Saturday, September 29, 2012

All Crafts! All the time!

Still catching up from summer, this seemed like a good post to follow on the heels of my ramblings about tape.  Ani's best friend, Ari, is perhaps the biggest lover of tape we know, and here she is to prove it:

Yeeeeees, for her seventh birthday she and her Baba created a stellar duct tape dress.  Wow.  There are very few people who can carry that off, but Ari is definitely one of them.

Ari is new to the sleepover, and we are honored to be one of her preferred spots for sleeping-over, so we had two slumber parties during the summer and they were chock-full-o'-craftiness!!!  I'm a little worried that we've set this precedent that will be impossible to follow - I turned into the Mr. Rogers of the craft world, supplying supplies and focused, cheerful attention for a good 24 hours.  I have heard through the grapevine that Ari would like me to join the ranks of her mothers (she is fortunate to have 4 already), and while I am deeply honored, I am pretty certain it's because she thinks we are All Crafts All the Time here. 

We all adore her, so that's a pretty good reason to hang out with us too.  An added bonus is that she has a really lovely peaceful effect on my daughters, and they rarely fight when she is over.  Love that.

So, what did we get into?  Well, first there were the free-for-all supplies: coffee filters and brads; egg cartons and craft sticks. Tape, tape and more tape.

When they wanted some ideas and direction, I brought out a bunch of yarn and asked if they wanted to learn to make Ojo de dios, or God's Eyes (we used the instructions here).  We proceeded to spend hours on these, nearly missing dinner, and then we picked them up again in the morning.  Very meditative and so beautiful...

The girls needed help starting them - tying the sticks together and wrapping the first few rounds - but after that were able to switch colors and continue wrapping on their own.

A: I love this sleepover!
Me:  This sleepover loves you!!
A: It's because you three love me! And you love to CRAFT!!!


I'm blending sleepovers here, but another project we did was making found object prints.   They painted their paper first, and we had supper while they dried, and then went back to make our prints.

We used bits from nature - rocks, pine cones, dried lotus pods - and things from around the house, like spools and yarn-wrapped blocks.

I think they are so beautiful! I had to strongly suggest that they stop at a certain point, so that their delicate marks weren't totally obscured by zealous stamping!

In the morning the A's took their homemade tape-and-craft-stick baskets to collect fallen flowers, like the rose of sharon blossoms that cover the sidewalk at the end of our block.  

I had to include this next photo to show how street art we get. Pretty hard-core grunge (grungy?) if you ask me.  Yup, right on the street, with the recycling truck.  Well, none of the artists seemed to notice.  They were too busy bashing the flowers between pieces of paper, with hammers.  I think art projects that include hammers pretty much take the cake.

The girls seemed pleased with the various shapes of flower-mush-blobs they got, and they experimented on all the other plants within reach - clover, squash, tomato (fruit and leaves...).

These kids have endless energy for making.  At one point I sent them on a scavenger hunt around the block, clipboard in one hand, a trash bag in the other, and they happily found all the items (a plant with heart leaves!  a bird sitting on a wire!  a yellow flower!) and were back for more art in no time!!  This next project they came up with on their own...tracing objects and then coloring their overlapping spaces.  

We have another sleepover planned for next week....wonder what we'll get into?!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Gallery: thanking the Universe for tape

helicopter: tape and craft sticks
Since the inception of The Art Room in our house, there has been a rotating cast of stars - construction paper, brads, craft sticks - but the one constant, the shiniest of all of them, is, without a doubt, tape.

flower-collecting basket
It is beloved of every seven-year-old to enter our house, and the passion runs deep.  It dominates the creation, becomes more than its little adhesive self ever realized it could aspire to - center stage as a basket (see photo above to believe it)! Holding together propellers of planes, securing every hole of newly-created musical instruments, together with its co-star paper, there is nothing it can't or hasn't done here in our house.

basket, with flowers
shaker, with paper, craft stick, brads and...tape
airplane: construction paper and tape
another airplane!
cuffs? paper and tape
yes, a tent. paper and tape.

(I have to do some deep-breathing about the supplies sometimes, and especially about the ones that aren't so earth-friendly, like plastic tape.  I did look to see if there were a version that used recycled materials, and found that I somehow missed an unveiling over a year ago of such a product.  We'll have to track some down and let you know if it's up to the job...)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

cooperative learning - joining a homeschool co-op

what I saw of Eliza all day
 We started a new journey this week: fall semester with a homeschooling co-op that has been operating here for the past 5 years.  It is an eclectic bunch; some online homeschoolers who use the virtual academy, some unschoolers, and some of us in-betweeners.  We have gone this route before. I wrote about it here and here and you can click on "coop" in the labels at the bottom of this page to read about some of our adventures, like re-introducing American Burying Beetles on the Wayne National Forest (it was soooooooooooo coooooooooooool!), and you can click here, here and here to read about the class I taught on poop, but I digress. Sort of. (Oh, go ahead and click it! The class was so much fun! And Eliza was so little!!!)

I have noticed a pattern for myself since we started homeschooling: Join a group. Get Very Involved. Burn out. Quit. Recoup for a year or two.  Repeat.  We were a part of a rich homeschooling coop in Virginia, when the girls were very small, and it set the bar high for us in terms of being truly cooperative and, well, happy.  The coop we joined when we first moved here was very lively and introduced us to the homeschooling community just as I had hoped it would, but it was exhausting and I over-extended myself trying to help craft it into something more right for us, and burned out.  Quitting felt great and we expanded into the "free time"  that was left after the planning and the long day and the day-after recovery was no longer a part of our life.  Then came Farm School, and with it some deep joys and  also over-extending and frustrations.  See the pattern?

This is "the other coop" in town, the one we haven't tried yet.  I have felt reluctant to try it out, because I really feel like our richest times are when we have time and nowhere to be, or at least, no obligation to be anywhere, but Eliza and I have had some conversations this summer that lead me to feel out this option for us.  She is a sparkling fiery child, a girl who wants to know the world, who wants experiences and new people and new ideas and challenges, and after talking it over with her, we decided that this might be one place where we could explore finding some of those things for her.  Ani and I were not so sure we would be happy, but we were willing to give it a try. 

Tapestry class for Ani
It helps that there are people in this group who we really like to spend time with and don't see much of otherwise.  Our first day was this week, and though I had some serious reservations about how it would go (based on a slew of really tedious and grouchy emails that seemed to address old history), we all came out of it feeling like it had been a good day.

My favorite moments came while acting as a liaison for a couple of Ani's classes, including a math class where we measured everything, including the baby.  One of the things I love about this kind of community learning is that we are all just in it, babies and all.  I got to hold this little one (16 pounds of him) for a good bit of the class.

I think the girls will find ways to grow with this group.  Eliza is taking Spanish with a woman from Argentina, and is reading The Hobbit for a book club.  Ani is taking a form-drawing class with an experience Waldorf-trained teacher, which is unlike anything she has ever done before.  It was astounding, walking into a classroom of 13 children under 7 and it being so quiet you could hear the crayons gliding smoothly across the paper. And these children are nice kids, but they're not particularly concerned with being overly proper and polite, so I'm guessing they were spellbound...

I am still feeling reserved about this experience - I'm not jumping in to teach a class, though the ideas are starting to stir - but I have to say, so far, so good...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

We are traveling this weekend to see some old friends up north...I've created some posts to catch us all up in the meantime, and we'll return with more stories in a few days!

biking past the farm

a surprise upon opening my fridge...
the cake fairy had visited me!!
Life is so good.  Friends, family, the beautiful world, and cake.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

gee, you hike a lot!

We do.  Not far and not every week, but it is the most consistent part of our lives, the getting out into nature and moving together.  Sometimes I think of it as our therapy and medication, all rolled into some fresh air and beating hearts.  That's ok with me if that's how we handle our lows (like missing Dan - the sign above was made when we got back from driving him to the airport in Columbus.  Shoot, I don't think the girls quite get how long five weeks is...).  So many good things happen out there.

There is the obvious movement, deep breathing, increased heart rate, good oxygen moving to our brains, improving moods and brain function.

There is the reading of the land - on a walk with our friends-in-the-forest this weekend, we were walking logged land and there was a lot to understand about how it's changed, what it was before the logging, and how it's changed since the logging. What trees are growing in the disturbed land? What's growing just across the logging access road?

There are the quiet, solitary stops to inspect, to smell, to wonder - coyote poop or owl pellet? Hmmm....good question. 

There is the beauty - the shapes and the stunning colors of this time of year are deeply nourishing to me.

There are the surprises, like old puffballs and tiny bones.  Hearing your kids singing to the trees, in their own world.

The day today was so beautiful we had to get out again, after most of a day of working together on organizing and purging things from our house, mixed in with some games and figuring. As we neared a familiar spot, Eliza sighed, "oh this feels good already".  She needed it too.

She told me with quiet pride that her friends ask her to identify plants when they're together; that at farm camp this summer, she was the one with the plant knowledge.  She told me she loves that I talk about plants with her, and I told her that I am so happy it is something we share.


We keyed out a common plant that we hadn't learned yet, and as I was looking at the possibilities, I heard her say, "well, it's clearly jointed", which surprised me; I didn't think that was something she would notice, but it was the next thing in my key's choices: stems are jointed.  Anyway, I don't expect that to make a lot of sense, but it was a really nice moment of realizing how observant she is about plants, and how much we can learn this together.

We turned around when we were hungry and ready for home, pockets full of buckeyes and acorns, hearts a little eased and cups filled.