Author Archives: Butterscotch Grove

About Butterscotch Grove

Happily married stay-at-homeschool-mom of 2, polymer clay and fabric artist and doll maker. Girl is 11, Boy is 9 and I'm old enough to remember black and white tv.

The Home Project

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Organization has always been a huge challenge for me.  When I lived at home, my mom was great at helping me maintain relative tidiness.  When my room threatened to tend a little too much toward chaos, she’d nag – uh, I mean urge – me to straighten up.  Sometimes she’d urge me to do so repeatedly, over a very long time, but eventually I’d do it.

Then I went to college and grad school.  My poor roommates.  I’ve probably mentioned this in the blog before, but I always had the idea that when I settled down in a permanent home (as opposed to a dorm room or apartment), I’d be better at remembering those lessons Mom taught me.  Hmm.

It seems that 1. combining the household stuff of two mid-30s bibliophiles; 2. having kids; and 3. homeschooling does not automatically improve the organizational abilities of the chronically scattered.

My children are either genetically predisposed to messiness, or they are just following my poor example. (Nature versus nurture?)  This is not to say that my darling husband is a paragon of orderliness, but he is probably closer to that end of the organizational spectrum than anyone else in our household.

With that as background, and many previous failures as examples of what NOT to do, I am undertaking a mission to discard as much unnecessary stuff as possible and organize the rest, so that “a place for everything and everything in its place” no longer translates to “everything where it lands” and our disaster area can be referred to as a “home.”  I could go around and ask myself, for each item, “Is it necessary? Is it beautiful? Do I love it?” but I’m thinking of making the first pass through the house with a different question in my mind:  Is it crap?

There are no pictures in this post because “before” pics are too damning.  I’ll post some “in-between” pics as I go along, and when I have some decent “after” shots to show, maybe I’ll be able to share the “befores,” as well.

Wish me luck, and check back monthly for progress reports!

What’s your worst organizational challenge?

Weekly Wrap Up for May 15, 2015

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But first, a few words about history.

For History, we are following the progression outlined in Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Trained Mind, which is a four-year rotation through time.  The first year is Ancient Times, then the Middle Ages, then Early Modern History, then Modern Times.  If you start out teaching your first-grader about ancient civilizations, by the time he or she graduates from high school, you will have covered the entire span of human history three times, each time with a little more depth.  Our history focus for most of this year was Modern History – from about 1870 to the present.  We got to the end of Bauer’s The Story of the World, volume 4: Modern Times a few weeks ago. (That book ends a little past the fall of Communism.  When it was published, in 2006, Bauer considered 9/11 and its aftermath to be current events, too recent to see just what impact they would have on history.)

We have started over, at the beginning, and I am SO glad.  Modern history is, of course, worthwhile as a subject – interesting, intriguing, invaluable for understanding our world – but my kiddos, at 9 and 11, want Good Guys and Bad Guys.  Trying to explain the subtleties of shifting alliances and what “national interests” are – meh.  It’ll be much more interesting to me (and hopefully, to them) when they are 13 and 15.  We know so much about the whys of modern history that the details bog the kids down.  3000-year old wars between the Sumerians and Akkadians are just fact.  No need to interpret which group was in the right, it’s enough to know that Akkad overran Sumer.  And hey, let’s make clay tablets to try out writing in cuneiform!

So, here’s the wrap up:

(Pre)History (and a little science):

-Studied up on archaeology and human ancestors like australopithecus, homo habilis, and homo erectus.

-Watched documentary on differences between early modern humans and Neanderthals.

-Used Stone Age tools (rocks!) to open a coconut. :)

-Discussed what collection of traits makes us uniquely human.  Kids settled on language, tool use and art.

Geography:

-Discussed 5 themes of geography (location, place, human-environment interaction, movement and regions).

-Investigated patterns of migration of early humans.

-Noted that movement of information and a different way of interacting with the environment helped early modern humans edge out Neanderthals.

Math:

-Continued multiplication facts practice.

-Read up on early number systems and different systems for counting on body parts. (Look up Papua New Guinea counting systems!)

-Learned how keeping track of stuff lead to beginnings of writing; and how the Nile river’s annual flooding helped Egyptians get really good at surveying and geometry, as well as keeping track of time.

-Investigated the invention of zero.

-Went back to last year’s books to review and regain some confidence (both kids do fine with math, but they have a bit of mathphobia).

Science:

Science was pretty broad this week, with lots worked into history, but we also:

-Reviewed several earth science documentaries for Daddy (How the Earth Was Made series from the History Channel).

-Investigated bats, spiders and scorpions, at Boy’s request.  These are the “Crawlers” from Lego’s “Legends of Chima” series, and so are of infinite interest to him.  We watched a couple of Magic School Bus episodes and he read lots of library books on the subjects.

-Started an experiment to see if we can grow bacteria from some toys that were left in the bathroom sink for way too long.  We are also testing whether soap and water or bleach and water is more effective at killing bacteria.

-Are working on hatching our second clutch of ducklings. (Sometimes just life is science!)

Art:

-Checked out prehistoric cave art online.

-Attempted to grind pigments from rock to make our own “cave paint.” (Might need to try different – that is, softer – rocks for this…or maybe just sidewalk chalk!)

-I’m not really sure if this is art or science, but Girl flaked a rock into a spear point!  The point wouldn’t do much harm to a wooly mammoth, but the beast might get distracted by the sparkly gold ribbon she used to attach the point to the shaft. (Photo coming!)

Music:

-Girl had her harp lesson, as usual.  We have neglected practice a bit this week, though.  Daddy is the practice overseer/task master, and he has been super tired lately, as he always is at the end of the school year.

-The kids and I have been discussing the relative merit of Billy Joel’s music in different periods.  In other words, Piano Man and The Ballad of Billy the Kid vs. Uptown Girl, Allentown and For the Longest Time.  Um, probably can’t claim this is vital to their education.  But really, Uptown Girl?  Gah.

German:

-Still plodding along, looking for the Goldilocks curriculum (not too hard, not too easy).  At least the Girl has some familiarity with basic vocabulary.  We checked an interactive program out of the library, and she has been doing about 20 minutes a day this week, but it is a bit too advanced and I can see the “I’m-beginning-to-get-immensely-frustrated-with-this” look on her face.

Reading:

I can’t keep up with all they read, though I do check over what comes home from the library.  I don’t teach reading, though occasionally I have each of them read aloud a bit, to check fluency and pronunciation.  Didn’t do any of that this week.

Writing:

Surprisingly, I got both of them to write a decent amount this week, with very little moaning.  Instead of giving them a specific topic and asking them to write, or asking them to write on a topic of their own choosing, I handed them each a sheet with the following typed at the top:

Tell me about the last book you read for fun.  What is the title?  Who is the main character?  Does he or she have friends?  Enemies?  What is the problem in the book?  Did you like it?  Why or why not?

I told them they didn’t have to answer all those questions directly – they were there more as a guide, something to think about if they got stuck.  I wanted complete sentences, and they had to give real reasons for like or disliking the book.  No “I like this book because it was AWESOME!” type answers. –

Boy wrote a good paragraph – he loved his book because “the cats are funny, there’s action, and adventure.”  He needs a little work on punctuation and capitalization, but very little, actually.  I was quite pleased.

-Girl filled the entire page with a very nice summary of her book (which she likes because of the “incredibly sweet” way the main characters always help each other out and work together to find the “best possible solution”).  She only made three teensy errors! And she summarized, instead of trying to retell the whole story verbatim!  Believe me, that’s HUGE.

-They both did a good job on this assignment.  I must have hit on the right amount of structure versus freedom.  Now to try and hit that sweet spot again!

Farm, School, Love

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1. Farm-y stuff:

The last clutch of ducklings included 12 little fluff balls, six or seven boys, five or six girls. (It’s kind of hard to tell before they get their grown-up feathers.)

Today, we are starting to collect eggs for the second clutch of the year.  We have one duck from our first generation who is remarkably consistent with laying daily, and we would like to make sure to pass those genes on … but in the first clutch, the eggs we collected from her did not develop.  This time around, she has been isolated with a drake (we didn’t dim the lights and strew rose petals around to set the mood or anything, but you get the idea), to make sure it is not a lack of attention that caused her eggs to be infertile.

The snow is almost completely gone from the grain field.  Weekends will soon be spent prepping the ground for this year’s crops.  I’m not sure what will happen, kitchen garden-wise, since we are contemplating a visit to the family on the East Coast during the main part of the growing season.  (Can’t wait until after Hubs’s retirement – some time in the future – so we can travel during the COLD months!!)  Hopefully we will get the greenhouse built, at least, so that next year we can extend the season long enough to suit me.

2. School-y stuff:

Quarterly work samples and twice-yearly progress reports are due May 15th.  If I could figure out how to use LEGO Chima as a basis for all subjects, my life would be much easier.  Hmm. Perhaps, I could have my Students research the history of the LEGO company (history), and the molecular structure of LEGO plastic (science), locate LEGO headquarters, factories and distribution sites  on a map (geography), write a fan-fiction episode of “The Legends of Chima” (language arts), create posters of the world of Chima (art, and foreign language, if Girl did the writing on hers in German), learn to play the theme-song on the harp (Girl’s music), and figure out the profit LEGO, Inc. makes with each new ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY set of characters/”speedorz”/etc. (math/marketing/propaganda/brainwashing).

3. Love-y stuff:

11-years ago today, my darling Girl arrived and changed our lives forever, and for the better.  <3

Girl at about 2 months.

Girl ON THE DAY OF HER BIRTH, with Sir Moose-alot.

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For those of you who know me personally, this is actually a picture of my daughter – not me!

Beauty at the Beach

Beauty at the Beach. (She prefers “Tomboy Covered in Muddy Sand.”)

And, because I was on a blog-hiatus through March, I MUST add that the Boy’s arrival in March, 9 years ago, was also a life-changing and blessed event!

My Boy

My Boy. <3

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Boy Covered in Muddy Sand

Boy Covered in Muddy Sand

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New Mouths to Feed

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Ducky

New duckies arriving today! (This is actually one of last year’s, because the Husband took the camera with him to his out of town conference.  But really, at this stage, they all pretty much look the same.  Actually, they never look very much different, other than male/female color differences.)

It is so cool to hear them peeping before they are out of the shell!

Hearts Full of Snark for Anti-Valentine’s Day Types

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So, I’ve never been much of a Valentine’s Day-flowers-and-hearts type of girl. (Notice I did not say I object to candy or wine….)  This year – actually last year, our supermarkets broke out the conversation hearts about 3 days after Christmas.  You know, the ones that say things like “Call Me” or “Q T PIE.”  Gack.  The kids are too old to fall for my “Candy hearts are not ripe until February, you know” line anymore. (Worked for years!)

Anyway, in past years I tried making candy heart-like polymer clay charms.  It worked great, and I have a cute little bracelet loaded with them…but it’s not very me.

This year, I had a vision of a different sort of candy heart.s  Ones with the kind of messages I sometimes felt like sending back in the pre-happily-married days.  Messages like “BACK OFF” or “R U SERIOUS?”  Pastels didn’t seem to fit the idea, so I came up with these (available for purchase at my Artfire shop):

Red Hearts Full of Snark

Red Hearts Full of Snark

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White Hearts Full of Snark

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Black Hearts Full of Snark

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More Black Snarky Hearts

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Well, they ALMOST look like candy!

Not procrastination, I swear!

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Mid-February probably seems like an odd time to make a post about goals for the year.  Maybe you think I should put “stop procrastinating” on my Not-Quite-New Year’s resolution list.  Well, I’m not going to do that.  Here’s why: no list of resolutions!  Yea!

I have many, many notebooks (journals, sketchbooks, diaries, scraps of paper, napkins from restaurants, etc.) from over many, many years, that I can’t throw away, somehow.  Every couple of years, I come across a list, dated “Sept ‘97” or something, on which I’ve detailed my goals for the next year (or five years, or life, or no time-frame at all).  They always mention losing weight, getting organized and writing more.  It has become obvious to me that I’ve been doing this wrong, since it seems I go backwards on all of these things every time I write them down.

This year, I’ve decided to set three smallish goals for myself per month.  In January, I chose: 1. to spend 30 minutes a day, three days per week, getting rid of clutter; 2. to make sure we had “project time” three times per week (more on that later); and 3. to finish three of the numerous art/craft projects I’ve started over the last year.

Goal 3 went swimmingly.  I finished a crocheted sun hat for the Girl, a knitted fox hat for the Boy, and put the finishing touches on a knitted stegosaurus I started last summer.  Boy was so happy to see that his stego had eyes, he brought me three more knitted dinos to have their eyes added. (Photos to come)

Goal 2 worked fairly well, but I discovered that protecting the time for project-based learning is not as important as I thought.  There are two reasons for this:  it’s hard to find a time when Boy is not directing his own learning, and the length is not as vital as the kids knowing that this time is for them to do what they want – I will be there to attend to and document their activities and help them, if they need help.  I will keep track of questions and plans they have, and materials they need, but I WILL NOT TAKE OVER.

Goal 1?  Well . . . slow progress is better than none.

So, now it’s time for February’s goals:

  1. Continue making progress decluttering by going through one box or pile, or clearing one surface, at least 3 times per week.
  2. Finish 3 more projects.
  3. Write at least 2 blog posts. (One down!)

How are you improving/enjoying life?

Super Hero Project

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My Boy is interested in our history project on the Civil War, and is learning a lot by his (usually reluctant) participation in it.  He can tell you, for instance, that the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free all slaves in the US, just those in the Confederate States (slave-holding border states loyal to the Union were exempt).  He can tell you that Harriet Tubman led over 300 slaves to freedom and spied for the Union during the war.  And as I mentioned previously, he wants to visit Gettysburg to see the monuments (this would require a cross-country trip that would take us very close to the grandparents, so there may be an ulterior motive here.)

So, yeah, some of this stuff is sinking in.  The thing that really floats his boat, though, is anything having to do with comic book super-heroes.  Mostly from the Marvel universe, though he’s not anti-DC.  His favorites are the X-Men (Wolverine and Nightcrawler in particular) and Spiderman (and his various enemies).  It’s easy to see and understand what he is learning when we study the Civil War, or do math worksheets, or watch Nova videos.  How or what is he learning with his obsession?

He has been making origami versions of many, many heroes and villains.  These are based on a pattern for Boba Fett he found online after reading the “Origami Yoda” series by Tom Angleberger.  After making the basic figure (just a head and body), he draws different features appropriate to the character and colors them.  They are adorable.  Usually he uses recycled copy paper for these, but certain characters call for different materials.  The Fantastic Four’s Sue Storm (Invisible Woman), for instance, looks great in tracing paper.  The X-Men’s Colossus, who can turn his skin metal, works well made from aluminum foil.  He’s also adapted a pattern for Star Wars’s four-armed General Grevious to make Spider-Man’s foe, Doctor Octopus.  This is an ongoing art project that he is extremely invested in.  He is learning problem solving, creative use of materials, and origami techniques.

Origami X-Men 1

Origami X-Men 2
A Selection of Origami X-Men and Friends

(On the far left of the 2nd and 4th rows above are back and front views of Nightcrawler, who has a tail. :) )

Both kids will spend hours playing with these little paper people.  They have discovered that there are more male characters than female; that the comic book boys are ridiculously over-muscled; and the girls are, as my kids delicately put it, “showy.”  They’ve noticed, on their own, the way costumes and gender roles evolved over the decades.  Sue Storm started out as the “Invisible Girl,” and the X-Men’s Jean Gray morphed from the sorta wimpy “Marvel Girl” to the powerful Dark Phoenix (of course, she had to go bonkers in the process – we haven’t talked about that yet.)  We’ve had some mighty interesting discussions about fairness, societal expectations and the changing roles of women.  This is modern history and sociology.
A mistake I made (letting them read a couple of X-Men Origins issues without previewing them –duh! Way too much violence and gore for my relatively sheltered kiddos) has resulted in conversations about whether a character (in this instance, Wolverine) can be good if he kills bad guys indiscriminately, and the power of redemption.  I guess this one is more a “values” kind of lesson.  We believe in the idea that people are “innocent until proven guilty,” not “an eye for an eye.”  We also believe that people can change, and that doing the right thing might be hard, but it is worth it.  They’ve also learning that Mommy can make mistakes (I’m sure they didn’t know that before….), and sometimes books get taken away before you’re finished with them. :)

The fascination with comics has also led to a lesson on the anatomy of the human arm (where do Wolverine’s claws go, anyway?), investigation of how cats retract their claws (completely unlike Wolverine…) and 2nd grade spelling lists like this (all taken from an X-Men comic book):

  1. wolverine
  2. abandon
  3. mystique
  4. Cyclops
  5. nightcrawler
  6. weapon
  7. colossus
  8. cavalry
  9. telepathic
  10. academy

There will be writing, as well, since both Boy and Girl have a zillion ideas for comic book stories to write (thanks for the templates, Aunt Sally!), and they are in the process of creating new characters.  One set of new characters are the Arctic X-Men (local nature study).  Another is a family of super-heroes (Bro-Boy! Sis-Girl!), with equipment they are building, costumes they are making, and powers that fit them.  Bro-Boy evades enemy fire by being in constant motion (could not be more accurate).  Sis-Girl is a smart inventor, who shoots darts tipped with potions she has concocted, such as power-neutralizer, confusing potion or paralyzer.  This is creative writing.

Boy has also learned how to use my camera’s delay feature to take pictures of himself as Spider-Man, crawling up the wall. :)Climbing the "Wall"

He hasn’t quite taken to heart that “with great power comes great responsibility,” but we’re working on it.

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It is not a tidy way to learn, and it can be hard for me to value the eight million origami X-Men littering the living room.  But this kid is fascinated, engaged, learning all the time.

Boy As Wolverine