Monday, January 31, 2011

More Imbolc Crafts

Today we did the last of our crafts getting ready for Imbolc. We decided to do the candle project featured on the Pooka Pages. We purchased some small pillar candles and the kids and I used stickers, glue, and dried calendula petals from our garden from last year, to decorate them with. We then painted over what we stuck to the candles with warm wax from another burning candle to seal all of the items to the candle. We will burn them on Imbolc to welcome the light of the sun back. Of course, today it is snowing and sleeting, so it doesn't much feel like the warmth is returning to the Earth, but we'll do what we can.

Honestly, we feed our children, Wednesday is just generally too busy to sit and eat much,
but I am aware that she's a skinny kiddo.

Our finished candles.

Then we got out some wheat, corn husks, and raffia to make the corn dolly that we will carry into the house and leave by the fire to symbolize Goddess Brighid. Also I made a Brighid's cross or sun star. It will be blessed the night of Imbolc Eve and hung in the house to protect it throughout the year.

The kids had more fun making their own crafts with the items. The most popular was corn husk fans.

Angus's corn husk fan is apparently a Power Rangers Fan that works as a weapon.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Seasons Change and So Do I

GeoTagged, [N40.57922, E111.89329]

As most if you know we have been preparing for Imbolc. It is a time when we start the preparations for Spring, and welcoming back warmer weather and longer days.

In keeping with that theme we were more than happy to get to attend the Salt Lake City Seed Swap yesterday. The whole family went, as did some of our friends and their families. We took some of our extra left over seeds and seed potatoes and traded them for loads of new ones.

Zhara and her friend Olivia took our giant leftover bag of sunflower seeds around and came back with a huge handful of seed packets to try in their own little plot.

In a few weeks we will begin to start our seedlings and see what new things we can grow this year from the swap.

All the kids had a blast running around, snacking on the free food, and then square dancing to the band that was playing. It was an absolutely wonderful time.

I personally believe it is crucial to our survival as a species to teach our children where their food comes from, and involve them in growing it. It was wonderful last night to see all the families there doing the same thing with their children. It was definitely a beautiful community experience.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Of Blankets, Stars, and Brighid

Imbolc is also traditionally a time in pagan culture when the Goddess Brighid travels from house to house to visit. We will craft a little dolly to lay out to welcome her by the fireplace, as she is the Goddesss of Fire and the Hearth. She also has the power to heal, and so today we read a wonderful story from the Pooka Pages (an awesome kids site). The story talked about traditions, sickness, and healing. It is tradition to place a blanket out in front of your home the night of Imbolc, and as Brighid passes by, she blesses the blanket. The blanket is then used all year long when someone is sick or sad to cheer them up and help them feel better. The kids discussed it, and decided that they each wanted to lay out their own blanket, so they wouldn't have to share if they all felt bad at once. So we walked through the house and identified which blanket each one wanted to lay out for their special blanket for the year.

We also talket about the need to thank the Goddess for visiting us, and bestowing good wishes on our house. So, since Brighid is also a Goddess of Poetry, we decided that over the next few days prior to Imbolc, we would write a poem of thanks to leave for her. We will also leave a snack for her, and her cow that travels with her, to nibble on as they pass by.

Also before Imbolc, we plan on making St. Brighid's Crosses or Sun Stars. Traditionally, these are made each year from reeds and then on Imbolc they are placed in the house for good luck and protection throughout the year. Next year, the sun stars will be put in the fire and new stars will take their place. Helping to remind us all of the circle of life that each year represents.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Making Wands

The kids and I have been getting ready to celebrate Imbolc. Imbolc is a pagan celebration to commemorate the beginning of the return of the sun. It's starting to say goodbye to winter, and to welcome spring to come back and revive the plants. The actual holiday takes place on February 2nd (just like Groundhog's Day), and we will have a big, fun meal, and play some games and activities. Today in preparation, we made magic wands. On Imbolc we will walk around the garden with our wands, and encourage the plants to wake up, so our garden can begin again.

I went out this morning, and cut branches off of a large limb that fell in our yard before we moved in. Dad had drug the limb to the side of the yard until it's warm enough to chop it up, and I took the loppers and gathered several "wands" for us to decorate. We used a lot of paint -- always popular around here.

We also had a lot of fun with beads, ribbon, stones, and bits of leather. I think the wands ended up being very beautiful, and each different and unique in their own way. They will play a lovely role in our celebration of Imbolc.

(left to right) Mom's, Angus's, Wednesday's, and Zhara's

Monday, January 17, 2011

Playing PVC Telephone

Remember when you used to play telephone as a kid. Maybe with a tin can and a string. Well, over the past day, my kids decided to take it to a new level. Last year we bought a bunch of PVC tubing and connectors at the hardware store one day and the kids have spent months playing it with in every possible capacity. Last night, Zhara started making a telephone out of it in the living room.

It was originally designed as a wake up alarm, apparently, for people who fell asleep on the couch. There was a lot of testing, including some involving animals, I'm sorry to say.

Thankfully, the testing was completely humane, and the animal appeared to actually enjoy being included in the activity.

Then there was a discussion of a need for more PVC building materials and connectors, as well as some stabilizers, so we headed to Home Depot after lunch. We obtained about another $20 worth of materials, came home, and I cut PVC tubing to the required lengths specified by Zhara, using the chop saw. Then they decided that they had so many more awesome pieces, that it should actually be a permanent telephone system between their rooms. So they (and when I say they, I really mean Zhara, with a little help from me) set about building an elaborate PVC telephone system.

Thankfully, the rooms at the new house are very close together.

There is a bit of a step over to get into the bathroom now, but no one seems to mind.

Please avoid noticing the nastiness of Zhara's room. She doesn't mind, and we close the door when others come to visit. :)

Zhara is pointing out that her telephone end is fitted with a valve, so she can turn her brother and sister off, if they won't stop talking.

Angus's goes up to his top bunk.

It goes around the corner, into and through our room, and into Winnie's room, which, yes, is actually a large closet, but she doesn't mind, and we ran out of extra rooms.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Everyday Math Success

I think one of the biggest worries for many unschool parents is whether their kids will learn math without text books, worksheets, and drills. I have the same worry sometimes. Occasionally I will buy a book of math work or flash cards figuring maybe if I strew them about, my kids will pick them up and roll with it. My kids aren't those kind of kids, though. There are some out there, I'm sure, but not mine. Instead, my kids are hands on, everyday math kind of kids. And they are getting it. It may be at a slower pace than their schooled peers, but I can see it coming, and I know that they are going to get it, and in fact, that they will have a better understanding of math than I do who simply had it drilled into my brain in school, with no real concept of how those math concepts applied to the real world, because of how they are learning it.

One of the areas that has really helped the kids learn math is playing online games like Stardoll and Club Penguin. They are given amounts of money, and then have to budget it over a month. They have to add and subtract amounts to determine if they'll have enough to buy what they want, and to hold them over until they get "paid" the following month.

I've also tried to keep on hand several sets of math manipulatives -- we have colored bears with sorting cups, colored foam blocks, dominoes... really any group of things can be a math manipulative. The kids add, subtract, sort, multiply, make patterns, etc. with them. Zhara loves to make up games for the littler kids with them, and she and I have started playing a game with the dominoes. The domino set we got for $2 at the thrift store has high amounts of dots on many of the dominoes. She is learning to figure out the amount of dots by multiplying the width and length numbers. Then she goes to the multiplication table we have on the wall of the Learning Room to figure out the amount, and she is starting to remember many of the multiplication amounts without looking.

Here Winnie is working on making a pattern with the foam blocks.

We also, as a family, really like to play board games and puzzles. Puzzles are awesome for spatial relationships. Board games often involve adding, subtracting, multiplying, keeping track of scores, and even reading charts. Yesterday the kids and I played Yahtzee Jr. When it came time to figure out the scores, Angus read the chart that the Yahtzee Jr. board forms, and Zhara recorded them, added them up, and decided who was the winner.

So when you're kids are playing video games or online games or anything with numbers or amounts involved, pay attention, they very well may be picking up WAY more math than you expect.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Flat Lady Chronicles -- Stop One

The Flat Lady has arrived in Kuopio, Finland. Yay! We're so glad you're hosting her, Sabrina.

Here she is at Sabrina's house.

Friend our facebook page, The Flat Lady Experiment, for more information, and the most up-to-date Flat Lady information.

Her course thus far, plotted on the world map in our Learning Room.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Of Pianos and Publishing

We got one. Yippie. The piano fund worked. Go figure. We had it tuned today and it's beautiful. Zhara and I have both been playing it. All the kids love it, in fact. It's 110 years old, and just beautiful.

In other awesome possum news. I am a published unschooling author! My piece on Nature and Life Learning Children has been published in the January/February issue of Life Learning Magazine. I am so excited. They even used a lot of the pictures I submitted with it of the kids in nature. I feel pretty cool frankly.

Cookie Making Extravaganza

We had the Pashleys over yesterday. We have the Pashleys over a lot. They are some pretty awesome people. Anyway, we ended up making sugar cookies and then eating those and chicken pot pie for dinner. After dinner we amused ourselves by dancing to the Wii game we got for Christmas Just Dance. It was rather humerous.

Olivia and Zhara were very meticulous decorators. Perhaps pastry chef is in their future.

Winnie and Mary had a wonderful time with "dough!" At least, that's what we heard shouted a lot. While Owen, REALLY likes frosting.

A Day of Sledding

We've had lots of snow lately. I mean, really, we live in Utah, of course we have. So, last weekend we took the kids sledding at Sugar House Park which has some of the best sledding hills ever. We all had a blast.

Winnie, not shockingly, was a fearless wonder when it came to the sled. She only got mad if she allowed you to ride with her, and then you dared to try and slow down slightly as you came to the bump at the bottom. She wanted to go full out, the whole time.

Zhara must have gone down this hill 100 times. She was quick as lightening getting back up. She wasn't ready to quit until her fingers literally froze and it started snowing again really hard.

One of the times Winnie actually allowed Adam to ride with her. You go REALLY fast on a saucer sled when you add a 250 pound dad to it.

Zhara trying out some trick moves.

Angus started out only wanting to sled about 1/2 down the hill, but he worked his way up to being brave enough to do the whole thing. He looks like a total ski dude here, doesn't he?