaged and hidden from view.  We could better see the bark and the subtle differences between the different species.  We could hear the crisp leaves under our shoes as we walked and kicked our way through them.  We could imagine a road paved of gold instead of simply the grass covered with yellow leaves. 

Then we started to hear the songs and calls of the birds.  Though the songbirds were few, they were there - hiding in the thick brush or perched in a tree branch overhead.  It took quiet on our part to hear them and search them out.  Then the quiet would unravel as the sound of geese passing overhead caught our attention!  We craned our necks to figure out where they were coming from - were they landing in the lake, or were they higher up and just passing through?  What kind of geese were they? 

As we sipped on tea and ate a snack of dried apple slices, I felt myself taken back to that magical place that I discovered when we visited Green Gables in Prince Edward Island.  I asked the children about what they saw and heard and felt.  The answers came in the form of poetry, much to my surprise and excitement! 

I truly did love today.  I was thrilled that the children didn't complain of being cold, as the wind was quite brisk despite the bright sun.  For those of you who would like to venture outside more often with your little ones as the days grow shorter and colder, here are some tips:

  ~ Dress in layers on both the top and bottom.  Think long johns, knee-high cold-weather socks, and outerwear that blocks the wind. 
  ~ Dress for weather cooler than you expect.  It's always easier to strip layers off than wish you had more to put on!  Remember mitts, hats and scarves!
  ~ If your trip involves a car ride, either keep the inside temperature as cool as comfortable, or only put on those extra layers right before you get out of the car.  If bodies get too warm and sweaty in the car, they will get too cool outside.
  ~ Excellent footwear is a must.  It can keep dew, muck, snow, and slush off toes and helps make the trek through uneven terrain easier.  For some locales, footwear that covers the ankle is also beneficial, as grasses, branches, or other plants may rub against the legs and the ankle area may not have enough protection.  Snow may seep in and make for very chilly walking.
  ~ A warm drink, such as tea, hot chocolate or soup, helps warms the hands and soul.
  ~ Keep moving!  A body in motion will keep warmer than one that is still.

Do you have any tips to share?

Enjoy your cool weather exploring!

Sunday, 21 October 2012


The night treasures come.
Owls hoot in the dark night sky.
Beautiful night sky.
~ Nicholas, October 18

Somehow, our family has started to get into a poetry groove.  In fact, my son has requested that all of his writing work be poetry.  So, we've had a sprinkling of poetry around our house - from reading rhyming stories, to books filled with poetry, to writing our own poetry.  Lately, our children have headed off to dreamland with the words of a poem leading them.  I'm attempting to resurrect our evening tradition of reading a poem or short story outside the children's bedrooms once they are tucked into bed.

I still love tucking each of them in - making sure the covers are just where they need to be - and then giving them each a hug and kiss goodnight and wishing them sweet dreams.  Each child is just a little different from the others.  Astrin needs to give everyone a kiss goodnight before I take her upstairs to get into her sleepsack, while I recite The Going to Bed Book and cuddle her.  She needs the door closed too and will shout until it is closed!  Nicholas needs everything in its right spot.  Jaelyn typically just needs the challenge of a race to be scurrying up the stairs and diving head-first into bed. 

We've discovered a real gem of a book to keep the bedtime poetry fresh - The Waldorf Book of Poetry.   While we've only had it in our book collection for a few weeks, I have a feeling it will make its way into many of our days, and perhaps even activities throughout our day.  The collection is organized into different themes - imagination (think fairies!), the seasons, fables, animals, history, numbers, grammar, and more! 

I find that story-time and poetry reading before bed is such a nice way to spend the final moments of the day with my children.  I aspire to start our days - once we're all ready to face the day - with a story that we can be mindful of as we head out into the world.  We did this well for about a week, and I'd like to pick up where we left off now that the mountain of food to be preserved has dwindled.  And I'm so thrilled to have another resource that can speak to their imaginations, hearts, and souls. 

Friday, 19 October 2012

A week in pictures

Off to sell Girl Guide cookies
Watching the geese wander the skies
The view from a tree
What happens when little girls play together
Cheery blooms on a cloudy day

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Cozy crafts

The two older children and I are knitting together, which is so much fun!  And it's perfect for these cool and dreary days, when it just feels right to cuddle up together and do something quiet.

I still classify myself as a beginner knitter, so it is a challenge to teach with words what to do.  I've already written about how my limited knowledge led to Jaelyn learning how to knit right-handed, despite being decidedly left-handed.  She has continued to motor through short, simple projects - she finished a necklace yesterday, including sewing on the button, and started a new one today.  Jaelyn, at the tender age of 6, is a much better knitter than I was at 26!  Here's her latest creation:

Working with Nicholas was quite a bit different.  I did very little to explain or describe what to do.  It was much easier for him to simply sit in my lap and watch what I did (though that growing boy fitting on my lap was a bit of a challenge).  And what do you know?  He caught on to casting on and the actual knitting right away.  In fact, he chose to relax before bed by knitting a couple of rows.

I've found that using thick yarn and big needles helps them finish a project quickly, which is gratifying in itself.  Plus, it lends itself to big holes, which gives us a couple of options for finishing the project - we can either sew the ends together or use a chunky button to give it a different look.  I've also found that it is best that I be doing my own project so that I don't hover.  That way, they feel relaxed and can see what happens on their own.  I am still close enough to do my best to help if the need arises.

And what is on my needles?  A winter hat that will find it's way into gift wrap for someone special.  The yarn (River Road Farm Cotswold yarn) and pattern (the Cabled Cotswold Hat), were a find while we were in Nova Scotia.  Our very last stop before heading to the airport was to Gaspereau Valley Fibres.  The children and I had such fun browsing, and such a tough time picking only one or two items to take home.

The hat project has been a learning experience for me too.  I've never had much to do with purl stitches (see!  I'm a total rookie!), and they were in abundance for this pattern.  The cables were new for me too, but a fun experience.  I think I've now moved up from "rookie" to "novice".


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A heart-happy day

Today didn't start out as anything fact, I was suspicious that it would turn into a horrendous day, as all of the children were up early this morning!  Nevertheless, it shaped up to be a pleasant day...Jaelyn read a new book to me and we cuddled while a read a new book to her.  She also finished off a knitting project (but more on that tomorrow).  We went to our homeschool co-op and had a delightful time.  I gathered with some fine folks this evening to celebrate our achievements on pulling off a community festival this past September.

The special moments of today seemed to focus around Nicholas.  How he announced this morning that he would prefer to write poetry - limericks and haiku, mainly - for all his writing work.  He finished a poster about owls and endangered species that he has been working on for the last month and a bit.  He discovered at our homeschool co-op that he really likes to do high jump (as well as one can when a pole is suspended from two chairs and there really isn't a thick cushy mat to fall into).  On our way home he mentioned finding a track team to join.

Here's hoping you had a heart-happy day too!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Class pictures and other absurdities

Well, yesterday did not go as I had hoped.  Even though we did have a family meeting and said family members (or some of them) agreed to help with a few things, it turns out that actions truly do speak louder than words.  Some children conveniently forgot what they had said they would do to help (which was even more irritating when they announced "I have nothing to do").  Some took their time - my goodness, did they take their time!  The things they chose to help with were truly their choice and ripe with intrinsic motivation (or at least I thought).  Like putting the leaves and grass in a pile so we could jump around in it.  Or cleaning and chopping up home-grown and kid-chosen celery for a winter full of celery-filled soups (yes, soup is a motivator for one of our little ones - our "old soul" little one).

I had promised myself not to nag or give reminders - I know that my children are bright children and they can remember vast quantities of information.  I also wanted to do my best at providing a positive example.  So, my lips stayed clamped shut for most of the time that we co-existed in the same space.  When I felt my frustration and disappointment get to me, I thought about what life would be like if they were not in my life.  That brought about a sad heart and stinging eyes.  I reminded myself that we will get to all those lofty goals we set earlier in the year eventually - that we are pacing ourselves in a marathon and not a sprint. 

Nevertheless, we did work together to get a few things struck off the list.  And we had some nice surprises too.  Like when I accidentally disrupted a bumblebee's slumber while I was raking the yard - we had the opportunity to observe it and hear its faint buzz as it worked to find adequate shelter again (it did not like the bedding at the bee hotel, even after we decorated it with a sunny yellow flower).  We saw flocks of geese fly overhead and watched them veer around the skies as they moved to be closer to other groups.  Jaelyn wrote a love letter to her father.  All good things, I remind myself.

Today, we enjoyed a morning outside - our spirits needed to feel the breeze, smell the wet leaves and see the sky.  The sun was playing hide-and-seek with us and we knew it was only a matter of time before the rainclouds joined the party.  We played catch with the football.  We climbed trees.  We swung.  We flew down the slide.  We rode our bikes.  We laughed.  We enjoyed one another.  To be silly, we took some "class pictures" that will be shared with family during the winter holidays.  Enjoy!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Play on a sunny afternoon

My, today was a busy but happy day.  I write this the old-fashioned way (to be later transposed to the digital world) as we settle down for a meal at Jaelyn's favorite restaurant.  It was a physically demanding day after a hard workout last night.  I find myself holding down the fort while the boys are away camping, and frankly, I'm out of gas and feeling a little overwhelmed with all that needs to be done in the coming week.  Apples to be dried and cooked and canned and juiced, tomatoes to be canned, fresh wholesome farm veggies to be cooked up, garlic to be planted, garden boxes to be worked, leaves to be raked...oh my!

Today though, I had a couple of blissful hours where it was just Astrin and me.  Try as I might, she was determined I wouldn't get any work done.  The little bit of raking I did was quickly trampled through, kicked, scooped up, and tossed all around.  She insisted on helping me trim the grass around our garden boxes, which I eventually gave up on.  Finally, she pushed me to the ground, shrieking, "Fall down, Mama!"  What could I do but oblige her request?  So, fall down I did.  And she landed on top of me, full of kisses and giggles and squirminess.  I enjoyed the warm sun on my face, the cool earth beneath me, the surreal joy that comes from staring up at a cloudless blue sky, and my happy little one.  I know I relaxed during that little bit of time we had together.  I am very grateful for the gifts my children share with me, especially the ones they don't even know they've given.  I'm sure they see the difference in how I see the world almost instantly.

And what to do with that long list?  After all, it's not going to get done by itself.  And it likely won't get done with just my two hands either.  I'm thinking of sharing the list and asking for helpers for the tasks, and then schedule them onto the calendar, just like any other activity.  And I'll need to be content that what doesn't get done simply won't get done and let it go.  We've done our best and that is all we can do.

Friday, 12 October 2012

A week in pictures

Harvesting sunflower seeds
Making pumpkin pie the old-fashioned way
Rolling out pie crust for lemon meringue pie
Heading out on the day of the first snow (though it's all melted already!)
The season's first roaring fire
Just happy to be beside Mama
Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Club Day. The Nature Version.

Today has been a long time coming - I've been looking forward to this craft since last winter!  But the summer would have been much too hot for this craft and the weather has cooled off enough to make today's craft just right for a chilly afternoon.  Today, the Nature Club experimented with plant materials to make dyes and inks.  We dyed eggshells and jersey fabric.

We did some pre-planning and pre-work to get ready for this afternoon's meeting.  We have been saving onion skins and egg shells since the winter just for this project.  We also saved the celery leaves from our garden and cranberries left over from the Thanksgiving feasts.  This morning, I wrangled up some white t-shirts from the basement and cut them into strips, while Nicholas and Jaelyn stretched them so the lengthwise sides would roll up. 

This project is kind of time-intensive, as there is so much time needed to draw the pigment out of the materials and into the water, then for the eggshells and fabric to soak up the dye.  I needed to figure out how we would get everything done in the wee bit of time we had.  Here's how we pulled it off:

  ~ We boiled the jersey strips in a water-vinegar mixture and soaked them, letting the mixture cool outside.
  ~ We prepared the dye materials and placed them into cheesecloth bags so that we didn't need to fish the dye materials out.
  ~ We brought the pots of water (and a little vinegar) to a boil, then placed the dye materials into the water to steep while I went to pick up the children.
  ~ When we got to our house, we placed the eggshells in the dye water right away, then moved on to our snack.  I told them the story of Pelle's New Suit as they snacked on apples and plums.
  ~ We then made some home-made ink out of a mixture of saskatoon berries, vinegar and salt.
  ~ We pulled the eggshells out of the dye and examined them to see what colour they had turned.  Then, we dropped the cooled jersey strips into the water.
  ~ Finally, we experimented with our saskatoon berry ink!

Here are the instructions for making the saskatoon berry ink:

  ~ gather about 1 cup of fresh or frozen and thawed saskatoon berries
  ~ using a wooden spoon, press the berries into a fine mesh sieve that is hanging over a bowl.  The juice should flow into the bowl while the solids stay in the sieve.
  ~ add 1 tablespoon of vinegar (to preserve the colour) and 1 tablespoon of salt (to help the ink keep a bit longer), and mix until the salt is dissolved.

We found that using paintbrushes and watercolour paper worked best for actually using the ink.  I loved how the ink looked quite pink on the page when first brushed on, then changed to a lovely purple-blue once it dried.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

In the world of our littlest one

Many days, the focus of this space is on the older children...what they are doing, what they are learning, what they are teaching me.  The littlest one of our clan, our almost 2-year-old, is usually in the periphery during many of our adventures.  It's not that she isn't learning or doing what the others are's just that what we are doing was an intentional act for the older children - either on their part or my part.

In the last few weeks in particular, I've been marveling at how much she has grown and learned.  On the weekend she strung a four-word sentence together ("Boomer, stop banging now!").  This week, she's sat and listened to longer picture books instead of her short, simple board books.  She's started sitting on the potty and having some successes and labeling what we're doing.  Today, she could find an object in a picture.  We also notice her learning by imitation - she imitates what we say, what we do, how we eat, how we dress. 

All things I haven't noticed her do before, so I think these are indeed "firsts".  And they are "firsts" for me too, as I didn't experience these with the older children while I was working and they were in daycare.  I start to daydream about what learning will look like for her, given that she will be the only one who has not been in an institutional setting.  Will she feel free to take safe risks?  Will she be self-conscious and care what others think?  Will she be eager to get up in the morning, knowing that she will discover something new?  Will she still love the hugs and cuddles she gets when she is older?  Will she be a relaxed youngster, knowing that many of the activities in her day will be hers to choose?

As I daydream about the future, I'm also reminded to stay firmly in the present and to be thankful for these moments, today, with all my children.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Club Day. The Birds of Prey Version

Despite the chill in the air, it was a good day for a Birds of Prey Club meeting.  Everyone was in good spirits and happy to see each other once again.

Our activity for today was to make a Tsimshian Life Crest.  The Tsimshian are a tribe that lived in the Pacific Northwest as long as 5,000 years ago.  This tribe was organized as a clan society.  There are four main clans: Killer Whale, Raven, Wolf and Eagle (hence, the link to our Club).  A child is born into its mother's clan and receives that clan's crest for life.  Each clan has traits it is strong in, which are represented by the clan's animal. For example, Eagle is known for peace, friendship, honesty and openness.  There are also sub-clans within the clans.  The inspiration for today's activity came from Traditional Native American Arts & Activities.  We also used First Nations Art Projects and Activities again to help with some of the details in the artwork.

I wasn't sure how well I would be able to explain that the traits of the clan were symbolized in the traits of the clan's animal.  And I didn't know how well I could explain that each child could simply choose to draw the animal that best represented him or her on the life crest.  So, once the children were nearing the end of their snack, I pulled out a book off our bookshelf called I am Raven and started to read.  It is a story of a chief who plans to build a new totem pole before he moves on to the world of his ancestors, and he needs to decide which animals will be depicted on the pole.  As he travels through his day, various animals approach him with gifts and comment about how they must be his totem, because his strengths so much resemble their own.  In the end, he finds his true totem.  It also has wonderful illustrations using the same techniques I was hoping the group would try out today.  I was amazed how quiet the group became as I read.

Once the book was done, I described the activity - painting a life crest onto a wooden board.  There was a wee bit of chaos as the children grabbed books to learn about what different animals represent or symbolize.  Once they settled on what they would draw, and whether they would do a dry run on paper or go straight to drawing on the wood, it got quiet again as everyone got to work.  I don't think we've had such a quiet meeting!

After all that deliberation, we wound up with one Killer Whale, one Eagle, one Otter, one Hummingbird, and a mix of Owl, Eagle and Canada Goose.  Most tried to make the paintings or drawings in the likeness of the artwork they saw in the books, which was so exciting to see!