Monday, June 28, 2010

rainbow garden -- red

I had a request for more information about our Rainbow Garden. (Yipee, I've been wanting to talk about it!) This is the flower garden in the children's play yard, and is planted along the front edge (towards the front yard) starting with a section of red flowers and plants (the first in the row is a medium-sized Japanese maple tree -- which has red leaves -- which is out of this photo to the left, you can see some of it's shade), then a section of orange, then yellow, then just greenery in the corner (at the far right side of this photo).

Around that corner is a gate, and beyond it and towards the house is a section of blue, and then a section of purple.

I started the garden several years ago, and it's just starting to really take off this year -- I've finally got colors blooming in each section during all 3 seasons (these first two photos were taken in May, and my gardens area almost always in desperate need of a weeding...).

Since we are on "vacation" this week (although we're not actually going anywhere, it's more of a "staycation"), I thought it would be fun to showcase some of the plants in each section, taking a color a day. Here's a few of my "red" plants -- it's a section that needs more work, I'm having problems finding red plants that can tolerate the partial to deep shade the maple provides in that section of the garden. If anyone has any suggestions of shade-tolerant red plants, feel free to leave me an idea in the comments! Meanwhile, enjoy a couple of azaleas from earlier this spring, and a festive Gaillardia which has been blooming like gangbusters ever since then:


Argh!!! I'm tired of being spammed in my comments by pornographic sites. Not only is it a pain in the butt for me to go in and remove each spam comment, but I'm afraid some of my readers will see the comment before I do, click on the link, and then have to dig their eyes out of their heads with their fingernails....

So I'm putting my comments on moderation -- it's a pain, it means that I'll have to approve your comments before they post to the public, but I figure at this point it's a better option than continuing to expose you all to general nastiness.

PLEASE don't stop commenting! I love hearing from you and promise to send everything through to the blog even if it's a comment I don't agree philosophically with -- so long as it's not porn!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

keeping cool, duck style

...or, for Monty Python fans, "And now for something completely different."....

Saturday, June 26, 2010

keeping cool

We celebrated finishing our school year yesterday by meeting our friends Lori, Russ, and Justin at Forest Park in Springfield, MA to enjoy a crazy train ride (not sure what that conductor was drinking out of that water bottle....) and some quality hours at the sprinkler park to keep cool. Kids had a blast, and so did I, sitting in the shade and chatting with a friend -- I LOVE SUMMER! Enjoy a few photos from our day:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

the passing of Pear

It's a sad fact of life that we outlive the pets that we love. Tonight Pear, Zoo Boy's first "just his" pet, passed away. Although we only had her for 3 years (she joined our family in August of 2007 at about 2 1/2 years old), that's a significant chunk of 7 yr old Zoo Boy's life and he doesn't really remember not having her. She was the start of his first entrepreneurial venture, breeding her and selling her babies to save up money to buy his Cockatiel. We lovingly referred to her as the "little blue chicken," because she laid so many eggs. That egg-laying propensity was what ultimately got her in trouble -- she became egg-bound at the beginning of this week, due to an egg that was just too large for her to physically pass, and though she initially survived the treatment, she ultimately succumbed due to the debilitated state it put her in.

Zoo Boy and J made her a shroud and we held a twilight burial. The Boy was too sad to talk, but J shared some memories and well-wishes, and The Map Man and I talked about the things we liked about Pear. I reminded the boys that her beauty and spirit lives on in her children, which several homeschooling families enjoy in their own homes, as well as the hundreds of families who visit the local children's museum where we donated three of them, where they continue to delight visitors.

Zoo Boy chose a lovely piece of white quartz for her grave-marker and said that he'd like to mark it with a "W" because that's the first initial in our last name. (BTW, I'm open to suggestions in how to go about doing that -- if anyone knows how to permanently mark a hunk of quartz, leave me a comment!!) He also picked out the burial location, which is at the edge of the "blue" section of our rainbow garden, since she was a blue parakeet. He really conducted himself a very mature manner -- appropriately sad, but conscious of what to do to give himself the closure he needed. It was a good funeral.

The delphiniums overlooking the grave, a fitting tribute to the passing of an all-around nice first pet.

Even Cosmo dropped by to pay his respects:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

King Summer

We wrapped up our school year with a reading of the "King Summer" story from the Enki Kindergarten Nature Stories collection. After recalling the story the next day, we painted it. (I just love how I can use these seasonal stories year after year as a tradition, doing more and more with them each year!) The details of what we did are below, J's painting is above, Zoo Boy's in the middle, mine on the bottom. This story is so perfect for finishing the school year out, because of the rainbow imagery -- sort of an "over the rainbow" kind of thing, an end and yet a beginning, and very cool because the song we used for transition into story work time this year was "look to the rainbow" where we should "follow the fellow who follows a dream". And of course, incredibly seasonally appropriate, what with the solstice and all. Ahhh, I love integrated, holistic learning!!

So here's how we did the led painting:

I recited the first story verse. I began painting the top of the paper with a red arc. I talked about the birds flying in the sky, filling the air with color, and I talked about bright red Cardinals piping their cheery tune as they flew. Then we washed our brushes and loaded them with yellow paint, then talked about the bees who also filled the air with color as they buzzed about under the yellow sun. They couldn't fly as high as the birds, but stayed closer to the earth. While saying all that, we painted a yellow arc in the middle of our paper, leaving a white space between it and the red arc above it. Then as we washed our brushes, I recited the middle story verse, about how hot and oppressive it was getting. We loaded our brushes with blue. I talked about the clouds gathering and the rain pouring forth as we painted a blue arc at the bottom of our page -- the rain ran all over the ground, covering the grass and refreshing all with it's cooling moisture. Then we washed our brushes again, and I gave them fresh rinse water in their cups. This time, we loaded our brushes only with water. I talked about how the cool water awakened the dozing birds and bees, and they flew out of their nesting places and celebrated in the sky together. As I was saying this, we brought our brushes into the red and yellow at the edges of those arcs, and blended them together in the white space between them to created an orange arc. Then we washed our brushes again, and we loaded them up with water again, and I talked about how the frogs emerged from the mud where they'd been dozing in the hot day to hop about again, and how the water refreshed the green, green grass. While I talked, we brought our brushes into the bottom of the yellow arc and into the top of the blue arc, and combined them in the white space to paint a green arc. As we finished up, I recited the last story verse, which talks about it ending with a rainbow, as we worked just a little bit of red paint into the very bottom center of the blue arc to create a bit of purple. The kids were not the least bit surprised to discover that they had painted a rainbow. "Cool," said Zoo Boy.

We'll be using the verse version of the story for handwriting practice work over the next month, keeping our work both "lite" and seasonal and yet still connected to our school work.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

opening day!

Our beloved beach at the lake down the hill from us opened for the season this weekend. To say the kids were thrilled is a vast understatement! So we flocked with the throngs (well, as much "throngs" as we get at our little local lake!) to enjoy a bit of fun water time. We'll spend more and more time there as the season progresses -- our lake figures heavily into our summer rhythms!

And one more thing -- a very Happy Father's Day to The Man who makes all this fun possible!! We love you, babe!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

brick art

A smattering of photos from our visit to the Fine Arts Museum in Springfield, MA, this past week with our friends Kyra and Fluffy, to see the special exhibit called "The Art of the Brick" by artist Nathan Sawaya. These sculptures are all made out of lego bricks.

My favorite picture:

WAY cool exhibit, I recommend seeing it if it comes to a museum near you!

Friday, June 18, 2010

progress report week: science

As hard as it might have been to write a progress report about reading the other day (because reading happens day in and day out around here and I long ago stopped gauging my kids' reading ability, since they are capable of reading pretty much anything), I think that science might be an even harder topic to quantify. (Hm, I think that might have the makings of a good joke....)

Our entire lives are science -- every minute of every day the kids are making observations and discoveries about the world they live in, the way things work, the ins and outs of living organisms, the chemistry and physics of life. Whether or not I choose to label it as 'science' is entirely beside the point. They are learning either way and there's nothing I can do to stop it, even if I wanted to.

Even in the formal portion of our science curriculum, there is a great big blurring with art, since most of our artistic digestion of the Nature Stories (which comprise the aforementioned curriculum) was done via watercolor painting this year. I find that nature just lends itself to art, don't you? That LIFE (and hence, science) lends itself to art. It's just screaming to be acknowledged, interpreted, recorded, seen through the lenses of our own unique eyes. (And look, it lends itself to poetry too, which in itself is art. Or is it writing? Or reading? You see my problem with this?!?!?!)

Even their play is science -- here they are with their friend Fluffy, playing -- ok, well, building -- or rather, creating with legos at an exhibit at the Springfield Museums (where there is currently a lego-based sculpture exhibit, which deserves it's own post when I get a chance....but anyway, right back around to art again!). But this isn't in the art museum, this is in the science museum where lego robots are observing and recording the weather as we speak. Science. Art. Life. It's all the same, I tell you!!

But anyway, back to the "progress" part of this report. This academic year we spent gobs of time at both the Springfield Science Museum and the brandy-new CT Science Center, and the oldy-but-goody Children's Museum, where we got more than our money's worth out of our memberships to all three places. We saw a multitude of planetarium shows, we looked through telescopes aimed at planets and nebulae, we participate in classes and programs on matter, chemistry, geology, ecology, biology.... we got hands-on experience with high-tech science equipment, and we sifted through pond muck for dragonfly nymphs. We built robots and wired circuits and sent paper helicopters soaring up to the ceiling. We got up close and personal with insects, slugs, earthworms, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

We had a rollicking good scientifically artistic (or artistically scientific) time.

And we don't plan on letting the good times stop anytime soon!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

progress report week: the arts

Now that I've covered the Three "R"s over the last 3 days, I'll move on to the other important pieces of our learning year. I'm lumping all of the arts together in one post, otherwise this progress report is going to go on for weeks....

At left is a sampling of weaving that we did this spring, both in association with a co-op we worked with (where we took a fleece all the way from the back of the sheep that grew it to a finished woven product), and messing around with it here at home just because weaving is fun.

As usual, I didn't do nearly enough crafting (by my estimation) with the kids as I had hoped to. For some reason this always winds up on the back burner, and even though I intend on doing more crafting, it seems to be the thing that is dropped first when we run out of time. Next year, crafting will become entwined in our story work, and will have a more prominent place in our daily rhythms so that it is not so easily dropped. I also find it's easier to work on crafting with groups of kids rather than just us here at home, so much of my kids' crafting this year happened in classes (that I taught, and in classes they took with others), or just on their own.

Fortunately, both boys just love making things with their hands. J continues to crochet on and off when the spirit moves him to pick it up, and he does a daily origami project, which he likes to work on before the rest of us are up in the morning so he can surprise us with his creation of the day. He worked his way through a paper-airplane making book and came up with some cool designs. Zoo Boy is receiving the magazine "Ranger Rick: Just for Fun" which is a crafting and activity magazine, and he loves making those projects on his own. He also completed a workbook on cutting, and is now quite adept with a pair of scissors. By request, he is currently working with a cutting-and-pasting workbook at his own speed, making simple craft projects almost daily.

Drawing of course is a major part of our school work. J's drawing has always been wonderful, but I saw him really mature with his work this year. He puts a lot of good thought into planning out his page and what technique and colors he wants to use to tell his story. Zoo Boy has also come a long way with his drawing skills, although he'll still say that he really doesn't like to do it, especially if we are all drawing the same scene from a story. He's much more interested when he's allowed to draw whatever he wants.

Zoo Boy much prefers painting to drawing. I think the fact that the output isn't as obvious, and the brush strokes are so much less precise, is what appeals to him. J enjoys painting also, and while we did much more with painting this year than we ever have before, I still feel like we could have incorporated it even more. A goal for next year! Unlike with drawing, Zoo Boy does not balk at my leading the painting with a verse or story.

One area where I have definitely not adequately touched on is sculpture, and I really need to do something about that for the coming year. Fortunately, our discovery of Keva Planks filled that particularly void nicely this spring. But we only pulled out and sculpted with beeswax a couple of times, and I can't really blame that on anything other than having planned on it, but never having actually just done it.

And of course I can't forget music and the performing arts! It's been a big year for that, especially for J who discovered a passion for dance. Between singing with the youth chorus and doing solos in both the winter and spring shows, taking 3 dance classes and landing a solo in the recital, performing in a musical with the Monday Homeschool Classes group, as well as their talent show, and now participating in rehearsals in the leading role of "Oliver!", J's pretty much covered all of the performing arts bases. The only horizon yet to explore is musical instruments, and I'm in the process of lining up guitar lessons for him to start in the fall, if not sooner (which is the instrument of his choice -- he also plans on learning the piano as well, but has decided he'd rather learn that himself via instructional books rather than have formal lessons).
I haven't forgotten Zoo Boy -- he too is a lover of the performing arts, but more as a patron than a participant. He loves watching J rehearse and attending shows, but has no desire to be up in front of an audience himself. But I know that he is getting his own nourishment from being an audience member, and he's got a beautiful singing voice that he enjoys using to harmonize with his brother in the privacy of our own home. He also is helping J learn his lines for "Oliver!", reading all the other parts for him when he practices at home. He's also told me that he'd like to work on the scenery for the show, which will be a great way for him to get involved with the performing arts on a level that he is comfortable with.