Saturday, November 7, 2015

What I'm Working On: Recycled Book Art

 I haven't decided whether I'm finished or not. I might cover over the eyes. I might paint it. Then again, I do prefer the rough look of it, much like the author's drawings. I might leave it alone and see how I feel about it next week. I just hope it's recognizable.

For me, art is more process than product. Figuring out how to do something and fiddling with it. I guess I look at many aspects of life that way.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

An Autumn Thought in Haiku

Change is eternal
Life is sun through colored leaves
Every moment unique

(Haiku by me, photo by my youngest, from a recent walk on a chill October afternoon.)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The "I should really post some photos" Post

Mom wants pictures. She doesn't use Facebook. So here is a visual recap of some of our activities.

Chase made a costume to wear at the Renaissance Faire when he went with his friends. He pounded out the chestplate himself.

Before she went back to University, Marina and I set up a fall display at the library. She only had time to make three squirrels a bird and some books, so I put the rest together. I plan to add pumpkins soon to take it through Thanksgiving.

 We had many animal visitors to the yard this summer and early autumn. The toad above was under the hydrangea bush by the door.  Below, an oddly marked grackle came visiting a few times. I named it Spot.

After several blurs and missed opportunities, I got a photo of our backyard hummingbird. She hangs around the yard during the summer, and even buzzed my ear when I invaded her territory one morning to fill our small birdbath/fountain.

We finally had a Monarch butterfly in our yard. It's worrying how few butterflies and bees we've seen this year. Please, if you garden, try to avoid pesticides and herbicides. They are really hurting the beneficial insect population and their food plants.

 We visited an orchard recently, on our way to drop off supplies to Marina. She asked us to take some reference photos for her (It's an artist thing. We are always supplying her with reference photos), so Sierra brought her camera and while I picked out apples (no time to pick them ourselves), she snapped some photos of the orchard residents.

That's all for now. I have to say, I really miss my old camera. I can't take as good shots of insects and moons with my daughters' cameras. My supermoon photos were shiny blurs on black. I think Sierra misses the camera too. She could do a lot with it that her small camera can't.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Backyard Consumerism

Nothing appeals to our ancient hunter-gatherer instincts like a good sale. Animals are not immune to that feeling. Watching the frenzy at the feeders in the morning is a lot like watching a Black Friday sale at a department store.

When you spend your life foraging, it's hard to resist easy pickings. The "early birds" line up at the door (in the tree) before the feeders are filled. Many times during the year, I filled the feeders to the sound of blue jays alerting their friends that the doors just opened. They are all about being first.

There are also the saavy shoppers. Woodpeckers check for suet. Chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches only want the best seed. They swoop in, pick out the seed they want and swoop out to enjoy their treasure before coming back. Some understand that the seeds will only last so long. I observed nuthatches hiding seeds around the yard so they could get back to the "sale" quicker. This could explain the mystery sunflowers that popped up in our yard during the summer.

There are always aggressive shoppers at any sale. Clumps of house sparrows swoop in, shouldering each other for better positions. Fights break out often, usually among the mourning doves. They smack at each other with their wings as they protect the seeds they claimed.

There are the hoarders. Once the squirrels come, it's hard for anyone else to eat. They hang from branches over the feeders and grab handfuls of seed and suet. The smart scavengers station themselves underneath, grabbing at anything the squirrels drop.

Then there are chipmunks. I think they are the smartest shoppers. Their motto is "come early and come often." They fill their bags (cheeks) to bursting and run off to stow their goodies in the car (burrow) before rushing back in for more.

Which leads  to another life lesson learned from animals...
 Bring your own bags.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


I started bringing my own bags to the grocery store before I was married, so we're talking at least 26 or 27 years ago. It was such an unusual thing to do, I had more than one cashier put my groceries into my bag, and then put that bag into one of the store's bags. Now stores encourage you to bring your own.

When I graduated from high school, I felt burnt out. I decided not to go directly to college. Instead, I took off a year and spent the time doing things like drawing, taking walks, thinking about life, learning to juggle, and simply learning who I was and what I wanted out of life. It wasn't easy. My father was very unhappy with my choice. But I think the time I had to decompress helped me to feel ready to enter college. These days, it is acceptable to take a year off before college.

It isn't easy to do what is different. I find it funny to think I was always the kind of kid who tried to blend in, to disappear into the crowd. I didn't want to stand out, because out meant the possibility of ridicule. Yet as a teen and adult, I have always done things a bit different. Not for attention, but because I considered the matter and decided it was the right thing to do. Whether I decide to garden without pesticides and herbicides, recycle and reduce waste, or homeschool my children, I try to make each decision mindfully and purposefully. 

I'm not perfect, far from it. I hope no one envies my life, because I improvise a lot as I go along. All I want is to live each day to the best of my abilities and try to improve myself a little bit more. It is what I want my children to learn from me so they might be less afraid to do something different. Someday our different might be the new normal.

If you think you are different, congratulations. It's possible you are living on the cutting edge. Everyone else will catch up eventually. And by then you'll be doing something else different.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The "I could never do that" Challenge

One of the phrases I hear most often when I tell people my kids homeschool is, "Oh, I could never do that!" Why? Because it's hard? What isn't hard about raising children? I never thought I would get them past potty training. I didn't think I would ever be able to arrive anywhere on time without allowing an extra hour per child. I thought I would spend my life trying to figure out why one of my kids was upset. Wait. I still have days like that.

I grew up with chronic asthma. I spent most of my childhood hearing others--and sometimes my own body---tell me what I could not do. It was frustrating for me to think of all the things I was told I could never do. It became my mission to prove what I could do. I could have pets. I could walk long distances. I could be strong. I could have a baby using natural childbirth. I could have a second in a birth center. I could have another at home.

My defense mechanism is to not think too hard about anything. I find it's much easier to rise up to a challenge if I don't over-analyze it. I don't think about long term issues. If your child is going to be a first grader, you should concern yourself with first grade, and not worry about how you will handle high school or whether your child will be accepted into college. It's true that you will look back some day and wonder at how fast it went by, but when you are in the midst of it, homeschooling works better if you think about it year to year, term to term, week to week, or even day to day. It's a cumulative effect. 

I don't know how much time I have with my kids. I do know that their childhood is not forever. And things happen in life. I have known wonderful homeschoolers who passed away too soon. Our own life situation changed dramatically last year when my husband lost his job of 19 years and I had to take on a part time job at the library. Luckily, I love what I do and consider it an extension of my homeschooling experience. And still I homeschool my youngest. Mostly because I am stubborn and don't give up easily, but also because I want my kids to see that I am willing to rise up to the challenge. If I can do it, so can they. 

Think of when you use the words "I can never do that," and challenge yourself to try.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Carnival of Homeschooling: It's the Journey Edition

Some of my favorite moments spent learning with my kids have been during walks at parks and nature preserves. There is something about walking under the trees and along the trails that brings out the best in us. I think it's the fact that every step is important. Even if you run, you need to run carefully to avoid stumbling. You need to pay attention so you don't walk off the trail and get lost. You need to be present to each moment. You need to appreciate the journey.

Welcome to the Carnival of Homeschooling: 
It's the Journey edition!

Getting Started
You need to make sure you are prepared for your hike. Essentials like proper attire, insect repellent, water, snacks, and a charged phone help you enjoy the journey and anything that comes your way. Just like Fried Clams and Sweet Tea prepared their children to be good readers with 5 Tips for Raising Readers

I used to keep a supply of snacks handy in the car, since I never knew when we might walk and buying food on the run can be more expensive than planning ahead and buying on sale. The Open Window - An Autism Blog knows that this is a good time of year to buy School Supplies.

When you start homeschooling, you also need essentials, and a great place to start is free resources. Every Bed of Roses shares Homeschool 4 FREE Resource Lists (Homeschooling Essentials).

Here are more essentials for your journey. Homemaking Organized offers some free Long Division Math Help Printables

And more. Embark on the Journey offers a FREE Frozen Printable and Activities and Wizard of Oz Read Aloud Activities and FREE Printable.

Do you see a pattern here? I go to parks that don't cost money. Just because I can't afford the extra expense doesn't mean we have to stay away from an activity we love. This Sweet Life of Mine believes that no matter your homeschool budget, homeschooling does not have to be expensive.You don't have to think I Can't Homeschool Because...I Can't Afford It. This Sweet Life of Mine also offers Ten Free Sites I Use in My Homeschool and 50+ Upper Elementary Writing Prompts for your favorite young writer.

And for more on the subject, Raventhreads writes about Keeping Your Homeschool Budget in Check.

When you are ready for anything, you can enjoy the journey no matter what happens along the way. Counting Our Blessings shares How to Homeschool when Life Happens.

Grab a Map

Maps help you plan out your trip. Good planning makes for a smoother journey with less surprises. Online resource lists help you navigate through the sea of websites available. Let's Play Math! offers New Internet Math Reference Pages.
We once got lost on the trails because I didn't stop to take a map on the way in. Luckily, I had my phone. Being able to reach support is important. Every Bed of Roses knows how important a Support Network can be and what to do in an emergency: Day 4 - Homeschooling in a Crisis
Walking the Trail
There are so many paths to take. It seems impossible to choose. I can honestly say that no matter which way we go, we will see something interesting. It is impossible to waste your time if you decide you will benefit from the journey. As He Leads is Joy decides I Am Willing to Waste my Time teaching things that might be considered a waste of time. 

Every path is different. Some are winding, some straight, some challenging and steep. Finding the best route for you is important. Gypsy Road gives and overview of different homeschooling styles in A Homeschool Story -- Stylistic Approaches.

My two oldest have walked in other countries. What if you hiked a trail in another country?  Use your imagination. Or a unit study! Petticoat Government discusses Learning about Lithuania.

Always remember, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. You have to start somewhere. ElCloud Homeschool offers help to beginners in I'm Thinking About Homeschooling. Where Do I Start?

How long should your hike be? You might want to figure that out based on who's taking the journey. Embark on the Journey answers the question How Long is a Typical Homeschool Day?

Watch out for Hazards!
In our favorite preserve, there are fens, poison ivy, brambles, and fallen trees; there are mosquitoes and ticks; there have been sightings of coyotes, bobcats, and rattlesnakes. You need to be aware of your surroundings.Sometimes awareness comes in seeing yourself in your children. MathFour discusses Smurfy Student Traits You See in Yourself.

Our park rangers are awesome. They have taught us everything from how to do a tick check to identifying poison ivy. It helps to get tips from someone with more experience in navigating the hazards. Gypsy Road offers tips & tricks for Getting Started with Road Schooling. Gypsy Road also provides a master list of all the Unit Studies, many travel & geography-based, created for their home school.

Being able to communicate clearly helps improve our safety along the trail. Gypsy Road offers this third part in a series of Speech Therapy Resources for Homeschoolers.

Discoveries along the Way
One of the nice things about hiking together is that you also notice things together, like dragonflies along the boardwalk. In nature class walks, we learned things like mushroom identification together. Fried Clams and Sweet Tea learns algebra together with her kids in Algebra 1/2...Or How I do Middle School Math.

It's always exciting when a child makes a discovery. You can see their eyes light up with wonder! Our Curious Home share their daughter's excitement when making An Arithmetic Breakthrough.

While we're making discoveries, it might be time for a snack! Let's Play Math discusses 

My kids used to pick up rocks whenever we went for a walk. Rocks are great for science activities. They can be identified, sorted, cracked open, and tested for hardness. Years later they can still identify many rocks. Hands-on learning stays with you longer. Some Call it Natural shares her children's learning in an office environment in 5 Days of Office Schooling-Day 5-Life Skills are Important.

When my oldest was 8, she compared a hike to the dwarves crossing the Misty Mountains. Don't you love it when they can relate to something they read? Reading aloud is a great way to ignite that love of reading. The Arrowood Zoo shares Our Read Aloud Favorites.

You can never have enough to read! Here are more book favorites from Solagratiamom's post Summer Tea and Books. Solagratiamom also offers Tea for Tuesdays! and Three Keys to Tutoring Success.

Just as a love of nature can expand into a love of the natural sciences, a love of reading can expand into a love of history using historical fiction. Embark on the Journey offers a list of suggestions for Historical Fiction for Elementary Ages.

Pacing Yourself
If the trail you pick isn't working, It's perfectly OK turn off onto a path that is gentler or more challenging. Journey-and-Destination writes about their experience  with Ambleside Online and how they adjusted it for their children's needs when Coming Late to Ambleside Online - some thoughts on the high school years.

It's also OK to take a break. When everyone is burnt out, you need time to recharge, before things get overwhelming (that's what the snacks are for). Then you take things one step at a time. The Arrowood Zoo wonders about the Homeschool Battle, "Surely I can't be the only one who seems to have these situations and moods come up that hurt my homeschooling soul."

This Sweet Life of Mine is also battle scarred, and shares some advice in Don't Give Up On Homeschooling, Mama.  

Children may also lead us in directions we didn't expect. Why Homeschool's youngest daughter shares A homeschooler trying out a private school.

Sometimes our favorite trail gets flooded and we need to go a different way. Your walk will not always be how you envision it. Being flexible and willing to change your path can help you enjoy the journey. Counting Our Blessings shares Why We Choose Year-Round Homeschooling.

Enjoying the View
If you don't stop and look around every once in a while, you miss a lot. When we reach the top of the old quarry we look back to see how far we've come. Fried Clams and Sweet Tea looks back on a very full Day in the Life of Middle School.

Stopping for a moment gives me the chance to reflect on what I accomplishedOur Journey reflects on her first three years of homeschooling and ponders If I Could Tell My Beginning Homeschooler Self Something...

How I see the view will be different from someone else's view. Another reflection on the journey from Faith Hope and Homeschool offers What I Have Learned: Homeschool Edition
Stopping every now and then also allows you to catch your breath. Every Bed of Roses discusses homeschool burnout in this important post: Mother Culture - Time Out (Homeschooling Essentials)

Family, Faith, and Fridays found a different way to take a break, using Sabbath Week Schooling

On a clear day, the view is breathtaking. I like bringing our camera to capture it, but sometimes I forget. On those days, I describe the view for my friends. ElCloud Homeschool describes What does homeschooling look like? Then and now.

I love it when I see my kids enjoy the natural world as much as I do. Nature inspires us all and reflects in our art and crafts. The Arrowood Zoo shares the results of her family's  Beautiful Sunburst Art Project. They also did this Line Art Project - Easy & Fun.

Finishing the Journey

As you reach the last part of your hike, you may feel unsure of yourself. Perhaps you took an unknown trail and don't know when it will reach the end. All you can do is hold tight to your map and phone and trust that the end is almost in sight. Likewise for the home educator, the high school years can seem intimidating and impossible to finish. ElCloud Homeschool offers her experiences with Homeschooling High School: Planning for High School.

You may reach the end of the trail tired, dirty, and sweaty, but you are always energized by the experience. You've come a long way, and you did it! ElCloud Homeschool celebrates ElCloud Graduation 2015: Take Two!

This concludes the Carnival of Homeschooling for July! Thank you to Why Homeschool for continuing it and to all of the bloggers who submitted posts this month. You are all awesome! If you want to join in the fun, consider submitting a post in next month's carnival

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Homeschooling Bloggers: I'm hosting the next Carnival of Homeschooling!

This is a note that I am hosting the next Carnival of Homeschooling here on Home Spun Juggling. Please help me make the July Carnival a successful one!

You can send in up to three posts about homeschooling via either of these methods:

 1) You can send an email to:
 Please include:

  Title of Post(s)
  URL of Post(s)
  Name of Blog
  URL of Blog
  Brief summary of the post(s)

 2) Or use this Google Doc:

 Please send in the entries by July 13th, at 6:00 PM PST.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Thoughts on the Village and the Child

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child.

This got me thinking.... (a dangerous pastime, I know)

In our society, it certainly seems to take a village to raise a child. From the moment of birth (conception, really) we have industries devoted to the care and keeping of the child. Without even considering the obvious ones, like prenatal care, daycare, and schools, think about the many ways our children are influenced by their village. Childproof devices, television shows and videos geared toward the youngest, toys, books, more toys, clothing, electronics, youth sports, dance classes, etc. all court the child and parents with promises of creating a superyouth who is smarter, stronger, and more stylish than his or her peers.

I think of all that has risen up from schools. Learning centers, curricula, textbooks, teaching supplies, and tests are all offered by separate companies to supplement the child's education. Stores have Back-to-School sales now before classes end in the spring.

Then there is government. How many laws do we create because it's "for the kids?" How much money do we hand over to educational systems "for the kids?" Is there anything we wouldn't do "for the kids?"

It appears to me that it takes a child to raise a village.

I, myself, have always benefited from kids. I entertained at children's parties and events. I worked as a teacher's aide in public schools. I taught circus arts at afterschool and summer camp programs. Even now, I benefit by working in a children's library.

I wonder how our village would survive without the child? Because I think the child would survive fine without all of the attention.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Homeschooling Blog Carnival at Dewey's Treehouse

The latest Carnival of Homeschooling: The Retirement Edition is now up at Dewey's Treehouse. Please click over to the carnival and read some interesting submissions from homeschooling bloggers around the world!
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