Monday, February 28, 2011

what's cookin'?

This is the bean jar.

These are the beans that live in the bean jar.

This is Finn sorting the beans from the bean jar.

But what fun is sorting when you have dishes and beans? Much more fun to stir, cook and serve beans for every meal!

Unfortunately, we don't have one of those fancy wooden kitchens that I often ogle as I'm reading other blogs. Nor am I handy enough to put together a beautiful one like my friend, Jenni, out of thrifted kitchen pieces. But, I have enough remedial sewing skills to sew together a few pieces of felt and make a roll-up kitchen for a few minutes of bean play. Enter this tutorial from Balancing Everything, which I took a few creative liberties with and used the wool felt I had on hand to make an, ahem, colorful kitchen.

I love that it rolls up and stores right beside the bean jar, out of the way.

I found a just-big-enough scrap of this adorable hedgehog fabric, which doesn't exact match the black background on the other side, but since hedgehogs are so popular around here, I decided to use it anyway. The cream grosgrain ribbon sewed into the seam holds the rolled mat together.

Finn, of course, just loves that he now has a little stove to cook his beans and a sink to wash his bowls when we're done eating his beany creations.

Of all the imagination required to use a 2D kitchen to cook and clean dishes, Finn was least impressed with the fact that the sink knobs won't turn. He frustratedly checked the knobs from every direction and looked under the fabric. Once I explained that he just needed to pretend to turn the knobs, he happily went back to washing dishes in his sink.

Look at those sparkly clean dishes! Clearly he's very hard at work in his new kitchen.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

the weekend

::a Kapla crab::

::last bite of cookie::

::giant rainbows courtesy of the late winter sun::

::peeking through the windows to see sibling fun::

::leisurely reading in the afternoon sun::

::dangerous wheels on a warm winter day::

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

{this moment} - standoff with a snake!

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. See Soulemama to play along.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

more seed learning

The rest of our seed week has been going swimmingly and I'm very impressed with how enthusiastic Finn is to begin in the mornings. After we take Elizabeth to school, we come home and straighten up the kitchen and living area so we'll have a tidy workspace. He's very helpful with the tidying, but he asks about 5 times when we can start our seed work!

Yesterday we decided to make a painting of 2 seeds buried in the earth. I drew and Finn colored the seeds with beeswax crayons. (He was a little timid to do the drawing himself.) Then we set up our wet-on-wet watercolor station and he watercolored the earth around the seeds.

He was skeptical at how he could make brown earth with only red, blue and yellow paint. He's talked about primary colors at school and the secondary color that each 2 primary colors makes. Now he knows how to make brown!

Today, Paulie and Philip stayed home with a cold/cough so we included them in our seed learning. We planted some seeds in a bag of earth.

Popcorn is a very easily sprouting seed so we each put a few seeds of popcorn in our bag.

Finn held the bag under the faucet to moisten the dirt. Now the boys are convinced we're going to have our own popcorn harvest this fall. I'm trying to convince them it's more about the process of watching the seeds turn into small plants!

The bag of dirt and popcorn seeds is now sitting in a place of honor on the window ledge over our nature table. We'll keep you posted on how it goes! (grows?)

After planting our popcorn seeds, each of the boys made a mosaic with about 10 kinds of beans and seeds.

Finn was so careful and particular about where he placed each bean. Paulie was the opposite and just dropped beans from above to see what kind of design they'd make.

Finn was so pleased with his finished mosaic. He asked if we could hang it on the "everything wall". :)

Finn decided the pumpkin seeds were more tasty to eat than use for artwork, so he ate the entire bowlful and asked for seconds. Silly boy!

Out of the entire seed/bean mosaic experience, I thought Philip captured the moment most wonderfully. He decided to make a wand with the word Lumos on top. He spelled it Lumus, which didn't diminish the sweet nature of the artwork, and I was so proud of how much time and energy he put into his work!

In all we've had a wonderful week experimenting with, playing with, reading about, planting and examining SEEDS!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

to homeschool...or not to homeschool

One of the most common questions I fielded upon announcing my intention to quit my fulltime job was "so, are you going to homeschool now?" Initially I stuttered my way through a half answer and changed the subject as quickly as possible. (The other response I frequently received was "wow, I can't wait to see what you can accomplish now that you aren't working!" pressure there. ;) But that's a topic for another post.)

The truth is that I'm largely happy with the education that my children have received thus far. Elizabeth goes to an amazing arts-based charter that is tailored for her personality like nothing I could probably give her and Finn is thriving in his Montessori school. I have less input into the education that Paulie and Philip receive (not that they don't receive their fair share of after-schooling from me, just as Finn and Elizabeth do).

The more I thought about this question, however, the less clear my answer became. I am happy with the current state of their education, but next year will be Finn's last year of "preschool" before kindergarten. There are so many things I could give him, namely some Waldorf direction, in addition to providing him with some of his beloved Montessori works (and I'm lucky to have a friend that teaches Montessori to give me some pointers). Also, Elizabeth's last year of elementary school is coming quickly and we have no idea where to find a good fit for her for middle school. So, I think that for now I'll say undecided and utilize the kids' school breaks as a time to get my feet wet and see if homeschooling might be a good fit for us down the road.

Take this week for instance! I had my job quitting planned just right so I could be home for Finn's winter break this week. In late January, I entered a giveaway for a February daily childcare guide from Little Acorn Learning, a business I admired and a guide I already considered purchasing if I were to homeschool Finn next year. In a stroke of providence, I won the guide and decided to use it this week, with my own ideas sprinkled in liberally, of course, to see how Finn and I enjoyed the process.

So, without compromising the work that Eileen has done on her February guide, I'll tell you a little bit about what Finn and I have been up to, and will continue to work on, throughout this week. In the mornings after dropping Elizabeth off at school and straightening up the kitchen a bit, we're gathering around the fireplace to talk about seeds and read over our morning verse, Planting, and do a little fingerplay about seeds. We've also been reading one or two books about seeds and planting each day and talking a little bit about the life cycle of a seed.

On Monday, for our baking project, we decided to make "seed buns", essentially bread rolls with chocolate inside. We made our dough, let it rose, then before shaping our buns, put 3 small pieces of dark chocolate on them and buried it inside the dough like seeds in the earth. What an amazing tasty learning experience for little ones!

Finn couldn't stop talking about his seed buns so we took some to lunch at Paulie's and Philip's school and saved one for Elizabeth's after-school snack. They were a hit with everyone!

The other project we've worked so far with our seed theme is to grow mung bean sprouts. We're actually calling them mung "seeds" for the purposes of our learning this week. Mungs are so easy to sprout and make a fun quick-return-on-your-effort growing experiment.

Finn put a quarter cup of mung beans in a quart jar with about a half cup of water to cover them, after he gave them a good feel, of course. "They're so little and hard...just like seeds!" he observed.

He covered them tightly with a cloth and jar ring, and we set them in a cool, dark corner of the kitchen until bedtime.

After spending several minutes over the course of the day watching the beans, he thought they might not do anything. But in the evening, we poured the water off of the beans and rinsed them just in case.

This morning, we were treated with some little sprouts coming out of our mung "seeds"! We're still rinsing and letting them grow for another few days, then maybe we'll have them in a stir-fry or salad. What satisfaction to be growing our own sprouts!

So to answer the question about homeschooling, well, I think we're already homeschoolers, whether we adopt that title instead of going to school or not. Paul is convinced that I'll keep Finn at home next year since I enjoy learning with him so much. He's probably right, but for now, I'm just happy to enjoy the moments he's here, that all of them are here, and cherish every opportunity to learn together!

Monday, February 21, 2011

the roll of the dice

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that a collection of dice might be good for Finn's work shelf. I saw a double die on Ordinary Life Magic eons ago and thought I would start there, then I saw a set of gamer's dice and thought those would make a good addition as well. I really like the combination of the dotted dice and numeric dice, although I removed any dice with a number higher than 10 since Finn doesn't recognize those yet. I'd never have guessed how inspiring a box of dice would be.

Within 2 minutes of seeing the double dice, Elizabeth not only managed to finagle a pair from Finn, but she began working on a game board, similar to Candy Land.

World of Candy has it's own special sugary forests and paths and uses the dice to move around the game.

The double dice are wonderful for addition skills, although it's really cute to hear Finn first count the spaces for the top die, then for the bottom. He's gotten really good at recognizing the patterns of the dice numbers without having to count the dots. I even caught him arranging his wooden hearts in dice patterns today.

Of course if Elizabeth is making a game, then Finn needs to make one as well! No fancy names or labels on his game, just plenty of track. Any game that he can use his cars is a hit with him!

He's fond of the number dice, particularly the 0-9 die which has a built in "lose a turn" with the 0.

I love all the little paths and cross sections he made. This game-making is such a wonderful creative outlet for them in a less traditional way. Roll the dice! And let's play!