Felt Food: Super cute, easy to make, fun to use!

Early in last December I was snuggling with JuneBug on the couch before she went to bed and I was reading a book called Homemade Christmas Gifts by Toni Anderson on my Kindle. It had pictures of the projects and about the 15th project in, JuneBug sat up and announced that I “could make these for her so she could use them! Please, mom! Please!”  I took another look at it, said “maybe” and put her in bed. =)

Felt Cookies & Doughnuts

Once she was settled I looked them up on the computer and loved the whole idea of making these cute little felt cookies and pizzas. It really would be easy and fun – and inexpensive!  I could see the younger girls loving this idea for several more years.

(It would also meet my needs since we try to give the girls one handmade by us gift at Christmas. Yay!)

What I didn’t expect was how easy they were to make, how cute they would be, and utterly relaxing it would be for me! I created my own patterns. You can download them free here:

 Felt Cookies, Brownies, & Doughnuts

Art That Moves

In the 1930’s, an American artist named Alexander Calder wanted to create sculptures that moved without machinery. The result of the first mobile designed to hang in mid-air and catch the breeze. Mobiles are so common place today that it weird to think of them being a new invention…I love my chimes hanging by my porch! :)

Mr. Calder is featured in the National Gallery of Art. Here is a photo of the Calder Room:

220px-Calder_at_NGA

photo: Wikipedia 

Our Creative Art Challenge this week was to create a mobile ourselves.

Hanging Mobiles Collage

Supplies Needed:

  • Foam Shapes or Construction Paper
  • Stapler or Craft Glue
  • Scissors
  • Wire Pipe Cleaners
  • Wire Cutters

Instructions: 

  1. Cut pipe cleaners into 6 uneven lengths.
  2. Start with the 2 longest pipe cleaners. Wrap the end of the longest one time around the middle about 1/3 of the length of the second one.
  3. Repeat this step, starting with the longest and ending with the smallest.
  4. Hang on the back of a chair.
  5. Select your shapes (or cut them out of paper). You will need two of each shape.
  6. Create your mobile by stapling or gluing the shapes to the available ends of each wire. Let dry, if applicable.
  7. Hang and enjoy!

Hanging Mobile Step 8

An “Official” School Room

Dining room school room

I have been toying with the idea of moving our formal school subjects that we typically did around the dining room table to a school room in order to create a more peaceful and relaxing environment for myself. There is something about homeschooling that creates a constant need for me to think about and never quite shut school out of my brain when it is time for other things…homeschooling truly becomes a way of life. :) Especially when you are trying to set an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

Anyway, my problem is that we would get involved in a big project, or someone would still be finishing up something that couldn’t move from the table and so it would stay – through dinner, through a few days to a week. I couldn’t stand that there was no where else to have those things. In order to do a school room, I would have to sacrifice my craft room and the room the kids had their toys in.  Hmmmm!

Craft a& Play Room 2

As you can tell, this room  also became the catch-all room for stuff I wasn’t sure what to do with.

The other problem was stuff! I had stuff everywhere.  Yes, it was generally tidy. Everything had a place. But one day I realized that I needed to stop going up the walls. I needed some space. Something HAD to change. I was unhappy, school was starting to suffer, and I was feeling guilty.

In the midst of these ideas swirling through my head, I attended a homeschool conference for the very first time. I went because the Sipmly Charlotte Mason team was coming and Sonya Shafer (the public face of SCM) was giving several workshops on various topics such as habit training, the Charlotte Mason methods, and was presenting a brand new workshop called “When More Is Less: A Call To Simplicity.” I went with one of my good friends and planned to meet other friends there. My friends and I also had the opportunity to eat dinner with the SCM family and the Creating A Masterpiece artist and family team. It was wonderful to have 3 uninterrupted hours with Sonya, Doug, and Karen. I had so much fun and learned so much from them!

During dinner, Sonya urged me to go with my ideas and feelings. The next day when she presented her new More Is Less workshop, I knew that the Lord was confirming all these thoughts and I was going to make some changes and find a new balance in my life. All the way home, I was full of ideas and was mentally rearranging my house to better reflect the ideas I wanted my life to hold. Instead of hoarding things, I needed to share them. Instead of saying yes to everything, I had to start saying no to less important things. My family was somewhat shocked at how adamant I was about changing our lives! I had to educate them on WHY these changes were important for ALL of us – not just me. 

In order to help me stay motivated and continue to make these changes, I read the book called How To Escape the Clutter Trap. (You can read my review here.) We held a huge yard sale of really nice stuff (and my sweet sister drove 9 hours one way to help me!) and whatever did not sale, I donated to the resale shop, Book Samaritan, and other educational places around town.  

School Room Collage

Here is the basic school room when we first finished it. There is lots of floor space that I didn’t take pictures of.  ;) I painted the walls a light green and made white curtains to match the white furniture. I am deliberately trying add some blank wall space to the room. It is calm and peaceful. The table is a fold-up table and is easily put away when we have company coming to stay. It fits in front of the short bookcases like a door on the shelves and makes the room feel a little less “busy”. Since I took these photos, I have added a nature table/bookcase under the large window. I moved the cd player down there and put the nature study books on the shelf next to it. On the bottom of the shelf I put my Five in a Row books and SCM reading recommendations. That is another post for another day. ;)

Reading rail

Something that I added that I haven’t had before is a whiteboard and some book rails for easy display of wonderful books. 

I love this room. I am actually amazed at how much more consistent we are in a daily schedule, how much less I get interrupted or distracted, and how much better everyone’s attitude is about school and life in general.  Yay!!

 

To Shakespeare or Not to Shakespeare? That is the question…

Shakespeare book.

I have the book called How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare and finished it about a year ago. I was totally excited about Shakespeare when I was done because he is so enthusiastic and I loved how he explained the characters and the plays he chose. I wanted to go find a well-done production and watch them all. =)

The week I finished the book, we started memorizing a passage  from A Midsummer Night’s Dream since we have already studied it and my children enjoyed it. We memorized a couple of his choices from that play and then skipped to other plays.

The author has children memorizing a variety of plays and passages. Depending on your children ages and maturity, I will caution that we need to be careful about which plays that we share and about what we choose to commit to our children’s memory.

Edited to add:

We have been memorizing Shakespeare for a year now. I made a memory box (see here) and have created review cards for each passage. The girls are loving this. We are currently finishing The Winter’s Tale (per JitterBug’s request) and have so much fun with it.  

Side benefits we have enjoyed:

  • the little family jokes as we quote certain passages at each other when something reminds us of it.
  • Reading the scriptures and other harder books is not so intimidating…in fact, Shakespeare has taken much of the “it’s to hard for me” away.  
  • And how much fun is it to listen to the kids as we are reading the lines aloud to hear them start putting expression into it – even plays that they have not read before?  The ability to use your voice and tones to create an enjoyable reading experience for an audience is important….whether it is for a large audience or for a single child who learns to love books because of your excitement over the words and story.
  • The passages we choose make great quotes for a Book of Mottoes (aka a Commonplace Book)
  • We have some great discussions about events that occur in the plays. It’s a good way to discuss how to handle various situations in life.

Another thing that I am enjoying after reading about some of Shakespeare’s plays (as well as actually reading the plays) is how much richer other books are – including CM’s Original Series – because I understand the story lines of the characters the author is referring to. There are so many subtle nuances that you lose when you don’t know the story. I feel the same way about mythological references in books. You miss something the author is speaking of when you don’t know the story they are referencing.  Anyway…off my soapbox… :)

We will continue to memorize Shakespeare and we will choose our own passages from the plays we actually have read. I think in the end it will mean more to them because they will have already made their own connections with it.

Parents’ Teaching Partnership

I have been slowly reading through Teaching, No Greater Call. I am to the part where it is specifically talking about intentional teaching in our homes. There were two chapters dedicated to parents – one as a father and one as a mother. I also enjoyed the chapter on parents having a teaching partnership. There were some great ideas in there for intentional parenting as well as ways to build a marriage up. Take a look:

“In “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve explain that fathers and mothers “are obligated to help one another as equal partners” (Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). This partnership is especially necessary in parents’ sacred responsibility to teach their children.

In a general conference address, President Boyd K. Packer read Doctrine and Covenants 27:15, 17: “Lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, … taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” After reading this passage, President Packer explained the importance of mothers and fathers working together to help their children take the “shield of faith”:

“That shield of faith is not produced in a factory but at home in a cottage industry. …

“… Our Father’s plan requires that, like the generation of life itself, the shield of faith is to be made and fitted in the family. No two can be exactly alike. Each must be handcrafted to individual specifications.

“The plan designed by the Father contemplates that man and woman, husband and wife, working together, fit each child individually with a shield of faith made to buckle on so firmly that it can neither be pulled off nor penetrated by those fiery darts.

“It takes the steady strength of a father to hammer out the metal of it and the tender hands of a mother to polish and fit it on. Sometimes one parent is left to do it alone. It is difficult, but it can be done.

“In the Church we can teach about the materials from which a shield of faith is made: reverence, courage, chastity, repentance, forgiveness, compassion. In church we can learn how to assemble and fit them together. But the actual making of and fitting on of the shield of faith belongs in the family circle. Otherwise it may loosen and come off in a crisis” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 8; or Ensign, May 1995, 8).

The following suggestions can help parents develop a more effective teaching partnership.

Taking Time to Plan Together

As parents, you should set aside specific times to discuss your children’s needs and plan how to meet those needs. One busy couple discovered that holding weekly planning sessions together became one of the most valuable things they did as parents. They said:

“Although it took us almost a year to make our weekly planning session a habit, we now wonder how we ever got along without it. It helps us have more interest in what the other is doing. It helps us realize how important we are to each other and to our children. It gives us time to look at ourselves and at the children and decide on a course of action to meet our problems. We also plan our dates, special times with the children, details for family home evenings, and Sunday activities. It usually takes about 30 minutes, occasionally longer if big events or unusual problems need more talking over.”

As you plan ways to teach your children, prayerfully consider the following questions:

  • What should happen in the lives of our children as a result of our teaching?
  • Which specific gospel principles should we teach in order to accomplish this?
  • How should we teach these principles?

Suggestions for using these questions are found in “Preparing Lessons,” pages 98–99, and “Creating Lessons from Conference Talks and Other Resources,” pages 100–101.”

As usual, I can see the benefits of this not only for our intentional parenting and gospel teaching, but also in tweaking it for our homeschool situation. =)

“10 Ways Mothers Can Teach Their Children the Gospel at Home” by President Benson

I recently shared a post about 10 Ways Men Can Be a Spiritual Leader in their homes. President Benson also shared some great insights on how to be the mother of your children that they need. Here is what he said:

“Regarding the importance of mothers teaching their children the gospel, President Benson said: “Mothers, you are your children’s best teacher. … Teach your children the gospel in your own home, at your own fireside. This is the most effective teaching that your children will ever receive. This is the Lord’s way of teaching. The Church cannot teach like you can. The school cannot. The day-care center cannot. But you can, and the Lord will sustain you. Your children will remember your teachings forever, and when they are old, they will not depart from them. They will call you blessed—their truly angel mother” (To the Mothers in Zion [pamphlet, 1987], 10–11).

As a mother, you teach in many ways. Sometimes you plan teaching opportunities, but many teaching opportunities occur spontaneously in the normal flow of family life (see “Teaching Moments in Family Life,”pages 140–41). Sometimes you teach by example, sometimes by precept. Sometimes you teach by establishing patterns of gospel living in the home and sometimes by just taking time to pay attention and show love. President Benson gave 10 suggestions that can help you teach your children. Each of them emphasizes taking time:

“Take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going … whether your children are six or sixteen. …

“… Take time to be a real friend to your children. …

“… Take time to read to your children. …

“… Take time to pray with your children. …

“… Take time to have a meaningful weekly home evening. … Make this one of your great family traditions. …

“… Take time to be together at mealtimes as often as possible. …

“… Take time daily to read the scriptures together as a family. …

“… Take time to do things together as a family. …

“… Take time to teach your children. Catch the teaching moments. …

“… Take the time to truly love your children. A mother’s unqualified love approaches Christlike love” (To the Mothers in Zion, 8–12).

The responsibilities of motherhood can seem overwhelming. It is important to remember that the Lord does not expect mothers to be perfect or to achieve an unrealistic ideal standard of homemaking. Yet He does expect them to recognize and honor their divine role and to humbly do their best.”