Monthly Archives: January 2013

Family Ballot Box


How very democratic!

In learning about citizenship, voting, rights and responsibilities, government and leaders, Captain saw a picture of a ballot box in a book and decided to make one of her own so that we, as a family, could vote on things.  We used a small shoe box and I helped her measure the construction paper for each side of it.  She cut out the paper, decorated it and wrote “Ballot Box” on one side and our names on the other side. Against her wishes, I insisted that I be the one to use the knife to cut out the slot on top.   Our very first vote was whether to brave the cold and go sledding or stay inside by the fire.  Dad confused things by checking both boxes and we ended up making hot chocolate instead.  Other family votes include: what to have for dinner, what game to play and which day trip to take….

We love the ballot box!  It is sturdy, fun, and a great family tool.  Learning a little something along the way was just an added bonus.  If you or any of your kids makes one, please post a photo here so we can all see it!

Good Thoughts, Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects, Social Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Snow Painting

What a wonderful time Captain and I had with our paints today!  She woke up with a creative fire going and started the day by creating her own book of art pages with a few pen drawings inside.  After breakfast, she rushed outside to paint next to a pine tree with her pad and a palette of acrylics.   Inspiration struck and she ended up experimenting with snow by dipping her brushes in it and dripping and letting some even melt right into the acrylics.  She was thrilled to discover that she could kind of dilute some of the colors and make them her own.

Captain’s painting titled “Snow at Night”

When she was done and everything was cleaned up, she explained the importance of snow painting to me and insisted that I try one myself.  The acrylics were long cleaned up and I was chilled so she set me up indoors with watercolors, a very small piece of watercolor paper and a container of snow.  It is a terrific thing to play with! I loved dipping my brush in and grabbing beautiful blobs of chunky, crystal snow and dripping them on and letting them melt slowly right on the paper while I mixed in colors wherever I wanted.  It really changed the experience of painting and made it seem somehow more living.  

Indoors or out, acrylics or watercolors, we found snow painting to be a new favorite.  When the temperatures warm and the snow is gone we plan to crush ice once in awhile and keep doing it.  It was so cool to experience watching her come up with such a great new idea, all on her own.  I highly recommend trying this!

IMG_5076Mom’s painting titled “Apple Tree”

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Whip-Bang! My First Experience With Facial Threading


The baby soft smoothness just jumps right off the page at you, ‘eh?

Along with the dance across the red carpet of peri-menopause comes some rather frightful moments.  Like when I looked into the mirror and realized that I was looking a bit, well, hairier than I did even a few short months ago.  Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against facial hair on anyone, women included, but when I was already feeling rather wintery and disheveled, the hair was just too much.  My husband and I have a great time teasing and having fun with each other about things and it really works for our relationship in so many ways.  We are the people that, since we got together almost 16 years ago (!), have always cut each other’s hair and done all of those little sweet things that no one talks about, like when I clean out his ears while he is watching a movie, or when he stuck a wax strip on a certain bikini area and yanked (while I laughed hysterically) because I was going to wear a bathing suit for the first time in 20 years. You know, things like that.  In fact, one of our jokes is that we are like a couple of monkeys sitting around grooming each other, and that always makes us laugh.

Well, one day, in the midst of all of this joking, K was tickling my nose when suddenly he reached over with his fingertips and grabbed ahold of some hair right on the top of my lip.  That he could actually get his fingers around it and pull was terrifying enough but then he proceded to say, in a slow whispery voice, “sinister”.  Try saying that out loud, very slowly and in a mysterious voice, “siinnnnissstteeeerrr”.  There you have it.

Now, my feelings weren’t really hurt, and he always tells me that he loves me exactly the way I am, but it did make me feel rather crunchy in terms of my own feelings about the hair on my face.  So, two weeks ago, I made an appointment at a place that does facial threading and showed up with bells on.  I don’t spend money on makeup, nails, fancy hair products or much stuff like that so I proudly surrendered my $30 and slid into the chair with a smile on my face.

Threading is basically taking about a 15″ piece of ordinary thread, tying it into a loop and twisting it several times and then working it across the skin while pulling the twisty part back and forth as it catches the hair and pulls it out. The woman who helped me was from Iran, and we talked about family, kids and life, and the difficulties she and her family have faced while trying to transition into California.  She was lovely and we shared a mutual sense of isolation from family and friends.  I will definitely see her again and might just invite her to lunch sometime.  We got along like two pancakes on the griddle (deliciously American, ‘eh?).

So, all in all it was a great experience.  It does hurt, but it is worth it to feel this nice change.  My eyebrows look better than they ever have and I still have most of them which is excellent!  It has been a couple of weeks and my face still feels so great that I find myself petting it.  AND, I am not looking or feeling so darned sinister any longer 🙂

If you do threading, or are planning to try it, let me know how it goes!

Good thoughts, Karen

Categories: Mom's Junk Trunk | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Radical Homeschooling: Sounds Cool!

Am I going to let my kid burst with the enthusiasm of her own ideas, choose what she wants to learn for the most part, and also present her with constant sources of new ideas, experiences, opportunities and materials, oh yes!

Am I going to let her decide to play video games or watch television for a week straight, not brush her teeth, not have simple chores to help on the land and eat whatever she wants at any moment?  Hell no!

In my quest discover the best way to homeschool my kid, I came across such terms as “project based homeschooling” and “unschooling” very early.  I really liked what unschooling was about and realized it was, by definition, what we had already been doing since Captain was tiny.  It was really a way of life from the get-go; most of what she learns is by life and by choosing things that interest and call to her, and it is very exciting.  There isn’t a division of what is “school” and then “the rest of life”.  We could be called “project-based” on any given day since becoming interested in something and pursuing it always involves layers of individual projects that often become parts of larger projects in the end.

I used to say that I felt like I was just “running behind her” trying to find and get the information, materials and resources she asked for since she was three years old.  Sometimes those questions and materials were very surprising.  Like the time she wanted to know all about wolves when she was three and wasn’t satisfied with coloring books and short explanations.  Or when she asked to learn more about specific surgeries that a dog might need and I was able to satisfy her with examples from books and a three dimensional plastic dog anatomy book that, after stuffing the ribs and stomach cavity with tiny tools and furniture from a doll house set, she could then “surgically” remove them with tweezers.

Finding the difference between the terms “unschooling” and “radical unschooling” can be a bit tricky.  Many people share a lot of different ideas about what is considered radical.  There are indeed people who unschool, letting their kids pick and choose every project and interest, let them learn naturally and by their own curiosity and hearts, and also allow them to make just about every decision for themselves, with complete freedom, such as when and what to eat, bedtimes, play, personal hygiene, television and games etc.  They would never impose a math book or a language arts program or, well, anything that the child didn’t choose for themselves on any given day.  I would say that is probably on the more radical end of things.  I don’t have a problem with other families doing this and I find it pretty interesting in fact, but the really radical side of things isn’t for us.

Due to where we live, in a very remote location in the mountains, we have had a lot of trouble with finding opportunities for enriching social interaction for Captain, that is, without having to drive hours to get her somewhere.  When she was smaller, it wasn’t as much of an issue, but now that she is 5, it is something I am constantly planning for.  Back in September we were unable to afford to drive the 1 1/2 hours to get to town regularly enough to take classes and I was having trouble finding activities with other children in the areas closest to us that met her needs.  After deliberation, and a lot of other considerations, we enrolled her in the only secular charter school with the home study option.  She would go to school for enrichment classes one day per week and follow the California core curriculum as she studied at her own pace at home.  We now know what the positive benefits of charter schools can be, and also why the one we chose ultimately doesn’t work for us (more on our charter choices to come!).  I was feeling quite rebellious against the core curriculum, and school in general recently, when I decided to revisit the ideas of radical homeschooling.  I almost wanted to drop everything and go the completely radical route.  I would simply tell Captain that she could choose whatever she wanted to learn each day, do nothing all day if she wanted, never put clothes on, watch endless movies on the television if it suited her, and that I would allow her teeth to wear fuzzy sweaters and that she would look adorable with long blond dread-locks (she pretty much hates to have her hair brushed).  I would also become a radical homeschooler.  I would cook dinner whenever I wanted, or not at all, I would let my hair dread too and, although I would still brush my teeth, I would spend an entire week watching “The Sopranos” and “Lonesome Dove”.  I would create a giant, recycled paper canvas outside and, at odd hours, would splash my nude body with primary paints and roll around on it.  I will learn about a new species of legless lizard found in the Cardamom Hills in Cambodia with Captain and eat 3,000 chocolate peanut butter cups.  Dang, I WANT to be radical!

Now, I am not meaning to make too much fun here.  I know that the principles of radical unschooling indeed could be very cool for the right families.  A part of me wishes that we WERE that family, but it just wouldn’t work for us.  Our rhythm as a family has been interrupted for 4 months by the charter and it’s use of core curriculum, but we have a plan in the works so that Captain’s (and ours too!) soul isn’t crushed.  Give it any label you want, in the end it is about love of learning!   The rest of it will fill itself in.

Each day we work on things that are entirely Captain’s needs and desires for learning and life.  We are doing her projects again and I am back in the swing of introducing new things constantly.  She grabs hold of what interests her and I work with her to gather all the necessary equipment, plans, information, supplies etc.  The fun, and REAL learning, are back in our lives because it is all a part of our lives.   I appreciate aspects of practically every learning style out there including my radical brothers and sisters.  It just isn’t for us.

It turns out that I will be learning about the blind, legless lizard of Cambodia with Captain, who is lizard-obsessed these days, and as for that giant canvas with my rump and other unmentionable prints on it…..

I like it!  I might just have to work that one in to my art plans and perhaps I’m more radical than I thought.  I’ll keep you posted!

Good Thoughts, Karen


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Unschooling is a range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including play, game play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, work experience, and social interaction, rather than through a more traditional school curriculum. Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, and facilitated by adults. Unschooling differs from conventional schooling principally in the thesis that standard curricula and conventional grading methods, as well as other features of traditional schooling, are counterproductive to the goal of maximizing the education of each unique child.

The term “unschooling” was coined in the 1970s and used by educator John Holt, widely regarded as the “father” of unschooling.[1] While often considered a subset of homeschooling, unschoolers may be as philosophically separate from other homeschoolers as they are from advocates of conventional schooling. While homeschooling has been subject to widespread public debate, little media attention has been given to unschooling in particular. Popular critics of unschooling tend to view it as an extreme educational philosophy, with concerns that unschooled children lack the social skills, structure, and motivation of their peers, especially in the job market, while proponents of unschooling say exactly the opposite is true: self-directed education in a natural environment makes a child more equipped to handle the “real world.”[2]

Categories: Our Homeschooling Plan | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Dinosaur Excavation Kit!

This was a set of 6 different dinosaur fossils set in plaster to be “excavated” by the child.  It was a fun and challenging project!  The set came with digging tools and little brushes for carefully removing the skeleton “fossils” and once the separate bones are removed, it can be identified.  We found that the “bones” had a nice texture and felt very “bone like”, not like plastic.  Captain spent a couple of hours carefully scraping, brushing, and exclaiming over each new piece and all throughout we talked about different types of dinosaurs, the difference between archaeology and paleontology and other related stuff.  I encouraged her to take breaks whenever she needed to rest her hands and I highly recommend doing this project outdoors as it is pretty dusty.  The kit does not come with the glue necessary to assemble it when you are done but any model glue will work.  I found this kit at



Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pine Needle Paintbrushes!


A wonderful craft for those cold days ahead!

This craft is so fun and turned out great!  We wandered through the forest and collected pine needles and sticks.  Captain bundled and arranged them and did her best to help bind and tie.  I did most of the binding as it took some strength to get them tight.  We left them on the dining room table as decorations for a long time and have used them several times. They make sweet gifts for friends and fellow artists!


Gather at least five handfuls of needles, all different lengths.  Place a stick or twig in the middle of the bundle.  Use twine or heavy string and tie a tight knot.  Wrap around and around for a festive look. I used thin, rainbow cord that I had on hand.

After painting, brushes can be washed out, dried and reused.  We have had our original ones for over a year now and they are still good. Tomorrow we are making more 🙂

Thanks so much for peeping in at pine needle paintbrushes….

Cheers and sumptuous wafts of pine to all!  Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects, Sequoia National Forest & Park | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Jackson Pollock And Painting With Kids


You can’t go wrong with paint and marbles!!

We first looked at some of Jackson Pollock’s paintings online and talked a bit about his techniques, using such terms as “impressionism” and “modernism”.  We were both attracted to the painting “The She Wolf” 1943.  As it turned out, we did this project during this month’s full wolf moon, which made us feel all happy and in touch with bella luna….

This was a fun project.  Captain experienced a bit of frustration about “taking it too far” which led to a discussion about an artist’s internal voice that tells her when to stop, as she can always add, change or continue at a later time.  Success!


We used two old baking sheets and taped a large piece of paper in each.  We mixed up powdered tempera paint in red, yellow and blue (not too thick!) and dripped them, one at a time, onto our papers (or in a line), then put a marble or two on the sheet and then moved the marble around by gently tilting the tray.

At first, Captain liked mine better but we discovered, after drying, that hers had a panther face in it!

Visit for lots of free printables and some fun ideas.

Good thoughts!  Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blog at