Monday, July 12, 2010

Little things...

In honor of our first day of school for the 2010/2011 school year, here is a post about a few little things that make homeschooling just a bit easier for me.

Pencil boxes. This things go on sale for 10¢ or so in July of every year, and I snatch up at least a few each time. They are the answer to many organization needs, from crayons, to Cuisenaire rods, to flash cards, to their intended purpose to hold pencils. Every homeschool can use a few more. I even like to corral hair accessories, cookie cutters, sewing machine feet, and other small things all over the house in pencil boxes.

Colors. I color code my kids. Sure, it sounds sort of super organized and just a little bit inhumane, but it actually is neither. Identifying each kid with a specific color allows all of us to see what item belongs to what kid at a glance. I know I could just write their name or even initial on the item, but these poor old eyes can't read very far away anymore. But from across the room I can see which pencil is marked with green and which is marked with orange, staving off, "He has my pencil!" arguments before they even start. Some of the tools I use toward coloring coding are permanent markers, colored duct tape, Post-It Note flags, spools of 1/4 inch ribbon, and packages of colored printer paper. It sounds like a lot, but each item is inexpensive over all and lasts for years, with the exception the Post-It Note flags that I buy yearly.

Date stamp. Hey, I have four kids in school this year and that means lots and lots of math, copywork, writing, and more that need dated each day (a dated paper trail is my only recorded keeping before high school). Technically only my Kindergartner is unable to date his own pages, but the other three regularly forget to do it. So my date stamp to the rescue. It's fun for the younger kids to use, and it's constant use during the morning serves as a reminder for the older kids . I need to buy a new one this year, as my current one only goes through 2010. I bought this one at Staples.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Herd of Sheep

I dislike car rides. I don't even like driving so much, but just sitting in the passenger seat is even worse. So, a few years back I took up knitting as something to do to help me deal with my car ride issues. Well, we just got back from a visit to Colorado, which entailed an approximate 16 hour car ride each way (thankfully broken up over two days each way). In addition to listening to almost two audiobooks while on the trip (we didn't quite finish Journey to the Center of the Earth, but did finish and greatly enjoyed Nick of Time), I knitted 3 sheep. Check out these funky cute things.

These are made from the "Sheepish pattern" purchased as a download from However, this and many other googlely eyed patterns are available from the author's Etsy shop, cheezezombie. I know the sea horse, and the lizard, and the bunny, and the spider, and about a half dozen others are calling my name. Good thing she offers deals if you order a number of patterns at once :D.

Anyway, this Sheepish pattern isn't for the total novice or faint of heart. Serious double pointed needle work, picking up stitches all over the place, tiny stitches crowded tightly together, and some embroidery to boot (and I totally am not good at embroidery, which is why my sheep eyes aren't as cute as the pattern photo). Still, if you have intermediate knitting skills, or are a motivated advanced beginner, these would make excellent baby gifts as there are no loose parts anywhere.

My first sheep. This was made from Lion Brand's Fishermen's Wool in natural. I dyed a small amount of it for the face, ears, and feet using Wilton food coloring, vinegar, and the microwave. I used the instructions from here, more or less. This guy was named Shaun the Sheep, after a stop-motion animation show that my husband enjoys. I photographed this one while my 3 year old was holding it so that you can see its scale better.

I made the second sheep from Sensations Beautiful yarn, in pink, for the body and Lion Brand's Vanna's Choice, in taupe, for the face, ears, pupils, and feet. The eyes are from the Fishermen's Wool natural. My 11 year old daughter initially called this plump lady "Pinky" but it quickly was changed to "Cotton Candy" or "Candy" for short. I used size 6 needles while making this one, instead of the size 3 the pattern suggested, which is why it turned out bigger than the others.

My last sheep, at least for now, was made from Lily Sugar 'n Cream in red, white, and blue. Oh, how I love self-striping yarn, but that is a whole other post for another time. My 5 year old chose this yarn for his sheep, and I decided to give it a go even though I wasn't sure it was the ideal yarn choice for this pattern. "Stripes", as he was named, is well loved even if he isn't quite as sheep-like as his friends.