Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Wonderful World

"There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child.  There are seven million."  ~Walt Streightiff
Me at the beach.

My sister and I eating wild berries.
 I grew up belly pressed to the earth, drinking from the creek. My backyard was not fenced. I trailed at my sister's heels chasing snakes in the field. When I would stumble upon a tree house in the woods,  countless hours would melt away. The world around us was our playground. I would wander so far from home that my little heart would pound vigorously as I would run back for supper.

Me in my childhood backyard.
Twenty years later,  things are different and the world around my children is no longer a playground. They will not ride for miles on their bike or stumble upon a tree in the wilderness and spend weeks converting it into a tree house. Their world is full of danger and legalities that often keep them from its wonders.

In a tree house with my father.
As a parent, I find it challenging to give my children an environment to safely explore and release energy. Children have so much energy and parents face the challenge of keeping them active in today's confined world. Backyards, especially in Arizona, are gridded out with little left for discovery. A hidden spot to explore is less likely in the perfectly sectioned rectangle blocked out behind most homes.

Me eating picked berries

With our backyard now carrying the modern "torch of independent play" our goal is to transform it into a place where discovery and imagination consume hours of the day. The first project I want to share is our swing-set.

Our swing-set, found via craigslist on the cheap, was worn down and missing parts. The most important aspect was the well maintained slide and rock mountain. The wood was sanded, the structure painted, segments added, and a roof mounted. It is a rather impressive swing-set that fits into almost every budget when combined with effort.

The structure towers from our backyard, beckoning my children to it when we pull into our driveway. Our boys monitor the neighborhood from its platform and hide treasures under its stairs. I look forward to many more backyard projects to inspire exploration and will be keeping you posted.
Our swing-set. Features: slide, two swings, rope and rod ladder,  hanging rope , rock mountain,  slanted ladder climber

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sneak Peak: Family Portrait Session

My late night weekend plans are as follows: 1.) Get an affordable wine from Trader Joes 2.) Curl up on the couch with the laptop and edit this family portrait session.

Things you should know about this sneak peak: 1.) Yes, she really is unbearably cute 2.) This little beauty is bursting at the seams with personality. Thank you for a wonderful session, these pictures will be fun to edit!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Fruit of the Spirit Trees

There are so many ways to develop good character in children. The trick is finding something that works well for your family and being consistent with it.

It seems natural that in order to make good character "grow" in children, one needs to "water" and nurture the good character traits daily. Every child is different. There are different traits that come naturally to each child, and there are usually absent traits that require seeds to be planted in order to grow.

When I ask parents how they discipline, a response begins to roll off their tongue in under ten seconds. Many have invested a great deal of time and research on the topic of discipline. Parents are eager to share their books and successful discipline methods with me. If I ask how they encourage good character in their children, it takes them a moment to realize their method of character building. It seems that a lot of parents build good character but do not take conscience note of their efforts or design plans for their methods. I do not want to make light of discipline in any way, discipline is crucial in raising healthy individuals. However, I do believe it is important to invest time into the tactics of developing good character.

I find that "growing" good character does not come as naturally as "weeding" out bad character. It is easy to notice bad traits such as whining or aggression. It seems less obvious to notice a display of self-control or faithfulness.  As parents, we all want our children to be good, joyful, kind, patient, loving, gentle, self-controlling, faithful, and peaceful people. However, often times we forget to tell our children our views of good character. We discipline them when they fail to meet our expectations. Isn't planting seeds in a garden as important as ridding it of weeds? I should think so, when good fruit is in hope.

I have put much thought into character development this year. I have devoted Fridays to character building. However, it still seems like a constant challenge to remember to nurture good character daily.

Alas, we developed a successful system and daily reminder. We made Fruit of the Spirit trees. I made a template of the fruit of the spirit as referenced in the Bible: goodness, joy, kindness, patience, love, gentleness, self-control, faithfulness, and peace. This scripture was a perfect fit for our family and our hopes for their character. Some families may choose to use a different reference or list of virtues. I have uploaded my template to the download site to share with families.

I printed a copy for each of my children on a different color of paper. I cut out the pieces and applied the words to wood tags using modge podge. The children glued faux floral branches into a small pot and filled the pot with stones for anchor weight. (The stones seem rather poetic in representation of a stable foundation) Their first initial was glued to the outside of the pot.

As a family, we discussed the fruit of the spirit. Throughout the week we give a tag when we notice the specific fruitful trait in the child. As parents, our goal is to aid each child in gaining each fruit tag every week. On Sunday we take the fruit down from the trees and reflect upon the moments that lead to each fruit.  I must stress that the activity is intended to be positive for the children and not meant to focus on any lacking fruits.

Sometimes it takes a great effort to "plant" seeds in order to help a child receive a specific tag. The trees ultimately stand as a reminder for us to work on each trait weekly with our children. It may take an entire day of "gardening" to aid a child in receiving a certain tag. Our children love seeing their fruitful trees each day and we know they understand our character expectations.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cooking up Curriculum

Homeschool life can be a challenge. Among many random duties, the teacher doubles as a short order cook. Lately, we have been incorporating education into the kitchen atmosphere. Tonight, I am dishing up a few concepts I found on the web:

Urban Farmhouse and Rainbow Pancakes: Urban Farmhouse shared a homemade rainbow pancake and syrup recipe. We borrowed the concept using Trader Joes Multigrain Pancake Mix and food dye. We combined the cooking with a lesson on color mixing/combination. This has become a favorite meal in our home. The boys have graduated from creating purple, green, and orange to creating turquise, aqua, or tie-dye pancakes.

Teach Mama and Pattern Shish Kabobs: I am looking forward to making pattern kabobs introduced by Teach Mama. Using either fruit or vegetables to create a pattern on a skewer! What a clever way to prep for meal time during school hours!

Kitchen Chemistry: 100 Cool Food Science Experiments for Kids: Alvina Lopez shares the most helpful link list for Kitchen Science. The ice cream experiment has us actually looking forward to a blistering hot  day to welcome the activity.

Photos: We had this handsome little guest in our home the first time we made rainbow pancakes. He was dressed perfectly for the meal!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Portraiture in Bloom

 I have not been keeping up with my former photography blog, in effort to simplify my life, I will be combining my photo life onto this blog. This little one stopped by last week and welcomed the arrival of spring time with me and my lens. Can you believe this petite beauty is an entire year old?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Etsy for Education

The internet is a main resource for many modern homeschool families. Lesson plans, research, educational videos, prints, are among the countless homeschool materials that one can acquire through a google search. Etsy is a growing resource for educational items. The site offers many handmade educational items ranging from toys to wall art. The majority of educational items sold on etsy are usually geared at children 0-6 years of age. 

Mothers in all seasons of life appear to dominate the etsy educational selling market. Many sellers open their etsy shop because their items have proven to be a success with their own children. New items are added hourly, the concepts are limitless. Etsy-loving homeschool moms also use the site as a source of inspiration for future projects.

Felt is the material of choice with an abundant of educational shops offering a variety of felt based items. The eco-friendly handmade toys pictured are by Evgie from Play to Learn. She hand embroiders the stuffed learning toys. The is such structure in her formation. My whimsical technique will keep her items safe from my "idea-lifting" ways. Her one dozen eggs counting toy is worth squealing over and would brighten any basket this spring.