Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Photo Roundup 11/30

I hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving!

Here are a few photos from the past couple weeks capturing some fun moments:

A close encounter with a Great Blue Heron...

A first time volunteered recitation... precious.

this counts as phys ed and science...

An adorable handcraft - tutorial and template here. There's no end to how many people you will want to make these sweet dolls for!

My kids each picked the fabric they wanted - so fun! And you can customize them as much as you like with little accessories and things unique to that person.

I knit a scarf for one, taught my daughter how to make a little draw-string pouch for hers, made small and large pockets for their dresses, flowers and bows with buttons for their hair, a collar... they also wanted open eyes so I cut some felt for eyes and did a french knot in the center of each with white thread. The pigtails can easily be added by cutting the shape you want and stitching them on the inside.

The second one over is a boy version I made for my son - he has a spear that he carved for an accessory :) The last one on the right my daughter made with me for a friend, we're still working out what to do for the face. You can get all kinds of ideas by doing an image search for "black apple doll" on google or flickr. They make great little affordable gifts!

And last but not least, here's a short video of our two new pets - "Chocolate" and "Vanilla". A friend of ours had a friend who was giving Chocolate away because of her son's allergies. We were thrilled to have her. Shortly after we went and got Vanilla, another female as a companion. It took a few hours, but they get along great now and snuggle together. The kids handle them every day and make lego houses for them to explore and feed them treats - they're really easy and fun pets to keep. Although my hubby is merely tolerating them at this point and keeps referring to them as 'rats', he's allowed them because the kids love them so much - so sweet!

Notice my 3yo in the video is told not to touch the wheel, so she puts her hand to the side of it?! She's testing those boundaries and exerting her dominion. And she looks right at me for my reaction when she does it! Saucy little thing she is at times.

Well we're off to finish week 12 this week - so long to DaVinci, Princess and the Goblin, William Blake, Durer and Beethoven, it has been a wonderful 12 weeks with them. Onto the awkward anticipation of the getting acquainted phase with Children of the New Forest and Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare, Sara Teasdale and Hilda Conkling, Caravaggio and Vivaldi!

What a feast!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rabbit's Relations

Here's a video from our tromp along a trail earlier this week. We think this is one of Rabbit's long lost Relations, but we're not quite sure so we brought it home to see what will emerge. Any ideas what it might be?

Here are some more pictures...

praying mantis

white sage gall that we brought home to see what would emerge...

Here's the culprit of both the black and white sage galls we've brought home. It's a Hessian fly! This is an extreme close-up, they're about the size of the lead tip of a pencil; tiny. I wonder if that pointed apparatus on its rear is how it deposits its eggs into the plant.

Ghost rock.

Here's a picture inside one of the sandstone caves along the trail...

Have a great week!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Holiday Ideas

Images from Tokien's Letters from Father Christmas

Our last meeting was on the Holidays and there were some great ideas so I thought I'd post them all here. This is really just a list of my notes from the evening of things other than the typical advent calendar, caroling, etc. that are in no particular order. If you have any great ideas to share, post it in a comment, we'd love to hear about it!

World Vision Gift - Consider giving up something as a family - a dinner out, a few extras at the grocery store, one gift each - and put the money in a jar instead and give a World Vision gift - for $75 you can give a goat to provide for a family with healthy milk or for $25 you can give a family 2 chickens to provide eggs.

Advent Calendar - instead of candy or chocolate every day, make it a scavenger hunt where they find a clue behind every door.

Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent (Jotham's Journey Trilogy)

For Thanksgiving, taking butcher paper, crumpling it up, hanging it on the wall and adding a leaf for each one thing you are thankful for. Makes for a very thankful Thanksgiving wall decoration.

Jesse Tree by Dale A. Brueggemann

12 Days of Christmas - anonymously leaving items on a neighbor's doorstep for each of the 12 days of Christmas.

Ambleside Online Holiday Page with links to poems and living books for the holidays.

Homemade Wrapping Paper - A little paint, some hands and feet and voila! Homemade wrapping paper for the holidays. This can also be done by collecting some leaves, placing them under the paper, and having the kids rub color pencils over the leaves to make a nice fall wrapping paper.

Pajama Swap - Giving PJ's to everyone in the family as a tradition the day before Christmas so everyone has cozy new jammies for Christmas morning.

Wrapping 24 Christmas books, one for each day of December to be opened and read together - admittedly, this had only been done one year or so. An alternative option would be to get one new Christmas book every year.

My Christmas
Andrea Botticelli's Christmas CD

Making a handmade flannel pillow case for each cousin - inexpensive, easy to make, and versatile!

Coupon Book - When money is tight, a little coupon book can go a long way. 'One free Mommy clean up a mess in your place.' 'One free sleep in Mommy Daddy bed.' 'One free donut at the store.' 'One free skip school and spend the day outside.' etc.

Thanksgiving place cards - making place cards for Thanksgiving and writing down what is unique and special about that person on it.

Bake & Deliver Christmas Cookies or yummy bread to a neighbor - seems neighbors have been asking when they can expect this year's delivery :) Another alternative is to leave a basket of goodies at their door and play ding-dong-ditch.

Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus first thing Christmas morning and share a special treat.

Rethinking Christmas - A community of advent conspirers - many great ideas for ways to give without spending money.

Letters from Father Christmas, Revised Edition Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tokien - a beautiful book compiling the letters Tolkien gave to his Children each year from Father Christmas.

Personal Letters to Each Child - Keeping a tradition of writing a special letter to each child with your innermost thoughts about them as a gift each Christmas or on their Birthday or at New Years. Those whose parents did this for them attested to the priceless value of what those letters have meant to them.

Snowflake Patterns
- paper snowflake patterns for beautiful snowflake decorations and a challenging cutting project for the kids.

Black Apple Doll - a simple, adorable rag doll you can customize and make as gifts.

Ravelry - knit and crochet community with tons of free patterns.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Consuming Music

Having played violin in an orchestra in Japan, my Mother loved classical music and often played it in our home when I was a little girl. Sometimes we would visit her older sister, in whose tiny home in Tokyo sat a Grand Piano, far too large for its surroundings, but an essential in their home. I remember my desire to be able to play that beautiful instrument as well as my cousins as I listened to them practice for their recitals.

I never did have the patience to sit through my lessons without tears and consequently never learned to read music, but my mother's love for classical music has always stayed with me. And going through the AO Composer Study list with my kids has been an adventure in rediscovering familiar music and discovering new.

It is amazing to me how consuming a piece of music can be; how it can just grip you in awe. I always favored the stormy and weightier movements, perhaps because it appeals to my more intense nature or maybe it's amazement at just how far someone can take an instrument. In any case, I thought this one is just phenomenal:

According to Wikipedia, Charles Rosen said of this final movement of the well-known Moonlight Sonata, "it is the most unbridled in its representation of emotion. Even today, two hundred years later, its ferocity is astonishing."

I couldn't help but feel the same astonishment listening to it.

What's even more astonishing is seeing someone play it.

As to what Charlotte says about children learning music, I couldn't find much in browsing her writing, but I assume it's along the same lines with the rest of her philosophy. Develop the love and interest that is naturally there by putting them in touch with the best of the best. Don't hinder the child with hours and hours of playing the same unappetizing piece over and over or focus on dry semantics first.

I did find a couple of PNEU articles on music and these quotes stuck out to me:

"The child's musical education has two stages--one which we think about, and one which we don't think about. There is the stage of formal teaching, which must begin some day, and which we think about seriously because we have to pay for it. And there is the long stage of informal learning, the first six years of a child's life, which is not represented in the quarterly account, and is likely to be overlooked altogether. ... The parent's part of the child's musical education is (if we may express it in Herbartian phrase) 'to create a large apperception mass in the direction of music,' so that there may be a crowd of ideas ready to seize upon whatever new material the teacher may present, and to assimilate it." ~Music Teaching by Mrs. Spencer Curwen

"Technique and expression are almost too nearly allied for a child to distinguish between them. If the melody is singing sweetly, clearly, and sustainedly in one hand, and the other is accompanying firmly, quietly, and in perfect time, let that be enough. In the after years when life has opened out in all directions, and the mind is full of the mystery of human life, and the heart is full of love, and maybe sorrow, then expression will come." ~About Music Teaching by Barbara Davenport

All I have done as far as composer study for the past few years is to play classical music here and there when we're cooking, cleaning or the kids are playing. I didn't start with the AO schedule until my daughter was in YR2. Originally, we listened to Peter And The Wolf & Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra which my Mother always talked about.

We then heard about Beethoven's Wig, which everyone insisted was Twaddle, but loved it anyway so we got it at the library and sure enough, the kids loved it. I'll admit it, I loved it. It's a compilation of popular classics with lyrics added to them for fun and learning, but it's unnecessary. The upside of it is that it's well done, it's fun, the kids learn about the composer and the song through the lyrics, they beg for it to be played. The downside is that the silly lyrics may be the thing your kids remember about the song and will forevermore think of Beethoven's 5th as 'Beethoven's Wig'. And his voice can get annoying.

The CDs come with 2 versions of each song - one with the lyrics, one without, so I phased out playing the ones with the lyrics and played the ones without and they still enjoyed it but would ask for the other version.

After that I downloaded some of my favorites that I remembered and then in YR2 we started with the AO schedule and that has been fun. Here's a link to this term's composer study that Kristine put together that you can play right off the computer.

The kids dance and hum or whistle along to the songs they like and ask me to play the composer study playlist at times. They know a few names of the composers and can identify Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Peter & The Wolf, Handel's Messiah, Beethoven, and a few others, but know nothing of music theory or much at all about the composer's lives.

For now we're just enjoying it.

Here are some quotes on Composer Study from 'Wendi' that I found on the
AO: Music page.

"In music study the same principles apply as do in picture study, nature study, and nature notebooks. That is the principle of attentiveness and good observation. The goal is not to have children who can give a lecture on music theory. It is to have children learn to enjoy classical music and tell one piece from another just as naturally as they learn the difference between, say, The Farmer in the Dell and When the Saints Go Marching In - because they are both familiar with and fond of what they are hearing." "With reading we don't begin with the mechanics, the grammar and punctuation, nor we do we begin with a biography of Beatrix Potter before we read Peter Rabbit. With music, we should begin in much the same way - with simple exposure."

"So they can simply play around with music, listening to it, plinking away on musical instruments without being burdened with facts about the lives of composers, music theory, technique, and composition. In other words, those of us who do nothing much more than play the tapes and CDs, occasionally humming along, of each term's composers, need not feel guilty. =)"

I hope you'll choose to listen to the great composers with your children. There are fantastic treasures for every sort of taste that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Even my 3 year old enjoys Handel's Messiah and sings along. Even better, take your children to see it live at Christmastime - they will never forget the fantastic music inspired by our glorious Lord!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Favorite

We couldn't find our bedtime free read last night, Caddie Woodlawn, so I asked my daughter to pick another book. She picked Robin Hood, which we never finished from last year, YR2, which never sat right with her (the not finishing). It was her favorite book last year she said because of the 'words' and how funny it was.

She's talking about the unabridged, Robin Hood by Howard Pyle where sentences like, "'By my faith and my troth,' quoth Robin..." and "Mayhap they do not understand a lad like thee. Thou shalt come with us, and perchance we may find a certain one that can aid thee in thy perplexities..." are how the stories are told.

And it was her favorite.

Thank you Charlotte. I never in a million years would have picked something so completely, obviously and blatantly out of a 2nd grader's league myself. Who would? Even the 4th grader we know who attends the Classical Academy is reading the version by someone other than Pyle, which is completely redone in modern, 'easier' language. I don't blame them! Frankly, had I not known Charlotte, I'm certain I would have picked the Disney version for her, because that's the track we were on only a few short years ago.

Imagine what we might have missed.

Here's a snippet from what we read last night:

Thus, mile after mile, they strode along, now across a brawling stream, now along a sunlit road, now adown some sweet forest path, over which the trees met in green and rustling canopy, and at the end of which a herd of startled deer dashed away, with rattle of leaves and crackle of branches. Onward they walked with song and jest and laughter till high noontide was passed, when at last they came to the banks of a wide, glassy, and lily-padded stream ...

Behind them and before them stretched the river, its placid bosom ruffled here and there by the purple dusk of a small breeze. Sweet green osiers bordered the banks, and far away the red-tiled eaves of some tall tower glimmered in the sun, the weather-vane a spark against the blue sky. And now they travelled more easily, for the road was level and hard. Around them and over the surface of the water skimmed and dipped the swallows, gay dragon-flies darted hither and thither glistening in the sun, and now and then a solitary heron rose splashing and with startled cry from its hiding place among the reeds and sedges that grew in the shallow margin of the stream.

I knew as I read through that beautifully descriptive scene that because we had been in touch with nature so intimately, those scenes were vivid in her mind as they were in mine. To be able to hear something we know and love so dearly described in such a masterful way is incredibly enlightening to the way of words and language. Words; part of the reason why Robin Hood was her favorite.

What a journey Charlotte has us on. Praise God for this richness He has blessed us with! I only wish more people could see and know about this treasure trove, this Aladdin's Cave CM wished to share with everyone.

In case you missed it, here's another post I did a while back on the topic of language with more snippets from Robin Hood that may be of interest: http://livingcminca.blogspot.com/2010/05/for-grasp-of-language.html

"Will you come with me, sweet Reader? I thank you. Give me your hand."