Tuesday, August 20, 2013

HIM in Them

This week is Student Portrait Week on the NOT Back-to-School Blog Hop. I never know what to do for this week, as I'm not really comfortable posting photos of my kids in public places online. Besides, summer is soooo not the time to get nice portraits of anybody down here. I usually take those in the winter when the grass is green and the temperatures are below the sweating threshold.

Anyway, I read an interesting question this morning that got me thinking about my kids. It was, "How do you see the image of God in your kids?" If they are created in His image, as I believe we all are, then I should see some reflection of Him in them. And you know what? When I got thinking about it I could see some of Him in each of them. 

So, instead of photographs of my five children, here are verbal snapshots of how each of them show God's image in their lives.

With my oldest I see God's sense of creative order. The building blocks of the universe (i.e. atoms) are so orderly, dependable, follow recognizable patterns and laws, even though it is all unbelievably complex (one science book I read suggested that you could study math for 4 years after Calculus in order to be able to understand it pretty well). My 11th grader is like this. Order. Precision. Complex, but with pattern.

In my 9th grader I see the Lord's servant heart. She jumps in to help in meek and quiet ways without being asked. She is trusted with the same duties and responsibilities as teens 4 years older than her, because she is so capable and reliable. Children that are problems for some of our church's adults respond to her and are well behaved when she is asked to sit next to them. I try to protect her, however, because her capabilities combined with her height (5'10") makes people forget that she is only 14. I worry that an inappropriate amount of responsibility might be thrown on her before she is truly ready. I foresee her being a linchpin (as Seth Godin defines it) in her church, quietly indispensable (very much like her grandmother, my mother-in-law, by the way).

My 5th grader has such a tender heart, both taking correction so quickly to heart himself, but also seeing hurt and needs in others around him. At only 10, he is more likely to see others' need for prayer than his older siblings. And he has God's hear too. His track record for quickly and impressively answered prayer and literal dreams come true is amazing. He prays for rain and it rains (which is more impressive down here than in say Seattle). Last week we received some sad news about a couple people in our church and we all prayed that it would be quickly resolved. However, in addition to praying, my son reported dreaming about the resolution and two days later we got news that it happened almost as he dreamed it. He dreamed that they showed up in a specific person's truck, but what happened is that they called that person to come get them with that truck. I honestly don't know what to make of this. Coincidence? Maybe, but things like that have happened to him before, although not quite this awe inspiring.

My 3rd grader is generous to a fault, giving beyond what is reasonable or deserved. Once my nephew-in-law was teasing him, asking for all the best candy from his piñata bag, and my son kept giving to him, happily. I could see that my nephew-in-law was just teasing, that he would keep asking until he got my son to say no, but I had to tell him that my son would give half his candy away before he said no. I totally see the Lord in this quality, giving unto us showers of blessings beyond what we have ever deserved.

My 1st grader is friendly and comforting to others, seeking out other children that are quiet or shy and pulling gently them out. She shares everything readily, without being asked. People of all ages are drawn to her. This friendly, welcoming spirit about her seems very Christ-like to me.

So, do you see Him in your children? It's so easy as parents that want the best for our children to always focus on the areas that need improvement. It was a blessing to me today to focus on at least one thing that each is doing that is godly and praise worthy.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pretty Clipboards (with tutorial)

I'm kind of ridiculously proud of these. They are sooo pretty and yet so useful as well.

I recycled 10 ink cartridges at Staples last month and received a $20 rewards coupon this month for the effort. I needed Post-It Flags (i.e. bookmarks) and my freshman daughter wanted a new binder to hold her music, so off we went to Staples Saturday.

After the binder and Post-It Flags (and hitting the 1¢ sales for pocket tissue packs and spiral notebooks), I still had a lot of money left on the rewards coupon and I remember that I had considered getting a clipboard for each of the kids. I had tried it once before, getting them each one in their color. They liked having their own clipboards and used them a lot, but they were cheap plastic ones that broke in very short order. I knew the ugly brown Staples clipboards last forever (I have one that we've shared for over a decade), and at minimum I figured I could put a piece of colored duct tape on the back to signify who they belonged to.

So I got 4 of the ugly brown clipboards (my junior didn't want one) and had a flash of insight. Scrapbook paper! Mod Podge! Yes!

So after Staples we stopped by Michael's and I allowed everyone to choose what scrapbook paper they wanted, as long as it was the thinner kind, not the cardstock weight. The paper, and a sponge brush applicator for the Mod Podge, cost just over $6. I got the clipboards with the rewards coupon and had all the other supplies on hand (in my recently made neat and organized craft drawer), so the total for this project was that $6, or $1.50 per clipboard. Not bad at all for custom, pretty, functional school supplies.

Here's how I did it (aka the tutorial part). As always, click on a photo to see it larger.

Gather your supplies.
  • clipboards
  • normal weight scrapbook paper
  • craft paint
  • paint palette
  • paint brushes
  • Mod Podge (not shown)
  • sponge applicator thingy (also not shown)
  • brayer (not shown)
  • fine grit sandpaper, 400 grit (not shown)
  • smartphone and earbuds (for tunes ;) 

I started by applying craft paint, in a coordinating or matching color, to the edges of the clipboard. Since a standard sized clipboard is 13 inches long and standard scrapbook paper is 12 inches long, I also applied about 1.5 inches of craft paint along the top or bottom of each side to cover where the scrapbook paper wouldn't be. I did this in different areas on different clipboards, but I like the results of the pink one that I applied it to the top of both sides best. (Note, I didn't paint the board that was going to get the camouflage paper, because the camo matched the ugly brown quite well.)

Next, after giving the paint about 15 minutes to dry, I applied a liberal coat of Mod Podge to the back of a clipboard and then put the paper on. The découpage instructions I found here recommended using a brayer for smoothing out large, flat surfaces, and since I just happened to have a brayer on hand I used it. I know for a fact that I would not have bought a brayer for this project if I didn't have one, that I would have used one of my bone folders instead. However, the brayer worked really, really well and I was able to apply 8 sheets of scrapbook paper with not a single wrinkle. So, definitely give a brayer due consideration with this project.

After allowing the Mod Podge to dry for around 15 minutes, I trimmed the paper with the edge of the clipboard. I did this with an X-acto knife, with the paper side of the board down on a flat surface that I didn't mind getting X-acto marks. Since my dining/school/craft table already looks like this, as well as things you can't see in these shots like burn holes from melted metal and JB Weld, Gorilla Glue, and numerous kinds of paint stains, I just used the table surface. You should probably use a cutting mat or board.

Then I repeated the process for the front side of the boards. It was a bit tricky, but not really hard, doing it while holding the clip open, but otherwise this is an easy project. Instead of waiting 15 minutes for it to dry this time, I waited over night. It was bedtime, after all. However, I do recommend waiting at least a couple of hours before this next step, so that the Mod Podge is quite dry.

The next step I didn't get a photo of (sorry). I used the 400 grit sandpaper to smooth out the edges of the trimmed paper on both sides. The X-acto knife didn't cut perfectly smooth in all spots, plus sanding a bit took back the paper to smooth with the board, hopefully minimizing the likelihood that it will get caught on something and pull up or tear later. 

I did not apply a top coat of Mod Podge, even though the instructions I linked to above said I should apply at least two of them. More than pretty, I need these boards to be functional and I do not like the feel or texture of top coats of Mod Podge and I did not think it would be a good surface to write on. 

I am sooooo pleased with the result. They are pretty (or cute since the boys would object to theirs being called "pretty") and work wonderfully too.

Update: July 2014
The kids use their clipboards very regularly, especially the girls, and after a year of use they are still in great condition and still look pretty.

New update: Feb 2016
These clipboards are STILL beautiful and they get used all the time. The pink camo and butterflies are especially hard used, and the scrapbook paper isn't coming up at all. Two and a half years later and I'm still pleased as punch with theses.

Friday, August 16, 2013

My Craft Drawer

Earlier this week I posted photos of my very messy craft drawer, so my pride requires that I show what the drawer looks like after I spent the week (in spare moments) organizing it.

Messy Drawer

Neat Drawer

I love art and craft supplies, and I invest in some really nice ones too. But after a year of use, the drawer ended up looking like the upper photo and nothing could be found. If you can't find it, you can't use it. Then last month a friend whose only child is now a teen gave me a big box over flowing with more craft supplies, really cool ones too like air-dry ceramic clay powder. It was past time for a craft drawer extreme make-over.

By the way, how do you like my "ode to the pantry" organization system? ;D

Since I was going through the trouble of organizing the whole drawer, I took the bit of extra time to write down everything I have as well. That drawer looks full enough, but look at this list.
     glue sticks
     Modge Podge
     repositionable glue sticks
     white glue
beads, pony multiple colors
bead craft kit, triceratops (x1)
beads, wooden bag multiple sizes and colors
brads, mini multicolored 100 ct (x2)
cardboard, stiff 4 pieces 12x9 in & 3 pieces 7 in square
CDs (x12)
ceramic plaster clay, add water (x2 buckets)
chalk pastels (few loose pieces)
container, flat w/ flip lid
cork, thin with adhesive backing
Draw Today drawing curriculum, w/ extra supplies
Easter felt craft kit (x3)
feathers, few in bright colors
fixative, spray
glassy jar, 8 oz w/ lid
     tube mix red & black slivers
     tube purple
glitter glue, gold
glycerin soap
hole punches:
     3 hole
     circle, mini
     circle, standard
ink, for block printing, black (tube and tub)
lacing, black ~1.5 yards
markers, numerous colors, both washable and not
modeling clay (5 colors)
mosaic, paper, jewel tones
Nativity felt craft kit (x1, Belle's half finished project)
oil pastels (25ct & 50ct)
     3D "fabric writer" black paint (x3)
     craft paint, numerous colors
     powdered paint (red, blue, & yellow)
     water based crayola paint (10 ct)
     water colors, liquid (red, yellow, blue, green, purple, & black)
paint brushes, numerous sizes
paint palettes
panty hose, grey (x2)
pipe cleaners, black and metallic green
Sculpley clay, small amount neutral colors
sequins, bag of blue small
sequins, mix bag of mixed sliver rounds & gold stars
sequins, bag of large multicolored flowers
sequins, bag of large multicolored snowflakes
Sharpies, many colors, both fine and ultra fine
stamp pad, purple
stamp pad refill ink (red & black)
tacks, flat multicolored
water color crayons (12ct)
wire, thin silver

I think we need to get crafting!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

School Room Week

It's School Room Week over on the NOT Back-to-School Blog Hop. My school room hasn't changed much (at all?) since I posted about it for last year's blog hop. My long dreamt of seventeen foot wall of built-in cabinets and shelves is still there, still beautiful, and still holding 14 years of homeschool stuff (preschool through 11th grade). My husband is awesomesauce and put in these beautiful built-ins a year ago last month. However, I don't have a wide angle lens and I can't get a photo of the entire wall in one shot. So here's two of them.
These fill up the western wall in our family room and in addition to serving as our school room it is also our dining room, toy room, computer room, entertaining room, and is open to our kitchen and living room.

Even though our school room hasn't changed since last year, these things do have to organized at least yearly. I had planned to get all the organizing and cleaning out done in time for School Week on the NOT Back-to-School Blog Hop, but so is life. So, instead, I took the opportunity (let's call it that ;) and am showing you "real life" photos. This is more or less what my school room looks like every Sunday afternoon. We live in that room, and it shows.

I have gotten the upper cabinets all organized. Here's the inside of two of them.
Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, started the rain gutter book shelves idea. The premise is that if kids can see the cover of the books they will be more likely to pick the book up to read it. The idea makes sense, but I simply do not have the wall space to pull it off. This is my compromise, and it works. Less than an hour after I set these up, my son picked up that Greg's Microscope book and started reading it. He has had access to that book for over a year, but this the first time he took it off the shelf. Note my microscope on the upper right shelf. It makes me smile every time I see it.

You can't see them, but the center lower cabinets is a drawer unit. It's three drawers, the top standard depth, the bottom two 8 inches deep. They are full to overflowing with arts and crafts supplies. The bottom one is all paper, drawing paper, scrapbook paper, printer paper (white and colored), construction paper, and much, much more. The one above it numerous kinds of paints, markers, crayons, glues, beads, art kits, and more that I probably can't remember because the drawer is such a mess. Plus a friend whose only child is now a teen gave me a box of even more supplies a few weeks back. Going through these drawers is high on my list for this month.

Lastly I want to show that basket in the middle of the second shelf from the top. It contains an idea I got from last year's School Room week. It's a nature basket. I want to get a flat tray so that the things will be able to be seen while it's on that shelf, but I haven't found one I like yet that isn't $$$.

In the basket is honey comb, a butterfly wing glued to cardstock, a burro vertebra, a coyote atlas bone, lots of sea shells, a piece of sand stone, a piece of petrified wood, a devil's claw, and a few other things. Not bad for only a year's worth of collection, huh? It's been very educational too, as we research each find. It took hours of googling and reading (not all at once) to figure out the smaller bone on the left was a coyote atlas bone. You can't buy curriculum that teaches skills like that.

Update: I organized that terrible craft drawer. See here.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Curriculum Week

ACK! August is upon me like a dust storm: fast, unexpected, and bringing all kinds of work with it. The 5th Annual "NOT" Back to School Blog Hop is in full swing already, and I haven't even gotten my first (and favorite) post written.

It's Curriculum Week at the blog hop, and as always I have a long old post to share. I'm an eclectic homeschooler with five kids, so really there is no adequate way to tell what we're using for curriculum in a short post.

1st grader - I suspect this little bundle of pink energy might just be ADHD. She can't focus if she isn't moving, she has the attention span of a gnat, and she talks excessively. Thankfully, we homeschool, so she can do math on the floor, listen to history while folding towels, and practice reading between running back and forth between Daddy-Boy (her name for my husband) and me.

  • All About Reading Level 1. She's been working on this since April or so, and is still only on lesson 9 out of 49. I am thankful this program is designed to go at the child's pace, because having to slow something down this much if it wasn't designed this way would be hard.
  • Miquon Math Orange. Followed by Red when she finishes Orange. She will be the last of all of my kids to do Miquon. It lays the foundation for mathematical thinking and understanding that follows them into high school math and beyond. Couple that with the fact that it's inexpensive and easy to use, and I can't stop singing Miquon's praises.
  • Renaissance through early 20th Century with Sonlight Core C, for the first semester (or less, if we can get through it faster), then moving into American History with Sonlight Core D. I considering her "tagging along" in these Cores, as she is below the age range Sonlight recommends them for. However, she is getting a fair amount out of Core C and with everything else we have going on having her tag along with her brothers is better than having her own Core that we never get around to doing.

3rd grader This guy is a math wiz, but has more struggles with reading. His comprehension is great, and he has no fears about attempting harder books, so I'm confident that he'll be tearing through harder and harder chapter books this year.
  • Singapore 3A, then 3B. He finished Miquon a year early, at the end of 2nd grade, and is now tearing through Singapore 3A. I definitely foresee calculus in this kid's future.
  • Sonlight Core C, then D, as explained above.

5th grader -  This middle child is dyslexic, and works hard to be just on grade level in all areas.

  • Sonlight Core D, after we finish Sonlight Core C. I updated my 2007 Core D to match the 2013 version, because I love the new Landmark book and the Children's Encyclopedia of American History. However, I only got the 4-day option as I don't like the 5th-day History books and wasn't excited about the 5th-day Read Alouds either. I will add in a few of the 2007 books that were removed to make my own 5-day version. The titles I'll be adding back in are: Paddle-to-the-Sea, Sign of the Beaver, maybe Secret of the Andes, and Winter at Valley Forge (this one is a 5-day book in the new IG).
  • Singapore 3B, moving into 4A and Challenging Word Problems 3. I know I said he was on grade level in everything, and doing Singapore 3B in 5th grade seems to contradict that. However, I spent some time looking at other math options at the Phoenix homeschool convention, and he would be ready to go into 5th grade math in a couple of other programs, so I am confident that Singapore 3B is grade level for a 5th grader, especially one with learning difficulties.
  • All About Spelling 4. He'll move into All About Spelling 5 about mid-year or so. All About Spelling 7 is high school level spelling, so level 4 is quite appropriate for 5th grade.
  • Science and Bible the same as his brother and sister above.

9th grader - My newest high schooler. 

  • Sonlight Core 100. This will count as 1 credit in American History and 1 credit in American Literature English (we're only using one of the Core 100 Bible books). I'm using the 2012 version of this Core, which has a few books different but is generally much the same as the current version.
  • Life of Fred Beginning Algebra. She's going to try Life of Fred out for Algebra I, since I already own it. We can go a different route if she has too many difficulties with it.
  • Apologia Biology. We are doing this as as a teeny co-op with two or three other families, getting together for the labs. It won't start until Sept.
  • Guitar and Choir, we're tracking hours in these for high school credit.

11th grader - Can I just spare a moment to stand in shock that my baby is /this/ close to being an adult? Anyway, this kid is bright to somewhat advanced in all areas and really wants to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Prescott for a degree in Aerospace Engineering. While legally we are still homeschooling this kid, we are outsourcing a lot of this (and probably next) year's school.
  • English 101, at the community college. Yep, he only completed Sonlight through Core 100, with Brave Writer's Help for High School thrown in, and yet he tested well above where he needed to to place into English 101. This will be his English credit for his Junior year, plus it will transfer to ERAU as Com 122 "English Composition". 
  • Strategies for Success, at the community college. This is an electives credit, but both my husband and I know that this course will teach skills that will help him greatly in the long term. From the course description,  
    "Strategies For Success is course designed for students to develop and enhance their academic and personal skills. Emphasis is placed upon promoting a successful college experience through improved study skills, critical thinking skills, and general life skills. Topics include: self awareness, career exploration, college resources/policies, memory techniques, test-taking strategies, note-taking, time management, goal setting, learning styles, technology, values clarification, community involvement, and effective communication. The course will encourage students to examine their own behaviors, expectations, and attitudes to help them exercise more effective strategies for success." 
  • Constitution class, through our local Freedom Library. There is a $1000 scholarship opportunity attached to taking the class as well. For a full 1/2 credit in Civics, in addition to the class I am having him read the Communist Manifesto; Whatever Happened to Justice?; Are You a Liberal? Conservative? or Confused; and Ancient Rome: How it Affects You Today
  • He is reading the Bible through this year for Bible, as well as reading Do Hard Things and Foxes' Book of Martyrs. I might add one other book as well, but I haven't decided what yet.
  • Life of Fred Trigonometry. This is only a semester course (full year trig courses actually add other things to it, as there really isn't that much to trig), so he'll move into Life of Fred Calculus at semester.
  • Finishing Rosetta Stone Latin American Spanish, Level 3. Assuming he finishes this fall, and does well on the practice test, I will have him taking the SAT subject test, Spanish with Listening.
  • Advanced Welding. Last spring, my son got a personal invitation from the public high school's welding teacher to attend his Advanced Welding classes. This teacher has been Teacher of the Year multiple times, and is known the county over for his outstanding students. The Advanced Welding class is first and second period each day, meaning my son would have to be out the door no later than 7:10 in order to drive himself to the 7:30 class time (he's usually rolling out of bed at 7:15). He still wanted to go, which told me something about his dedication, so we did all the paperwork and standing in line to get him partially enrolled and registered, including having to buy uniforms. Many (most?) kids that come out of two years of this class (junior and senior year) are ready to sit for their welding certificate, and the content corresponds to the community college's welding classes, so for an additional fee (but less than the college classes cost) he'll get 6 credits a year.
  • He'll read a play (we haven't decided which one yet) to finish out a 1/2 credit in Drama (he's acted in a couple plays and a few skits since he was a freshman). 
  • Finishing up How to Listen to and Understand Great Music. That, along with attending a number of local civic orchestra concerts, for a 1/2 credit in Music Appreciation.