Monday, August 25, 2014

Playing with Balls

When we do fitness as a family, there are often exercises that involve rolling, tossing, bouncing or kicking balls. Naturally, when Emma and Irene see them, they want to play, so we spent a few minutes earlier in the week letting them do just that. 
 We did work with Emma on catching as well as kicking.


 Irene, however, needed no encouragement to throw herself at the ball as soon as it came near. :)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Art in Our Home and our Homeschool


In this house, we seem to go through spurts of letting the kids do art (the kind with paints and messier mediums) and then we have times that we don’t do much art for a while. Of course the kids adore making art and it is oh so good for their creativity, but it requires that we, as parents, step back and allow them space to make their art. And inevitably that means making messes too.



We took the kids to ArtQuest’s Family night and they got to paint, make clay creations, and spend lots of time building with blocks. It is a wonderfully free event that happens once a month for 2 hours. 

 Ezra and Gabe

 Emma and Olivia

 Ezra's Star
 Gabe's colorful piece
Olivia's stars and hearts

Then for the last few weeks at home we have started back using our most favorite art curriculum to date. Artistic Pursuits! Olivia is the only one that has done any of their lessons before. She has completed The Way They See It (here) and Elementary Book 1, which happened to go well with some of our more ancient history studies. This is the first time that the boys will sit in on the lessons and be allowed to explore with the art materials and mediums. The curriculum’s focus is to develop skills of observation and to fully and freely involve the student in the creative process. We have done the first 3 lessons in the Elementary Book 2 so far. The two artists we have covered are Cimabue and Giotto and the lessons individually focused on using watercolor, gold leaf, and oil pastels. It fit quite nicely with our history studies which led up to and included the beginning of the Renaissance. 

Watercolors
Here we used similar paints to those that Cimabue and other artists used to create frescoes in wet plaster. While we weren't doing them in plaster, the water-based paints were the main focus of the lesson.
Emma 
 Gabe's Garden and Olivia's beehives
 Ezra

Gold Leaf
Here we were emulating how Giotto used real gold leaf to accent his pictures.
Ezra 
 Olivia
Gabe

Oil Pastels 
The idea here was to emulate Giotto's scratching pictures on stone by layering oil pastels on chipboard. First we colored the board with a light color and then overlaid it in black. Once that was done, we used a sharp tool (in this case, a wooden meat skewer) to scratch off the black to reveal the lighter color beneath.



“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life: he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture.” --Charlotte Mason, Home Education, 309 

We have been doing a picture study of Giotto using the Simply Charlotte Mason picture study portfolios and a book that Rebecca found from the library called “The Glorious Impossible” by Madeleine L’Engle. We don’t necessarily agree with her writings that went along with each painting, so we skipped most of them, but the procession of frescoes was a wonderful study of his work. While studying his work, we also read the story of his life. He was a shepherd boy who scratched amazingly realistic pictures of his sheep on rocks and was taken as an apprentice by one of Florence’s most prominent artists of the time. As he grew in his art, he developed a new style of painting and became greater than his master.

As a comparison, we looked at paintings by both Giotto and Cimabue that had a nearly identical themes. While both were great artists, it's clear that Giotto's (on the right) shows more life-like figures and has a more three-dimensional perspective to it. This was a rather large step forward in style and became an example for the artists of the Renaissance to come. We chose to do 2-3 picture studies a week for the last several weeks. That just seems to work better for our kids than just doing one a week.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fun With Flour

Our good friend, Lacey, invited us and some other friends to come make "Moon Sand" using just flour, oil and a couple of drops of lavender essential oil. Not ones to pass up an opportunity to get their hands dirty, our kids jumped right in. 






 Emma was a little tentative at first, but after seeing Rebecca demonstrate, she decided it must be ok.





Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Blueberry Picking

It's that time of year again! I really can't recall how many pounds we picked last year, but we were down to our last few so we knew it was time to go get more. This is one of the best things for the kids to pick because there are tons of them that they can reach and they can eat their fill while doing it. This year everyone got into the act. Seriously! Irene was even picking from her perch on Rebecca's back.






The people at Watts Blueberry Farm in Belews Creek are just so fantastic and their bushes are so wonderful that we keep coming back. This is our third or fourth year going to them exclusively (though I think we may have picked a couple of early-season pounds at Buttermilk last year). The haul so far this year? 15lbs. We'll be going back again. It will stay blueberry season until mid-September or so depending on the weather.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Oh no...not again...

So, Ezra and Gabe were having a wrestling match turned pillow fight and Ezra got knocked down and whacked his head right into the inside corner of the bed frame in their room. He cut his head open in two places, this time requiring stitches. Rebecca cleaned them and used essential oils to pretty much stop the bleeding, to control the pain, and to calm Ezra down. The pediatrician's office got us in immediately with Dr. Farooqui, Greensboro Pediatric Surgery so we wouldn't have to go sit in the emergency room. His funny beside manner set Ezra at ease and he was very brave. Dr. Farooqui even kept the other kids entertained as Rebecca and they all sat in the little exam room. Sorry for the blurry pictures, Rebecca forgot the camera and had to use her cellphone. :)

This one looks worse than it really was because the blood hadn't been cleaned all the way off. 

 Each was about an inch long but pretty deep.

 The one on the back of his head was certainly deeper. Dr. Faroogui said it almost required two layers of stitching.

Amazingly, it only took 3 stitches in the top cut and 2 in the bottom to close them up. When Rebecca sent me the pictures over the phone, I was betting on 10-20. Before they were cleaned up, they looked so much larger, really. :)  


Good as new! Thank goodness he was wearing a red shirt! ;)
Really, when I got home a couple of hours after the event, he was back to his wild and crazy self, running laps around the house with Gabe. So much for being careful...
He is very proud of his "spikey hair" and says his head feels fine. We are cleaning it with essential oils and we will go back to have the stitches removed in 10days.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Colorado 2014 - All Good Things...

Unfortunately, they do come to an end. We had such a wonderful time that it was hard to pack up and come home.


As we did on the ride out, we loaded the kids on the car at bedtime and headed out (on time this time!) at around 9:00. Rebecca picked her shift first and we pointed the car east. We headed out through Elizabeth and Kiowa in the pitch dark, riding along over the rolling hills. At the crest of one of the hills, however, Rebecca was completely freaked out to see this:


It wasn't just a steady red, but all blinking in unison across the entire horizon. we couldn't tell how far away they were or what they were... We rode on for about 30 miles, getting closer and closer before we finally figured out that they were windmills! It was so freaky to see, especially from 40+ miles away. 

Once we had that figured out, we rode on through eastern Colorado and Western Kansas quite uneventfully. Right around Burlington, CO, though, we started seeing lightning way off in the distance. No big deal, just a summer thunderstorm, maybe just heat lightning. By this time, it was 11:00 and I took over driving. I drove for more than 250 miles, all the time watching the lightning dead ahead, before we reached the storm. It's just stunning that we could see the storm that far away... Once we hit it, though, it was torrential. It was raining so hard, we couldn't see and the lightning was striking within 100 yards. We pulled off the highway, got gas and stopped for coffee and food, hoping the storm would move off, but it didn't, so we pushed on. Fortunately, it didn't take long to get out the other side of the storm and it was smooth sailing on through Kansas City, St. Louis and on until we got into Nashville around 5pm.

My sister and brother-in-law were gracious enough to let us crash at their place for the night, so we saved on a hotel for that night. We ate dinner at a decent Mexican restaurant and drove around downtown Nashville for a while. Who knew a town could be so busy on a Thursday night?

After a good (but short) night's sleep, we roused the herd at 5am and headed for home. We got home around 4pm and unpacked, cleaned up, put on our cow costumes and loaded everyone right back in the car for Chick-Fil-A's Cow Appreciation Day! Not bad, getting a free dinner after such a long drive. 

After almost two full weeks in Colorado, it was good to be home, though we wished we could have stayed longer. The kids have wonderful memories of fun with their friends and we couldn't ask for more than that.
Sadly (though not that sadly, since we do love Camp) next year, we are hoping to go to Camp for our summer vacation, so we probably won't get to see our Colorado friends, but we are surely planning on it for the following summer!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Colorado 2014 - Pikes Peak


As a treat this year, we took the kids on the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad from Manitou Springs up to the summit of Pikes Peak at 14,115 ft (4,302 m). Unfortunately, when we got there, it was about 63 degrees with heavy, overcast skies and raining off-and-on. Didn't exactly make for nice views... However, the rain didn't dampen the kids excitement of being on a train. 





 The train has gears on the bottom that fit in those teeth and pull it up the track. Those teeth allow the train to climb 25% (14 degrees or 1 foot up for every 4 feet forward) slopes. 

 The clouds plus the obvious Pine Bark Beetle damage made for a slightly eerie view.
 There used to be a caretaker for a small hydroelectric plant on the mountain, but now it's all automated, so nobody's home.
 Dang clouds...
 Lake Moraine, a high, natural lake that was expanded into a reservoir.
 The Yellow-Bellied Marmot, one of the few residents of the higher zone of the peak.
 Even with the clouds, the fields of flowers in the tundra were pretty.
 Fortunately, when we got to the top and had a few minutes to rest (i got winded just walking off the train...) the clouds cleared off the peak and gave us a cool view from above the clouds. Ezra asked if we could walk on them. :)

 While it was in the 60s down at the bottom, it was in the high 30s at the summit with a heck of a wind blowing constantly. (The sign says 14,110 ft, but I guess more recent surveys have put it at 14,115.)
 It was like you could just step off the edge of the world.
 The original summit house.
 We caught a glimpse of a herd of Bighorn Mountain Sheep.
 Snow!
 The clouds parted for some of the ride down and gave us a nicer view of Lake Moraine
 and the wall of cloud we'd be going into.



  We stopped on the way down at this way-station to pick up hikers. This is apparently a regular occurrence to drop them off to hike up from here and then pick them up on the way down. 
 The littles were tuckered out on the ride down.
When we got back to the station, the engineer showed the kids how he ran the train. They thought all the knobs and lights were confusing. :)

While the weather may not have cooperated, the trip was fun and the kids had a really good time. Just a note: if you are considering taking a ride on the train, make reservations several days in advance. they fill up quickly. Also, this is not a cheap ride up. We didn't have to pay for the two youngest ones and it was still 
$140. However, we felt that it was a better idea (and potentially cheaper) than driving our van up the Pikes Peak Highway and potentially causing problems being at such a high altitude.