Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Saga of The Quilt

I have gone back and forth the last couple of weeks between working on my quilt and letting it rest. Finally on Sunday I decided to finish the top. I was reading Facebook before I decided to sew. Someone had posted on there that their grandmother told them if you sew on Sunday you will rip it out with your nose. I thought very funny. I'm going to go sew. I got down to just one more seam. A very long seam, 108 inches long. I started out great. But as I came down to the last few inches, the two sides didn't match. I then spent the next two hours ripping out the stitches. Regular sewing is hard enough to rip out, but this was serged. Ugg. Finally I was finished ripping. I sat down to the machine again. This time I put the other fabric on top. I know that sometimes the machine will pull a lighter fabric through quicker than the heavier fabic. So I'm sewing along just fine. I get about a foot from the end and guess what? This time the bottom fabric is too short. At this point I just threw the whole thing into the projects pile. I'm really getting tired of this quilt.

Last night I sat down and again spent two hours ripping out the serging. This time when I was finished I pinned it together. I started at one end and worked for a while. Then I went to the other end and pinned a bit. Then I went to the middle and pinned. I worked back and forth like that until the whole seam was pinned and the fabrics matched. Success. Today I sat down and stitched that last seam together, pulling pins out just as they got to the cutter blade. I can't believe it is finally all finished. Well, the top is finished anyway. I still have to put the backing and the batting on it and then tie the layers together. But for now, here's a look at the top of my quilt.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

School Begins At Home

So many children are going back to school this time of year. But for some children, like my son, Dakota, school is at home. We have been using Time4Learning.com for our online curriculum since he started Kindergarten. We love Time4Learning. Many of the lessons are like video games. Dakota loves to learn to recognize site words by playing a game similar to Frogger. He loves listening to Ms. Hoot and the Hooties read stories to him. Now that he is in Third grade, he loves getting enough points in Language Arts to see the dog light up all the way from his tail to the tip of his nose. When he has finished his work for the day, he can go on the Playground and play other video games. Or he will go on Learning Games For Kids and play some of the games on there. I even enjoy going on some of the games myself.

As mom/teacher I like the way I can print out reports as often as I want. Usually at the beginning of the year I print out the Lesson Plans for the whole year. Each day as Dakota does his work, I write down the scores on this printed lesson plan. When he completes the course, I print out the report for that course and keep it in a notebook. That way I can look back at what he has done since Kindergarten. Even though we have no reporting in this state, it is a good way for me to see how he is doing as we move along. Another thing that I like is that he can do a lesson over and over as many times as he wants to. Or needs to. If he doesn't understand something we can do it again and again. There are also printed lesson sheets to go with most of the lessons. This gives him even more practice with the lesson. And it gives me a hard copy of something that he has worked on to keep in his notebook.

For our family school begins at home. But it doesn't stay at home very much. We are often off to the library, the art museum, the nature center, the environmental center, the science museum, historical sites, soccer, and the park for play dates. We are very busy as homeschoolers. But we enjoy it so much. It is so great to be able to see your child bloom before your eyes. To watch that Ah ha moment when a concept finally becomes clear. I love homeschooling and I love Time4Learning.

Friday, August 20, 2010

When I Am Old

The other day I was sitting outside watching Dakota ride his bike. I was wearing my favorite purple skirt. The sun was moving in to the crack between the trees so I asked Dakota to go in and get a hat to shade my eyes. He came out a moment later with a bright red hat. As I looked down at my purple skirt and put the red hat on my head, I was reminded of a poem.

by Jenny Joseph

With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
Now I'm not ready to admit to being old yet. Although some days I really feel it. But maybe I ought to practice a little now as well. Something to think about.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Homeschooling Support

I'm often asked what kind of homeschoolers we are. It seems like everything has to have a label these days. So I guess this applies to homeschooling as well as everything else. I would totally be an unschooler if it were up to me. But we have this other person, you know, the one called Dad, who does not believe in unschooling. I've looked at Classical Homeschooling, but I don't think that is my style. I finally decided that we are Eclectic Homeschoolers. We have used Time4Learning.com for our core curriculum. It covers all the basic subjects. It's very easy to use. My son loves the fact that a lot of the lessons are like playing video games. Which, you know, every eight year old loves. But we also add other things as well. We spend a lot of time at historical sites like Historic Speedwell, Miller's Grist Mill, and Fosterfields Living History Farm. We also spend a lot of time at Beczak Environmental Education Center and the Tenefly Nature Center. Then we throw in a monthly play at the Mayo Center For the Performing Arts. So yes, I think Eclectic would be a good label for us. I like the way that sounds.

Whatever our style of homeschooling is, I know we could not do it without the support of our homeschool community. So many of the groups in this area seem to have a religious based. That makes it hard for those of us who do not want to include religion in our homeschooling life. We have been priviledged to find a few great support groups that are secular in nature. We are proud members of Butterflies In The Wind, NJ Homeschool Hangout, and Gecko. They are all very accepting of who we are. They are open to all religions, races, and sexual orientation. We have also been so fortunate to find homeschool support groups that include kids that are extremely gifted, kids who some would consider "normal", and kids with different learning abilities.

One of the support groups that we are members of, actually I am the founder of is Butterflies in the Wind. This group was started based on a poem I found which to me sums up what I'm trying to say here today.

A Child is like a butterfly in the wind.
Some can fly higher than others.
But each one flies the best it can.
Why compare one against the other.
Each one is different.
Each one is special.
Each one is beautiful.

As you start this new year of homeschooling, may you and your children fly the best you can.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reading, Writing, and Well You Know The Rest

It's time to be thinking about school again. We actually started back to the books today for the first time since the end of June. In preparation for school to start, I have been searching the web looking for cool things to add to our studies. The other day I found a really cool lego lapbook program. A few other moms and I are going to meet together to use this with our kids as a group. I'm really excited about. Today I came across a monthly Lego Challenge. Every month they offer a new challenge then they post pictures of the things the kids have made. Dakota is going to love this one. I found another site that has books about homeschooling families. It's great to be able to look at the site and read reviews about the book before you buy it. I hate when I spend money for a book and it isn't anything like I thought it would be. This site has great reviews.

Speaking of books about homeschoolers. How about a book by a homeschooler? Terror of Porridge was written by homeschooler Jack Wooldridge when he was only 8 years old. He is now 14 and has just had the book published. According to Jack, this book takes Goldilocks and brings her into the 21st century. I can't wait to read the book. He is currently working on a video game to go with the book. When I first met Jack he was about 10 years old. He was acting and directing plays through a local church group. He was a great kid then and he still is now. I'm sure you'll be hearing a lot more from Jack in the future.

One of the things we are adding to our curriculum this year is spelling. I found great spelling lists online that we will be using this year. The lists on these pages are based on literature. They even have books listed with matching vocabulary lists.

Books, reading, spelling lists, math, science, the next few months will be busy for us as I am sure they will be for you. But it's going to be a fun new challenge.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My New Quilt

So I decided to make a new quilt in the Spring. I went online and found some beautiful fabrics that I couldn't live without. I ordered them and waited anxiously for them to arrive. Finally the long awaited day came. (actually it was only about three days.) I opened the package and admired the fabrics. Even more beautiful in person I thought. Then I carefully wrapped the fabric back up and put it on a shelf. Very important to quilt making you know, the fabric has to age. Finally a month or so later, I took the fabrics out again. After admiring them I finally decided to get started on my new quilt. I carefully cut each of the fabrics in to piles of 8.5 inch squares. It took me two days of putting it off and doing everything but to cut all the squares of fabric. Then I cut each square in half diagonally to make triangles. What a good job I had done. The fabric was put back on the shelf to age some more in it's new triangle shape. One day a month or so later I took out the fabric and started sewing the triangles back into squares again. I actually completed two of the colors before the fabric went back on the shelf. This time the aging process took about three months or so.

So my husband and son went on vacation to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. This left me with lots of time and the house to myself. So I thought I would pull out the quilt again. But first I had to make a patchwork dress. You know I needed to practice making patchwork. So I made a lovely dress. Now what can I do next. That bag of quilt pieces kept falling on the floor everytime I tried to look for something to do. Hey, I know, why don't I finish that silly quilt. So I took the pieces out of the zip lock bag they were stored in. I separated the pieces into piles of each color. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon sewing the rest of the triangles back in to squares. The next day I sewed the little squares together into bigger squares. Tomorrow I plan to sew the 4-patch squares into 9-patch squares. But then I need more fabric to put between the 9-patches. I ordered the fabric last night. I am hoping it will be here by next weekend. My plan then is to sew the strips between the squares to attach the whole thing together. I have ordered the backing fabric and I'm waiting for it to arrive. The quilt batting has been sitting on a shelf since I bought the original fabric. I think it has to age as well.

So there is hope. Perhaps we will have a new quilt before winter gets here. After all it is August. Only 4 more months until winter. Yeah, I think I can get it done in that length of time. Of course it may have to age again. We'll have to see how long this process actually takes.

To Be Continued.......

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Back To School

Everywhere I look I'm seeing signs about Back To School, sales for school, buy your new curriculum, get ready for school. It's everywhere. Even the front page for Yahoo has a big Back To School logo on it. With all this advertising, it got me thinking about preparing for our next homeschool year. We have taken it easy for the summer, but we need to settle down and get to work soon. So I decided it was time to go check out what our third grade curriculum would look like. It was so easy to plan for the next year with the lesson plans all spelled out for us. I was quickly able to see what we were looking at for the year and figure out how much time we would have to devote to "school" each week. We have decided that we will do Time4Learning on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We will use All About Spelling on Tuesday and Thursday. We will also play online learning games on Tuesday and Thursday. We will spend ten minutes every day on Handwriting Without Tears. And we are going to start piano. I have been looking for a teacher for a long time. Since I can't find one who is reasonably priced, I have decided to teach him myself. I think I can handle at least the first year or so even though it's been a long time since my piano lesson days. That pretty much sums up our structured lessons. We will of course continue classes at Beczak Environmental Center, Teaneck Nature Center, Historic Speedwell, and various plays and musical performances throughout the year. Park days will still be on Thusdays for now and Chuck E Cheese or Funtime Junction when it get to cold for the park. I recently found a curriculum for Lego Lapbooks. We are going to organize a monthly lego club to work on the lapbooks and then just have fun with legos.

Wow, when I read over over this list it sounds like a lot. But I think it will be easy to do once we get going with it. I think we're going to start next week for a trial run. I'll let you know how it goes.