Thursday, October 29, 2015

ART PROJECT: Day of the Dead Metalwork

Originally posted October 17, 2012

 A friend and I alternate teaching a once-a-month art class to 10 homeschool children ages 8 - 12 (funny thing - this is only 3 families, including my own).  This month I thought it would be fun to do something spook-inspired in honor of Halloween, but I feel like we've done so much traditional Halloween art that I thought investigating a different culture might be fun.  As such, I searched around and found a very cool project over at Dick Blick - Day of the Dead Triptychs.  I knew that in the time given there was no way the kids would be able to complete all three panels. My goal was that they each fully complete one panel, hopefully two - and they did. In the two hours allotted, each child was able to complete a completely metal-and-paint panel and one with a paper maché skull.  We were also able to incorporate a quick Day of the Dead lesson (though shamefully I forgot my laptop on which I'd created, if I do say so myself, a pretty awesome power point presentation that included many pictures of beautiful DoD artwork) and a snack of pan de los muertos, baked (and completely veganized) by a friend. I combined my children's creations to make triptychs (and one bi-panel) and we're using these to decorate our home.
If you want to give these a go you should know that the panels were fairly inexpensive, though mostly because I bought in bulk (just don't tell my husband!) to bring the cost down and used paint & tools I already owned.  I figured it cost approximately $1.50 per panel, maybe a little more but close enough.  If you don't buy in bulk the cost will probably at least double. And if you don't have metal embossing tools you'll either need to buy them or go without. The kids actually used the blunt end of paintbrushes to do most of the work, but I also have some tools (a crimper, stampers, etc.) that they were able to work with.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Get Creative (with writing!) for Halloween: Tombstone Prompts

(Reblogged from here).
A few years ago, I was teaching a workshop-style creative writing class to middle school and high school girls and decided to focus on "horror" as the genre for October. I did a different warm-up exercise each week, and the one that turned out to be my favorite was writing short stories based on funny tombstone epitaphs. The girls had a blast and came up with some amazing material! I have kept this trick in my bag and use it myself from time to time. This exercise could be simply that - a writing exercise. Or you can take it further - it could turn into a poem, a work of flash fiction, a short story, or even a full-blown novel if you take it and run! Even better? This exercise is one that the whole family can do together. It can easily be adapted for younger children by having them draw a picture and only a few short lines, while middle grade and high school children can join in the short story fun.
I've included a few epitaphs (supposedly from real tombstones) to help the juices flowing. (Click on the image to enlarge.) Don't see one that calls to you? No worries! Check out this list from BYUthis collection from Amanda Chatel at Bustle, or this list (also linked above) from My Time Matters for more inspiring (and funny!) words from the graveyard.
If you try the exercise, let me know - I'd love to hear what you think!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Overdue Update...

As you can probably tell from the picture to the left, over the past few months my world has been turned upside down!

Please visit my new online home!

A lot has changed in the past year.  My husband's father fell ill after Labor Day last fall, and my husband flew out to be with him for a few days.  Those three days turned into six months.  Sadly, my father-in-law passed away after battling his illness and I am forever grateful that my husband was able to spend those precious months with him.  It was difficult for the girls and I, but we managed.  Our homeschool year did not go as planned, but it did go.  My husband came home and we tried to finish out the year and the summer by getting back on track and back to normal.  

Then, at the end of July, my husband decided he wanted to move back to the town where he grew up.  We've been living in Maryland since 1999 but both he and I grew up in the SF Bay Area and he told me he is ready to switch back to the West Coast.

I cried.  I threw up.  I drew some angry pictures and wrote some angry words (that I promptly burned so he wouldn't see them).

And then I thought about how supportive he has been over the past sixteen years.  He moved with me to the DC Area when I started law school, he didn't complain when I withdrew from Georgetown Law to stay home with our kids, he wasn't in love with the idea of homeschooling but he stood behind me, and he uprooted our family from the metropolitan suburb we were living in to The Middle of Nowhere, Maryland when I pushed him to do so.  And now he was asking me to support him.  How could I not?

So in August, I flew out with him to CA and we secured a house - a total dump that needs a massive overhaul.  And is one-third the size of our current house.  And cost us so much money that I feel sick thinking about it.  We'll be doing a whole-house remodel and addition work (from 3000 miles away) over the current academic year, and we plan to move this summer.

It is a stressful process, and one that is not without sacrifices.  I work part time, I'm in grad school, I just started a writing internship, I volunteer (too much - I need to learn to cut back), then there's homeschooling, and now we've added coordinating a whole-house remodel AND prepping our house to be sold AND packing/moving... It was too much.  I can handle a lot, but my heart felt like it was going a million miles per hour and I couldn't sleep.

Something had to give.

So after much back-and-forth and soul searching, I enrolled my girls in public school the day before school started this fall.  Yes, you read that right - the day before school started.  They handled it okay.  Well, most of them did.  My third daughter had some serious adjustment issues but she's doing better now.

And I had to make the decision to delay my graduation from my MFA program by a year, moving from full-time to part-time status.  I spent a full day crying and bewailing my fate.  (I'm over it now.)

It's been difficult.  It is difficult.  I'm trying to focus on the positives (like being near my sister and her family, the weather, etc) and trying to focus on my work (because it helps pay the bills) and my writing and art (because they are my true loves and are what will get me through all of the stressful days ahead).

I've started a writing- and art-focused blog, which will include posts that will be helpful to homeschoolers looking for writing assignments and art projects.  I'll try to cross-post them here, and please check out my new site from time to time!

I'm not sure what will happen when we finally land in California - whether we'll jump back into homeschooling or if the girls will balk after experiencing school for the first time.  I'm willing to let the chips fall and figure that out after they do.

Best wishes on a wonderful homeschooling year!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Homeschool Room - Redone

Reading Corner
Time For a Change

Now that I'm homeschooling middle and high school girls, it was time to change up the school room and make it a cool hangout for tween and teen gals (plus a 30-somthing mama).  I spent a good part of two weeks cleaning out, rearranging, decluttering, and decorating.  Here's the (almost) finished product.  I'm still working on organizing the kids' desks as well as wall art, but so far it is a much-improved room.  I'm actually looking forward to starting the year off in this space!  The best part for me is a new (to me) desk repurposed from one of my girls rooms - it closes (to hide my clutter) and has an attached bookcase for storing my supplies and books.  Love it.

Every year I try to create dedicated spaces for different things.  This year I revamped the "art corner" (mostly because our art supplies are so numerous that they do not fit into this corner and have been almost completely removed from the school room) and turned it into a reading corner.  This is my favorite space in the room (aside from my new desk), and if I could I'd spend a large part of every day snuggled up reading there. 
The "Before" - in the midst of sorting

The "After" (well, almost ... still finishing up here and there)

Bench covers to match the curtains.
The History Corner

Two of my daughters' desks - still working on this area... The upper bookcase holds the art books and a few art supplies that we use on a regular basis.  The drawers are great for storing paper, cardboard, and misc. craft items.

Another daughter's desk - plus the bookcases which house science, lit, poetry, geography, & math plus serve as "cubbies" for the girls texts, books, binders, etc.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

9 months - Time Flies

It's been over nine months since I've written a blog post ...
People have babies in that amount of time. 

My best friend and I were discussing our (very under-posted upon)  blogs, and as such I've decided to write a post.

So much has happened since my last post, dated October 1, 2013.  And that post wasn't a "real" post - it was a link to a fabulous giveaway.  I digress.  In October, I was chin-deep in my graduate studies, trying to balance a full class schedule, homeschooling four girls, working part time, and all of the other household/mom/wife/volunteer duties that we all have.  Flash forward to July -- I've withdrawn from my graduate program, my youngest daughter started at a small, private, "special" school in March, and I'm still trying to get a grasp on the other household/mom/wife/volunteer/work duties. 

Facing me now is the prospect that my oldest daughter is officially starting (homeschool) high school this fall.  Pressure!!  I know logically that I should not be stressed about it as much as I am.  But it feels so "real" compared to all of the previous years.  I just don't want to make a mistake and jeopardize her ability to get into college and feel secure in her learning.  She's requested some distance classes so I've enrolled her in a few at Williamsburg Academy and an AP class at Mizzou online high school.  I will absolutely post reviews as we go along, especially since I had desperately searched for reviews during my decision-making process.  My next two daughters are entering 6th and 7th grade.  We used Oak Meadow last year, but while I love many parts of Oak Meadow I feel that these daughters need more in the way of writing instruction.  My third daughter, in particular, struggles with basic writing assignments, so we will be utilizing some aspects of Calvert and an eclectic mix of other curricula, including a Leadership course through Williamsburg Intermediate

Additionally, I'm redoing our homeschool room for the umpteenth time.  Every year I hope to avoid the re-do, and every year I'm sorely disappointed.  At least until after I'm done cleaning and clearing out.  Then I'm ecstatic with the change.  So I'm hoping for the same jubilant reaction this year, although right now I'm fairly disgusted with how much trash we manage to generate and the need for rearranging the furniture.  Again.  However, having one daughter enrolled full time in school has freed up a desk space and shifted who-sits-where in the school room.  I've been moved from the largest table to the smallest desk, which works for me since with more space I tend to accumulate more paperwork and trash. 

Here's to summer and new school years! 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Another amazing Giveaway at Secular Homeschool!


Enter to win one full Calvert Classic Curriculum (grades K-8). Calvert Education Services provides a complete, classic, accredited homeschool curriculum that will inspire your child.

Easy to Use

Spend your time teaching, not planning. A Calvert course includes everything you need:
  • online instruction and games that promote creative thinking
  • additional, easy-to-use manuals with daily lesson plans included
  • materials for hands-on exploration

FREE Expert Support Included

Calvert’s Education Counselors are on call, ready to provide FREE support. Whether you have questions on the best placement for your child, want advice on how to teach a new concept, or just need general homeschooling support, you don't have to go it alone with Calvert.

A Program that will Challenge your Child
At Calvert, we believe that students will rise to the challenge. Our comprehensive, rigorous Pre K–8 program focuses on the fundamentals, assuring that there are no gaps in your child’s education.

Calvert has allowed me to challenge my children at his or her level with a well-researched curriculum and a thoroughly engaging and motivating program. You have given me the tools I needed to mold my children into confident, articulate, educated children who, no doubt, will go far in life." Elizabeth W.

Having multiple children, there are times when I have told one of my sons to call and ask a counselor for help on a concept, a problem, or even just a bit of clarification. The boys have spent as little as two minutes and as long as an hour. The counselors have always been encouraging to the boys, clear in their teaching, patient, and extremely helpful. In fact, I would say they have played an integral role in our sons' education." Maria



Giveaway winner will receive one full grade level of Calvert Classic Curriculum (grade K-8). Enrollment in Calvert's Advisory Teaching Service is available at an additional cost.To ensure proper placement, we recommend Calvert's no-cost, no-obligation placement testing. Or call one of Calvert's Placement Counselors at (888) 328-8285 for a free consultation.

Friday, September 27, 2013


Check out the amazing giveaway at Secular Homeschool!

Have you heard the good news? added high school level courses to their curriculum as of August 2013! Time4Learning high school offers an online, interactive curriculum for ninth through twelfth grade that correlates to state standards. Time4Learning high school is organized into courses that cover the core subjects of language arts, math, social studies and science plus two electives. Courses are parent-supervised, student-paced, and can be used for homeschool, afterschool and summer skill building.

One lucky member will win a one-year subscription to Time4Learning High School, including access to four different subjects of choice!!