Saturday, April 30, 2011

Crayon Engravings

For our second week of study on Ancient Rome, we all did crayon engravings.  Simple project!
I am beginning to notice that I do more projects at the beginning and end of the unit.  Must be I am just all full of excitement right now!

Crayon engravings are made by covering a piece of paper with crayon (of course).   Some of us scribbled randomly while others crayoned clear patterns. 

Then, we made a mixture of black tempera paint and dish soap, and painted over the crayon.  Some of us did two coats.  We let that dry over night.

The next day, we scraped away our design with an opened paper clip, showing rainbow colors underneath.

I'm sure others have done these more elegantly, but it was a fun simple project for this week and I didn't even have to borrow any parts from my mom.
Next week:  Roman standards.  Silver and gold spray paint are involved.

Monday, April 25, 2011


At the end of our Unit 3 Celebration, Grandma asked, "Where are we going next?"
"Ancient Rome," I said.  "I think we are going to do cookie dough maps next week."
"Why not do pizza dough maps instead?" Nana suggested.
And that's how ideas are born.

 I used gluten-free pizza crust mix, but not just because everyone could eat it that way.  It made sense to use it because the dough doesn't rise and have to be rolled out- GF dough just gets plopped on/out and spread.  This is much easier when making a map!
(in case you're curious, I used GF Bisquick, but I also like Gluten Free Pantry mix.)  I do like scratch baking but haven't done much of it gluten-free yet.

Older girls sculpted the basic shape here- see the boot? (It's Italy, by the way.)  The crust was baked 15 minutes.  Then sauce was spread and the geographical details were added.  That means, they put pineapple on the mountains and mushrooms on Sicily.  Then they covered the location of Pompeii with chili powder (for the volcano!)  We baked it again to melt the cheese.  When we ate it, no one wanted the volcano, but Daddy ate it when he got home.

The next food-related lesson this week was to make mosaics.  We learned about the way the Etruscans (early inhabitants of Italic Peninsula) used them to decorate tombs.  Our were much more fun.

We made royal icing using powdered egg white- that was our mortar.  For the base, older kids used graham crackers and younger kids used chocolate rice cakes (my younger two are the gluten free ones).  The "tiles" were mini M& M's.  Of course, being the focused planner that I am, I bought the M & M's weeks ago during a trip to Wal-mart, but when Thursday afternoon rolled around (Thursday is project day each week~ usually) I didn't have either the powdered sugar for the icing or the bases.  Argh.  Quick trip to the store, where I was inspired by the rice cakes (as if the project didn't have enough sugar in it already!). 

Everyone got in on this project - of course!  It was fun and messy, and involved eating sugar.  We even saved a couple to display at our Unit Celebration in a few weeks.

We are nearing the end of our first year using Tapestry of Grace.  I already bought my Year 2 when we got our tax return, and never once thought about doing something different next year.  The unit study approach has been a lifesaver for our homeschool. And fun, too!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The Girl had her Green Belt test for Tae Kwon Do last week.  Since we were going away for the weekend, her instructor let her and one other girl test together on the previous Wednesday.  Afterward she said she liked testing in a large group better.  He asked some tougher skills. and there was no one to look to for an example.

She had a huge audience, as both sets of grandparents had just been at our Unit Celebration and came along to watch the test.  Including the other parent and our cousin, I think we had an audience of 10. 

As usual, she was master of the dramatic pause as she considered her moves.

The students don't get their next belt until they come to class again.  So on Monday afternoon, fresh from a 5.5 hour car ride from Pennsylvania, she was at class.

The Girl raises her own money for this and works hard, going to class almost every night of the week.  She bakes cookies to sell, collects bottles and cans to return, and will do odd jobs, too.  I'm very proud of the determination and discipline she has shown in working on this.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Made for This - Built for Community

A few months ago, I attended a Snofun weekend at Peniel Bible Conference. I helped in the kitchen so that our oldest could attend the middle school weekend.  The campers played on a huge sledding hill, in addition to listening to speakers and having small groups.  The enjoyed great food and chose from extra activities that ranged from tearing broken tree limbs out of the woods, to sewing quilting squares in front of the fire.

The decision to attend the weekend wasn't a simple one for me.  I did in fact jump at the chance to volunteer, mainly because I believed the Giant would benefit from the ministry.  I trust the individual who planned the retreat.  More than that, I long to see ministry take place at this location.  Not that I don't believe that it does.  I believe that many people, young and old, have been blessed and met with God at Peniel through the years.  By contrast our time at Peniel (10 months as employees) just about wrecked us.  So I thought it would be good for me to go up there and see good things happen.  Yet in my gut I wondered if I'd lost my mind volunteering to go to "that place."

Peniel is a community.  Whether paying camper, youth attendee, adult speaker or volunteer, there's a sense of a person being "a Peniel-er."  After campers had gone to bed, we adult Peniel-ers sat up (way too late) and talked about the place, the situation it now faces, and mostly our strong desire to see new and good things happen there.  What is it, someone asked, that makes this place so meaningful and special to so many?

Community.  As my friend eloquently explained, we are built for heaven.  God designed us to want the kind of life that we will have in heaven, in fellowship with believers and being of one mind and desire- to worship God together.  When we go to a place on earth where believers live in community, we experience a pale shadow of what we're destined for.  Our hearts recognize it, we taste it, and we love it.  Catherine had more to say than that, but that's a brief synopsis of her thoughts, which stayed with me.

This weekend, we came to the US headquarters of our missions agency, which shall remain nameless.  We came to celebrate the wedding of two young people we got to know in the last three years, while we lived as part of the community on the sending base.  Being here reminds me: I love community!  On the sending base, families and individuals have private apartments or dorm-like situations.  They share some meals during the week, and they meet often to pray in support of one another and their task.  That task is to recruit, train, and pray-out new missionaries, and to provide a place of support and management for those on the field.   It's a beautiful place physically as well as spiritually, and many come here for healing from the demands of missionary life.

Every time we come, we find ourselves wishing there were some way we could become a part of this place.  As we wait to be sent out, we have lived here for periods of a few months at a time and have loved it.  For a variety of reasons, we can't do it long-term now.  There's no glamour in helping out the overworked maintenance staff (well, maintenance man now- HELP WANTED) or helping to prepare some of the meals.  Yet we long for it.  Even our kids feel a pull to be a part of it again.  Something in our hearts knows that Yes, this is a way for the church to do life together.  We read accounts of the early church in Acts and we see something beautiful but incredibly hard to achieve in an imperfected world. 

I'm not advocating a withdrawn or monastic way of life, Christians locked away associating only with other believers.  In fact in committed communities, the opposite happens.  People are strengthened in their commitment to go into the world and affect it for Christ.  I just want to see more Christians do life together, sharing with one another as we have need, blessing and encouraging one another, and working in our giftedness.  We, our family, long to have an open-door policy with our friends and neighbors that goes beyond hospitality, to offering refuge and warmth.  With joy we attend lunch after worship together with our church family, and with joy we invite, invite, invite. 

Come on over. Pray with me.  Do life with me. We were made for this.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Year 1 Unit 2 & 3 Celebration

Having been snowed out of our Unit 2 Celebration, this week we needed to celebrate two units.  If you were to ask me how I plan these, I would have to admit that I don't really.  Two things guide me:  the kids' costume choices and whatever projects we have really liked.   I would have to say that the kids lead this celebration with very little input from me.

One day last winter I was awakened by the Mayor explaining to me that he was drawing a big poster of Goliath, and that for the Unit Celebration we could play "pin the stone" on him.  "Fantastic," I thought.  Rock on. Zzzzz.
When I got up, I gave him a few pictures to guide his drawing, and that was that.  he was inspired by his love for the costume I made for him, using plastic milk jug sides sewed to a pillow case to replicate primitive armor plates.
The shield we made from aluminum foil-covered cardboard and the sword was leftover from another costume.  He hid in a cave behind his display board, and came out after guests promised that Saul was nowhere about, seeking to kill him.

Somewhere along the way this idea led to the development of a monster arcade idea, so we had to include Odysseus' battle with the Cyclops.  The Giant drew and painted Cyclops the day before the battle and we attached a dollar-store dart board for his eye. 

The next idea we added was that there would be Olympics, and that came straight out of the Tapestry Unit Introduction.  I had a few food ideas that we had tried and liked during the unit, and that was the extent of my plan until that morning.  We had two Display Boards and a State Report that were our writing projects for Unit 2.

I brought all the projects, lapbooks, etc. out and placed them on the table.  I quickly sorted them into areas, so that we could display them based on that.  On the dining room table I laid out the lapbooks and the unit-wide books we had used, as well as the newspaper produced together in Unit 3.  On the hutch I put the Mayan and Ancient Indian stuff, which was the gourds we had painted and some Indian beans Aunt Julie got us at Trader Joe's.  (We had eaten about half of them at our Indian dinner and they rest had been in the freezer.  Truth be told I thought they were pretty gross, although the rest of our Indian meal was yummy.)
On a shelf above that, the clay replica of the Ishtar Gate the Giant had made.  (Ancient Assyria) and the book we read, God King.
The Goliath area then had the Giant's Display Board about the Israelite neighbors, a few musical instruments we had made, and a placemat with a few Hebrew phrases on it.  We also had this salt dough map of the Promised land with the 12 tribes' inheritances marked.  Since Goliath was actually hanging on the back of the Mayor's Display Board about Greek Mythology, I made that area home to the Greek Dark Ages materials too- books about mythology and a couple of frescoes the girls had painted in wet plaster.

I had a tiny area for our kites and a few books from China, and one more area for the Greek Classical period.  On this table we placed the food- we made bread rings and spanikopita- (phyllo dough around cheesy spinach mixture- so yummy!).

Her "yuck" face.
I ran to the grocery store as we were preparing the food for some ricotta, and determined at then last minute to add whatever Greek food they might have there.  Huge grapes were on sale, so that was a win.  I grabbed some Greek yogurt, and then the real win- found stuffed grape leaves in the International Foods aisle.  The are oily and stuffed with raisins, rice and pine nuts.  The Princess didn't care for them-even though they were gluten-free.

As guests arrived, they started out at the general table, and then they could take their time, one by one, though the set-up.  Usually a student appeared to guide them.  They also handed out the two newspapers we had created as our Unit-long writing project.  As we had three writers and one is too young to type, we used his handwritten work- and the newspaper/scroll was rather long, so we went ahead and used two.  Really, by the time people came in I was sitting quietly.  The kids were so eager to have attention I figured I didn't need to crowd them.  Our guests managed to enjoy the displays and the food and played along with the arcade games. 

Grandma tried the javelin.
The guests were, by the way, two sets of grandparents, a cousin, and a home-schooled friend.  After everyone had made a try at the arcade (taped the rock on Goliath's forehead), we proceeded outside.  It was cold and damp, but not the rain we had expected.  We would have been sad if this part had gotten rained out, as the giant worked hard the night before making paper medals and laurel wreaths out of her grandmother's decorative plastic ivy.

My Dad being a good sport.
Outside we had a javelin throw, discuss toss (frisbee) and a some sort of shotput.  Everyone was co-operative and had fun, I think. And everyone won a metal, too. 

About the costumes:  I sewed large bedsheets into tubes a few weeks ago, folded the top down, and pinned at the shoulders.  That's all it took to do the girls' dresses, but the little pins didn't stay in so well.  I expected that might happen, but I was feeling pretty lazy.  The Mayor's David costume, as I said, was made of milk jugs and a pillow case, an idea found in the book Old Testament Days.  The Giant made her own costume from scraps really, and made her "bronze" warrior's skirt from cardboard a some shiny, coppery paper that Nana gave us.  She did change into a woman's dress for the Olympics, but the Mayor was so enamored of his costume that he didn't want another one.  The Princess greeted all of our guests with the phrase, "I'm Irene, I'm a Greek lady."  They had named her after our Greek paper dolls that I picked up, a boy and a girl with a set of costumes.  We may see them again if we study European cultures at all in the future, because the set came with ancient and modern costumes. 
super-easy tunic- queen sized bedsheet sewn into a tube and folder over

israelite soldier (David)- pillowcase and milk jug sides
Greek warrior with Brass over-armor.

Irene, a Greek lady.

All in all this was a laid-back but enjoyable celebration.

It ended when we all rushed off to The Girl's Promotional Test for her Green Belt in Tae Kwon Do.
Next Unit:  Ancient Rome and the birth and death of Jesus.  Speech-making will be a unit project, so we will have to do something majestic for that.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Summer Plans

I hesitate to announce that we've made any "plans." Life is unpredictable, ours especially.  But we do have some exciting invitations and, yes, plans, for this spring/summer.  Blog readers are among the first to know about this, besides our family.

After a more than a year of staying "home," (well, home moved, but we stayed with it!) Todd is going on a mission tour this summer.  Beginning on June 18th in Istanbul he will drive the van full of equipment through 3 countries to get to the area where our group has been invited to do a series of concerts/shows.  

Clearly this trip needs a great deal of prayer.  This is the second  year our group has worked in this small country, which is 90% Muslim.  Todd has driven in Turkey before but the large number of countries and border crossings this time is something else!  In addition this is a long trip, as he's estimated to be there until July 9th.  I think The Mayor has only had his Dad home for his birthday (June 30) once since we started doing these tours!  And finally, there is need for prayer because plane tickets costs twice as much now as they did the last time Todd went overseas.  It's a concern for us to have enough support for the trip, and for others as well.  These tours usually have several band members "imported" from Canada, US, Europe and elsewhere, who are even now raising funds for the trip.  We need every band member or performer God has appointed for this tour to be there!

For my readers who are not acquainted with our overseas work, Todd is a sound man.  Here in the US he works in the business as well, providing audio technology for concerts, speakers, and this year an outdoor teacher's rally at the NY capitol building.  The group we work with overseas uses a variety of art forms to present the gospel in public forums.  We also support local churches in their use of media and in developing worship in the local language.  At public venues we survey the audience so that we connect individuals who are interested in exploring the gospel message with local believers or workers for follow-up.

I didn't plan to use this blog to talk much about our work, but it is an adventure worth sharing from time to time!  I try to leave out the names of the countries we are visiting in order to protect the work.  Likewise I won't mention the name of the sending agency we work with, but for the past two years we have been members of a sending agency that provides counsel, prayer support and oversight to our work.  I am happy to answer questions about this work privately for people that I know.  And we thank you for your prayers.