Sunday, November 28, 2010

Botany Project- Soap

At the beginning of our homeschool year back in August, The Girl who Loves to be Blogged and The Mayor made a light hut.  The idea is to create a warm and bright space for plants to grow year round, especially since we live above the 42nd parallel.
The first thing we were supposed to plant were herbs.  The herbs were supposed to be dried and used in cooking, teas and soaps.
I already had some basil growing, and we added to that.
A few weeks ago we harvested basil and chives, tied them together and poked the string through a brown paper bag, hanging this contraption from the curtain bracket near the Girl's desk in the school room.  So her desk has been a fragrant corner.  I also harvested some dried lavender from my mother's kitchen, and comfrey from her front yard.  Other additives we had around the house were olive oil and oatmeal.
Last week, while on catch-up time for other school work, we made our soaps. 
I got some fragrance from the dollar store, and a kit from the craft store which contained soap, dyes and plumeria fragrance.  It had molds with embossing tools, but I also used some shapes my mom had around.

We melted the glycerin in the microwave, though I eventually changed to a poor-mom's double boiler so we would have more time to think about what we wanted to do.  Soap dries/cools/hardens pretty quickly!
The Mayor only made two of these, and then wandered off.  That's Ok.  The Girl enjoyed doing this with just her mom. I think.
 This is the little tin my Mom provided. You can sort of see how the soap is puckering up in the process of drying.  In the end we made a handful of soaps and still had some supplies left over, but I had to reclaim the kitchen for lunch.
This plastic mold that came with the kit had a little embossing plate in the bottom of it, so that the soap came out with flower design pressed into the top of it.  It was pretty.  We discovered was that it would take quite a bit of the dye powder that was provided to make the soap anywhere near as dark as shade of red or green pictured on the box.  We were reluctant to throw all that in. So our soap is pink instead of red.  Luckily, I stopped myself on the verge of throwing in some blue food coloring to make the lavender purple instead of pink...the user of the soap will thank me!

These are intended as Christmas gifts for my Secret Sister as well as several family members, so I am not going to reveal the finished product right now.  But my husband did say that if this is all that goes into making soap, the people who sell it at craft fairs are over-charging!  It was that simple...though he had no idea what I spent on the soap base, etc. from the store.

All in all though, a simple and quick craft for Christmas presents, making use of something we did for school.  I win, she wins, receiver of gifts wins.  Oh, and it made the house smell nice.  That's a good day.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Making Kites

We were studying Ancient China this week, which lends itself to a tremendous array of hands-on activities!  I studied Chinese in college for two years and lived in Western China for about 6 weeks in 1996.  I also visited in 1992.  DS really got into looking at my photo album from 1996, especially since I had lived along the banks of the Huang He River, which is where China's Ancient civilization began.  I told them about how when we saw it we noted that it wasn't Huang He, it was Hong He- the River appears more red than yellow.  It's something that stuck in my memory.

My older girls took a summer language class last summer (not this most recent one) and did an on-line course afterward, but we decided not to keep up with it.  We are after all focused on moving to a very different country, and it was a little confusing to be learning bits of both. But it was nice to go back to China for a visit this week.

Among the projects we didn't get to were brush painting/calligraphy, and making jiao-zi, or dumplings.  I have a vegetarian dumpling recipe made with tofu that their teacher gave me last year, and I have most of the ingredients, but we just didn't get to it.  Next week we are going to have some catch-up time as well as some work-ahead time, so I know what I need to do!

But we did do kite-making.  I combined two sets of instructions found on the Tapestry website, but basically ended up doing our own thing.  I bought 2 tiny 48" dowels at the hardware store and had a man there cut them in half for me.  At another hardware store, I was given a bunch of teeny tin(ier) dowels.  They had all broken and the person helping me said I could have them since they weren't salable, and escorted me out the door.  Score!  I was able to trim these down to 20" each, and these formed the crossbar.

The roll of white paper I got from my mother.  I don't know where we would be without Nana's never-ending storehouse of craft supplies, but it certainly has made our homeschool cheaper!  This week she even delivered!

The next step was to tie the two dowels together with string, in the shape of a 't.'  We laid them on a square of paper (about 26" square) and marked the endpoints.  They drew the diamond shape with a sharpie.  Then, I sent 'em off to draw their design.  Some chose markers, some chose paints, some were given fingerpaints. 
DD12 helped the Little Princess draw a princess, of course, but a Chinese-looking one based on the illustrations in our Upper Grammar Dialectic literature selection, Fa Mulan.   I think it's important to point out that we did the drawing and painting before we cut them out.  Allowed for...overflow.

The next step was to cut out around the rectangle but wider- about the width of a ruler.  Then we folded that in on the line and glued it down, with the sticks inside. 

Attaching the strings (also provided by Nana), we had a little trial and error.  I punched two holes on each corner with my scissors, and threaded the string through, tying it on the back.  But I ended up doing four strings, tied together in the middle loosely.  DD10 did two strings tied on two ends which was neater.  Then she tied them together with the roll of string that she would use to fly the kite.  I tried to get a picture of the strings pulled away from the back so you could see it, but I had an interloper!

There it is!  Sadly, I didn't get a good shot of his dragon design.  I assure you it was quality work and very original. 

This Girl Loves to be Blogged, can you tell?  Her dragon design came off a website, but she did a good job of coloring around it so that it blended in, and then designed round it.  She was the first one outside to fly it this morning, and her assessment when she came inside was, "That worked better than I thought it was going to."
I hope that some day the weather will cooperate and we will get outside somewhere more spacious to really give them a try, but then I would risk breaking them...that's a tough call!  They will make such nice decorations for our Unit Celebration.

One more design for you, from the Girl who Hates to be Blogged.  This came out of her dialectic History Resource, which she really likes, The Usborne Encyclopedia of World Religions (Internet-Linked). 
At times like this I am glad that Tapestry forces me to emphasizes arts and crafts like this.  For one thing, these crafts become so much more meaningful because they relate to the time period we are experiencing. 

But additionally, I would've skipped them.  I also would've told you that I had only one 'artsy' daughter.  But this year I have seen DD12 get totally absorbed in these artistic expressions.  I have watched DS sit carefully focused with the tip of his tongue sticking out of his mouth while he works those scissors.  And all of them have produced items they feel genuinely proud of, and which carry a story as well.

I never really set out to enjoy homeschooling- it was just something we had to do.  Someday I could write about that.  But this year I do love it.  I feel like we've grown into it bit by bit.  I probably couldn't have done Tapestry in our first year, but I am so glad I found it now.

I'll be back next week to let you know how the jiao-zi turned out.  I might have to hunt down some gluten-free wrappers.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rename My Kids!

I'm aware that the DD3, etc. codes are annoying people.  I thought it was pretty common internet-speak, but I've had to explain it so many times that I've decided to go with nicknames.  So, here's your chance- rename my kids!

I don't use their names because I want to protect their privacy- we can't have strangers walking up to them on the street and calling them by name and saying that they are a friend of Mommy's, right?  I also want to be careful considering our security circumstances with travel overseas in our future. 

I already call DD3 the Little Princess on occasion.  Always have.  Might use that.  Or I could go with her home nickname, which is Bear, but that doesn't help people know which kid I am talking about. And what about the rest of them?  Big Kid, Little Kid, Middle Kid?  DS wanted to be called Little Prince, but that doesn't quite fit. 

What do you think I should call them?
And play fair, if you already know their names!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Unit Celebration #1

I've been sort of reluctant to blog this, partly because it is our first celebration and partly because it's just a ton of stuff!  Grab a cup of coffee because I want to show all the details of the hard work my kidlets put into this first unit of Tapestry of Grace.

So, our invitees were Grandma and Grandpa, Nana and Woody, and Pastor Dawn.  We asked them to come at 11:00.  Daddy also came in mid-Seder.
This is Moses.
Moses met guests at the door and led them through the wilderness (or, our kitchen and dining room).  This was a last minute addition, when I realized that Moses led the Israelites, yadda yadda!  Her costume is her daddy's old bathrobe, which has probably been used more often as a costume than otherwise!  Underneath she is wearing one of his white undershirts, which makes an excellent tunic on a three year old!  I will explain the Ten Commandments tablet at the end.

Moses led the guests to the first stop in our tour of the Ancient past, Ur and Mesopotamia.  Here, visitors had an Egyptian tour guide telling them about ziggurats, cylinder seals, and the Royal Game of Ur.  I am sorry that this picture is so dark.  Here's a closer one so you can really appreciate his costume:
On his bottom he was wearing a ripped sheet, the leftovers from one of his sisters' costumes.   At the beginning of the year we thought the directions for a pectoral collar looked too complicated, so he had nothing to wear on top.  We remedied that with...face paints.  Yes!  So simple, so easy!  So still on the back of his neck four days later because he showered without help!

His favorite part of manning this station was telling guests all about the Royal Game of Ur, which we just found last week (three to six weeks too late), in a 15 game set Nana had given us at Christmas.  Right under our noses!  It's a pretty simple board game which he was playing non-stop.

The next station the guards visited was Ancient Egypt.  Their tour guide was Jochabed, Moses' mother (actually, her sister!).  Rabbit-trail:  My kids actually suggested naming Moses this when she was on the way, and they were told she had to have an Old Testament name.  That, or Percy. 

Jochabed demonstrated her King Tut mask (she actually made that last year when we were doing another program), her mummified Barbie with accompanying
sarcophagus (take note, Mattel!), some jewelry and sandals.  She was actually a bit of an art fiend during this unit, a tendency which I never knew existed.  I blame my mother.  This is another reason I am glad I discovered Tapestry, because all that hands-on stuff really reinforces what they are learning and excites them, even if it sounds like a hassle to me.

Jochabed made her own tunic and robe, with a belt, from a scrap of fabric she mooched back in September.  This was her first adventure with my sewing machine, an she didn't love it, but there it is.  The flowing tresses she purchased from the Halloween display at K-mart.

Finally, the guests proceeded to the wilderness.  Here, Aaron the priestess was wearing full Tabernacle dress.  Tunic, an old sheet.  Ephod, a dress she owned, with jingle bells pinned to the hem.  Take a closer look a the head-dress: it's a grocery bag. 
At the front of the wilderness station, you can see the "snake-on-a-stick," which the Israelites looked to for healing when they got snake bites in the desert.

Here's a close-up of the breastplate:  thanks to Nana, the button collector.  It was fun trying to decide which button most closely represented the precious stones.  The neck band is made of yellow pipe cleaners spray painted gold.  This item was Aaron's pride and joy.  
After this, guests had a few minutes to visit the Botany table and observe a  Science experiment in the kitchen.  I didn't get any pictures.  I also had several of our books on display.

Next we had our Seder meal.  In all honesty I didn't pay much attention as Jochabed was planning this, and I should have.  It was L-o-n-g!  And the Powerpoint slides with the guests' lines on it weren't quite right. She gets an "E" for effort though!  We drank our grape juice from styrofoam cups and put the candles in model magic holders. 
I didn't even know that we had to serve lunch in the middle of the Seder, but I had heated up some lentil soup as part of the demonstration so we served that right up.  I'll just say it was an interesting procedure, and may the Lord forgive us for some of it.

Moving on- a set change took place during the Seder, so the guests went to market.  Moses handed out gold chocolate coins for currency.  The guests could visit a scribery, with clay jewelry and carefully gift wrapped.

We also had a grocery with bakery, offering roasted pumpkin seeds, delicious locust biscuits with honey, challah bread, figs, pumpkins and squash.  The costume, again, is daddy's old bathrobe, an old staple in many the church Christmas pageant, accompanied by a hand towel and a headband. 
And a smile.

Guests could also avail themselves of the town doctor, who had a cure for whatever ailed them, as long as it was a toothache, snake bite or wound.  I heard he charged exorbitant rates, though.

Here is everyone, the full effect.  I am proud of them!

Regarding the Ten Commandments, the tablets actually say.
1. Up.
2. Down
3. Up
4. Down
5. Left.
6. Down
7. Up
8. Down
9. Up
10. Left.

These were memory clues that I learned from a storyteller back in September.  I quickly packed it away in my brain because I knew we would memorize the Ten Commandments during this Unit!  I am not sure how I would have done it without them!  I wish I could remember the name of the storyteller and give you a link to his products, but I can't.  Maybe someone who was there will comment and tell me his name.  But the device worked well and they can tell the Ten Commandments pretty well, if not perfectly, and have fun doing it.

I have enjoyed this first Unit of Tapestry of Grace and I think the kids are more engaged with what they are learning about.  I also love that we work together on the same time period.  We have now moved on to Ancient India, China and Greece, after which we will come back to a alter period in the Bible.  Our next Celebration won't be until February due to all the vacation days that come with Christmas.  Stay tuned for International Night!

And someday, I will get my other camera back and do a Botany post on the uses of a light hut.  Really.  That compact fluorescent bulb is still burning.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

October Birthdays

I was just looking through some pictures to print for our Unit Celebration display tomorrow, when I saw this and realized that I had neglected to put it up here. 
 This was my birthday breakfast- homemade waffles, fruit (I requested fruit) and real whipped cream.  
Cute, isn't it?  My girls get up early to make breakfasts on special occasions.  They even made the coffee, and it was pretty good, too!

For the evening, I said that I didn't care what cake I got, as long as they used a certain chocolate frosting recipe.  I pointed it out and set them loose.  In our state, a seventh grader has to learn "practical arts," which has become a handy excuse to make a mess of my kitchen counters.  We are from -scratch bakers around here anyway.  So, last month DD12 learned that a white cake won't be white unless you separate the eggs.  I told her this but she didn't believe me, used a recipe that said "White Cake," and was surprised when it was slightly yellow.  Go figure.
I only intervened on the frosting when I came for a taste test and it was too runny, so I asked if they might have lost count on the confectioner's sugar.  They were sure they had not lost count, but took my advice anyway and added some more so that the frosting was more of a spreadable consistency than a glaze.  Results:
Cute again!

After we got our new vehicle going, we had to have a family field trip because we haven't all been able to go anywhere together in one car in nearly a month!  This is kind of a big deal for a home schooled nomad family that has rather gotten used to going places as a herd, and taking the house with us to boot!
So we went apple picking.
When you have six people picking, it doesn'ttake very long to fill a bag with apples. 
So, you have to find something else to do.  Which means you go to the barn and buy some cider donuts, because DH doesn't go apple picking and not buy fresh cider donuts!  But at least going to the barn means that you get to take a fun picture of your family!  We haven't gone apple picking in a while because when we lived at the sending base, we got free apples donated, so paying to pick them was out of the question.  It's really great to go again.
  I made this DC stand here because this flower is bigger than she is and I think that's cute!   I don't have to have any other reason than that, do I?

I must say that the kids were disappointed not to go to a corn maze this year.   There was one out behind her, but it wasn't open that day.  Every place we looked at on-line was seriously expensive, so that it would cost our family about $50.  They are so much fun, but definitely not in the budget this year. 
Here's my gang up in a tree.  It's a bit of a trick getting four kids into a tree where they can all balance and you can see all their smiling faces.  But there they are.  I think I could just title this entire post "Cuteness!"

I have heard that while there are orchards in our country of interest, they don't have apple-picking as a public event in this way.  I wonder what it would take to make this behavior take off?  Anyone interested in Business as Missions want to give it a try?  My family will be your first customers.  Please try to make the corn maze affordable.