Pluto Day – Remembering the Ninth Planet

pluto

Remember when they messed with the universe as we knew it and said Pluto wasn’t a planet? Did your innards violently recoil at the suggestion and make you want to take to the streets and instigate a mutiny against the responsible governing body? In this case, it was the IAU (International Astronomical Union).

I didn’t understand it then, but that didn’t stop me from having a strong opinion. And I was having none of it. I couldn’t accept what they did to Pluto. I’d never given much thought to the planet prior to that announcement, but I suddenly found myself a staunch champion of the planet – just one of many, as it turned out. Other people were also rising up in arms against the injustice done to the ninth planet. Yes, we astronomy non-experts weren’t going to take the experts’ word for it.

Thanks to the very fun and catchy “Dwarf Planet Nothin’” (the video of which can no longer be found on YouTube, but you can still listen to the song here), I found out what was going on. I also learned how to pronounce Kuiper.

Basically, they decided to have a set criteria for planet status qualification in the Solar System:

  • Must orbit around the Sun.
  • Must be big enough to be rounded by its own gravity.
  • Must have cleared is local neighborhood of other large objects.

Apparently, Pluto failed to meet the last requirement since it’s surrounded by other icy Kuiper Belt bodies.

But the fight continued and people who didn’t want to deal with changes in the Solar System they learned in school pushed for Pluto’s reinstatement as a planet. In 2015, word on the street was that it was about to happen. I don’t know what that was about since I couldn’t find anything official classifying Pluto as anything other than a dwarf planet.

People continue to be torn and confused. Officially, Pluto has dwarf planet status, a clear demotion from being Planet No.9, but many scientists are tirelessly working to prove that it deserves to be considered a planet once again. Hopefully, NASA’s interplanetary space probe New Horizons (which has some of Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes, btw) will be able to discover something in aid of this.

Whatever the experts say, Pluto will always be a real planet to me. I’m just waiting for the corroborating evidence, so… Happy Pluto Day, everyone!

You Might Be A Kindred Spirit To Anne Shirley If…

Did you grow up reading the Anne of Green Gables books? Did you become obsessed with Anne Shirley and wish to be her best friend? Did you feel as though you had many similarities with her? Were you convinced that she would have recognized you for a kindred spirit if she had met you? You might be right if…

1. You can never call a body of water just by its name (lake = shining waters). You use a poetic turn of phrase for everything because that just makes it more interesting or more properly conveys just how interesting whatever it may be is.
2. You love big words and feel joy and rightness in using them. You’ve felt others’ scorn toward this propensity of yours, but that’s how you enjoy language, so they can just like it or lump it.
3. You’re forever in despair over your hair. Anne may have lamented hers its color, but you could complain over any number of other features. Try texture, density, and shape (somebody must hate her coarse, frizzy, MUTANT hair). Because you can’t stand your hair, you might have tried to alter it to disastrous results (not quite green hair, but the outcome is still highly unpleasant).
4. You read books like they’re going out of style. They’re your most cherished material possessions. You’ve failed to do important tasks because you just couldn’t put a book down.
5. You write novel-length letters. You probably spend a small fortune on postage stamps. Some people may have delayed reading your letter because it required too much commitment.
6. You daydream like your life depends on it. You believe indulging in fancies is enriching to the soul – totally not a waste of time.
7. You speak and write with a lot of asides. You consistently go off on a tangent, but piously returns to the original point.
8. You have a genius for getting into trouble. Good ideas tend to turn traitor on you, but that doesn’t stop you from jumping in with both feet the next time you get another.
9. You don’t hide your passion for unpopular interests, even if you’re teased for it. Even if you get to be known as the girl who namedrops characters from the Anne of Green Gables series as though they were her peeps and quotes lines from the books ad nauseam. In modern times, the term “dork” may have been employed.
10. You wonder about the most prosaic things and have been told on more than one occasion that nobody gives a flying fig.
11. And finally, you keep going on and on about your kindred spirits and appreciate the heck out of people you’ve discerned to belong to the race that knows Joseph because as Captain Jim pointed out, they’re the salt of the earth. Meeting a kindred soul is like hitting the mother lode. It’s a relief and a delight to find somebody who gets you. Thankfully, as you grow up, you learn that “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.

Is this true for you? Do you feel heartened to learn that so many people share your love of Anne Shirley? Can you be a candidate to be Anne Shirley’s bosom friend? And do you have anything to add to the list? Comment your thoughts below.

If you haven’t read the books yet or don’t have your own copy, you can buy a Kindle version of the eight-book collection for just $0.99 (about Php50). There’s nothing like cozying up with a traditional book and flipping through paper pages, but if the stories are what you’re after, the ebooks work just fine. And, yes, the following is an affiliate link.

How You Get More from Doodling

Zentangle Our Lemonade Days

I don’t know how things work in classrooms now with all the technology available. Do students still use notebooks or do they just record the lecture in their mobile devices? Hmm, I wouldn’t like that at all. When I was teaching, I didn’t allow my students to have their phones, ipods, or laptops out, except for very few and select instances. Gadgets weren’t as rampantly used back then, so I didn’t want some students to have an unfair advantage over the others by using one.

Since I homeschool my kids, they can’t clue me in either on what learning in a traditional classroom is like these days. In our eclectic homeschool setup, my daughter doesn’t have to take down notes. She does copywork, but she doesn’t note down important details when I’m explaining things to her. I think that’s a pity because I’ve found note-taking to be a very beneficial skill.

I was great at taking down notes. Classmates were forever borrowing mine to photocopy back in the day. They were practically written in shorthand, but were mostly legible, so the borrowers patiently put up with my penmanship.

I do have a nice cursive, if I do say so myself, but it’s hard to maintain it when you’re trying to catch and jot down all the salient points that the teacher is saying.

My chicken scratch wasn’t the only thing they had to deal with when using copies of my notes. I doodled in between actual note-taking, so they were treated to a lot of swirls, flowers, butterflies, paisley patterns, and Spencerian script practice lettering along the margin.

Doodling was frowned upon in my school. Notebooks were to stay neat. Also, I suppose if you were supposed to be listening to the teacher and taking down notes, but were doodling instead, it would seem as though you were being inattentive.

Doodling advocate Sunni Brown, however, proposes that the activity is more than just mindless drawing. She says it’s deep-thinking in disguise and is an effective problem-solving tool. There is also research that indicates that doodling actually aids memory retention.

Now, I may not have an eidetic memory, but I was the kind of student who remembered what she learned in class. If I had been paying attention, I would have been taking notes and doodling. Even if I never got around to reviewing my notes, I would still do well in tests.

Outside the classroom, doodling often helped me pass the time. I don’t have any remarkable drawing skills, but I have to admit liking the results of my doodling, which tended to look psychedelic. I had the habit of starting from a simple shape and then building up from that. You could tell that I was partial to swirls, polka dots, and paisleys. That was my natural doodling style. It was certainly a surprise to me to learn that there was a name for it: Zentangle®.

Described to be a purposeful and structured style of drawing similar to doodling, Zentangle® supposedly supports a mindful state of being (as opposed to mindless doodling). It is said to be a meditative art form that promotes relaxation and stress-reduction as well as improves mood and self-control.

Like my doodles, Zentangle® consists of repetitive patterns of straight lines, dots, curves, and shading. The Zentangler is allowed to be as creative and free-form in her use of these patterns.

I looked at examples of Zentangle® images and, wow, there are really gifted Zentanglers out there. A lot of the pieces I’ve seen are really intricate. Some people are even selling their creations.

My own doodles are pretty simple, and like I said, I’m not really particularly gifted when it comes to drawing, but I can come up with a pretty picture from putting together patterns of simple swirls, dots, and lines – nothing that anybody would want to pay money for, but the satisfaction derived from the creation process and the pleasure from the result make pretty good compensation as well.

I don’t know about traditional schools, but doodling totally passes as an art lesson in our home school. I introduced the concept of Zentangle® to my daughter and now she enjoys putting together easy patterns, usually inside alphabet letters. I’m grateful that she finds it engaging and that I can include it in my list of suggestions for replying to declarations of boredom. Also, she likes to include drawings and small craft projects in her letters to her pen pals, so for the next batch of mail, she’ll be enclosing their names done in Zentangle®.

Zentangle Midge

I think most people would cotton to the activity. It is simple, creative, and soothing. If your feelings are in some kind of turmoil, you might want to try some aimless zentangling and see if you’ll calm down. You can check out this Pinterest board for some easy patterns to get you started.

There’s obviously more to doodling than meets the eye. Are you a chronic and pathological doodler like me? What’s your doodling style? Have you tried zentangling before? Did you find it enjoyable? Go ahead and share photos of your efforts.

Sour Days: Pack Rat Forced to Declutter

Things around here have been on the sour side lately. I know I was supposed to just post about the sweet stuff, but this is related to the whole blogging endeavor. There was a recent decree to get rid of all the garbage that was accumulating in our pathetically small space, so with reluctance from me and copious tears from Marguerite, we got rid of several Pringles cans that were going to turn into this (although ours would have been a small toy sorter – LPS, My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, Jewel Pets, Lalaloopsy, etc.) or this, a rather pretty (I thought so anyway) fabric kite that I had sewn with my own hands (it was declared, nay doomed, by the declutter villain to remain flightless because of some principle about aerodynamics), the beginnings of a cardboard dollhouse, the beginnings of a recycled mirror using faux wrought iron frame like this, bags of used wrapping paper and gift bags that we’d been slowly recycling (we hadn’t needed to buy gift wrap at all, thanks to that bundle), the black beret I’d bought in Paris (because it wasn’t doing anything except gather dust bunnies), fabric scraps that were going to be used for various crafting and upcycling projects… Aargh, it literally pains me to go through this list so I’ll stop. I could put the mess away, and sometimes, they are properly stored, but the kids usually take some of the materials out, especially Marguerite who’s super imaginative and finds ways to have fun with all kinds of junk, and we all just get so tired of putting them away again that they’re just gathered on some surface until the next time (probably ten minutes from that time) we need them. So good luck to all my future upcycling, recycling, and crafting blog posts; they’ve been thrown out alongside the clutter.

I admit that I do tend to be messy. Growing up, I had maids to pick up after me and until now I’m still learning that all those household chores won’t be magically done for me. When we moved to this space, I curbed my creative recycling compulsion because it would have caused an issue with people who don’t share the same convictions about reducing, recycling and reusing. However, when we started this blog, I thought it was understood that I’d expect certain liberties about crafting materials and recyclables (you know, clutter) because I’d be posting about these projects. Now, I’m clearly disabused of this notion.

I’m unhappy about having been forced to give up the clutter. It makes me wonder about values and sacrifices, when two sets of the former are unsynched and when the latter are made grudgingly. So, in effect, the lesson in waste reduction I was hoping to instill in my kids turned into waste itself and got thrown out with the rest of the “garbage”. Sigh. I’ll probably post this, but I won’t be promoting it in social media.

Look, I’d already taken a picture of the cardboard scraps I’d used for the dollhouse in prep for that blog post. The structure was already built; it was just a matter of decorating and furnishing it. Hopefully, it was found by somebody who’d bother to finish the work.

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The Unrelenting Pursuit of an Extraordinary Life: I’m Inspired to Blog Because…

Waldorf star lanternsThe baby – he’s halfway done with his second year, but he’ll be THE baby for a long time – stirs in his sleep, restlessly pecking at my arm, indicating his intent to feed. I wait a few seconds before acquiescing, whereupon the tiny being beside me escalates his message of demand by grabbing my top in resolute search of the source of his nourishment and comfort. I look at the time. It’s half past four. I start to weigh my chances of being able to get some more sleep and end up running a mental list of all the things I need to do instead. At the top of my mind is my part-time work. I have a noon deadline and still have all 3 articles to write. Now is the time to get those out of the way. As soon as the baby unlatches, I turn on my computer from hibernate mode, and tiptoe to the bathroom for my morning ritual. Afterward, as I reacquaint myself with the various tabs I left open the night before, I whip out my devotional, have a quick read, and utter a short prayer. Most of the time, it’s a silent wail for help. In the silence of the morning, the day still so fresh and unspent, I sag at the weight of the expected demands of the day. However, assured by God’s promise of help, I buck up and get started on tasks that can be done simultaneously. Basically, I alternate between writing and nursing, and then writing and getting the baby’s and my breakfast. Later, I juggle writing with attending to the needs of two more people who have now woken up. I know I should have done my writing the night before, but the kids were bent on sabotage and didn’t go to sleep until I was so exhausted that all I could do was open a couple of references. And even then my head kept on pathetically bobbing forward in fits and spurts of persistent slumber. Time is gold, however, and there’s none available for ruing last night’s inability to get any work done. I do a desperate task edit to see if there’s any chance I can get baths done this morning, mine included preferably. I dismiss the hope and resolve to schedule baths right after lunch. In the interim, I alternate writing, entertaining the baby, and homeschooling my daughter. It’s not even 9:30am and the day is not about to let up… How dare I try to fit blogging into that crazy schedule!?!

“Why do you blog?” That’s a pretty loaded question. It comes with unspoken judgment. There’s no need for it. With all that I already have to do in a day, blogging just seems like a poor choice – nothing more than pure indulgence. However, I love to write, and since I can’t muster the energy, concentration, and commitment to regularly write fiction and poetry like I used to, blogging seems to me the next best thing; I get to choose what to write and how to write it.

But it’s not only about sating the writer’s soul. If I were to finally be blessed with my own house, I would resolve to make it a place from which goodness emanates. The same applies to my blog, even if it’s merely virtual real estate. I’ve previously mentioned my natural tendency to be negative. I may have the propensity to always regard and react as though I were perpetually having a Jonah Day (I have the possibly annoying habit of sourcing my language from the Anne of Green Gables series), but I believe I’ve attained sufficient maturity to realize that there’s a better way of living my life. For this reason, I created this blog to be a consciously positive space.

But, yet again, it’s not only about that deliberate effort to have a positive element in my life. Our Lemonade Days is, more than anything else, a tool. On our wedding day, I vowed to my husband to always bring beauty, poetry, wonder, etc. into our life. When each of our children was born, I made a similar promise to the newborn I held in my arms. As a matter of fact, I believe I made an extraordinary life filled with joy and creativity a personal goal long before I even got married. Definitely, the conviction to homeschool came upon me pre-marriage and pre-children as well. Somehow, the goal and the conviction are intertwined, probably stemming from the same propulsor in my genetic makeup. The thing about life is that it’s so easy to neglect such noble aspirations as one gets lost in the pursuit of mundane matters. In my case, I find that blogging induces introspection, an evaluation of my efforts, and an honest assessment of the life I’m making for myself, which certainly influences that of my family.

Many people blog to reach out and be included in a community of like-minded individuals. That’s also my intent. Mommy bloggers wish to have a concrete record of their children’s precious moments. Again, I have the same hope. Our Lemonade Days is, indeed, a chronicle of our days. To me, this is paramount. Don’t you find it sheer agony to fail at bringing to mind a face or a moment in time with perfect clarity? While a blog is an efficient documentation tool that can be browsed through with the purpose of recalling memories, capturing nuances of time, etc., it’s definitely more than that for me. It is the fuel for consistent refocusing, for making sure that I have the right perspective in place. With it, I’m able to keep within the path I should be taking if I want to make good on the promises I’d made. In a nutshell, I am inspired to blog because I and, consequently, my family greatly benefit from it.

When I find myself succumbing to my negative nature, when I find myself drowning in the mundane and inessential, my blog leads me back to the right path, reminding me, “These are the things that are truly important to you, and this is the life that you want.”

*This post is my entry to DaintyMom.com’s Blogaversary Giveaway Contest.

Art and Our Unschooled Child (Must-have Arts and Crafts Supplies)

DSC_2871We put a lot of emphasis on art. I don’t really care if my child doesn’t learn how to count to 100 until she’s much older. It honestly doesn’t bother me; when it’s finally practical for her to learn it, I’m confident she will. And she encounters numbers in daily life, so I’m sure she’ll naturally pick it up. I just refuse to drill her. Art, on the other hand, is one of the things I consciously expose Marguerite to (and even Cameron, as young as he is), pretty much the same way we intentionally cultivate the love of books and reading. This exposure starts early and we truly invest in it. We’ve enrolled her in art classes and we’re never short of supplies and projects to work on.

Let me tell you, however, that until now that she’s 6.5 years old she’s still not careful about staying within the lines. My knee-jerk reaction is to correct this “wrong” habit, but another side of me vehemently balks at the idea. She also chooses and changes colors without following the normal rudiments of coloring. Since her favorite hues are purple and pink, she frequently sticks to shades of those two when coloring something. She’s not bothered about making things look neat and realistic.

Now, by circumstance of her attending a regular Sunday School program, I’m able to compare her progress with that of other kids her age, and my (also others’) observation is that she’s on an entirely different plane. Again, part of me is driven to worry, but this urge is fortunately squelched by a kind of fascination. It would seem as though she were behind her peers, but I’m discerning a much deeper implication. Take for instance one coloring activity they had to do in her class. The picture was pretty sparse of details, so the teacher told the kids to add other elements to the picture to make it come alive. All the other kids added a sun, a couple of clouds, a tree, a stretch of grass, and a flower while Marguerite chose to add a rainbowfly (some bug thing she invented), a pumpkin dragon (another invention), cotton candy clouds (“Why are they pink?” “Because they’re made of cotton candy.”), and a few other made-up creatures.

I have no idea if she’ll later end up the better artist for it, but I’m really fascinated by the freedom, the lack of compulsion to conform, the rawer imagination her work suggests. I think I crave these things. I’ve always had the inclination to rebel and to be contrary, but at the end of the day, my outlook is quite ordinary. I’m also quite anal and sadly afflicted with a lack of originality, although I believe I make a valiant effort to put up a fight against these particular traits.

work from art classPicasso said that every child is an artist, that the problem is in remaining one once grown up. My aim is to nourish this inherent characteristic and encourage it to flourish.  And, as much as I encourage it, I’m not going to make a serious business out of doing art either. When Marguerite was about to start her art classes, one of the teachers asked me if there was an area I was especially concerned about, and I replied that I just wanted Marguerite to have fun and learn, in that order. I already know that it is her impulse to be creative, so if she could broaden her knowledge and experiences, then she could have more fun ways of making art.

bloom coloring pageI also think it’s important for our children to see us engaging in creative pursuits as well. I personally am not an official artist, but I do like taking up artistic pursuits. I find that my kids always want in on whatever I’m doing, so I’ve conditioned myself to welcome this and not resent the intrusion. I do enjoy doing art activities with my kids. Cameron, of course, either wants to get everything that you’re using or makes it his mission to put everything in his mouth. It’s definitely not the relaxing, tranquil moment you probably hope for, but, in terms of quality, it’s definitely better. Take this coloring page I downloaded for free from Beauty That Moves. I printed two copies, one for me and one for Marguerite. I gave Cameron a blank sheet on which he happily scribbled, but to which he wasn’t about to confine himself to. He kept on lunging at my paper with his crayon, meeting with success one time. Naturally, Marguerite, who’s ambidextrous, finished early as, like I said, she’s not particular about staying within the lines, and she could switch hands easily when one got tired. Seeing that I was far from finished, she offered to help me. Naturally, I couldn’t refuse. It was an intricate picture with lots of details. If you find coloring therapeutic, I suggest working on this page.

I said that we’re never short of arts and crafts supplies, and as a homeschooling family, it’s really important to have some handy. Sometimes, the inspiration to work on a project comes spontaneously, so you want to be able to have the necessary materials ready when the desire to be artsy or crafty comes along. The ones we consider must-haves are the following: paper, pencils, crayons, markers, watercolors, tempera paint, glue, Scotch tape, scissors, color pencils, oil pastels, ruler, and brushes. You could assemble an art kit by buying supplies separately, or you could just buy a complete kit, which is what I prefer to do for my daughter. Some other supplies that are nice to have ready are craft foam, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, pom poms, googly eyes, ribbons, strings, rubber stamps, felt, colored chalk, glitter glue, and double-sided tape.

Did I miss anything? What nifty craft material not included here would you recommend or add to the list?

Our Lemonade Days is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Get Your Five-a-day in One Go with Smoothies

smoothiesMost of us probably grew up learning that it’s important to get your 5-a-day (5 portions of fruits and vegetables) to maintain good health. Of course, there rose arguments and claims debunking it as a myth. Some nutrition experts state that we actually need at least 8 servings, while others state that for the nutrients in the vegetables to be activated, they have to be mixed up with fat. There are those who aver that eating veggies is better, while another camp says that it’s actually better to consume the juice instead. It’s all very tiresome, so it’s really simpler for me to keep on espousing 5-a-day the same way that I continue regarding Pluto as a full-fledged planet.

At any rate, I’m also of the belief that it wouldn’t hurt to get more. The important thing is to make sure that the 5 servings are taken care of. An easy way to achieve this is through smoothies. Juicing seems to be the rage these days, but I’ll stick with smoothies… primarily because I don’t have a juicer. Also, juicing may be better when it comes to vegetables, but with regard to fruits, blending/pureeing them is healthier mainly because you get to retain the fiber, which is great for BM and important for keeping your blood sugar from spiking.

The thing is, I can’t seem to find a fruit-veggie combination that works for my kids. One time, I got carried away with the vegetables and put a carrot, a cucumber, and a celery stalk with an apple. Even with a generous dollop of honey, the concoction was absolutely putrid. Mark, my mom, and I were able to finish our glasses while holding our noses (the thing smelled like the produce section of the supermarket), but the kids wouldn’t touch theirs with a ten-foot pole. Another time, I almost succeeded. Almost. It was supposed to be an apple, 2 pears, a cucumber, a handful of mint leaves, and a lemon. But then I allowed my daughter to convince me to let her squeeze another lemon into the mix. Even with added water and some more honey, the blend made our faces pucker at the sourness. Again, the kids wouldn’t have anything to do with the drink, even the lemon fiasco culprit. Side note: I truly wonder how a toddler who wouldn’t think twice about putting dust bunnies in his mouth, given the chance, could refuse a semi-acceptable fruit drink. Anyway, going back to our smoothie conundrum… we can do straight banana shakes or mango smoothies or even a two-fruit combo; what we have trouble with is the vegetable factor. Do you have a good recipe you can share here?

In the meantime, if you want to teach your kids about the 5-a-day rule, a fun way to do so is to through singing (and signing!) the “5 a Day” song from Signing Time. My kids and I are super into sign language and we find the Signing Time DVDs a very entertaining resource for learning ASL. This particular song is super catchy and my little Cameron can be expected to get up and dance a jig anytime he hears it. You can get the 5 A Day MP3 or go for the entire DVD of Signing Time Series 1 Vol. 6 – My Favorite Things.

If you want to have an idea of how the song goes, here are the lyrics:

5 a Day by Rachel Coleman

We can count them up
And we can count them down
Every day we count around
It’s 1-2-3-4-5 a day
Eating in a healthy way
1-2-3-4-5 a day
Five every day
Today’s a VEGGIE VEGGIE FRUIT FRUIT VEGGIE day
That means a CARROT BEAN BANANA APPLE LETTUCE day
Or maybe FRUIT FRUIT FRUIT FRUIT VEGGIE day
That could be APPLE PEAR BANANA MELON CARROT day
Any way you slice it or dice it or peel it
It’s gotta add up to 5 a day
Any way you slice it or dice it or peel it
It’s gotta add up to 5 a day
We can count them up
And we can count them down
Every day we count around
It’s 1-2-3-4-5 a day
Eating in a healthy way
1-2-3-4-5 a day
Five every day
Tomorrow’s FRUIT VEGGIE FRUIT VEGGIE VEGGIE day
That means a PEACH CORN TOMATO BEAN POTATO day
Or maybe VEGGIE VEGGIE VEGGIE FRUIT VEGGIE day
That could be CORN POTATO LETTUCE GRAPE and CARROT day
Any way you slice it or dice it or peel it
It’s gotta add up to 5 a day
Any way you slice it or dice it or peel it
It’s gotta add up to 5 a day

The song is so fast that it’s a real trip to sing it. I really recommend getting the entire DVD though. Just imagine learning the signs for all those words. 🙂

* Our Lemonade Days is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

Easy Craft: Crayon Tinting

crayon tinting 1Back in college, there was a girl whom I found inspiring. Considering how negative I was, I didn’t find many people who were. But when somebody did impress me, I had a better idea of the kind of person I wanted to be, which wasn’t always clear. Anyway, the university I attended was crawling with artsy, bohemian types. The UP stereotypes, I read somewhere, are the activists, the poets, the mountaineers, the hippies, etc., so I was used to different manifestations of creativity – the more outrageous, the more characteristic of the place, but this girl looked very much mainstream. She came from money, but she wore clothes that her mother sewed for her, she took up a part-time job clerking at a boutique simply because she wanted to work and have her own money, she made polymer clay earrings to sell (this was before crafting became a fad), and she jazzed up her plain t-shirts by crayon tinting them. Being somebody whose life was defined by being a student, nothing more (I hadn’t graduated from college yet, so that was what I supposed to be — so maddening how much I limited myself when I was young, lol) I was fascinated by her entrepreneurial spirit and her creativity.

I remember her giving me a casual tutorial for crayon tinting, and I had always meant to try it. Last week, I came across crayon tinted fabric items on Etsy, remembered this long-delayed crafting intent, and finally attempted it. It only took me close to 20 years.

It’s so fun and easy; I certainly intend to try it on a shirt soon. I wish I had remembered about it when I made those “big sister” t-shirts for Marguerite when I was pregnant with Cameron. Crayon tinting would have been less messy, for starters.

This is how I did crayon tinting:crayon tinting 2

I outlined a design, then colored it in, pressing hard on the crayon and using just one stroke direction.

When I was done coloring, I sandwiched the fabric between two sheets of paper (in this case, my piece of felt was small, so I just put it in between the folds of one sheet of paper).

I heated a flat iron to cotton setting and then placed it on the paper. I let it sit there for about 20-30 seconds. When I lifted the iron, I saw that some of the wax had stuck to the paper. I repeated the process, using clean portions of the same paper, until no more wax residue showed on it.

Have you tried this fabric printing technique before? Do you have any tips as to how to do it well? Please share!

The Uncertain Homeschooler – Playing Things by Ear

worksheetsI want to homeschool; that’s something I’m absolutely sure about. That has always been my conviction, even before I got married. For the most part, I’m happy with this decision. Unfortunately, there are times when I question whether I’m really up to the challenge. The doubts creep in when I start measuring myself and the kids against the standards set about by regular schools. In any case, I’m interested in a wide variety of homeschooling approaches, so suffice it to say that our style is eclectic. The concept of unschooling has always intrigued me while Waldorf holds a strong appeal for me. So do Charlotte Mason, Ruth Beechick, Delight Directed, Lapbooking, Unit Studies… I think the only one I’m not interested in is Traditional or School-at-home, and yet I find myself striving to do this many times – like I said, when I’m suddenly seized by a panic attack borne out of a compulsion for comparison. If you must know, I was the kind of student who had to have the highest test scores. In retrospect, I was probably pretty insufferable. The tendency followed me to adulthood, and it takes conscious effort to combat it.

There are so many unschooling philosophies I subscribe to, but my personality is so much that of the traditional scholar who thrives on structure that what I want theoretically is hard to reconcile with how I function. My ideas about learning and life were so set that I had let many opportunities slip me by. The summer before my senior year in college I was offered a chance to work in Portugal for a year, which I thought was completely out of the question since I was still in school. I had a deathly fear of not graduating from college, as though without that diploma, I was doomed to a life of poverty and hardship. Prior to earning that diploma, life was completely centered on the effort to get it – with honors and accolades to go along with it preferably. My entire person was consumed with the portrayal of just one role: being a good student. It took precedence over being a good daughter, a good sister, a good Christian, etc.

It was really all so bourgeois, now that I think about it. I couldn’t understand how certain classmates of mine back in high school toyed with their studies. One particular girl would disappear a week or two at a time and then come back with a certificate from a doctor saying she had bronchitis, chicken pox, etc. That girl’s sister was a friend of my younger sister, Chipi, and when I remarked one time to Chipi how sickly my classmate was, she snorted and said, “She wasn’t really sick. Their family just travel abroad a lot.” I was outraged at the idea. Didn’t the parents worry about how their kids did in school?  Incidentally, that classmate was already a very accomplished dancer even in high school, and I’m not sure if she ended up going to college, but she was already earning money breeding and raising show dogs while I was still receiving an allowance from my parents. Hindsight is 20/20, they say. I might not approve of the deception, but I can now understand and even admire their family’s priorities.

I’m afraid I somewhat digressed. The point is that as much as I love the idea of freedom in learning and having confidence  in children’s individual learning schedule, my conditioning provides the most contrary impulses, which is probably why de-schooling is highly recommended for parents of unschoolers. The thing is, we haven’t officially chosen to unschool, And, whether it stems from conditioning or an inherent quality I have, I find comfort in structure. I just haven’t zeroed in  on the form this structure will take. I’m not closing my doors on ready-made curricula because that could possibly turn out to be the arrangement that will make our family flourish. In the interim, we play things by ear.

We’ve definitely adopted a rhythm, and we put great emphasis in art and nature studies. As for goals and lesson plans, for a time I tried to teach Marguerite loosely following an age-based list of things to learn (this involved a lot of worksheets), but now we’re mostly doing unit studies/lapbooking/notebooking. I’ve also, since the beginning of the year, tried following 3 homeschool planners (free, of course, as I’m an incorrigible penny-pincher), but ended up just making my own (I’ll try to make a prettier version and then share it here).

Meanwhile, I continue to find informative and inspiring reads about homeschooling, so our setup is definitely open to modification. I enjoy educating myself in the process and brainstorming on how to incorporate things that interest me, frequently surprising myself in the process. It’s really quite amazing how parents find so many ways to be creative with the purpose of enriching their children’s lives. I think most of us are gobsmacked at the discoveries we make of ourselves concerning talents, skills, traits, etc.

Of course, doubts about homeschooling still surface every now and then, but, for the most part, I’m convinced that it is the best option for our family as it is right now.

St. Patrick’s Day Unit Study: Finding Rainbows in the Mundane

green shirt-cum-rainbow cowinkydink

Marguerite is beginning to develop an unhealthy attitude toward worksheets, so I had to step back and regroup. That felt too much like the traditional school scenario that I wanted to avoid. Why were we doing worksheets anyway? After much agonizing introspection in which I had to be honest with myself and admit that my own insecurities have been dealing destructive little blows to the peaceful rhythm I’ve been cultivating in our family, I finally ditched the worksheets and decided to try something else. St. Patrick’s Day was coming up, so I thought it would be an interesting topic for a unit study. This would be more activity-based, and the lessons wouldn’t have much to do with the downloaded list I have of things 6-year-olds should already know.

Even though the Philippines is overwhelmingly Catholic, we don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day here. There aren’t enough Irish immigrants, I suppose. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting holiday and I could link it to rainbows, which I knew my daughter liked. I’m actually really happy that we tried learning without worksheets. Of course, I don’t have much to put in her portfolio except for a couple of art projects, but lessons this time better suited Marguerite’s temperament and interests. They were also more relaxing since I didn’t have to spend my time urging her to finish her work or calling her back as she’s prone to straying when things got too boring for her. You can imagine how this could be a test to my patience and usually result in a battle of wills. We’re also trying to put a lapbook of that unit study together, but it’s taking a lot of time and Easter is coming up (something I don’t want to miss out on, homeschooling-wise), so we’re doing it in slow stages.

Basically, alongside St. Patrick’s Day, we learned about Ireland, shamrocks, leprechauns and rainbows too. It was all pretty random, but I know she learned that:

– Paddy is a nickname for Patrick. St. Patrick supposedly drove all the snakes away from Ireland, but that’s just a story. There really aren’t any snakes in Ireland except for the slow worm (we googled its image), which looks like a snake but is actually a legless lizard.

St Paddy’s Day toenails

– Ireland is very green. The shamrock is its symbol. St. Patrick used the shamrock to teach about God. Shamrocks (we found patches of them outside our church – we picked some and they’re going in the lapbook) are also called clovers sometimes, which are supposedly lucky when they have four leaves instead of the usual three. There are different shades of green. There were too many, so we just chose our faves – she likes kelly green while I’m torn between apple green and sea foam green. We also looked at pictures of the Chicago River dyed green. For music, we listened to Danny Boy, which, we concurred, is a sad song. For art, we formed a shamrock out of green hearts.

– A leprechaun is an Irish fairy. It hides a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The rainbow is formed when the different colors that make up sunlight hit raindrops at a certain angle and separate. Another word for rainbow is spectrum. Its seven main colors are ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). We played a game wherein Marguerite and Cameron had to look for the picture of a leprechaun and bring it back to me. I would then give them the letters that formed a word when arranged according to the sequence of the seven main rainbow colors. The spelled out word was the actual location of the pot of gold. We did several rainbow drawings and paintings as well as a collage. We also experimented with forming rainbows using everyday objects.

rainbow game

rainbow game

pot of gold (trick or treat cauldron during Halloween – that thing’s putting in a lot of service)

rainbow experiment 1 – water glass rainbow

rainbow experiment 2 – CD rainbow

prism

rainbow experiment 3 – crystal prism

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