Monthly Archives: May 2013

Book Recommendation: D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths

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Who could tell a better story of how the delightfully vain peacock got the gorgeous eyes upon his feathers than the ancient Greeks?  I want to take a moment to highly recommend this book. In fact, I sing the praises of this book, first published in 1962, all the way to Mount Olympus itself! D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths is truly one of the wonders of Captain’s childhood. If you haven’t looked at it before, and you, or your children, are at all interested in the fabulous stories of the gods and goddess in the classic greek myths, then I recommend this book with all of my heart!  It is a large book filled with 192 pages of stories and scrumptious artwork.  It is truly a go-to book on the subject!

Captain became interested in Greek mythology last month when she heard a reference made about Medusa, and her hair of living snakes. She insisted that she find out about the story of Medusa and my husband read her a story that he found online.  She was hooked.  She had a talk with us at dinner and insisted that she needed to know more of the stories of Greek mythology.  This book was recommended to me, and when I read the reviews, I ordered a copy of the book.  We made it special by signing it to her, with love from Mom and Dad, and she can’t get enough of it.  The recommended age is 8 and up, and Captain is 5 1/2, but she has a personality, and interest, that makes it appropriate for her.  Yes, there are gods who marry their sisters, and Cronus swallows his children etc.  but none of it has been anything except fascinating for her.  We went to a family party a couple of weeks ago and she was happy to tell greek myths to her family.  The artwork is so beautiful too, and I cannot believe how much I am learning!  This book will certainly be read time and again in our household.  We absolutely LOVE it.  D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire’s sells for about $15.50 on Amazon and can be obtained from many other sources as well, including used online. This is not a book we could borrow from a library as we would have to keep checking it out!

If anyone out there knows of a source for buying a set of Greek mythology characters in the form of small action figures, please let me know!

Cheers and magic,

Karen

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Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Language Arts Rock For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

DIY: Cool Art with Aluminum Foil, Glue & Shoe Polish!

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View From The Cabin, By Captain and Mom

This project is soooo cool!  Captain and I had a blast doing this, and it has a wide range of possibilities that meet the needs of smaller kids, big kids, and adults.  Our first attempt at creating aluminum foil, glue, and shoe polish art had some mistakes that we learned from.  Our second try was inspired by the view out of our front window at home.  We love how it turned out, and enjoyed working on it together.  We’d like to frame it as a “mom-n-daughter” piece 🙂 This project can be adapted to all kinds of images, and I hope you try it!

You’ll need:

A piece of cardboard (we used the back of a pad of watercolor-paper)

White glue and a glue stick

Heavy duty aluminum foil

Black shoe-polish (the kind that comes in a sponge-applicator bottle is best)

Method:

Create your basic image (don’t worry about the little details as they get added later) by drawing on the cardboard.  Go over all of the lines with the bottle of white glue, squeezing out some of the lines in a thin stream and go back over some of the main lines heavily with the glue.  Let it dry.  Or, as we did, you can skip the drawing part and just use the glue to make the free-form shapes.

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As you can see here, the glue has dried clear.  If you run your fingers over it you will feel the relief-texture that will create the basic shapes in your picture.  Very simple!

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Next, use the glue stick to go over the parts of the piece that don’t have the dried glue.  This will help hold the foil tightly onto the cardboard.  Be sure to rub the glue stick around all of the edges too.  You will then decide if you want the shiny side of the foil to show, or the matte side.  We chose the matte side, but it will depend on your image and the effect you would like to have.  Place the image, glue side down, onto the foil and press it down.  Be sure to have a big enough piece of foil so that you can wrap the flaps around and tape them on the back.

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Put a piece of toilet paper, or a thin, soft cloth, over your fingertip and carefully (don’t rip the foil!) go over both the raised, and flat, parts of the image.  Take your time.  Use a cotton swab to go over every line to make the image really stand out.  This is an excellent time to talk about “relief”.

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Ooh, good fun here.  Swab the whole thing with the shoe polish, wait a couple of minutes, and then wipe it all off with a paper towel.  Use a dull pencil to make details, textures and patterns on the foil.  If you used heavy-duty foil and your pencil is dull, the foil wont rip.  All these little swirls, dents and marks help add dimension and life to the finished piece. Cover it with the shoe polish once more, let set.

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Wipe off the polish, taking care to let the very dark parts of the polish, right up against the edges of the raised parts stay.

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Voila!  Your very own “antique-ish” piece of art!

Below you will see our first try.  We were inspired by two beautiful, pearlized ammonites.  Our mistake was that we used yarn to make our relief, and it was too thick for the foil.  We looked online and saw how others had made this project and learned that simple glue was enough to get a good relief.  We loved making this one and it turned out pretty sweet anyways!

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The possibilities with this project are juicy and delightful!  We saw some nice owls and other free-form patterns when we looked online.  I hope you try this one.  It is inexpensive, easy and rewarding.

Cheers! Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Ammonites Rock! 10 Fast Facts For Kids…. Plus Ammonite Craft and Homeschooling Note

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Ancient, and beautiful, ammonites!

Have an interest in prehistoric carnivores? We certainly do! Learning about ammonites is wonderful, and interesting, for kids of all ages, and there is a lot of available information to be found. Captain and I have been talking about ammonites a lot lately, and we have been doing an ammonite art project as well.  We will share our ammonite art project on a post very soon, so be sure to keep an eye out for it!  Here we go….

Ammonite Fast Facts:

1. Ammonites were predatory, squid-like creatures that lived inside coil-shaped shells.

2. Ammonites had (very sharp!) beak-like jaws inside a ring of tentacles that extended from their shells to snatch prey.

3. They ate small fish and crustaceans.  (Crustaceans are animals that usually have a hard covering, or exoskeleton, and two pairs of antennas, or feelers, like crabs, lobsters, and shrimps.)

4. Ammonites constantly built new shell as they grew, but only lived in the outer chamber.

5. Some ammonites could grow as large as 3 feet (1 meter) across! Scientists suspect that creatures such as the giant mosasaur Tylosaurus preyed on them.

6. A group of ammonites was called a “school”, just like fish.

7. Ammonites scooted through the shallow seas by squirting jets of water from their bodies. A thin tube-like structure called a siphuncle (sounds cool!) reached into the ammonites inner chambers to pump and siphon air that helped them move through the water.

8. Female ammonites grew up to 400% larger than males.  Could this have been to make room to lay eggs?

9. Ammonites first appeared about 240 million years ago!

10. They went extinct with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.  Scientists use ammonite shells to help date other fossils.

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Ammonites are among the most abundant fossils found today and they are amazing! Try drawing a simple coil and turn it into a colorful ammonite. How big would it have been? What did it hunt to eat that day?

Ammonite Fossil Ornaments:  You can make a craft dough with your kids (recipe here), roll it out and make ammonites!  Cut out a simple shape, like the one above, and have the child etch a deep coil into the dough. Alternately, you can have kids roll out dough “snakes” and coil them tightly and scratch the lines on it with the tines of a fork. Follow the recipe instructions for baking and painting. Perhaps the pre-cooked dough could be pressed into some sand for texture?  Or a bit of food coloring could be added to the dough. Or, something we have been meaning to try: adding brown food coloring to the dough, then coiling into an ammonite and pressing the raw dough into dirt or red clay before baking.

Before I say goodbye, I would like to add a homeschooling note. Captain first became interested in ammonites because of her Auntie Sheryl. It was when she was two years old that they first began to talk about them together at family gatherings. Auntie would print information for her, and bring ammonites to show her. She would hold Captain in her lap and let her play with her ammonite jewelry. Because of her Aunt, Captain gained an interest in learning about ancient things that is much deeper than zipping through “subjects’ because she was interested, curious, and wanting more. As homeschooling parents, my husband and I cannot possibly know all of the things we should be teaching our daughter.  I was afraid of this very idea about a year ago, when we really had to decide about what we were going to do about school/unschool/ANY school!  How could we know what to do? We aren’t scientists, artists, or mathematicians! Family, friends, tutors, and cool people in general, are vital to teaching kids. Exposure to other people’s ideas, art, interests, and skills really do change the lives of kids. Within the circles of our family and friends, we know so many people who have so much to offer.  Our job is to be sure that our daughter gets to spend as much time as she can with the people that can light her up with what they know, and sometimes, something very special will happen too.  Children benefit from being connected to their place in their family history as well. I don’t think my daughter will ever look at an ammonite and not remember her Aunt Sheryl.  Prehistoric carnivores and family love. What more could I ask for?

Good thoughts, Karen
Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Our Homeschooling Plan, Science Rocks For Kids!, Social Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Take a Photography Paint-Sample Walk With Kids, and Make a Cool Scrapbook too!

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Have you ever wished you could find a use for those colorful sample cards found in the household paint aisle?  Well, they’re not just for choosing colors for your walls anymore!

Greetings nature, colors, photography and scrap-booking! This is a neat project that is perfect for the kiddos who love to be outdoors in nature, with a camera.

You’ll need:  paint sample cards from your local hardware store, or paint store, a camera, pages for a scrapbook, and glue.  *The photographs will need to be printed in order to make a little scrapbook.

What to Do:  Invite your child to join you on a “paint-card picture walk”. Go to the hardware/paint store and pick out paint sample cards that are in colors that might match your surroundings, or your local park.  Greens, yellows, browns, reds?  The colors of rocks, of wildflowers? What do you have living outside around you? Collect some of the cards to bring home.

Grab the cards, and a camera, and take a great big nature walk (a lovely time to bring a picnic lunch along!). The object is to find things in nature that match the colors of the cards.  Not exactly matching, of course, but of a similar color family. The child will take photos of the plants, rocks, trees, etc. This is great fun!!!  *I took a moment to remind Captain know that we were not going to print ALL of the seemingly hundreds of photos she took, but that she could choose 20 of her favorites to create a little scrapbook. Kids take their photographs seriously, and I think it is best to let them know, ahead of time, that there are limits.

After the walk, review the photos with your child.  Captain was excited at the dinner-table that night to share her experience with her dad. After the selected photos are printed, a scrapbook can be made with the paint cards displayed on a page with the photos, perhaps a little writing about what is in the photos, and Captain even suggested that we find some of the featured plants and flowers to press between waxed paper (under heavy books) to add later!

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“These colors don’t match, but don’t they look nice together?”

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Captain’s colorful photos of a dog bone on granite and wildflowers

The creative skies are the limit when arranging pages for the scrapbook. The colored cards can be pasted side by side, or in a fan-pattern, with the photos over the top etc.  Each project is unique to the child who creates it. Oh yes! You can take these picture-walks more than once and keep adding to the scrapbook. What a sweet way to let loose the creativity, spend time observing nature, and have a neat memorable keepsake!

I got the idea for this project on Education.com. They offer tons of great project ideas, sheets and activities for kids of all ages.

If you go on a picture walk with your kids, we would love to hear about it here on Kartwheels!

Thanks for reading.

Cheers, Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Science AND Fun: Build and Erupt a Cool Papier-Mâché Volcano With Your Kids!

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Hooray!  The volcano erupted to squeals of delight from us all!

Greetings science (and fun) enthusiasts!  I want to share a terrific project that is challenging, and fun, from start to finish. Please note that this is not a “quickie” project. The newspaper will have to soak overnight, the paper mache volcano will have to be built, and have a chance to dry for a few days, and then it will be painted and sealed.  It is worth it, the volcano is super durable!  Captain, for her young age, had no trouble waiting in between steps. In fact, to do it all quickly would have taken away from the learning and fun. The photos you see here are of Captain’s experience, last year.  I helped her blend up the paper mache mix and to construct the volcano. She painted it herself and then I sealed it for her. She did all of the mixology to create the eruption herself.  Did she learn exactly what the chemical reaction did when it took place?  No. I explained what was happening and she has never forgotten what happens when baking soda and vinegar are mixed together! Once again, simply brushing up against all of these “scientifically based ideas” at a young age, in a fun (and completely excited and willing way) just puts those crumbs of knowledge in the brains of kids and makes learning all of the deeper details later much easier and fun!

One other side note:  The chemical reaction that causes the eruption took place in a small film container.  This small-sized receptacle was recommended for use in the instructions that I used (see below) and keeps the “lava flow” from being too much, and too messy.  We were completely satisfied with the eruption for our first time, and have a wonderful, sturdy volcano to this day to erupt any time we want.  However, we have decided to build another one with a much BIGGER receptacle (like a soda can?) as we like to do it up big here at the Cabin and will do it outdoors again!

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Little volcano drying…

Part 1 of 3:  Making the Papier-Mâché!

You’ll Need: 

At least 2 full sheets of newspaper,  large bowl,  water,  measuring cup (or two),  blender

Nylon stocking, white school glue

What You Do:

1. Have your child tear the newspaper into pieces about 2″ wide or smaller. Encourage her to have fun with it! These pieces are going to be turned into a pulp, so there’s no need to make them perfect.

2. Soak the newspaper in a bowl of water for 1-8 hours.

3. Ask your child to scoop 1/2 cup of newspaper and 2 cups of water into the blender. The water is necessary so that the blades of the blender don’t jam up and burn out the motor.

4. Put the lid on the blender and puree on high power until you have a nice newspaper pulp.

5. Have your child hold a nylon stocking open for you and put the newspaper mixture into it. Now she can squeeze the extra water out!

6. Repeat until you have about 4 cups of relatively dry pulp. *Note from Karen:  We didn’t find 4 cups to be quite enough.  I would recommend using more newspaper and making about 8 cups of pulp…

7. Mix in about 1/4 + cup of glue. Your child will probably want to help with this step, since it works best if you use your hands.  Squoosh it on up, it’s fun and messy! The papier-mâché is ready! Now it’s time to construct the volcano.

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Part 2 of 3: Making the Volcano!

You’ll Need:

Papier-mâché mixture,  more newspaper, plastic juice bottle, scissors

Hot glue (for adult use only), film canister (or other small container), acrylic paint (brown and red are good volcano colors), paintbrush, polyurethane (for adult use only) to seal the paint on and make it water proof.

What You Do:

1. Lay some newspaper down before you start. Papier-mâché and paint can get very messy!

2. Cut the plastic juice bottle in half. The cone-shaped top half will be the base for the volcano.

3. Use the hot glue to attach the film canister inside the top of the juice bottle. This is where the chemical reaction will take place and the lava will flow! (For a mini volcano, use the film canister alone and cover it with papier-mâché to make it cone-shaped.)

4. Let your child construct the volcano by applying the papier-mâché mixture to the outside of the plastic bottle. It should be about half an inch thick, but don’t worry about making it smooth! Volcanoes are always lumpy and bumpy and would look very strange if they were all “smoothed out”.

5. Let the volcano dry for about a week before painting. (Also, remember to wash the paintbrush.)

6. When you’re sure that the papier-mâché is dry, it’s time for your child to paint it. Let the paint dry for about a day.

7. Since polyurethane is flammable and can irritate the eyes and lungs, you (not your child) will be responsible for waterproofing. Use the paintbrush to coat the volcano and let it dry for at least a day.

8. Before the eruption, you can grab a cool volcano book to read.  Hill of Fire by Thomas P. Lewis was recommended in the book.  We didn’t have it, but looked online and found some other books (there are dozens out there!).  Check out this wonderful fact page from Scholastic! Kids really connect with what a volcano is when they are excited by this project. This is the perfect time to read about them, or find video online!

As soon as the volcano is dry, it’s ready for action. Your child will be glad to help you gather the materials; this is the fun part.

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Part 3 of 3: Erupting the Volcano!

You’ll Need:

Your new papier-mâché volcano, baking soda, white vinegar, red food coloring (optional, but c’mon, it has to be red!!), small scoop or measuring spoon, small pitcher or cup

Towels and a bucket for clean-up

What You Do:

1. Have your child scoop a little bit of baking soda into the film canister.

2. For realistic red lava, let her add a few drops of food coloring to the film canister as well.

3. Pour some vinegar into the cup or pitcher. (Captain wanted the whole vinegar jug!) Ask your child what she thinks will happen when she mixes the liquid vinegar with the dry baking soda. Then, hand her the pitcher and let her see for herself!

4. Watch as the ingredients react. Ask your child what happened to the vinegar and baking soda. What does the lava look like? Is it runny? is it bubbly or smooth?

5. Chances are, she’ll want to do it again. Go for it!

This do-it-yourself eruption sure is fun, but it’s also jam-packed with science! Try discussing these scientific concepts with your child:

Changing states of matter (Chemistry): Is baking soda a solid, liquid, or gas? What about vinegar? What happened when she mixed the two together? Was the mixture solid? Liquid? What about the bubbles? Volcanic rock (Geology): When real volcanoes erupt, rock melts to form the magma or lava and re-solidifies (changing states of matter again!). If our lava could solidify into rock, what would it look like? Show your child pictures of igneous rock to extend the discussion. Why do the rocks look the way they do? Why do they have holes in them? (Hint: bubbles!)

Keep your volcano for the science fair, just for fun, or for “historical reenactments.” This little project has a lot to give!

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To find the complete volcano project, and tons of other activities, click the image to access the book.  I would like to thank Peggy Ashbrook for sharing such a terrific project with us, and Stephanie Roselli, of Gryphon House Publishers, for assisting me in obtaining permission to print the adapted instructions here on Kartwheels!

I wish you all an explosively colorful day!

Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Create an Easy Archaeology Dig Site For Kids!

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Perfect for a warm Spring day, and lots of fun to boot, try setting up an archaeology dig site for your kids!  Captain, like many 5 year olds, loves dinosaurs and digging in the earth.  She asked me to set up this dig site for her, and it was terrific fun.

You’ll Need:

Plastic dinosaur bones (preferably the ones that snap apart so that the dinosaur can be reassembled at the end.) Or, for younger kids, solid plastic or rubber dinosaurs (no assembly required)

Digging tools like little shovels and a spade

Different sized paintbrushes

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2 paper signs for the dig sites.  I recommend doing 2 separate sites, even if they are close together, if you have the space.  This mimics “real” archaeology, as there are often multiple sites in the same area.  I made signs that said “Archaeology Dig Site #1 of 2” and “Archaeology Dig Site #2 of 2”. This was the perfect time to show Captain what 1 of “any” number means.  I explained at the site that it is like when you receive multiple packages from one source and they are marked in this way to keep track of how many there is total.  She got it immediately.

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Go outside, without the kiddos, dig some holes and plant the bones/dinosaurs.  Be sure to count the parts so that you don’t lose track of them!  Tape a little sign on a tree, or lay it on the ground, to mark the two sites.

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At the site, encourage the kids to dig first with stick, shovel or spade. When they discover a bone, they can use the paintbrushes to remove dirt. Explain (if they don’t already know!) that when an archaeologist gets close to a fossil, they are extremely careful to not chip or break the piece. Brushes and other tools might be used for a very long time to ensure that no damage is done to the relic.  After each bone is discovered, Captain carried it over to a separate area so that it didn’t get stepped on. This collection-area is where the bones will be identified, photographed, and reassembled.

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We took turns taking photos as there is ALWAYS a photographer at the site.  Here at the collection area, Captain is assembling a triceratops.

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I found all the pieces Mom!

I was surprised at how much time Captain took with this activity.  We talked about fossils, relics, and what kinds dinosaurs could have walked the earth, in our area, millions of years ago.  We are currently saving our money (Captain donated her Scooby Doo wallet full of coins :)) for a trip next summer to a real archaeology dig in Utah.  We can’t wait!

You can find some fun archaeology (Egyptian) worksheets & coloring sheets here at schoolexpress.com.  Dinosaur coloring pages can be found at EducationalColoringPages, and dinosaur craft ideas and coloring pages can be found at DLTK’s crafts for kids.

I hope you have fun setting up and digging for bones with your kids.  It is wonderful family time and exciting for imaginations!

Ancient, dusty, good thoughts to all,

Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Why I Feel Easels Are Vital For Young Artists!

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Captain standing at her easel with her painting titled “Sunset Della” June 2012

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Painting outside 

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This is a painting she made for me back in November, 2010 when she was 3 years old.  Because she was outside painting, she got inspired to add walnut leaves and pistachio shells, which give it terrific dimension.  I love it!

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Painting outdoors rocks!

ART FREEDOM!!!!  OH YES, LET THESE KIDS HAVE THEIR ART AND EAT IT TOO! (Okay, maybe just a little taste…..)

I was given an artist’s easel many years ago and it sat in my closet unhappily gathering dust. Well, my daughter, Captain, has been interested in art and painting and creating since she was 18 months old. I realized early that she needed to touch and use everything that was safe for her right from the beginning. That is when I made my commitment to let her artistic freedom go wild and I would be the one to run along after her and gather up the pieces. I also realized that it would be my responsibility to be sure she was exposed to many new ideas and techniques. Voila! That was all it took.

When Captain was about 2 1/2, I pulled the easel out of the closet and set it up for her. It sighed in relief and stretched its legs. It is a French-style easel, with adjustable legs, and it was pretty easy to drop it down into the right level for her. It was amazing! Someone commented to me that it seemed a little “advanced” to set up a “real” easel for a kid that age, but they were wrong. Why would I try to “control” her desires to create her own artwork, or think that I somehow know something more about it than she does, simply because I’m an adult?  Bulls@&t!  I say let them have it all, as long as they are ready to handle it and WANT it, whether it be age 2 or 92!  I also gave her (safe) scissors at a very early age and she never cut off her finger or stabbed herself in the eye.  I practice good parenting (I think) in that I supervised these new things.  I certainly don’t have to do that now.  Captain is 5 and does her own thing.  She comes up with amazing projects all on her own and has an artist’s secrecy many times while she is working.  We have provided her with an indoor small oak table with shelves to work indoors and outside is at her discretion. You can see this simple, effective set-up here.

Now, back to the easels.  I truly believe that sitting down at a table and drawing and painting is a very good thing for many projects.  However, there is something incredible that happens when an artist of any age can be standing up, their paper or canvas right where they want it, and at a good angle.  We hold the brushes in different ways when we are standing. We can be outside or in, and can find inspiration in different ways than sitting down.  Kids feel special when they stand (or wiggle and bop) at an easel. Try setting up an easel for your kid and turn on their favorite music, or something culturally different than what they have heard before. Paint to African drumming, Scottish clan chants, or grab some Tito Puente and go for it.  It rocks!!!

Or, how about a little quiet outdoor nook, where the sounds of the wind sway in the trees and you suddenly notice a robin jumping across the grass?

My point is, that it is so worth it to provide kids with good materials from the start.  You are wondering how much one of these easels might cost? Well, the prices can start at shockingly reasonable and shoot skyward from there.  I do have a few suggestions:

A very affordable, wooden desk easel: Art Alternatives Marquis Desk Easel sells for $15 on Amazon.  It is a desk model so it can be used inside too, and folds up nicely.  It doesn’t have legs so it would have to be placed on a chair, stump or something else for standing outdoors.

I prefer “adult” easels that are adjustable, as anyone can use them and they “grow” with the kids.  These start at about $70 and are everywhere online.  Melissa & Doug make a Standing Easel for $59 on Amazon.

Both Amazon and Costco-online sell the Kid Kraft brand easels that are super cute, quite sturdy, and they have storage space too. They run from $97-129. Scan Craig’s list, ebay, and whatever other local sources you have to find them for good prices.  Again, it is SO worth it!!

I also have one last, quick recommendation.  You can buy “kids” paintbrushes everywhere, but I find that a set of the “real” brushes, in varying sizes and styles, is way better, and often cost the same or even less than the kid ones.  I have been buying Artist’s Loft basics brushes at Michael’s Craft stores for years.  They come in sets of 12 for about 6 bucks and are terrific!

If I could, I would start a foundation to buy, and deliver, easels, paints and brushes to kids all over the world.  I just want them to have a chance to create with good quality “ingredients” in a world where the focus on the arts in everyday life seems to be dwindling.  I would like to throw out big kudos to all of the art teachers, artists, parents, and others that are keeping the freedom of artistic expression alive for kids.  They are the now AND the future, and they have so much to say….

A big, drippy, colorful palette of good thoughts to all!

Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Mother’s Day Blues & Gold

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My Mom’s eyes are a unique shade of brown.  There is shimmer of gold light in them that seems to disappear when you try to look for it….

The first part of this story was written for Mother’s Day in 2010.  It concludes in the present.  This is written from my heart and I thank you for reading.

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…this morning Captain practiced with her Dad, and then recited to me, “Happy Mother’s Day Mom… you’re the best mom in the world” and my heart melted onto the floor…

May, 2010

Today is my 3rd Mother’s Day, and what a wonderful day to celebrate being a Mama.  I love my daughter with all of my heart and am feeling a bit sentimental as I’ve been transferring video that we took at the cabin in her first year.  Time is going by so fast already!

I think about my own Mom and wonder how she is doing today.  To say we have an “estranged relationship” still feels funny to me, but the reality is, I haven’t seen her since 2002 and have only talked to her on the phone a handful of times since then.  Why we can’t connect is complicated and very sad, and I wish I knew the right thing to do here.  I recently began writing to her again, and sending photos of Captain, but haven’t heard back from her.  According to my sister, she is shy about getting in touch and regrets not having a good relationship with any of her kids for all of these years.  “Well, then TRY DAMMIT!”, I think.

After so many hurt feelings and so many years, is it the right thing to do to just let go in this case?  To try harder to get her back into my life?  To just keep sending cards and photos and leave it at that?

I can’t just let go, she’s my MOM!  I love her and I miss her! But, I won’t torture myself about this situation either because I have done that.  It doesn’t work.

My Mom was a wonderful stay-at-home mom when we 4 kids were growing up in Spokane, Washington.  She was quiet and shy and didn’t feel comfortable in many situations that involved talking to anyone, even the checker at the supermarket.  She did not teach her daughters about asserting themselves, or that a person could do anything they wanted to do as long as they worked really hard at it.  However, she was always there rooting for us, driving us anywhere we needed to go, firing beautiful ceramics in her little kiln, all nestled in the dark basement, hungry mouth propped slightly open with an intense red glow pulsing from within.

She made all of our holidays fantastic.  Christmas’, birthdays, St. Patrick’s, Easter, Valentines Day… they were the best any kids could ask for.  When we were sick, she treated us like Queens and always brought cool magazines and ice cream to our beds on the couch.  She took me to all of my appointments for my back-brace for scoliosis and made sure I felt as good as I could about it at the end of the day.  She endlessly taped my magic wands back together (don’t you just love a good magic wand?).

She made the BEST pies, handmade ornaments, stained glass, and the cutest little chicks painted on Easter pails.  She liked chocolate, barbecue ribs, and Chanel No. 9.

My Mom was a great mom, and that very fact makes it hard to be in this situation.  She was not mean or abusive, or easy to run from.  She was beautiful, had a wonderful laugh, and loved Willie Nelson and pussy willows.

Now I don’t even know what she looks like.

I’ve decided right at this moment that I want to call her and tell her I love her.  I’m a little nervous, but it feels right.  When she asks about Captain, I will open my heart up wide and tell her about her granddaughter; she is my favorite topic of conversation!

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I did call my Mom’s number three times and it rang and rang.  I was disappointed, followed by feeling that things were right.  Perhaps we weren’t supposed to talk right then.  I will try again in the next instance that it feels right to me.  In the meantime, I send out big heart-shaped biscuits to my Mom, Carol, and all of the amazing and/or complicated moms out there who love their kids no matter what the circumstances surrounding their relationships.  

For now, I have my husband loving me up (he brought me a latte and a magazine this morning- lovin’ it!) And, then there is my darling little daughter who is two and creating a painting just for me, wants me to play jazz music while we dress up in necklaces and scarves and dance around with magic wands.  Life is good and I am filled with love.

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2013

Three years have passed since I wrote that, and I am thrilled to be getting ready to celebrate my 6th (!) Mother’s Day!  The true gold of this story is that not only do I share the love, daily, with my beautiful daughter, who is five and bursting with life and love, but I also have my Mom back in my life.  She lives in Utah, and I am in California, but we talk on the phone and she even wants to come up here to the mountains for a visit- hooray!

We started talking regularly last year and have accepted the past as best we can, and look at the here-and-now together.  I admire her honesty in dealing with tough family issues, and like the fact that, if two people who love each other just TRY, the spark of connection can be fruitful.

This post is written from deep in my heart for all Moms, and their kids, in all circumstances.  May you be wrapped in the golden light of celebration, for the memories of the past, and the possibilities of NOW!

Happy Mother’s Day.

Sweet thoughts, Karen

Categories: Mom's Junk Trunk, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

A Simple Way to Excite Young Scientists: Go on a “Specimen Tube Walk”!

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Captain had a blast with her test tubes today!

Who wouldn’t love collecting little bits of nature into neat little vials?  It is so much fun!  Today Captain requested some specimen vials to go outside and collect some samples of nature.  She told me that she needed to go out alone and “be a real scientist”, and she had a great time!  She stuffed her pockets with 5 little vials that I found at Target in the dollar bin (they were $1 for a pack of 10~ great price!) and proudly walked out the door.  I can’t believe how valuable these simple tubes are for homeschooling, or for just about any curious child.  It is a great way to get kids outside exploring and collecting, and the learning possibilities can go on from there.

For example, Captain collected her plants and brought them back to the house for identification.  The vials each had a separate specimen contained within.  She had gathered: wild strawberry leaves, rosemary, oregano, a wild grass and the leaf of a wild plant that is native to our area, that we have been meaning to identify.  The act itself of collecting the samples is great fun, but to be able to find out what is inside these cute little vials is the basis for scientific experimentation in all of its budding wonder!  If you are lucky enough to have a decent microscope, kids can really have fun looking at their treasures up close.  What happens when you compare a pine needle with a strand of your own hair? Hmmm.. We plan to get a microscope as soon as we can since Captain is ready for it, and the cheap one we bought doesn’t work…It will be a joyful addition to sample-collecting!!

Even very young kids can have fun with these tubes, as long as they are old enough to know not to pop the caps into their mouths.  The vials are made of sturdy plastic and are terrific to fill with sand, plants, tiny pebbles, pine needles, colored water, etc.  (They are helpful storage for leftover glitter as well 🙂 ) I want to add that kids don’t necessarily need to be “learning something” by collecting samples and having fun stuffing test tubes.  The very act of being excited to collect things, especially bits of nature, is very stimulating for kids, and it doesn’t hurt that science exploration grows from the basic desire to gather and observe!

I highly recommend inviting kids to go on a “specimen tube walk”! Each child should have about 5 vials for collection and it is wise to instruct them to take their time and be selective.  The tubes can be purchased at learning stores, and sometimes at dollar stores, so if you see them, grab some up for future projects! Plastic test tubes with caps can also be purchased on Amazon.  They come in a pack of 10 for around $8 with free shipping.  Learning Resources has a terrific 6 pack (with rack) of larger size test tubes with colorful lids for about $12 (We really want to try these!).

We would love to hear about your adventures with specimen vials, or other fun uses for them, here on kartwheels.

Happy exploring!  Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Make Beautiful Rock-quariums for Mother’s Day, or Any Day!

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Mother Nature shares her lovely gifts of rocks and water!

Do you love the look of stones resting in water? There is something peaceful and beautiful about having little bowls of water and stones inside our house. They make delightful table decorations, and really shine when placed on a surface near a window, where the natural light spills in and lights up the colors of the stones. I adore rock-quariums!  I used to collect stones when I visited my family on the east coast, and would leave one for them as a thank you gift when I left.

Stones, quartz, granite, pebbles, and little rocks from our driveways, make great decorations. The very act of collecting them is a wonderful experience for adults and children alike, and they seem to add a peaceful air to our counters and tables.  Place one in your bathroom for a little “moment” near your bathtub, or children can put one in their room. Why do they make us feel better?  I suppose the beauty alone helps, or water and rock together being such a natural draw to our human spirits, or perhaps it is because rock can absorb negative energy?  Does it matter? They are my most favorite simple project ever!

Gather stones from your yard, parks, anywhere!  Scrub the rocks with soap and water, arrange them in a glass jar or vase, and fill with water. Voila! Change the water whenever it gets too cloudy and occasionally scrub the rocks off again if you need to.  At a certain point we like to return all of the rocks to the great outdoors and make new rock-quariums another time.

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These make great gifts!  Mother’s day is coming and I would much rather have a beautiful rock-quarium from my Captain, than flowers, candy or other presents!  In fact, a rock-quarium next to a bathtub with a note that tells mom to take as long as she wants in there would be perfect!

I purchased the vase with the frilled edge (on the right in the photo) at the dollar store.  We also use old mason jars, jelly jars, etc.  Another sweet idea is to make mini rock-quariums in the small, 8 oz mason jelly jars and put one at each guest’s place at the table, with one large one as the centerpiece.  Sweet!  We like to add plant cuttings, like manzanita or bear clover to them for table decorations as well.

This is the simplest, most inexpensive, loveliest project I know.  Nature rocks!

Cheers!  Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects, Sequoia National Forest & Park | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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