Monday, May 25, 2009

Creating a Curriculum of Creation

God gave man the challenge of raw materials -- not the ease of finished things. He left the pictures unpainted and the music unsung and the problems unsolved, that man might know the joys and glories of creation. ~Unknown

Is there anything, other than God himself, that confounds the mind more that trying to imagine nothingness? No time, no space, no matter, no light, and perhaps even no darkness--just nothing. Could such an existence even be possible? I don't know, but I believe whatever there is or has ever been, it has been created by my Lord. We think we are creative, but in truth we can only manipulate what exists within the laws of science, also created by my Lord. In essence, our Creator gives us what we need to create. Our creative processes require effort, intelligence, and desire. Is this not the essence of God? Why else would He bother with us if He had no desire to watch what we do with and within his works?

I have found describing my Lord and all He created to a child is a delightful, yet daunting, task. When the Princess was four years old, I started writing a curriculum based on the six days of Creation, because I never could find any like the one I had in my own mind that I wanted. I stepped away from it about two years ago for several reasons. One, the homeschooling curriculum market is pretty saturated now days and I thought probably few would be that interested so if it was just for us, I did not need to write it all out. Two, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with things that were happening within our lives. Three, there was little more I could add to our lessons when our tug-of-war with math was taking so much of time.

I have several science resources, some of which are excellent, out-of-print books that I cannot cite as a reference except for us, but whenever I think of doing science in a structured way, I am again strongly drawn to designing one based on the Creation Week. There are science curricula with that same basic idea available and they have their good points...but either they don't have enough depth or they don't cover enough. (I don't know, I guess I am just too picky or maybe the Lord placed this on my heart.) So, I decided to look over what I had down so far, thinking I would have to vastly change it because I started writing it with a four year old in mind, even though I meant for it to be for multiple levels possibly up into the junior high school levels.

Anyway, as I am reading through it and some of my side notes for revisions, I found myself thinking, "Hey, this is a really good curriculum. I would buy this in a heartbeat." I know, of course I would like it because I am making it exactly the way I want it to be, but the point is that the Princess could have done much of it at four years old and she will still get so much more out of it at eight years old. Now, here I am wondering if I am the only one on the planet who will think this is a good curriculum or if it might have market so that I can make a bit of extra money doing something I am probably going to do anyway. I guess I have plenty of time to consider that answer because I have a long ways to go in completing it.

Opinions are welcomed on the preview of the first lessons:
Lesson 1: Before Time Unit 1
Lesson 2: Before Time Unit 2
Lesson 3: Day 1-Time Unit 1
Lesson 4: Day 1-Time Unit 2
Lesson 5: Day 1-Time Unit 3

My Lord, I thank you for creating so many wonders to keep us intrigued and amazed. I invite You to guide this project completely. Do with it what You will.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Princess and Me

I hope you have a child just like you. ~My Mother

The Princess is an amazing combination of personality traits and temperaments. When she was a baby, every day upon waking she raised her head while lying on her tummy and just smile when she looked at her daddy or me. Her father called her "Sunshine." Even now she looks for reasons to laugh--it does not take much. On the other hand, she can be quite dramatic: Yesterday, it took ten minutes to calm her down from screaming and crying for fear of the neighbor girl dying from illness because she had touched a dead bird then put her fingers to her mouth. (Yucky? Yes! Reason to lose it? No.) The Princess is so generous, she will give her only piece of candy to someone else who does not have one, but will fight anyone who tries taking it from her. She likes to dress up for dinner, but will play as hard as most boys outside in a pair of jeans. And...she is a very, VERY strong-willed child.

What else could she be, considering her parents, both strong-willed themselves? I am face-to-face with the will of the Princess and my own on a daily basis, since I homeschool. It has hindered progress in lessons many a time. With my husband more often than not out of town from Monday to Friday, on some weekends we all up end up just unraveling. Since it rained all weekend, that is pretty much what we did this weekend.

For as long as I can remember, my mother said that she hoped I would have a child just like me, so that I could know what it was like for her. My mother, bless her, was ill-prepared for handling me and was also one to fall into thoughts of "woe is me," instead of taking charge. Needless to say, a strong-willed child could wear her down quickly and I was that child. There were many, many other dynamics working against my mother and me ever having a loving and close relationship, but I know that in our hearts we both desire it very much.

One of my fears has been that the relationship between my daughter and me would become like that between my mother and me. There is even some speculation that same fear prolonged my labor for three days before the Princess was finally born, but that is another story for another time. I started first grade at the age of five. As soon as I got the idea that I could learn things from a teacher and excel in the school environment away from home, I began thinking even less of my mother.

It was in third grade that I realized my mother could not help me with my homework anymore. It may have been just that my siblings needed more help, but it was pretty obvious, even to an eight year old, that academics was not her thing. She was just lost with multiplication tables and the capitals of the states. Armed with the belief that I could outsmart her and, again, other dynamics in our home making it dysfunctional, I was not one that could be managed well by my mother.

The Princess is now the age I was when I was in fourth grade. Since I am her teacher as well as her mother, she will not have the opportunity to think I am not smart enough to help her learn. She does know that on some things that I am learning along with her, which is a good thing. She should know that no one is an expert on everything, that we should always view things anyone does not yet know as something he can learn if studied. Even so, I am confronted more now with the natural development of her independence and her strong will.

The Princess does remind me much of myself and, even though there are times she does wear me down, I find her strong will a delight most of the time. I know that she will not be easily swayed to go with the crowd when they are doing something wrong. I know that she will hold fast to her faith in God, even when others make fun of her. I know because in that way she and I are alike.

I have read books on parenting strong-willed children and, when I get a bit concerned about the Princess taking on some of my worst childhood traits, my husband reminds me the Princess' childhood experiences greatly differ from mine. He believes it is unlikely we will have the same challenges in our relationship as I did with my mother. Still, I am all that more determined to foster the kind of relationship I wish I could have had with my own mother.

I remember once when my mother said she wished I would have child just like me, I responded with "I hope so, too. I'd know how to raise that child." I had in mind, simply, the way I wished to have been raised. When I look at my Princess doing her things, I sometimes get a bittersweet feeling. I envy her because I see a glimpse of the child I could have been, but I am also thankful for the childhood I had, because it makes me more aware of how important good parenting is.

What my mother meant as a curse has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. Thanks, Mom!

Thank you, my Lord, for blessing me with a strong-willed child, who often makes me smile as she reminds me so much of myself. At times her strong will is very challenging, but I also know how well You can mold it to Your plans for her and may I be ever guided by You to do my part well as her mother.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pieces of Peace

Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life. ~Epictetus

Some of my recent concerns have been resolved, giving me a some time to reflect on how I responded to each and what I wish I had done differently. I always wish I had retained peace in my soul by seeking my Lord first of all and accepted what challenges I had in a way that would please my Lord. That is why I chose my screen name to be seekingmyLord--not to boast that I am seeking my Lord's will all the time, but to remind me that I should be because deep down that is who I want to be, that is how I want people to see me, and more importantly that is how I want my Lord to see me.

My mother's coffin was buried in a site belonging to someone else as I explained over month ago in my entry called A Grave Story. She was moved and is now beside my brother as she wanted. Although my aunt was not notified nor knew the day it was done, she phoned on Thursday to give me an update on that. There now is only the tombstone to be concerned about that my youngest sister has asked that we, my siblings and I, together will put some money toward.

On my blog entry called A Day Spent Exploring Murphy's Law I wrote about how our garage door stopped working. Since then it has been fixed. My husband did it in just a few minutes. He also fixed the garage door we walk through as the dead bolt had frozen in the locked position. He did both before he went to bed after he arrived home Friday evening that same week. I so appreciate having a husband who can fix things!

While somethings are resolved, other challenges present themselves. A few days ago, I had pulled out the shawl given to me by a dear friend, Trudy, to find it has several spots on it, from what I cannot guess. I was just heartbroken when I saw it. Of all the gifts I received when the Princess was an infant, I count this shawl as one of the most precious to me--countless times it discretely covered her when she was nursing, such a precious relationship between a baby and a mother. I began treating areas of the stains and they seem to be diminishing with hydrogen peroxide the best. If I can get them completely out, I will pack it away properly and keep it for the Princess to use when her babies are nursing.

When first faced with a problem, I tend to only see the moment and then worry about how it will affect my future, letting it steal away my peace, but You, my Lord, see beyond all that and You graciously give me moments of Your special peace and time to reflect during those little challenges or even the worse storms in my life. Thank you so much for my husband, who is the one capable of fixing so many things and who holds me together in times when I cannot do it myself.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lesson Plans for Summer

Whoever ceases to be a student has never been a student. ~George Iles

I homeschool throughout the summer and I have been rather busy lately making some changes in our homeschool curriculum, as I typically do for summer anyway. We have come to a close with a few of our courses and I had been considering whether to go on with the next level in some or change our direction even further away from textbooks and workbooks to the approach I really wanted to do: classical with living books and journaling.

The Princess' writing skills have improved so much and she has the desire to write, but I have held back because it seemed to me that her spelling was not sufficient for what I hoped to do, (I wrote about the curriculum I finally designed here) yet I feel now with what I am seeing in her that she will progress faster in that area as she journals. In the last few months, she has gone through an intellectual growth spurt, if there is such a thing, and seems to be able to get through her lessons much faster and with greater understanding, even in math.

For the most part of the last two years, the Princess has struggled with subtraction. When we were to begin subtraction with regrouping a few months ago, I had her review the entire previous course in Miquon on simple subtraction first, which she went through very quickly. It was the concept of subtraction that she struggled with originally, those take-aways. She is definitely not one to like things taken away apparently. Once we got beyond the review, we were confronted with regrouping. This took a lot of creative work with manipulatives and we worked on different methods of resolving the equations day after day for weeks. I felt that having her work the subtraction problems from left to right would work best for her as the different approach distinguishes the subtraction equation from an addition one clearly in her mind and it is actually a faster method for her as she focuses better.

The Princess is coming along with math very well now. The few mistakes she makes are mostly from losing focus on a particular problem rather than lack of understanding or ability go through the steps to resolve equations. She is solid with the techniques we have covered so far.

Following Primary Mathematics (Singapore) Math, a concrete to pictorial to abstract approach, as our spine and supplementing with Miquon Math, an observation, investigation, and the discovery of patterns approach, we are currently into measurements, weights, and volumes. In a few days, we will be doing a review of all she has covered and then starting multiplication. This is where the Princess is going to take off on math, I believe. She has been multiplying and identifying multiplication patterns on her own for nearly half a year.

In retrospect, I think I could have dropped subtraction for those same months and gone on the multiplication and then back to subtraction, with her intellectual growth spurt working in her favor. I could kick myself for this one, because if I had prayed about it and listen to the Lord's leading, I am sure that it would have worked better, but I got into that trap of teaching to the text, instead of teaching to my daughter with the text. Still with repetition and patience, she now understands subtraction and she is excited about moving on to multiplication.

We finished our Language Arts curriculum a few weeks ago and I have been just playing around in that area, testing her to see if she was ready for a different approach or if it would be best to continue with the next level for the one we were using. I have decided to start the first level of Classical Writing, Aesop, as I believe it will be challenging, but not too much so. It is a lesser known curriculum, but it is exactly the type of classical approach I have wanted to use and this will also help train me in teaching the analysis and imitation methods that were used to train some of the greatest minds in history. I usually find curricula on my own, but for this one I have my friend Pam to thank. I doubt if I would not have ran across it on my own. (I know you stop in once in awhile so...thank you, Pam!)

We are finishing Level 2 in our Classical Latin course, "Latin's Not So Tough," and will continue with Level 3. Classical Greek using "Andrew, Teach Me some Greek," also in Level 2. For French, we have Power-Glide's Junior Adventure, a completely different approach called Diglot Weave, and it seems that this program is no longer available directly from the producer as they have gone to an online course, but is still around through various dealers. I also have it in Spanish, but that will be for a bit later on.

We just started a study on the first days of Creation which will split off into a guide for science and kick off for world history. Something of my own design using various resources of science reference books and curriculum I have on hand. I put up a timeline for Creation Week and I think we will have fun with that because it involves arts and crafts.

We also started a unit study which is a bit of everything geography, history, writing, etc., called Beautiful Feet's History of the Horse and took an unscheduled break from it, but will doing it two or three days a week. I am looking forward to using Beautiful Feet's History of Classical Music a bit later on also.

Speaking of all I am planning... I have to work on it now.

My Lord, seems I am still the student. I am still learning, not only academics, but how to teach my daughter and how I need to seek Your Will to educate her as You desire.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Backing Away From Forums

Why is it drug addicts and computer aficionados are both called users? ~Clifford Stoll

Hello. My name is seekingmyLord and I am forum junkie. I eased into this addiction a few years ago and for the last year I have been easing back out of it. This blog is part of my therapy to give it up completely, but every now and then I still slip up. I visit one or two forums about homeschooling periodically, like I did yesterday, and there is it was, just lying in wait for me...a post from someone who is bent on harassing homeschool parents.

Honestly, it is like a new sport to kick us around, one that I have dealt with since becoming a forum junkie. I think it is what hooked me, the challenge of debate and keeping a cool head even when they are purposely insulting. It is also the main reason I am weaning off forums now, besides they are largely time consuming, unproductive endeavors.

Homeschool harassers use the same groundless arguments over and over like a broken record and often don't bother with the research provided to refute their criticisms: We are denying our children of a good education. We are not competent to teach our own children. We are raising our children to be freaks. Our children will not learn to think independently. Our children will run to mommy whenever they have a problem....

On and on, they go.

I usually look past their insults, because I believe it is possible to enlighten them about homeschooling and there have been those times I have been pleasantly surprised when I have earned their respect and reduced their prejudices. Other times I have been ashamed of own responses, like this last time. However, most of these people are not convinced of anything other than what they already believe and I realize that I have again wasted time and effort that I could have spent on more productive, creative, and satisfying projects.

Time for me to back away from forums and stay away from them...again.

My Lord, I need Your strength in resisting temptations and Your forgiveness for failing to be a good witness for You.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Spelling It Out

Correct spelling, indeed, is one of the arts that are far more esteemed by school ma'ams than by practical men, neck-deep in the heat and agony of the world. ~Henry Louis Mencken

Too bad for the Princess that I am both mother and school ma'am, who believes that the first step to understanding the written word is to spell it correctly for its use in context.

One of the goals I set quite high for myself is that I find a way to satisfy my own idealistic views of what my child should learn and that I find a way that she enjoys the process of learning those things, even if the particular subject is not inspiring to her. Often that means tweaking available curriculum choices or even devising my own. Fortunately, the Princess likes spelling and is pretty good at it, so it is one of the least difficult subjects to get her to do. For nearly a year, we have been using a no-frills approach that takes only a few minutes a day.

Most of the best spelling programs I liked were for third grade level and up; there was nothing to start with younger children. She was reading beyond third grade level two years ago, but she tired with handwriting, so her writing skills did not match her advanced reading and ability to understand language. I started with Explode the Code by Nancy Hall, which was given to me by a friend, but it became apparent to me it was mostly unnecessary busy work for the Princess and time is a precious commodity when homeschooling.

I then decided to devised my own curriculum using spelling rules and word families based loosely on Phonics Pathways by Dolores G. Hiskes with a index card system. Just one spelling/phonics rule with related word families on each card. Then my daughter would read the rule as well as pronounce and spell each word all aloud. Each day she would then be tested generally following Beverly L. Adams-Gordon's guidelines in Spelling Power, having her write the words and then placing the paper in a binder so I could go back to see the ones she struggled with. I test with the words from the latest rule and review some, particularly those she missed, previously starting with ten words per day, now we do twelve words.

When she gets words wrong, we review the rule out loud again and she practices writing each word in some kind of exercise at least five times. She likes writing them in a large fancy print on her Magna Doodle. Then she spells each one out loud to me without looking. These words are placed first on her next test. Each test paper is placed in a binder so that I can easily find the words she previously misspelled by flipping through the pages. I can also add any words we come across in her other subjects to my test lists.

When I feel the Princess is solid with a rule and the exceptions to the rule should there be any, I add the next card in her index card binder. I have the cards in sets or levels. To make it a bit more fun, colorful, and easily identifiable, I trace a different colors of highlighting markers on the edges. After she is solid with an entire set, I replace it with the rules alone and no spelling words, but I continue to add words from those lists to her test for review now and then, particularly the ones with which she struggled. The reason I went to index cards is that the Princess would get overwhelmed with so many words on one page as in a book. Even if I covered them, she knew they were there, so the index card system works for her very well.

Although this has been working, I keep looking for that perfect spelling curriculum, so that I will not have to continue putting one together myself. With that in mind, I purchased Natural Speller by Kathryn Stout last year and I have looked at Spelling Workout (the non-athletic one) by Phillip K. Trocki and Sequential Speller (really like how they emphasize the homophones, but it lacks in rules) by Don McCabe, but I have not felt any alone were a good match for us at this time. Either they don't emphasize the spelling/phonics rules enough; or they don't provide enough repetition or too much; or they are too limited in the word lists or their word lists are not word family oriented enough.

I don't know, perhaps I am just too picky when it comes to spelling curricula. At this point I could probably switch to any of them, but I was kind of thinking of continuing with my own curriculum for a while longer and possibly offering at least a set or group of sets (one level) of it for free and the rest for a very inexpensive download fee, maybe?

Whatever I am doing must be working or the Princess may be just getting to that level of learning on her own, because her spelling has improved even on words we have not covered. It kind of makes me wonder, is it the spelling program I have devised or is it just that her abilities have matured. Not that it matters, I am happy with the results.

My Lord, please continue to guide me in finding the most efficient ways to make learning an enjoyable process for my daughter.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Day Spent Exploring Murphy's Law

Murphy's Law: If something can go wrong, it will.

Have you ever had a dream where you are trying to get to school or to work or to anywhere you absolutely must be and you just cannot get there? For me, the most common one was related to school. I would miss my ride or the bus so I would need to walk or get another ride, but before I left something else had to be done or something else got in my way or the car ran out of gas. By the time I am ready to finally go to the school it is in the afternoon and school is almost over. Or, I finally get to school and I cannot remember where my locker is, or I remember where it is but not the combination on the lock. Sometimes I was at the school, but I did not have a clue about where my class was or which one was next and, of course, I could not even remember where the office was so I could get it all straightened out. As if that was not enough, the majority of these can't-get-to-school dreams happened after I had graduated!

Yesterday, I felt almost as if I were stuck in that same kind of dream. I thought that it would be easier later in the week, since my husband was supposed to come home Wednesday morning and would be needing the van the rest of the week, if I could switch piano lessons to Tuesday, but after Trudy told me how she was canceling lessons on Tuesday because she was so ill, I ditched that idea. I decided we would go to our favorite farm to get fresh raw cow milk as well as do a few other errands since it would be too much to fit in on Thursday and we were on our last gallon. Before we would leave, the Princess had to be face painted. Then, I planned to go to PetsMart to get our dog some Greenies, which is next to Michaels, a craft store. Of course, over halfway there I realized we forgot the library books I meant to return on the way. No problem. I decided we could do that on Thursday when we do our usual errands--Yes, we were only doing the unusual ones that day.

PetsMart had what I wanted and with a few aws at the kitties in the back of the store, we moved on next door. At Micheals, I look for a few new brushes and some sponges for face painting as I had a coupon. I spent more time than I meant to there, but that is typical of me so why am I surprised? Now it is nearly lunch time.

I could go on to the farm and have a late lunch, which is common with us, but no, I would go back home and have lunch there, get the library books and head out to the library and farm afterward. We get home and I asked the Princess to bring back the trash cans from the street. I was preparing lunch when she ran in upset about the garage door. It took a few minutes to completely understand that she had pushed the button and it went down fine. It touched the ground, she said, and then when right back up. When she pressed it again, it would not do anything and that was exactly what it did when I pushed the button, too. The door is stuck open and I would rather have it closed, particularly since my husband is away. I clean the sensors and I see the lights on each of the components and I even turn on the light on the unit, so it should work, but still nothing.

I call my husband and he suggests releasing the door from the opener so that I can manually open and close the door. Okay, but here is the part where it gets really weird. The moment I release the door, the motor on the garage door opener starts running. Of course, the door is disconnected so it is not doing anything, but running and running and running. How to turn it off? It is not responding to the remote or the wall switch! Still on the phone, my husband suggests something and before I could do it the motor stops running and all the indicator lights on the components are now off and we cannot even turn on the light. The garage door opener is completely dead....

Lunch time!

Thinking how easily I might lose my mind completely after all that messing around in the garage, I concentrate on something I can control.

Now that lunch is the later lunch I thought we would avoid and the Princess has not even begun to do any lessons, not even piano, I consider my options. I know that I could go the farm another day, as my husband also informed me that he will not be coming home on Wednesday morning, instead it will be Friday evening now, but at this point the day feels blown, so why not just go with it? I called to see if we could pick up some handmade soap from a nearby home business, but I had to leave a message as no one is there.

We leave with the library books this time. We drop them off and the Princess begs to get more, even though she did not look at but two of the fourteen we had for nearly six weeks. I finally said that she could have two and only two. Next time, she could get more IF she actually reads these two. She got one fiction and another on Mozart. Now we are off to the farm. About half way, she excitedly tells me that Mozart was friends with J.C. Bach, the son of J.S. Bach. She has been practicing J.S. Bach's Minuet in G Major so she made a connection there. I am thrilled that she is actually reading the books, instead of just looking at the pictures and making up her own stories!!!

We get to farm, but they moved the large refrigerators for the milk, so it is back into the van and drive over to the new building attached to the landmark silo. On the way back home, I realize that I had completely forgotten about the 4H meeting, the last one until September. It was to be a dressy awards banquet.

We get home and I have a message from the soap lady. I talk to her a bit and then make arrangements to come by to get a few bars. She mentioned someone had just walked into the store. Thankfully, it finally dawned on me that she was not selling and making soap at her home anymore before I left. The store is just a mile from her house, so it is not that far out of the way. Actually, it was right on the way to the library where I had already been earlier. (Duh!) I could have gotten the soap on another day, but they are open late in the morning which would be a problem on my usual errand day, so I went. Now remember that each time I leave and get back home I am having to manually open and close the garage door, which not a big deal but it is just one more thing to do that I have not had to do.

When we arrived back home, we washed the paint off the Princess' face and got dressed for the 4H dinner. We were asked to wear black, white, or green. The Princess wanted a small design near the eye, so I did one to match the flowers on her dress and took a picture of it. Now here the camera is right there in my hand, but the camera did not stay in my hand. We leave and the camera is left behind, so I used my cell phone for pictures at the banquet, which I have never done before so I have not a clue how to retrieve them at this time.

The Princess received a small award--shh, everyone got at least that one--but she was absolutely thrilled! She has so much enthusiasm! The 4H dinner went into overtime and since I did not help set it up, I helped clean up. As I get out of the van, I realize that I had not taken the milk out of the coolers and put it in the freezer, so I obviously needed to do that. It all was still very cold, besides raw milk does not spoil, so it all is just fine.

It is about 9:30 p.m. by the time we call Daddy to say good night. After talking to him about the garage door opener and forgetting, I was determined to make a point to wish him happy birthday. All day I had been looking forward to making amends for not saying it while I had him on the phone earlier. Unfortunately, by the time we get home, I am so tired that I am falling asleep sitting up and barely coherent enough to talk. To my embarrassment, I awoke this morning realizing that twice I talked to the man and both times I had forgotten to wish him a Happy Birthday.

It was just a series of simple mishaps all in one day. Actually, I did a lot, just not a lot of what I hoped to do.

Oh, yes. The Princess and I called Daddy this morning and sang to him. He sounded like he was having the same kind of day with trying to service the machine. I told him it wouldn't be much of a surprise if we had sung to him on his birthday. (He knows that I get that "I meant to do that" attitude from him, by the way.)

There are times when my plans go completely awry and I feel like I cannot get to where I wanted to go, but thank you, my Lord, for being with me, steadfast and strong.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My History Mystery?

"History" is a Greek word which means, literally, just "investigation."
~Arnold Toynbee

I finally received my copy of Timeliner XE from Tom Snyder Productions that I had purchased through Homeschool Buyers Co-op last month. I write "finally" because the co-op order was so big that it went on back order for a time. I am going to be busy typing in quite a bit of information and playing with this program for a time, I think.

I have been wanting to do a history timeline, which will probably be set up on the wall of our hallway, but I just could not "see" it in my mind. I played with a free Excel timeline template, but it was so time consuming. When I came upon Timeliner, I thought it was amazing. Not only could I see the timeline arranged before we set it up by hand with artwork on the wall, but I can use it for arranging and accessing information through websites on the Internet!

While I am excited about setting up a history timeline, I have had to examine why I have been holding back on history in lessons with the Princess, especially since getting this program was the last excuse I would allow myself about this. It is not that she has not learned some history, it is just that I have not placed the emphasis on it as I had originally planned to do, particularly since I am following the classical model of education.

Why have I been resisting history? I think, in part, it is because when I think of history lessons, I think of how history was taught to me in school: BORING!!! I did have one teacher for one year in high school that made it fun, but all those other years, I would learn the facts to pass the tests and promptly forget most of them.

I think the Princess likes history--perhaps that is where I get all up tight about it. I don't want to squelch her love history by teaching it in a way that bores her. I have to remind myself that I actually love history now--really, I do! After I began reading books based on or about historical events and people (instead of textbooks with memorizing dry facts so I could pass the test), I have been hooked. I think that I will like learning world history in sequence along with the Princess, teaching the way I wish I had been taught, but it seems I have to often remind myself of these things right now.

It seems overwhelming to teach all that has taken place in the world since You created it, my Lord. It is impossible to know it all as You must, so please guide us in our lessons to learn what You would have us learn about things man has done through the ages and show us, my Lord, Your wondrous handiwork in it all.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Labors of Love and Courage

All art requires courage. ~Anne Tucker

There are times when I think, "What have I gotten myself into?" The last few days has been one of those times. I canceled the piano lesson on Thursday after I had prayed about it and felt the Lord had told me not to try to go, as we have only one vehicle so it requires us to drop off and pick up my husband when he is working locally. The Lord knows best, obviously! As it turned out, my husband worked late, really late, Thursday and Friday. If he had not, he would have probably had to work on Saturday.

Thursday, Princess and I did lessons, I laid out my sponge for making sourdough bread on Friday, and I baked the cake for the celebration of her birthday on Saturday. I received my order of face paints on Thursday afternoon and played a bit with them.

Friday, we had lessons interlaced with kneading bread and mixing icing and face painting. I iced the cake with the sealing layer at her bed time and began the decorating after that. Finally, at about 1:00 a.m., I was able to fall into bed after I have completely cleaned up the kitchen from baking an decorating the precious and rather woolly Sammy Lamby cake the Princess requested.

Saturday was the day of the church rummage sale and I had mentioned that I would do face painting at this event if I got the face paints in on time. Having only a couple of days practice and seeing how it was not quite as easy as all those practiced experts make it look, I was a bit apprehensive. Actually, I did not even allow myself to think about whether I should or should not do it, I just prayed and the Lord said all would go well, so I pack everything up and went. Thankfully, it was a cool day, but not so cold that I was shivering.

We decided on a $2.00 per design donation to the building fund and I would be just doing smaller cheek or eye or arm designs.

First, I did a familiar victim, the Princess, who was wearing pink and blue. I have found coordinating with the colors of the clothing being worn makes the design look better.

Not so bad, but my pastor was next. She liked the design Melanie had done on me previously. Now I am suddenly quite nervous. I was now doing the very first person other than my daughter or myself. Pastor wears glasses so I pulled the design down to her cheek more. What you cannot see in the picture is that she is wearing a dark blue top.

By the way, I did not have time to prepare samples or even print off some patterns or practice certain patterns so this is all free hand and on the fly. This lady encouraged me to experiment and she was wearing yellow. I tried a sponge to lay on a color as a base. It does not show well in the picture. I should have used a bit more paint, but this was the very first person on which I had ever tried that technique.

Wearing a patriotic shirt and head band, this lady asked for a patriotic design. I tried a sponge again using a bit more paint. I added a bit more definition, but again I was not completely happy with the results. At least I was learning more with each one!

This lady knew exactly what she wanted: a seahorse as well as a design around the other eye. Unfortunately, my camera did not cooperate with me on getting a well focused shot on the seahorse. I was rather pleased with the fine lines I got on the eye design. In fact, it flowed very easily. I think I was relaxing a bit more by then. I definitely am going to need greater variety of new brushes!

I can see where the differences in skin can make a difference in how well the design takes. Children are obviously easier because of their smooth skin.

I must say that my church is a very supportive group and I thank each of these ladies and children for wearing my art while I am learning the tricks of the trade. I would say that they have much more courage than I do!

My husband had dropped me off and went on to his chiropractor's appointment. When he returned, he took a few pictures of me doing my thing.

You may be wondering what is on my face and who did the work. I have only one response:

The Princess is formidable!

What I learned the most is that face painting is about being bold. The colors are bold. The brush techniques are bold. The definition is also bold. It is a step in the opposite direction from the gradual building up that I am used to doing in my fine artwork. I have much to learn and I need much more practice.

I did not make much money for the church, but I bought a few things at the rummage sale, learned a few things about face painting, had fun talking to the ladies, and our church made a bit of change for adding to our building fund!

Thank you, my Lord, for the opportunity to learn and practice face painting...and also for holding off the rain to the very end of cleaning up for the rummage sale!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sammy Lamby Cake

Mary had a little lamb
It's fleece was white as snow,
And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go.
~Sarah J. Hale

For those of you who have not yet met Sammy Lamby, he has been with the Princess since she was a baby. In fact, while taking a good look at him to get an idea of what colors to mix for the icing on the cake I would be decorating, the Princess mentioned that he was quite old: "After all, he is eight years old."

We found Sammy with lonely eyes in a store looking down from a shelf too high for any child to reach him, peering right at my baby girl, and from the moment my husband placed him in her arms there was a connection. She would not even let go of him long enough to be scanned by the sales clerk. Whenever and wherever she was to lie her head to sleep, Sammy was there. She would rub the silk of his "hand" with her own as she drifted off.

From the first moment they met, Sammy Lamby was her security blanket and friend; he still is. She still sleeps with him, sometimes hugging Sammy all the night and other times he is among the growing pile of "friends" she picks to sleep beside her. Without a hint of embarrassment, there are times she still takes Sammy Lamby to church or he rides with us to piano lessons. Much like the Velveteen Rabbit, the love of eight years, from blanketing her as a baby to being her constant sleeping companion to being lugged around to explore the world with her, shows on our sweet Sammy Lamby. He is not as bright or silky, but he is irreplaceable...our Sammy Lamby.

I don't know how many more years it will be before the Princess will keep Sammy Lamby so close to her, so I was thrilled when she picked a Sammy Lamby cake for this year. In the last year, I have noticed that she has become a capable and more independent being, no longer a young child who needs help with everything, but more of a helper herself. Yet, she holds Sammy dear still, as well as Hunny Bunny, who is next to Sammy because that little pink rabbit has been Sammy's companion for nearly all those eight years.

My Lord, it will be a sad day for me should my daughter toss aside things that have been so dear to her. Please help us all to appreciate that life is about change, that nothing remains as it always was. Likewise, this earthly life will pass away and we are promised a new life in heaven and such wonders that we cannot imagine, but to see them we must let go of what we hold dear to us here and now, but I thank you, my Lord, for the memories.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Face Paints Arrived!

I dream a lot. I do more painting when I'm not painting. It's in the subconscious. ~Andrew Wyeth

For some years I have been painting in my dreams, which is to say that I have not laid brush to canvas in a very long time, but I have been painting in my mind. In a previous post, Saturated Through to Saturday, I wrote about my new found interest in face painting. I have spent a few hours scouring the Internet for ideas and patterns, attempting to convince myself I can do it well and it would be enjoyable.

I also did some research and decided on a Wolfe Face Art & FX Essentials Palette with twelve basic colors and, of course, some glitter: gold prism, silver prism, and an opalescent which I purchased from Silly Farm. Good face paints that are unlikely to cause skin irritation are not cheap and we have been on a spending freeze for some time, but I feel this will not be just a fad thing for me and I actually might make a bit of money with my new hobby or at least pay for the paint eventually.

I was thinking that it would be a bit of time to get a feel for adding water, loading the brush, and applying it on skin with on a less than absolutely still child, so I did not expect much on my first attempt. The Princess wanted a flower vine crown so I tried it. The vine came out much thicker than I wanted and the flowers were not a well defined as I would like, but I learned that when you add some glitter and step back that the change in my perspective improved its appearance somewhat.

Next I thought I would try an arm. This actually was easier to control movement and angle, so I concentrated on finer lines but with the idea that I needed to do the painting quickly. A practiced face painter will do most designs in under five minutes and that is about as long as some children can sit still. On this design I learned how easily the paints can mix during application—good to know.

At this point, the Princess could no longer be contained as she demanded to have a turn, assuring me that she was a very good artist. I told her I would load the paint on the brush for her (because it really takes very little water and paint) and she could have it on my cheek...and have at it she did! I was quite impressed with the finished product, but mindful that I need to teach her about brush techniques, as well as highlights are done in white or lighter colors rather than the purple she used. All the time she was painting it, she was telling me how much I was going to like it.

The Princess decided that she also wanted a heart. This time I played with blending colors and then just for fun added the ribbon banner.

Although the paint cleans off easily with soap and water, I suspect I will be seeing glitter often from now on. This morning when I went to arouse the Princess from her cuddling stuffed friends, I saw the hint of sparkles on her face and pillow. All I could think of was how sweet that was and about the next designs I would like to place on that sweet face.

Today I would like to spend practicing more as I will probably go the church rummage sale tomorrow to face paint there, even though I am just starting out—hey, what can people expect for a modest donation to our building fund after all? But, today there are still lessons to do in addition to a birthday cake to decorate and bread to bake. Then we can face paint and sparkle some more! Much too much fun!

Thank you, my Precious Lord, for allowing me to share, if even in a small way, the enjoyment of creativity and to use it to bring enjoyment to others.