Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Entryway

Before

Before

After

After


I'm trying to decorate our house after living here for 5 years. I guess we're staying for a while. I'm also trying to use things we already have as a way to decorate without spending a lot of money. I pulled everything for this small corner from other parts of the house. The Liberty and Freedom pictures were a gift from my sister. The watercolor paintings were a family art project. That sweet little doggie is cast iron, and was my Nonnie's (my maternal grandmother). I carried him home in my suitcase after her funeral. He's quite heavy!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Socks for Dominic and More

Dominic's requested birthday gift- Hogwart's socks.

A sweater for Cadence
I've been a little knitting depressed lately. Dominic asked that I make him a pair of Harry Potter socks for his birthday. Stepping into the yarn store was quite inspiring, all that lovely yarn. Then, Alana published her "Little Oaks" pattern. I looked over at my yarn basket, and realized I had the perfect yarn to make it for my niece. Several months ago, I won some Brambleberry Yarns from Ginny at Small Things. I've been trying to figure out what to do with it, since yellow is not really my color, as beautiful as it is. It's perfect for this project.



I've been working my way through Todd McCaffrey's books. Anne McCaffrey was one of my favorite writers. Todd McCaffrey is doing his best to carry on her work. The last book I read was Dragonsblood. I'm actually working my way through these via audio. Audio books help satisfy my need for books while keeping me off the couch. My house is much cleaner, my family better fed, and my body healthier when I'm listening to audio books. 

So, what do I think of Todd McCaffrey as an author? I think he has a lot of potential. Anne was a much better writer. I think Todd is getting there. He's still young in his writing career. Dragonsblood was a bit confusing. It jumps back and forth in time every chapter. I love the way the story weaves together, but I rarely knew what was happening. I knew that I didn't know because Dominic kept asking me questions about the book, and I had to answer, "I don't know." It was intriguing and frustrating. It didn't follow the prescribed book plots, which made it more intriguing. It didn't follow the prescribed book plots, which was frustrating for my brain, which has been trained to follow a distinct pattern. I do recommend it.

Joining along with Ginny for Yarn Along and Tami for Work in Progress Wednesday.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Birthday Present- Mixed Media

While my mom and brother were here, I had the boys make my mother a birthday present. I was quite pleased with the result, the result being that my mom was thrilled. She had apparently been considering asking me if she could have them when they were complete. We made them right in front of her. In fact, she took the pictures of us working on the project. So, when she opened the package and found out they had been made for her, she was very happy.

First, we stamped images onto burlap. It's better to paint the stamp than to dip it in paint. You're less likely to get paint around the edges of the stamp.



We added detail with markers, if we wanted to. Dominic added shadow to his lizard.



We then did stitching to add texture to the pieces.



I taught them how to do a straight stitch and a backstitch. They chose what would work best with their design ideas.


 Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of this one. It was really cute. He formed quite the attachment to it, and wanted to keep it. My mom didn't get this one. J packed it in his suitcase as soon as he was done with it. I consider that a success, too.

What you'll need for this project:
Burlap
Stamps
Acrylic paint
Yarn
Blunt needles
Markers

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gluten-Free Biscuits

When I found out that I was going to have to be gluten free, I sort of went on a baking strike. Then, I tried baking with gluten and had some miserable failures. It was so incredibly frustrating. I have spent the last 15 years developing baking recipes. I went on strike again. I read magazines about baking gluten free products and tried again. I went on strike again.

Then, I put on my big girl panties. It probably helped that I was craving biscuits really hard. It's all Xavier's fault. He asked for them for breakfast.

I made some biscuits and wrote down the notes on my recipe. They were perfect. The next week, I was sick and Gabriel tested the recipe. They were perfect. I've made them again, and they were perfect again. I figured it was time to type up the recipe so that I didn't have to keep making the adjustments in my cookbook each time I made the recipe. Plus, I wanted to be able to share it with you.

*Please note, gluten free recipes need more moisture. This recipe adds milk. Be sure you add to your moisture any time you are modifying a gluten recipe to be gluten free.
Gluten Free Biscuits

Friday, May 18, 2012

Homeschool Plans 2012-13

I cannot believe that we are finishing up our 5th year of homeschooling. The look of our school has fluctuated over the past 5 years. But, the more things change, the more they stay the same, right?

As a result of realizing that our academics were more than enough for them to get by in the public school system (Xavier was skipped a grade when he went back to school, and the academics were still way too easy for him, so when I withdrew him, I dropped him back down to his age grade, and continued teaching him at his level), I have decided to continue with the easy flow of a mix of mama led and child led homeschooling. So, our plans for the coming year are fluid. We will be following a basic plan, with room for rabbit trails, especially for the younger two. And, with the idea in mind that when you're interested in something, you learn it better, when my younger two expressed an interest in spending a year learning about American government, I scrapped all plans to study ancient history next year.

Dominic will be in 4th grade. Xavier will be in 6th grade. Gabriel will be a Sophomore in high school!!!!!

History- Usually the basis for almost everything else we do in this homeschooling venture, but not this year:
American Government- since this is a recent change, I'm not sure yet what materials we'll be using, but I know what the basic plan is.

Everyone:
  • read through some of the founding documents
  • follow the source of those documents and ideas- learn about the governments those documents are based on
  • research elections
  • compare governments from around the world
  • read 2 biographies 
  • write about what he's learning
  • do 1 research project
  • read at least 4 historical fiction books concerning this subject
Xavier:
  • 1 essay
  • 1 report
Gabriel:- at least one of the following Teaching Company courses- we have been extremely pleased with all the Teaching Company courses we've used
  • Great Debate: Advocates and Opponents of the American Constitution
  • Civil Liberties and the Bill of Rights
  • Tocqueville and the American Experiment
Also, the following will be added to Gabriel's coursework:
  • 2 essays
  • 6 reports on topic/person of his choice
Language Arts:
I just in this moment changed my mind about what I am going to do for literature. I had planned something special, based on the fact that we were going to be studying Ancient history, and changed the literature plan to coincide with our history plan of American Government, but I've decided to change it back. 

Literature

Yes, I know this is probably a bit much for a 4th grader. He loves Lord of the Rings, though. Obviously, we'll make accommodations for him. Most of what he'll be involved in is re-reading Lord of the Rings.

Xavier and Gabriel will be taking this as part of a co-op class I will be teaching.

Grammar and Spelling


Dominic:
Xavier:


  • Michael Clay Thompson finishing level 2, moving into level 3
  • Spelling Power- this will be his second year using Spelling Power, and it is a good fit for him
Gabriel: At this point, the main thing Gabriel needs to focus on where grammar and spelling is concerned is vocabulary. He's currently working his way through Caesar's English by Michael Clay Thompson, and working through all the Wordly Wise books. We'll continue on this progression.


Science:

Engineering- I haven't really decided what I'm going to do for this. Engineering was Gabriel's request, and I think the younger boys would enjoy it, too, so we're going to be exploring it in some way. 

One option I'm exploring is Try Engineering. If you have any ideas regarding Engineering for little people, please let me know.

Gabriel specifically wants to study architectural engineering. We'll probably use the Teaching Company's Understanding the World's Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity.

I think some hands on bridge building is in order, too, so we'll probably study bridge design and enter the University of Louisville's bridge building contest in the spring. They have one every year at the Speed School.

Gabriel will also be required to submit the following things:

  • 2 essays
  • 2 reports
  • Read 2 biographies and write reports for both

Math:
Dominic will be continuing with Singapore Math, while simultaneously continuing with Art of Problem Solving's new Beast Academy. 

It is for 3rd graders, but I'm not concerned. It's mostly stuff he has learned before presented in a different way, and he absolutely loves it. I'm just hoping their publishing rate keeps up with his consumption rate. I doubt it, though.

Xavier will be continuing his trek through the Art of Problem Solving curriculum. We have been beyond pleased with this curriculum. We're so happy with it, in fact, that we're switching Gabriel to it. It means some repetition of Algebra for him, but we'll just skim the parts he already knows. Their Algebra is very advanced, so I don't have a problem with him working through their Introduction to Algebra, and continuing on with Counting and Probability, and Number Theory.

One of the things Gabriel has commented on as he has started working through their Pre-Algebra book is that he has never found so many explanations in a book. This works very well for a verbal kid.

Music:
Dominic:
We're looking for a voice teacher, and we want him to be in a choir this year. There's a local school that has a homeschool choir, but the class is at the same time as one of his tae kwon do classes. I think we may have to drop the tkd class to accommodate choir.

Xavier will continue studying percussion.
Gabriel will take up guitar.

Art:
The arts will be Dominic's main focus this year. Sure, he'll learn everything else, but Dominic's one true love is all things related to the arts. He loves drama, music, painting, crafting, and everything else involved in the arts. I want him to be able to follow that love. After all, we do best at what we love. 

Throughout the year, we'll study American History through art. We'll study various artists. We'll go to plays, ballets, and concerts. We'll go to museums and art galleries. We'll listen to music and make music. I'll let him totally immerse himself in the arts whenever possible.

Xavier and Gabriel will join us on some of our projects, but the arts are not their main focus. They much prefer other subjects, so we'll allow that preference to hold sway.



We're not necessarily your school-at-home type. We're also not really unschoolers. We change and flow as needed. For the most part, that works for us. When I enrolled the two younger children in school last fall, I was a little concerned that their academics would be lagging. After all, there are a lot of things we just haven't covered. The main area of concern that I have for my children as far as academics is concerned is writing. I don't require a lot of writing from my children when they are young. When Xavier and Dominic started school, I was concerned that they would fail miserably at writing. They did not. When we withdrew Xavier from school, he had an 86% in Language Arts. That was without any accommodations for his learning disabilities. Dominic had some struggles with the sort of writing they were asking him to do. I firmly believe that was because he had three teachers within the first month of school. They all wanted different things from him. The first teacher was a veteran teacher who was getting ready to retire, and was subbing until a teacher could be hired. She was enthusiastic and encouraging about his writing. The third teacher, who was to become his permanent teacher, was a brand new teacher, and did not explain well what she wanted him to do. After much communication between myself and Dominic's teacher, I finally figured out what she wanted. Of course, by that time, Dominic had so much anxiety tied up in the writing process that writing was a chore that he hated and sometimes has panic attacks over. I'm hoping that will change with time.

Since I'm reassured by their abilities in a school setting, we'll continue on the path we've chosen. Gabriel has proven to me that writing skills can improve exponentially with little instruction over a short period of time, just by virtue of writing a lot. Just this week, he's written 4 reports. They've gone from decent to excellent in that short time. I'm very excited about next year. I do enjoy teaching these munchkins.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tattoo Me Up!

 Today, Dominic came to me and asked if I could draw the Dark Mark on his arm. I said, "Of course," despite the fact that I am not great at drawing. It turned out pretty decent, especially considering the fact that I drew it without practicing first. I guess I'm saying I'm happy with it, which is good, since I drew it with permanent marker. We don't believe in that washable stuff at our house.
This is Dominic's "I'm a mean Death Eater" look. It's intimidating, isn't it?

The problem with tattoos is that they're addicting. You can never have just one. We bought our first house when Gabriel was not quite two. All that time spent in the mortgage office was taken up teaching him how to read his name, his letters, his numbers, and his shapes. I had a Sharpie with me wherever we went, and I drew whatever I was teaching him on his arm. This was a great way to make sure he would always have it with him. It started out as a way to keep him busy, and ended up being a great learning tool, so don't judge me. 

Anyway, when Dominic came to me and told me he was bored, I asked him if he wanted another tattoo. His immediate answer was an unequivocal yes. He just had to figure out what he wanted. That kept him busy for a while, 30 minutes to be exact. Back he came with a request for a Hungarian Horntail. Now, if you're a Harry Potter fan, you know that the Hungarian Horntails are the meanest dragons out there. Dominic's a bit of a Harry Potter fanatic.

The rough outline

Colored in

Summoning the Dark Lord

Now, if only we can figure out a way to keep that dragon on there a while.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Bulk Foods

We have a problem at our house. We really like bulk foods. And, we really like storing them in canning jars. The problem is transferring them from the bags we buy them in (which I need to replace with cloth bags- just as soon as I can make some!) to the jars. We always make a huge mess. Today, I had an epiphany.






No more mess!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What if He Was Your Child?

A long time ago, I abandoned the religious beliefs of my parents. This freed my mind to consider things from directions I had never been able to before. For the most part, this didn't change things. Quite frankly, I've always been split in my views. I've always believed, for instance, that children need a stay-at-home-parent if at all possible. I've always believed that women could accomplish anything they wanted, and should pursue whatever life they wanted. And, I've always believed that being gay is not something of which to be ashamed. The only thing that shifted was my belief, firmly held because of religious beliefs, that homosexuality was a choice. When I abandoned my religious beliefs, that changed.

This first altered in my mind when Gabriel was a baby. I sat there looking at my child and thought, "Why would anyone choose to be gay? It's such a hard life. There is so much discrimination. I can't imagine anyone choosing it." That was when the change started. I can't tell you a specific moment when that changed. I just know it did. And during that process, a completely new way of thinking about homosexuality took place.

I now approach everything in terms of my own children. Would I want my child shunned for having autism? No, so I do not shun other people's children for having autism. Would I want my child treated with disfavor because he was wearing old, dirty clothes? No, so I don't treat other people's children, even the ones who are adults, with disfavor for wearing old, dirty clothes. Would I want my child to live a life of shame because of his sexual orientation? No, so I do not treat other people's children to a life of shame because of their sexual orientation.

Once upon a time, I looked out over the world and asked myself, "Truly, how is this person hurting me or my children?" The answer was, "They're not." That has shaped my actions ever since. I think it is time for us to truly think about homosexuality in terms of our own children. Would you shun your child because of homosexuality? Would you prevent him from marrying because it somehow will reduce the sanctity of your marriage, when only you are in control of the sanctity of your marriage? Would you have your child commit suicide because society has left him to believe that his life is hopeless? Would you have your child beaten up because he is attracted to someone of the same gender?



Stop deluding yourself. You don't "hate the sin, love the sinner." They are not feeling love from you. The only thing they are feeling from you is hatred. And since when is Jesus' message about hatred? If my memory serves me correctly, His message was about compassion, forgiveness, and love. Maybe, we all need to take a step back and ask whether or not God would have loved his child had he been gay. And, then, remember that we are all children of God. I think He would want us to treat all people as though they were our children. It's time to ask yourself, "What if he were my child?"

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