Tag Archives: kidblog

Jon Scieszka-Inspired Writing Workshop

Don't Forget to WriteNot too long ago, I saw the book Don’t Forget To Write in the poets.org email newsletter and ordered it more or less on a whim. It looked good. Tuesday, all my kids were home for Election Day, so I decided to plan a writing workshop from one of the ideas in the book. I like having all my kids home, and while it’s true that in many ways, my middle child is less distracted when he’s the only one home, many explorations work better in a group. Some alchemy exists when ideas are shared, and who can deny the thrill of immediate positive feedback*?

This book is full of activities written by writing workshop leaders, including published authors, and I don’t remember the last time I browsed a kids’ writing book and wanted to try just about all the prompts. This book is good. Because we enjoy Jon Scieszka’s books, I decided to begin with his “lesson,” which consists of him sharing the inspiration for many of his books and inviting us to write stories in the same way. We own The Stinky Cheese Man, and I brought home a couple more from the library last week and left them around so they’d be fresh in the kids’ minds.

Scieszka books

The Stinky Cheese Man is a book of “fairly stupid tales,” created by changing something in a fairy tale in order to make it, well, stupid. Squids Will Be Squids is a book of fables written, Scieszka says, by taking stories of annoying or gross habits, turning the people involved into animals, and attaching a lesson. And The True Story of the Three Little Pigs is simply a fairy tale written from another character’s point of view.

And so we all got to writing, or dictating, in the case of my 6yo. She chose to tell the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff from the troll’s point of view, that poor tired troll, who was trying to take a nap and got woken up by all that trip-trapping over his head, plus a very bad headache, too. My middle child also visited the troll and billy goats, creating a fairly stupid tale by having the troll yell so loudly at the goats that they fell right off the bridge and died, so he ate them. I took the testimony of the duck, the dog, and the cat, who never showed an interest in gardening and wouldn’t have planted the seed anyway, so why is the Little Red Hen so grumpy over pursuing her own hobbies? And my oldest, my almost-teen, good-naturedly agreed to participate and then wrote this fable, which he said I could share. It made me laugh out loud.

Turtle had a pretty good life. Most of the time, he was able to do what he pleased. But one day, Lion came by. Turtle had a day off from work, so he was looking forward to a day of relaxing. But Lion had other ideas. Her cubs were doing schoolwork, and she thought that turtle should do it too, even though it was his day off. So she had him do work and constantly reminded him of what to do.

Moral: Some people don’t enjoy the same things as others. Think of others’ point of view.

For the record, he laughed out loud reading Squids Will Be Squids, and he contributed really good comments on everybody else’s stories. Maybe I can talk him into sitting in on another writing workshop with us on Veteran’s Day…

*The kids were told before anybody read out loud: We’ll be sharing something we like about each other’s stories. This was a workshop focused on generating ideas and getting words down, not tearing apart and revision.

A Frozen Birthday

My sweet, extroverted girl started school this year, and every day I hear about what she did with the other girls in her class. Within days she knew all their names, and she tells me about their make-believe games during recess and what they talk about and she is obviously enjoying that aspect of school so much. We don’t host “friends” birthday parties for the kids every year, but I wanted G to have a chance to experience that with this set of school friends. She was so, so excited at the idea of having her school friends over to her house. So despite everything else going on–cleaning and clearing and travel and listing the house–we planned a party, inspired by her favorite movie, Frozen.

amyhoodarts.com

I suppose we really ought to remove the streamers before we show the house to anyone, but I kind of don’t want to.

amyhoodarts.com

Table set and awaiting guests to arrive. While we waited for everyone, we had snow globes to make, with pre-glued penguins.

amyhoodarts.com

Goodness but these snow globes gave me fits. We have one that we made five years ago and the penguin is still firmly affixed. I used the same waterproof glue, yet some of these penguins became swimmers, and we had some leakage problems around the lids. Everyone was very nice about it, but it does gall me a bit.

After making snow globes (with glitter, of course), we went on a treasure hunt. The first clue led the girls to love expert trolls, an idea I got from this site.

"love expert" pet rock trolls at amyhoodarts.com

Some had already been scooped up when I snapped this photo. The rest look a little nervous about it, don’t they? I’d like to glue googly eyes onto everything now. These rocks just kill me.

G and N both helped with the treasure hunt planning. G decided what treats we should include, and N helped me with hiding places and clues. The girls received Frozen pencils and stickers, sparkly play-dough “snowballs,” and plastic costume jewelry necklaces (fit for a princess, of course). V came along too to help with general herding, and at cake-and-ice-cream time, he poured out lemonade for all the girls. It was a lovely bonus of the party to see my boys helping to make sure their younger sister and her guests enjoyed themselves.

amyhoodarts.com

And enjoy herself she did. She was so sad when it was time for her guests to go home, but she also thanked me for throwing her a party. I’m so glad we did. Lots of big things are happening here, but it’s important to mark the special days, too, and not let them get lost in the shuffle. A party full of little girls (in sparkly costumes!) is a new experience in this family and it was just about the sweetest thing ever. A perfectly perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon in late October.

Strawberry DNA + Cheese

Two separate activities, of course. Homeschooling goes on, amidst everything else, and I’d like to report on what N is doing more frequently but, well, many things have fallen off the list here, replaced with super fun activities like cleaning and clearing all the things. It’s more of a priority to do the activities than blog about them, obviously. But I wanted to share some things from this week and lo! I have managed to.

Firstly, he is working through his chosen science curriculum, REAL Science Odyssey Level 2. It’s a challenge–this is definitely not just a review of things he already knows. Depending on the material, I have us cover a chapter in two weeks instead of one, so we’re just now starting Chapter 7, which introduces DNA. In one of my decluttering sweeps I found instructions for extracting DNA from strawberries, which we picked up years ago at an open house event at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography. You can find lots of instructions online for this if you search. I like URI’s handout because the measurements are scientific and precise–in milliliters and grams–and it explains the why behind each step. The only thing I had to go out and buy was pineapple juice.

N is proudly displaying the test tube containing our results.

DNA extracted from strawberries at amyhoodarts.com

The DNA is that cloudy stuff right at the spot where the clear liquid (cold rubbing alcohol) and the pink liquid (strawberry mixture) meet. Here’s a close-up.

DNA extracted from strawberries at amyhoodarts.com

How cool is that?? So cool. Then we fished it out with a toothpick and looked at it under the microscope. You can’t see the double helix, of course, but it’s still so cool.

Earlier this week, he made cheese. Just about a year ago, he made his first couple of batches, and then…lost interest. He asked to do it again recently, and chose a dessert ricotta. The recipe called for citric acid powder, which we finally tracked down at the local Ace Hardware after striking out in all grocery stores we tried. The cheese was fantastic.

homemade dessert ricotta at amyhoodarts.com

We realized we needed something to eat it with, so we made cake. The next day I made ricotta cookies. We still have about half a pound of ricotta left, so I think I’ll make more ricotta cookies. This is a yummy project.

And one final thing related to homeschooling…the latest issue of Home/School/Life Magazine is out; my column is full of tips to make visiting an art museum with young kids fun for everybody. You can subscribe or buy a single issue of the magazine here, or try to win a copy at Mud Puddles to Meteors.

Introducing Art Together Issue Five: Shape + Space

Art Together Issue Five: Shape + Space at amyhoodarts.com

Wow! I am really happy to have this finished! I love researching and creating these magazines (or I wouldn’t do it), and of course I like sitting down and making art with my kids. But I’ve felt so harried with getting our house in shape that finishing this issue was hanging over my head–I wanted it done and out in the world, not reproaching me, not quite complete, from my computer. Here it is. I hope you find it worth the wait.

All the information, and how to purchase, can be found on the Art Together Issue Five: Shape + Space page. You can use the code SHAPE20 for 20% off any Art Together purchase, and speaking of codes, MOVINGSALE is good for 20% off in my Etsy shop until we move. (I’m aiming for less to pack!)

I plan to get back to posting here more regularly. I’m not done with decluttering and such, but I am done with having no balance whatsoever. At some point, all the listing prep will be complete, but I need to not be a frazzled shred by then.

October. October!

Issue Five Cover at amyhoodarts.com

Coming soon–next week, in fact!

I didn’t intend to be quiet here for so long. But since I last posted, my days have consisted of driving, homeschooling, all the other mama things, and cleaning and decluttering. Most of that doesn’t lend itself to terribly interesting blogging, and even when I thought about sharing something (like that workshop I went to on executive functioning), it stayed a thought, because I’ve really been using all the spare time to clean. Let’s just say that while I am very good at keeping up with the daily necessities–cooking, dishes, bathrooms, laundry, snow shoveling, and so on–that the condition of the house is proof that I’d rather create something or get outside than deal with clutter and deep cleaning. And so it is that I’ve not drawn or painted or sewn or created or even written much more than grocery lists for much of the past month, while I deal with the fall-out of all that time spent at the beach or reading on the deck or carving a stamp. And while I don’t regret those past choices, I’m feeling a little prickly at the lack of creative time right now!

However, I am on track to publish the fifth issue of Art Together next week. A printed-out hard copy is coming with me tomorrow because I have some wait time and I like to proofread and copy edit on paper, not a screen. Making use of that time! It’ll be good to have this one out in the world.

A Foot in Two Worlds

G first day of school

This child was very excited on her first day of kindergarten.

In the Venn Diagram of schooling options, the overlap between school and homeschool is probably the most difficult spot to be in. I’m technically part of both groups but not really fully part of either. I am a homeschooling mom, and I also have two kids in school. This is a difficult situation, to have a foot in both worlds. Some of the best benefits of homeschooling—freedom from the school calendar and daily routine—don’t apply here. We can’t take vacations whenever we want; we have to keep the school calendar in mind. We can’t sleep until our bodies say; I need to get all three kids in the car to drive two of them to school, and then N and I get back in the car in the afternoon to pick them up. The school decided everybody would get “depot” stops this year, so I’m either driving them to a bus stop because it’s too far to walk, or driving all the way to school. For now, I’m choosing to forego the new busing, which seems inefficient, with stops in unsafe areas as well.

I’ve seen two homeschool classes that N might enjoy and that would get him some time with other homeschoolers, but both run from 1 to 4 in the afternoon, over the state line in CT, and I can’t have him there and also get my other kids home from school. I’d thought, when our 5yo wanted to try kindergarten, that at least with her seventh-grade brother on the bus, if they beat us home by a few minutes, he was capable of escorting her off the bus and into the house, getting her snack and so on. But now I need to be there to pick them up or meet the bus with the car, so those homeschooling classes are beyond our reach.

Then, there’s school. My heart is in homeschooling. Much about school in general pains me. Yet I need to honor my children’s wishes to go, and so I do my best to provide what I feel school does not. I think they both have good teachers this year, and that helps. But there’s no hiding that I feel out of place at school. I never know how to respond when parents comment that they can’t wait for summer to be over, or what on earth will they do with their kids over school vacation week. I can’t wait for summer, to have all my kids together, to be free of adhering to an external schedule, for them to have the time to pursue interests not handed down by a teacher. I often feel like I don’t speak the right language when I’m at school. Over the years I’ve learned mostly to keep to myself, because I feel I’m always in danger of saying the exact wrong thing. And I obviously don’t think the school is wonderful for everybody, or we wouldn’t have withdrawn our middle child. I think the school is okay for many kids, and really good for some, and really bad for some, too. Writing that, I realize it describes a bell curve, which is probably about right for any school.

It’s hard to be very involved at school, too, because I homeschool. I’ve never regularly volunteered in classrooms. (Even when both boys were in school, I had a baby at home.) I try to attend at least one field trip, which involves my husband taking the day off to hang out with our homeschooled kid. Early on I did try to be more involved, but let’s say that decreased as my middle child’s difficulties there increased, and finally I mostly gave up.

It’s unproductive—but sometimes tempting—to think about what it would be like, all one way or the other. There’s no point in wishing it were different; this is the reality I have, trying to honor each individual child’s wants and needs. I’d probably identify myself as a homeschooling parent first, and I wonder if that’s even legitimate, given two of three children are in school this year. But it’s where my heart is, even as I go through the daily routine of packing school lunches, sitting in the pick-up line, checking folders for notes and following up on homework. It chafes, a constant friction between what feels most right to me versus what I’m actually doing. I know I’m not the only parent negotiating both homeschooling and school, but I don’t see it talked about much. And so I write about it, to perhaps begin a conversation.

Transitions

I’m not ready for summer to end. Nope, not at all. Winter here was cold and snowy and dragged on and on well into spring. My oldest didn’t get out of school until the last week of June. He starts up again tomorrow, and our youngest will be joining him, trying out kindergarten. I have all sorts of mixed feelings about this. My heart is in homeschooling and all the serendipitous connections and freedom it allows. Watching my kids learn is amazing. I am sad about the academic-looking daily schedule we received that has no block labeled “playtime,” the 20 minutes allotted for lunch, the increased demands placed upon younger and younger children. But my extroverted girl wants to try it, so I’m swallowing my tongue, practically, at times and giving it a go.

On the plus side, I’m hoping our middle child thrives with the focused parent time with no sibling distractions. He’ll still be home, and he’s most excited about our new microscope.

new microscope at amyhoodarts.com

After looking at a few choices for science curriculum, he decided upon R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Biology, and I’m super excited. I’m also impressed with the scope of what it covers, and how. (I have a degree in Wildlife Biology and took college courses in ecology, genetics, biology, and botany.) He’ll be using this microscope quite a bit.

at Beavertail State Park at amyhoodarts.com

He already knows a lot about ecology and habitats because of the things we like to do.

He also requested a curriculum to improve his spelling. He told me he’d enjoy writing better if he didn’t have to ask me to spell so many words for him. He had spelling lists in kindergarten and first and second grade while schooled, and predictably, he wasn’t at all interested in rote memorization of spelling words at that age. I don’t feel it’s developmentally appropriate, and felt that spelling would either come around as he gained mastery of reading, or he’d be motivated to improve it himself. And lo and behold, he is. After looking at several options, I chose Sequential Spelling.

We’ll be continuing to use Story of the World (we’re up to Volume 3) and A History of US for history, and Singapore Math for math. He reads voraciously, and writing happens organically. We’ll also be setting aside time for projects.

way up high at amyhoodarts.com

He loves to climb.

This spring and summer, we’ve been learning more about what makes our middle child tick and where he could use some extra support. Slowly, we’re building ourselves a village to help with this. It was suggested that I attend this seminar on executive functioning, and I have to say, I’m looking forward to it. Not the long drive or the long day, but getting useful information that I can implement at home, definitely. I’m glad we have the resources to send me to it.

So that’s where I’m at–sad that summer is ending, that it was so short, but trying to get in gear for a new season. I’m not happy about the shortening days, the crispness to the morning air, the signs of impending coldness and darkness. It feels like we only just emerged from winter! But I’m optimistic about what N and I can accomplish without distractions, and hopeful that my daughter enjoys kindergarten (because she is so excited about it) and that my oldest is finally challenged now that he’s in 7th grade. Transitions.

Postcards!

Two nights ago I sorted out all the kid postcards I’ve received. Here’s a badly lit photo of my living room floor (the cat, of course, had to plop himself in the middle of the action).

sorting postcards at amyhoodarts.com

A total of 98 postcards were made by 21 children from Connecticut, Missouri, Rhode Island, Indiana, Washington state, Virginia, California, and New York. They used collage, markers, stickers, watercolors, stamps, pastels, acrylics, and more. They were creative, they wrote notes to the recipients, they made me smile over and over. Eight adults also made postcards, which I loved to see.

postcards by kids at amyhoodarts.com

Some of the postcards made by children for the summer mail art swap.

The first batch is getting mailed today. I’m sending them out in groups, in hopes of drawing out the fun of getting mail on the other end. Much better to get your postcards spread out a little instead of all on one day, yes? I didn’t place a limit on how many postcards any one person could send in, but if a child made roughly 6 or more, he or she will most likely get more than one from the same person in return. (It’s math, folks. Had to be done.) But hopefully nobody minds, as all the postcards are fun and fabulous.

postcards by kids at amyhoodarts.com

More fabulous postcards.

Big thanks to all the families who made postcards and bundled them up with stamps and labels and got them in the mail to me, trusting a perfect stranger to sort these works of art and send them on their way. Does it sound too sappy to say that every envelope I received added happiness to my day?

Two More Watercolor Sketches

Tuesday’s sketch was of a flower through a magnifying loupe. I don’t know what kind of flower it is; it’s the sort that would be in the background of an arrangement, just a nondescript spray of yellow, nothing much…until you look at it closely. Then it’s a world of tiny yellow petals, sticky sap, delicate stems.

watercolor sketch at amyhoodarts.com

Wednesday’s sketch is of black-eyed Susans rescued from a local meadow–which is supposed to be open space managed by the town–right before it was mowed right to the ground. I’m so sad about this, and curious–it’s the wrong time of year for meadow mowing for management, so what are they doing? Town hall referred me to the head of the conservation commission, who hasn’t returned my message yet.

watercolor sketch at amyhoodarts.com

These flowers look very different from the ones I bought Sunday, so either I mis-identified those, or they’re a cultivated version as opposed to the wild ones. At any rate, I like these, with their protruding center and drooping petals, better. I loved drawing them.

I didn’t manage a sketch on Thursday. We spent six hours at the beach, some of that time with friends (yay!), and after dinner I went to the market, because it’s much easier to do it with just my 12yo than with all three children. But I have a picture of a feisty blue crab to share with you, found by my 10yo at the salt pond.

blue crab at amyhoodarts.com

I hope your week is ending on a good note! Enjoy the weekend!

Odds + Ends

I wanted to share some neat things we’ve found in the yard lately. This is one wing from, I’m pretty sure, an io moth.

io moth wing

That’s all I found. I don’t know what happened to the rest of it. Eaten?

This luna moth was hanging out on the screen of our slider one night. I’d never gotten a good look at the underneath bits of a luna moth before. Its legs and body are so…leggy, and fat!

luna moth

I was hoping it would still be there in the morning so the kids could see more than just this underexposed picture, but it was gone.

This is a super cool plant, and it’s growing in our backyard! What a treat.

monotropa uniflora

It’s Monotropa uniflora, and it’s a plant, not a fungus. It has no chlorophyll, however, so lives in conditions in which it can absorb nutrients right from rotting things in the soil. We have rich soil! My 10yo was impressed that I knew what this was, but it’s the sort of thing, once you learn this, you don’t forget it.

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I’ve slowly worked up to being able to run between 3 and 5 miles, no more often than every other day. My mantra since I was cleared to begin running again after the whole shin splint thing has been, Not too far, not too fast, not too often. So I’m not running every day like I was last summer, but it’s okay. I don’t need it every day like I did last summer. I want to make sure it’s there when I do need it, though, which is why I’m not pushing it. Ok, this isn’t totally true. I’m not dogging it, either. I’m incapable of not trying to get faster. I’m not as fast as I was right before I got shin splints, but I’m faster than I was at the same time last summer. I like running. I like what my body can do. I like the feeling of working hard. And I like the head-clearing. I’m too mindful of the benefits of running, though, to push it to the point where I can’t do it again.

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I’m keeping up, so far, with my goal of one watercolor sketch per day this week. By yesterday I was looking forward to drawing time the way I usually look forward to coffee–in other words, a strong yearning with a bit of desperation thrown in. I’ll show you more sketches in a bit. We’re having a busy week–busy doing, seeing, going; meeting with friends; playing and making art. Not so much time for blogging.