Discovering Hexagons

After playing around with pentagons, Silas' sixth birthday seemed like a good time to discover hexagons.

Our previous geometric introduction was so positive, having the shape revealed in the sea star, that I hoped to find a similar way to use nature to find our next geometric form. In one of my internet search rabbit holes, I read some fascinating facts about bubbles, including the fact that a bunch of bubbles that are uniform in size will always come together to make hexagons. But how to make this visible for a six-year-old?

I started with a clear box acrylic picture frame. On this particular frame, the corners weren't sealed, so I ran a bead of hot glue in each one to make it water tight. Add some soapy water and a straw and not much instruction was needed.

Once we had a good tray of bubbles, we placed another flat piece of plexi on top of the tray, which served to flatten the bubbles into a wall.

A dry erase marker let Silas trace the walls of the bubbles. Our bubbles were not uniform in size, so their hexagonal shape was not always obvious, but once he traced the whole thing out, it sure did look a lot like a beehive! 

We tried another variation of this experiment by mixing paint in with our soapy water in order to make bubble prints.

He wanted to hunt for and trace the hexagons on this one as well.

Greatly inspired by this post, we made hexagon tessellations using monochromatic images cut from magazines and our homemade hexagon inset.

We each chose to do our favorite color: red for him and green for me.

We also built a hexagon outside with logs that we walked every morning and tried to find hexagons out in the world and in nature (there are many!) We got some honey comb to try and made hexagons with the geo board and drew them with our inset. It may seem odd that we've spent such a long time focusing on so few shapes (two so far for the whole semester), but I think that it's been a beneficial experience. His familiarity and understanding of them is deeper than I think it would be if we were quickly moving on to the next thing. My original intention was to work through all the polygons sequentially, which would make the heptagon next, but I think that will just muddle the waters. Now I'm feeling the pull to focus on something completely different. Quatrefoil, perhaps?


Last weekend we all headed to a baby shower. Silas and Theda will have a new wee cousin in a few short weeks and they are absolutely thrilled (so are we!). I wanted to have a little something handmade to tuck into the gift bag, so I sewed up my very first pair of Maxaloones.

I bought this pattern before Theda was born (2 years ago!) and got as far as printing and cutting it out. How I wish that I would have mustered the motivation to sew them up! While she looks adorable modeling this (too small for her) pair, my heart melts at putting these on a little squish.

The accent fabric is upcycled from a knit cotton dress of mine and the main fabric is City Lights Day by Leah Duncan for Art Gallery. Silas picked it out. In the months leading up to Theda's birth I went on a spree of signing up for activities and camps for Silas. I think that I was worried he would be jealous of the new baby and having some special things for him to look forward to would lessen the blow. And, too, I think that I was worried for myself - that I wouldn't know what to do with two kids at home and would appreciate the structure of having outings to plan around.

One of the activities that we signed up for that first summer, were art classes at the downtown rec center. Most of the other parents dropped off, but Silas wanted me to stay, so I did. I stayed and bounced the newborn Theda in her carrier as she dozed. On one of these class days she had just fallen asleep as his class was ending. The thought of waking her in order to strap her into the car for the trip home didn't seem at all appealing, so I asked Silas if he wanted to go for a walk. Always agreeable, he said sure.

Prior to this he had asked me to sew him a shirt, so I suggested that we walk across town to the locally-owned fabric store for him to pick out some fabric. Their selection of knits was small, but he fell in love with this one and we walked back to the car, swinging by our grocery co-op for a pastry treat along the way.

By week's end, I had sewn him a shirt, using a pattern in one of my sewing books, which turned out to be the worst pattern ever. The neck opening was entirely too small (he couldn't get his head through at all!) and he never got to wear it. A quick Google search reassured me that this was a problem that others had had with this pattern as well and I'm not just horrible at making shirts. The fabric is so beautiful, though, and I hated to see it go to waste, so I tucked the shirt in the scrap basket knowing that it would be perfect to cut up for a small project. And then I needed to make some baby pants!

I've made a pledge to myself to not purchase any clothes for the kids this summer, instead sewing whatever we need to fill in the gaps left by the hand-me-downs. I'm a relatively slow sewer, so it's good that I'm getting started while there's still snow on the ground. Why, I already have Theda's birthday dress completed with a full week to spare! I'm on a roll!

Steve's 2016 Christmas Hat

Well, it may be the first day of March, but it's felt like spring around here for at least the last month. I mentioned way back at Christmas that poor Steve's gift was presented to him still on the needles, but his Christmas hat was completed the day after the holiday and he's been wearing it ever since.

The pattern is the Easy Ombre Slouch (Ravelry notes here); it caught my eye on SouleMama. A super easy but still cute pattern that's also free? Yup. Sounds good to me. I used a silk/wool blend from my stash. I have no idea what my original intent was for it, but it worked very well for this hat. The crown ended up a little wonky because I skipped some of the decrease rows. As Steve watched me knit he became very concerned with how slouchy it was becoming. "Can't you just stop right there?" he asked. Well, sure, but not without consequences. It must have not been a deal breaker, because he's become quite fond of it.

Joining Ginny.

Playing with Pentagons

I haven't really written too much on here about my process for planning our homeschooling days. I'm counting this as our first "for realsies" year and I'm definitely learning as we go, taking a little bit from all the theories that I like in order to craft something that really works for us. Our core is a wonderful Waldorf-inspired curriculum, but I've included snippets of Montessori as well. 

Last fall, as I was planning the upcoming year, I primarily consulted this free Montessori primary guide. I was really only interested in the math and sensorial works and so just read through the progression of activites in those categories and decided what I wanted to include. I knew that I wanted to touch on the geometric cabinet, but wanted to do so in a way that was at least somewhat aligned with Waldorf. It wasn't until Christmas break that I really had a chance to think through the material and figure out how it might work for us. 

Obviously, Silas already knows his basic shapes; square, circle, triangle, etc. I decided I wanted to introduce one new shape at a time and really spend a good deal of time on it - two weeks - so that he would really imprint the shape in his body and absorb it into his life before we moved on to something else. I decided to start with a pentagon because he's five. It made perfect sense to us both.

I gathered a whole bunch of inspiration online, chose what activities I wanted to do, and then divided them into three categories: body, heart, and head.

In all things, I try to start with the body. So, together we built a pentagon outside with logs. This was great gross muscle work! Hauling the logs, hauling them back and choosing different ones when they didn't quite fit right, balancing as we walked across them. It was right in the front yard so we could walk the form at the end of our morning walk every day. Later we made a pentagon with tape on the floor inside so that we could continue to interact with the shape with our whole bodies.

After engaging in this way with pentagons, I wanted to experience them through nature and art and to do an activity where he could really discover the shape in a hands-on way.

We used sea stars. First, making a dot at the end of each arm. Then, using a ruler to connect the dots. As if by magic, a pentagon appears! We then traced the sea stars inside the form and colored them in. This activity was so magical - almost a month later Silas still talks about how he discovered a pentagon in a sea star.

A pentagon path. I pre-cut the pieces and we each had a stack. I laid the inset down first and then we took turns adding a form; the only rule being that each pentagon had to touch another one at least one side. Lots of rearranging and experimentation took place.

Both the sea star activity and the pentagon path were borrowed from a wonderful (but no longer active) blog called The Moveable Alphabet.

Then a little more art with the insets, which have the bonus of also being great work in preparation for writing.

We did this project several times over our two week period, and I used the Montessori guide for inspiration on ways to vary it. We traced the pentagon inset by itself, tracing it multiple times in different orientations, and combined it with insets of contrast (circle and square) to make different patterns and designs.

This was about as "heady" as our investigation got. We played several games with a set of geometric cabinet cards that I printed and laminated. In this particular game, I asked for a specific card and Silas chose it from a sea of cards spread on the floor. Other games were gleaned from here.

I also found a great collection of photographs online of objects that are pentagons and used them to make sorting cards. Did you know that the cut end of okra is a pentagon? As is a morning glory blossom? Neither did I!

One of the last things we did was to use rubber bands to make a pentagon on the geo board. The wooden geo board is a little more spendy that the plastic versions, but we have gotten so much use out of it that it was totally worth it. For a long time, when he was a bit younger, making shapes and designs on it was his absolute favorite thing to do.

Here's a handy list of the activities that we did and how I divided them up. These were spread out over the course of two weeks and on any given day I started with a body activity, followed by a heart activity. The mind activities were introduced in the second week:

Make form outside with logs and walk on them.
Make form inside with tape and walk it.
Walk form along an imaginary line.
Increase challenge by walking backwards, with eyes closed, or with bean bag balanced on head.

Pentagon in nature: a sea star.
Pentagon Path.
Tracing with pentagon inset.

Build pentagons out of loose parts.
Make a pentagon on the geoboard.
Find pentagons in the world around us.
Sort shape/object cards.

Recent Work

With weather being less than ideal, it's been a flurry of work around here. Here's a peek at what we've been up to...

We introduced the cards and counters. Not only does this work reinforce the link between quantities and their symbols, it is a beautiful and hands-on way to discover the difference between odd and even numbers. 

We repeated the experience with number tiles from the red and blue rods and points from Spielgaben. We've been reading a few odd and even books as well. Odd Todd and Even Steven has become a favorite for both kids. Silas wants to read it daily and it's a regular occurrence for Theda to run around shouting "Odd Todd!" We've also checked out One Odd Day and My Even Day, both by the same author. I prefer Odd Todd, but Silas is really taken with them.

I always assume that worksheets don't really fit in the picture of learning that I'm trying to create, but sometimes they can surprise me. Although I don't rely on them as part of our schooling, I'll occasionally print off some free printables to fill the empty slots in an afternoon or set them out for Silas to discover first thing in the morning. In the one above, coloring all the odd numbers in one color and the evens in another reveals a hidden picture. He had a wonderful a-ha moment while coloring it. He noticed immediately that it included the numbers 11 and 12 and he commented that we hadn't learned those yet. He then went on to figure out that 11 must be odd and 12 must be even because he knew that 10 was even and they go every other one.

Never one to be left out of the action, Theda loves to snatch Brother's pencils and markers. Sometimes the marks even make it on to the paper! This is her "stinker face" by the way, although she will deny it and say "No, stinker face!" if you try to claim that that is indeed what it is.

Introducing the Montessori materials on the late side of things, as we are, means that Silas blows through the works pretty quickly and rarely is interested in returning to them. So, I'm always looking for extension ideas. In this one, the red and blue rods are used for some patterning. He was not a huge fan. I might try to engage him with it once more, but then I'll probably just let it go.

We've also been spending a ton of time playing with pentagons, but there's enough there for a post of its own!

Working With Clay

It's been awhile since our last clay exploration, which was this past summer and was a full body immersive experience. Clay between toes is the best! It was time to pull it back out again as we progress through the projects in The Language of Art, which we are using as our art curriculum and which I still love and highly recommend.

The intent was to have this be an open-ended exploration of the effects of water on clay; noticing how the characteristics of the clay transform as more and more water is added. My dear Silas, though, really, really likes to make representational objects. I told him that artists often "mess around" with their material and experiment to learn what they can do and encouraged him to do the same, but he would not be deterred and continued to make his snowman.

For language arts this year we are reading folk tales from around the world. This past week's story was The Sparrow and the Crow and in it, crow is trying to make a clay pot to hold water so that he can wash his beak. So, we had our first experience in making pinch pots.

This was really hard work! Silas had to use all his muscles to push his thumbs into the center of his clay.

"I like to make holes. They're fairy houses!"

"I'm making it all level so no water splashes out when crow fills it."

"I put a deeper layer of clay on the bottom so it's a little more waterproof."

We dove back into our homeschool routine the first week of January. Looking back on the first semester of this school year I've decided that I'd like to be more specific in my planning and more intentional in my documentation to facilitate more frequent and deeper reflection. I'd like to bring a little bit more of that into this space. We are having such a positive experience with kindergarten at home this year, I love to offer encouragement to anyone who might be considering it.

Handmade Holidays: Solstice Jammies

So, I've been wanting to make mama-made Solstice Jammies a tradition in our family for the past six years. Finally (finally!) they made their first appearance this year.

I love the winter solstice traditions that SouleMama has nurtured for her family. The pre-dinner bonfire, the candlelit dinner, and the mama-made matching p.j.'s for the kiddos. Those first two elements will make an appearance for us eventually, but for now I was delighted to just have the jammies made for the kids.

Silas' are the Alex & Anna Winter PJs from Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop and Theda's is the Piper Onesie from Sadi and Sam, both in the leftovers from the birthday shirts we made earlier this fall. I am still quite new at sewing knits, so I'm glad that no one will be looking too closely at these pajamas. There were some tension issues and an overuse of zig zag. Overall, though, I'm really happy with them. Silas' fit, he likes them, and it absolutely makes my heart melt to see him wear them. Total win! Theda's, on the other hand, while totally cute, were about 2 sizes too big. I tend to always start my sewing projects at night after the kids are in bed, and didn't have the foresight to actually measure her, so I just went ahead and made the 18-24 month size. Whoops! How about we spin it that I'm just really ahead of the game for next year, okay?

Handmade Holidays: Kid-Made

Oh my! Are we a quarter of the way through January already? Huh. That's crazy. There was such a flurry of making around here in the weeks leading up to Christmas - I didn't do a good job of documenting it at all. I was too worried about everything remaining half-finished. But, fortunately, (almost) everything made if off the needles/sewing machine/drawing board in time to find its way to its recipient on Christmas morning. The exception being Steve's hat, which was wrapped still on the needles with 6 or so rows left to go, but I figure that's kind-of charming, right? Right?

First up is Theda's gift to Big Brother Silas. She found this little bit of a fossil several months ago in the gravel right in front of our house; a favorite play spot for her throughout the past summer. She was fascinated by the way that it felt and I thought it was pretty neat too, especially with the hole already in it. So, I tucked it away thinking that we could make something with it for him. I had envisioned incorporating it in to some sort of sun catcher or chime or something like that. But, we were getting down to the wire, so a necklace it became. And he loves it!

Now for the gifts created by my dear Silas. For Daddy, he drew an entire box full (yes, that is a unit of measure) of drawings with the instructions that Steve was to put them "everywhere" at work. 

Theda received an undersea drawing populated with sparkly puffy sticker sea creatures. She was delighted by it because these were the very same stickers, in fact, that she had tried to swipe from him at some point prior.

And for mama? Well, I think I made out best of all. One day, out of the blue, Silas asked me, "what's your favorite animal, mama?" Of course I answered, "fox." He just nodded and didn't say another word. A week or so later we were picking some things up at the fabric store. He was looking around one aisle over from me and when he came around the corner he was embracing a bolt of bright yellow cotton. "Mama! Can we bring this home?" he asked, "But, I can't tell you what it's for." So, I pointed him towards the line for the cutting table and coached him to say that he wanted "half a yard" when it was his turn. Of course, I had to make sure that I had something very pressing to do alone and out of the house on the morning of Christmas Eve Day, leaving the kiddos with Steve.

Steve reported that this fox sculpture really was all Silas. Initially, he had a grander design that involved wood and a saw, but when Steve suggested that they might want to scale it back a bit, Silas bounced right back and found a way to make his vision come to life, even with Daddy's limited woodworking capabilities.

And, of course, no gift would be complete without an accompanying book.

I'm a lucky mama, indeed.

Third Week of Advent: The Light of Animals

The third Light of Advent, It is the light of beasts:
The Light of faith that we may see In greatest and in least.

I've written before about our slow journey to creating family rituals and celebrations. We took a year off of pretty much everything last year as we focused on moving. So it was with renewed enthusiasm that we dove in this year. In some sense, we're taking all of December "off" from most of our usual homeschool activities so that we can focus on the winter festivals. But, that preparation and celebration is so in keeping with what we do for schooling anyway; it all really flows together.

During yesterday's dinner we lighted the third candle in our advent spiral, signaling the beginning of the week in which we honor the animal kingdom.

In the past we've made bird seed feeders and strung popcorn as treats for our outdoor animal friends during this week and we do plan to do that again this year as well. I wanted to add a bit of handwork, though, and to create something to add to our winter garden.

Over the past year Silas has gathered a ridiculous number of snail shells from our yard (a good head's up as we plan our first garden, no?). We got them out, along with a few he gathered at nature school and a couple from our collection of treasures from the sea and gave them a good scrubbing. Then we warmed up some modeling beeswax in bowls of hot water and he made some little snails to live in them.

This is the first time that we've set up a full display for advent and it's been so much fun for us all to watch the space come to life as we add to it over these December days and weeks. We started with just the green silk. On the Sunday of the first week, the week of minerals, Silas chose stones, crystals, shells, and bones (yes, bones! It's amazing what you find in pockets) and arranged them all just so.

On the first of December we added the star path - 25 stars to countdown Mother Mary's journey to the stable. The first thing Silas does every morning is to move Mary and her donkey one star closer and then count how many stars are left until Christmas. Our stars were made from clementine rinds, a cookie cutter, and a hammer.

The space really came alive the following week as we celebrated the plant kingdom. We potted some new plants just for the occasion and made a few things as well. Out came the orange and clove pomanders we made two years ago and they are still incredibly fragrant! We made two little Christmas trees by dripping green beeswax onto pine cones and Silas made little hedgehogs out of teasel seed heads (which we gathered on a nature walk this fall) with three black-headed straight pins for the eyes and nose.

The stable is re-purposed from our very first project at the beginning of this school year. Silas built it from sticks that he gathered, measured, cut down to size, and adhered together with clay he dug himself from our backyard. It was an amazing project that he attacked with enthusiasm. Not every week since then has been so idyllic, but it was a wonderful way to kick off our kindy year.

After he placed his snail creations, he had fun going through all the wooden animals to choose who got to come to the party in the winter garden. He wanted the fox to be hiding and ready to pounce on some prey. Hmmmm. I'm pretty sure that peace prevails in the winter garden, kiddo. Lions and lambs and all that.

Next week we celebrate humankind. I hope you're enjoying this holiday season as well!