Archive for the ‘Fun Learning Stuff’ Category

Brave Writer Staff Retreat Selfie Album

June 24, 2019 @ 3:40 pm | Filed under: ,

A collection in progress. I intend to keep adding photos as others share them. What a deep joy to spend time in the company of these smart, creative, funny, wholehearted homeschool moms/Brave Writer coaches. Every conversation was full of new discoveries, meaningful connections, and belly laughs.

Julie Bogart and Melissa Wiley

Who could have imagined that the Yahoogroups we joined in the ’90s would bring us lifelong friends and nourishing work? So happy to get some IRL time with my brilliant, inspiring, visionary friend Julie Bogart. Not that you can tell from these pics because I always play it cool.

Jeanne Faulconer and Melissa Wiley

Jeanne Faulconer

Jeanne Faulconer is another fortuitous connection made on homeschooling lists in the mid-90s. I loved her voice in the Home Ed Magazine discussion groups and was thrilled when our paths crossed in person at Virginia Homeschoolers events in Charlottesville and Richmond. Here we are all these years later, still talking shop and bonding over writing & relaxed education.

Farzana Minty and Melissa Wiley

Farzana Minty

I met Farzana Minty at the 2016 Brave Writer conference, at which I was a guest speaker. She came up to me after one of my talks and spoke movingly of some of the parallels between our motherhood experiences. She radiates warmth and kindness in all she does. Getting to spend time in conversation and laughter with Farzana was one of the highlights of a truly magical weekend.

Rebecca Pickens and Melissa Wiley

Rebecca Pickens

We were supposed to sit with different people at every session during the retreat, to give us all a chance to get to know one another if we didn’t already. But somehow the lovely Rebecca Pickens and I kept ending at the same table, and I enjoyed her company immensely. What a gem my new friend is!

Jai Tracy, Jen Holman, Farzana Minty, and Melissa Wiley finding the silver lining in delayed flights

Jai Tracy, Jen Holman, Farzana Minty, and me

Many of us who were supposed to fly out of Cincinnati on Sunday evening encountered cancelled flights. I had just gotten through security and was retrieving my phone from the TSA bin when it pinged in my hand: my flight was delayed and I would miss my connection in Minneapolis. Delta put me up at the Marriott, where I found three more Brave Writer coaches in the same position. (A whole other crew wound up at different hotels.) Our dismay at not getting home on schedule was quickly overtaken by delight at getting to spend some extra time together. Somehow I hadn’t managed much conversation time with Jai Tracy and Jen Holman at any point during the retreat, so I was happy we got to linger over dinner in lively discussion. And I’ll take all the Farzana time I can get!

All my other retreat selfies were taken with other people’s cameras. I plan to scoop them all up to add to this album (starting with my beloved pal Karen Edmisten—a long overdue reunion for us! One worth every minute of lost sleep as we sat up late gabbing). Too delicious an event not to capture.

Travel day!

June 20, 2019 @ 8:41 am | Filed under: ,

Heading to Cincinnati this afternoon. Or rather, heading toward Cinci this afternoon—won’t arrive until fearfully early tomorrow morning.

I don’t sleep well on planes (which maybe makes the redeye a dubious plan) so I’ve loaded up on podcasts & Kindle books for the trip. And took screenshots of some Celtic knot tutorials to keep my hands busy while I listen.

I started with this tutorial at calligraphy-skills.com. It’s great! Clear and easy to follow.

I also came up with a hack for easy access of my travel itinerary. I made a phone wallpaper with my flight information on it so all I have to do is glance at my home screen to know where to go. Took me all of five minutes in Canva. I used their Instagram Stories blank canvas because that’s the size of my iPhone screen. Chose a solid blue background and pasted my flight info where it would show beneath my app icons.

I made two images, one for the outbound trip (above) and one for my return trip on Sunday. All I had to do was save both images to my phone photos and then choose the pertinent image as home-screen wallpaper. What you’re seeing in the image above is a screenshot of my home screen with the travel wallpaper in place. (The red and orange text chunks are captions from when I shared this on IG Stories.)

All righty, time to get moving! This bag ain’t gonna pack itself.

(I say “this bag” like I’ve decided which one I’m bringing. I haven’t. Cram everything into the red bag and thus avoid bringing a carry-on suitcase? But it’ll be heavy and a pain to dig through. Or bring the suitcase, which will be very light because I really don’t need much for a three-day trip, and use the smaller backpack for ready-to-hand stuff. Either way, I’m not checking a bag. Decisions!)

Have a great weekend, friends!

best homeschooling purchase #1: discount markerboards

February 19, 2019 @ 3:05 pm | Filed under: , , ,

A quickie today:

I’ve been getting lots of queries on Instagram about our puzzle boards as seen in the background of the pic, a few posts back, of Huck levitating off the sofa. Katharine asked about them, here, too, and I answered in the comments:

They’re whiteboards! I bought them a zillion years ago from a website called markerboardseconds.com or something like that. Discounted for scratch-and-dent, and man, what a great purchase that has turned out to be. What you’re seeing in the pic above is the backside, which we use constantly for puzzles–that little card table is right next to the big dinner table, so we need to be able to lay out our pieces and move them off the big table when it’s time to eat.

The other side is the whiteboard surface. We use some for homeschooly things, but mostly under watercolor paintings. Again, it’s nice to be able to move the wet paintings off the table to dry. They’re coated with years of spatter at this point. 🙂

That old markerboard seconds site seems to have disappeared, but you can find something similar (albeit considerably pricier) at Waldorf suppliers like Lyra, where they are sold as painting boards. And I’ve seen plain brown ones (no whiteboard side) at art supply shops. When I mentioned in yesterday’s post a topic idea about our best homeschooling purchases ever, these markerboards are what sparked the idea. We use them constantly, daily. The U.S. Presidents are listed on the back of one of them—probably permanent now since I think we wrote them out at least five years ago. And there’s a House of Stuart (or Tudor? both, probably) family tree stained into one of them. And then years and years of watercolor backsplash, as you can see in the top photo here. If you need to move a bunch of wet paintings off the dinner table, you can stack the boards up with Legos or blocks to create space between each tier.

february 4: a monday in high tide

February 4, 2019 @ 5:39 pm | Filed under:
Huck hijinks

This is what’s happening while I’m reading aloud, in case you were wondering

1.

I called for Huck and Rilla to join me for lesson time, and Huck yelled back that he was almost done reading Matilda, would it be all right if he finished? I said OF COURSE I’m not going to yank someone away from the last few pages of Matilda. Rilla laughed and asked her brother, “Who do you think you’re talking to? This is Mom, not Miss Trunchbull.”

2.

During lessons, we were revisiting last week’s history reading about the sack of Carthage. We’d read that when Rome and Carthage were eyeing each other leading into the first Punic War, the Romans—who had no fleet at that point—found a Carthaginian shipwreck and used it as the model to build their own boats. Rilla, pondering the second Punic War which resulted in Rome’s eventual victory over Carthage, despite Hannibal and his elephant strategy, wondered aloud what it would be like to be the captain of that wrecked ship that served as Rome’s model—to know (if you had survived the shipwreck) that your personal tragedy led to the destruction of your whole city. Huck’s eyes at this notion: big as Tiffany Aching’s soup plates.

3.

I can speculate with near certainty that my older children, reading this, will now have the Clouds song from Snoopy: The Musical stuck in their ears. Anyone else out there unable to hear “the sack of Carthage” without the immediate followup of “and the Army-Navy game”?

4.

That Snoopy link goes to a post I wrote in (gasp) March, 2005. And I’m laughing now because some things never change. My kids and I, we’ve had this moment before. Different batch of kids, different moment in Roman history, but:

For our family, this is a song of reciprocal delights. Some of these cloud-tableaux are historical events the girls already knew about, and the idea of Snoopy beholding an entire war sculpted in cumulus is irresistibly funny. Some events are things my kids first encountered in the song. When, years later, we read about the Rubicon in A Child’s History of the World, there were gasps of delighted recognition from everyone including the then-two-year-old. Click, another connection is made.

5.

Of course you know I’m now lost in my own archives. The post just before that Snoopy one:

At the girls’ gym class the other day, someone’s baby dropped a pacifier. Wonderboy picked it up and regarded it studiously. Then he tried to stick it in his ear. He must have thought it was a hearing aid.

Excuse me while I dissolve into a puddle now!

january 3: “I’m trying to see this place even as I’m walking through it”

January 3, 2019 @ 7:50 pm | Filed under: , ,

toy cars

1

Early-morning chat with our Jane before her flight back to California. But oh, we miss her.

2

Huck in my writing chair, reading me the day’s entry from what has become, these past three months, our favorite poetry anthology: Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year. “Mom, listen! This poem describes exactly how I feel about January.”

January is
a clean white sheet, newly ironed;
an empty page;
a field of freshly-fallen snow
waiting to be mapped
by our footsteps.

—John Foster

The moment this tome came to us last fall—a review copy from Nosy Crow edited by Fiona Waters and gorgeously illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon—Huck claimed it as his own. He has announced his plan to enter his name in the “This book belongs to ______” blank as soon as he can write it in cursive. (This melts me. The tattered copy of Alice in Wonderland I read to Huck and Rilla in December is inscribed, in the handwriting of a young Rose, with: “To Rose from Mommy, July 3rd, 2007, With Love.”)

3

Four frenzied squirrels scrambling across the pergola and flinging themselves into the overhanging magnolia tree. Clearly they don’t have a seasonal poetry anthology because their antics were straight out of spring.

4

Ron stopping by with a delivery of homemade chocolate chip cookies so delectable they would make a hobbit weep.

5

This fun art tutorial by Lisa Bardot: part of her Making Art Everyday series. Rilla perched beside me and taught me how to get around in Procreate. Boy am I glad I’m homeschooled.

(I had a little trouble with the blending. Rilla’s was one thousand times better. But hey, baby steps!)

6

While I worked on my orange (with much merriment and coaching from my daughter), Huck worked on the cursive letters he learned yesterday. How beautiful is that u, I ask you?

7

Appointment with my new primary care doctor today. She was awesome, and her office is all of six minutes from our house. For this I am profoundly grateful.

8

Overheard (Rose): “He’s the most boring serial killer, in my opinion.”

9

These lines from “Planet” by Catherine Pierce, from HERE: Poems for the Planet, a new anthology forthcoming in April from Copper Canyon Press, edited by Elizabeth Coleman:

This planet. All its grooved bark, all its sand of quartz and bones and volcanic glass, all its creeping thistle lacing the yards with spiny purple. I’m trying to come down soft today. I’m trying to see this place even as I’m walking through it.

december 2: feederwatching

December 2, 2018 @ 2:48 pm | Filed under: ,

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago; most of those glorious leaves have fallen now and the sky is hung upon the bare arms of the trees. Light glows from behind the clouds. I hadn’t realized how much I missed clouds, all those years under the clear blue Southern California sky. Here in the Pacific Northwest, the sky is painted by Maxfield Parrish, shot through with light. Even when it’s overcast and gray, there’s a glow behind the veil.

I made a list yesterday of things to write about. I’ve tucked so many stories in drafts this past year! But everything on my list feels like work. And I’m trying really hard not to work today.

So I’ll talk about Project Feederwatch instead. 🙂 Are any of you participating this year? We missed it last year. And our San Diego feeder attracted rats, so we abandoned it. But here, the birds are putting on quite a show. Our count days are Monday and Tuesday. Last week we counted 25 goldfinches, a flock of bush tits (we lost count at 25 but I think there were more), a handful of house finches and juncos, a female Northern Flicker who visits the suet feeder every morning, a downy woodpecker, two chickadees, two scrub jays, and some starlings. A highly satisfying count. The best view of the feeders is from my studio window, and it amuses me no end to come in here and find the chairs pulled out for better viewing. Huck and Rilla spend a lot of time in here, watching the show.

If you’re interested in taking part in the project, it’s not to late to join for this season. It takes a few weeks for the packet to arrive, but you can download a data sheet to tide you over. Once you get your registration packet in the mail, you begin entering your bird counts online. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology uses this data to “track long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.” I think it’s open to U.S. residents only (and costs $18 to participate), but there’s a Canadian version linked on the site.

I fill our two tube feeders with sunflower seeds. One suet feeder holds a peanutty cake, and the other is a suet-and-insect cake that the woodpeckers seem crazy about. We scatter a bit of millet on the ground for the juncos, and they clean up any sunflower seeds spilled by the squabbling goldfinches. We also have a mesh sock full of nyjer thistle for the finches. But my favorite is when they descend upon the big pot of cosmos and pick out the seeds from the flower centers.

I keep watching for the varied thrushes who began visiting our yard last winter. No luck yet but I’m hopeful!

I would love to hear about the birds that visit your yard, feeders or no!

Stuff we’re enjoying

August 30, 2018 @ 3:19 pm | Filed under: ,

Toothpick puzzles

Acrylic paints — today we made abstract paintings in bright colors to go on the living-room wall (pics later)

This crochet pattern — I’m using up a bunch of leftover yarn I found when I cleaned out the garage

The Rattlin’ Bog — a longtime favorite, recently dusted off for my younger set (this rendition at an Irish wedding reception is A+++)

Muse magazine — Huck and Rilla are enjoying our stash of back issues so much! Makes me glad I kept them in the great pre-move purge last summer.

 

Wednesday, late August

August 29, 2018 @ 3:54 pm | Filed under: ,

Ahhh. We got a good rain and the air has cleared up. Have been able to resume my long walks with no burning throat and streaming eyes. Felt like years since I’d made my favorite trek to the dog park and back, a meandering route that takes me past my favorite gardens in the neighborhood. (Note to self: plant zinnias next year. This cutting garden, about a mile from my house, took my breath away.)

Here at home: the tide came rushing in and carried my high-school freshman (!!) off to his new school this week. I dove straight into high-tide lessons with Huck and Rilla (Beanie gets another week). This is one of the ways I cope with long hours closeted away, writing furiously (or more likely, gnashing my teeth at the screen and clutching fistfuls of hair): filling our mornings with good, rich homeschooling adventures before I slink away behind the closed door.

(When I finish: autumn. It’s already ablaze in my head; it will be glorious. This time last year, I was in radiation treatment.)

A glimpse of our high-tide mornings (sans photos because I haven’t remembered to snap any pics):

—stretches & math facts (we recite times tables while doing planks: not easy for this spaghetti-armed mama)

—German (continuing with Felix & Franzi; this year we’re doubling with ASL, learning signs as we add new German vocab. Each one reinforces the other.)

—Shakespeare memorization (continuing with Twelfth Night)

—singing (currently Irish & Scottish folk songs and some German songs)

—nature walk

—readalouds: Farmer Boy; The Penderwicks on Gardam Street; The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs; tales of Ancient Greece (various)

—study of ancient counting systems (an Earthschooling lesson block—we started this a while back and picked it back up this week. It’s Rilla’s favorite thing. She’s fascinated.)

—breadbaking and sourdough starter

—sewing beanbags (I found the sewing machine power cord!!!! after a year!!!)

—embroidery and cross-stitch projects

—composer study: this week Scott picked Debussy

—watercolor painting

Not all of that every day, of course!

Time keeps on slipping, slipping

July 30, 2018 @ 1:46 pm | Filed under: , ,

If anybody says the word “August” to me I shall scream, ’Enry ’Iggins, I shall scream. It’s simply Not Possible we are almost there.

School doesn’t start for my rising 9th grader (!!! — now it’s your turn to shriek at the passage of time) for another month, but the rise of restlessness and quarreling among my smallest fry signaled to me that it was time for the tide to come back in. We picked up some dropped threads this morning—the Shakespeare speech they were learning in June (which I was pleased to see they remembered in full, so now I get to choose the next one); our German lessons; the study of ancient counting systems that Rilla is so enjoying. “Who knew I would be SO INTO numbers?”—/endquote.

And we began the second Penderwicks book. I had a different readaloud in mind but I was shouted down. “No offense to your choice, Mom,” I was assured. “It’s just…I mean, the Penderwicks.”

Indisputable logic. We’re on Chapter 3 of Gardam Street now.

Huck is clamoring for a return to Poetry Teatime (our July Tuesdays were full of misadventure), so that’s tomorrow. And if the heat breaks, I’d like to get them doing some baking once a week. I miss baking bread. Ooh but also! A German bakery is opening in our neighborhood! I may be a wee bit excited.

I read approximately one zillion Mary Stewart novels in June and early July, and then I completely forgot how to read. No wait, that’s not accurate—I read two entire Jean Webster novels on the plane to and from San Diego. But I got home a week ago and I’ve been floating from first page to first page ever since, like a butterfly sampling nectar and not finding anything quite satisfactory. Which is ridiculous, given the size of my TBR pile, not to mention the queue on my Kindle. Hundreds of options. I keep pulling out stacks and then…not committing to anything.

I’ve been steady at art, though, and that’s not nothing. Drawing or painting almost every day, and quite a bit of embroidery. This topic requires pictures but I can’t be bothered just now, please understand. I’m trying my long ago (so very long ago!) trick of using a quick blog post (timer set for twenty minutes) as a transition between the homeschooling mom and writer-with-a-deadline parts of my day. I daren’t go a minute over.

But here—three people to visit for gorgeous needlework pictures and patterns:

Liz at Cozyblue Handmade
Wendi at Shiny Happy World
Rebecca at Dropcloth Samplers

There you go.