Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Hard Life of a Shakespearean Reader

This year as part of our homeschooling I decided that it was a great time to introduce my children to Shakespeare.  In the beginning I was struggling to figure out why I would want to torture myself since it was the bane of my high school experience.

I still have very clear memories of English teachers who made us pick apart and analyze each scene as we read them.  I also remember trying to read "Julius Caesar" and deciding by act two that I was done and I would just fake it on the tests.  I still feel a bit ashamed that I never finished it.  "Macbeth" was about some lady who went crazy.  I never finished act one of that play.  And I am sure everyone can remember the groans that came with the writing assignment that required a teenager to discuss the motivations behind Hamlet's actions.

Fortunately I had an Honors English teacher who read "The Merchant of Venice" with us.  She didn't expect us to pick it apart and justify every characters action.  We weren't expected to pass judgement on each event of every scene.  She just read it a little bit in every class out loud.  At the end we watched a Black and White movie production and then she wanted us to write about it.  Write about what you learned, what you liked or what you didn't like and then tell me why.  This sounds a bit like Charlotte Mason's written narration, doesn't it?  I am so grateful to this woman.  She gave me the one good memory I have with Shakespeare.  This memory has given me the courage to dip my toes into the waters of Shakespeare with my own children.

So here I am trying to tweak our homeschooling experience to spread a wide feast of learning before my children as I begin to learn about classical and Charlotte Mason principles of education.  Part of that feast is Shakespeare.  My twelve and eleven year old girls are hosting a Shakespeare Read-Aloud group one day each week this fall.  We are closing in on the halfway point of our very first play "Twelfth Night".

I had all the hopes of starting with Lamb's "Tales from Shakespeare".  Thinking it would give the girls an overview of the play we would be reading.  But although I wanted to do this I still felt intimidated by it.  And I continued to put it off.  Fortunately I scheduled the Read-Aloud group before I started feeling super intimidated and it was too late to back out and cancel.  So we began our weekly reading club without getting to Lamb's version of Shakespeare.  Even without the children's version my girls are learning to enjoy it.  We have girls doing voices and being silly as they sing the songs the Fool performs.  Now we are reading Lamb's version a little at a time throughout the week as a way to make sure we understood what happened in the reading we did as a group.  Hopefully in this fun way I can give my children a better appreciation of Shakespeare than I had growing up.

I am currently reading a book which brings up teaching Shakespeare and sums up my thoughts so precisely I just can't resist sharing it with you.

"I always tell students they do not have to love Shakespeare. It is understandable. The real sin is assuming that because you do not like his plays there is something lacking in them."

Thank goodness for this clear wisdom shared by Cindy Rollins.  Just because I didn't like my first experiences with Shakespeare and it still wouldn't be something I would pick up to read just for fun, doesn't mean that I can't learn to appreciate his work and learn something from them.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Hulk and Braiding Foot Bliss

The more I use my Bernina sewing machine the more and more I absolutely love it.  I have so many possibilities at my finger tips between the attachments and presser feet and accessories.  It could have been almost overwhelming if I had tried to learn about all the options at once.  And I admit when I pop into my local Bernina Dealer and ogle their latest machines I do feel a bit overwhelmed still with all the other options out there.  Recently, I sold some of my extra crafting supplies on Ebay and decided that I was going to spend a little bit of those proceeds on some new feet for my sewing machine.  One of the presser feet I purchased was the #21 Braiding Foot.  You can learn more about this presser foot at Bernina’s Website here.  Today, I used it for the very first time and I am in complete braiding foot bliss.

The word “Superheroes” has found a permanent place in our home.  They are some my family’s favorite types of movies.  And now that my kids are getting a little older, they have become so enthralled with them that all four of my older children requested superhero costumes for Halloween this year.  I admit I am a little bit intimidated by this request, and I am worried that I won’t be able to get them all completed in time especially with the upcoming surgery and twelve week recovery I am facing soon.  So I decided that just maybe if I worked on them a bit this summer I would have a better chance of getting them completed by October.
The Hulk is the costume that my husband and I chose for our four year old this year.  Mostly because he is super small for his age and so completely opposite of who The Hulk is in the films and cartoons that we found the idea of it pretty amusing.  So I tried to figure out the best way to make a cute costume and keep it as simple and time saving as possible.  I found an awesome baby/toddler costume on Etsy for Hulk that was my inspiration for this project.  You can check out my inspiration at: KadydidDesigns.  So I bought a pair of purple sweatpants and a white long sleeved t-shirt on Amazon and set to work as soon as they arrived.  First, I tried the pants on my son and had to cut off the extra length that would have been dragging, because of his being so small (makes waist and length sizes a bear to find that fit him well).  Next, I marked his knee where I would be doing the ragged edges.  After cutting the random edges around the knees I zigzagged the edge and proceeded to the waistline.  Because he beefs up when he gets angry The Hulk is always ripping and damaging his clothes and in the cartoons he often has twine or rope around his pants to help hold them up.  So I bought some 1/8 inch white cord to use for my version of rope and I am so glad to be able to say it fits in the braiding foot.

You just slip your cord or ribbon through the front of the foot, which keeps it centered and feeds it beautifully onto the fabric you are sewing.  With a zigzag stitch, I attached it all the way around the waistline of the sweats, after removing the faux purple tie that was attached when I purchased them.  I still can’t believe how slick and easy this cording went on.  The foot was great and kept the seam it was sewing next to in place so it didn’t curl funny. The feed on the machine was so even that the elastic in the waistband didn’t have a chance to shift or move and get sewn into the cord seam on accident.  So a tiny success in my sewing room today and a good start on at least one of my kids costumes.  I am so glad I splurged and invested in my new braiding foot as I now see many sewing possibilities for it in the future.  I highly recommend this foot for anyone who does clothing and costumes and well as home décor.  I am planning on adding green to the legs so I don’t have to use paint for the proper look and skin tone.  But that is a project and an update for another day.

This entry was originally posted on July 29, 2014 on my previous blog.  I am currently moving all of it's contents to this blog.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Crafting a Homeschool Education

“Should I homeschool my children?”

I think this is a question that is gaining more traction with parents over the past several years.  Personally it is a question that I have considered briefly several different times in the past.  Each time I faced the same feelings and questions that most parents do when considering this option:
  • I don’t have a degree in education.  Am I qualified to teach my kids?
  • Will I do more harm then good by educating them at home?
  • How can I possibly re-create public school at home?
  • What about socialization and letting them have friends?
  • Will they be able to get into college without being an official High School Graduate?
How does a parent decide to homeschool their children?  Well I don’t think I can answer for every parent, but I can share my journey in reaching my decision with you.  It first began about the time that my oldest was getting ready to begin third grade.  She had struggled through second grade with reading and fluency and I spent hours everyday when she got home re-teaching homework that had not been covered well enough in class for her to understand.  Ultimately that year I figured I had helped enough and she would be okay, since her class work was getting done and it was only the testing she struggled with by the end of the year.  Fast forward to this spring as she began the second half of her fifth grade year in school.  I could tell there was something wrong, but I had difficulty figuring out exactly what it was.  My daughter seemed depressed and was quiet all the time.  She took to hiding assignments until the last minute because they weren’t something she felt capable of doing.  A chapter book like “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” was well beyond her reading ability.  She still preferred to read Rainbow Fairy books at about second grade level, and this was after the battle of wills it had become to even get her to read at home for her required thirty minutes a day.  I was beside myself with worry knowing that if I didn’t do something she was going to fall far enough behind that it was really going to affect her confidence and possibly her future if she needed to be held back a year or struggled in high school.

This same year her sister has been struggling with the fourth grade.  She clashed with her teacher and with the restrictions and lack of creativity in the curriculum.  I really hadn’t been paying much attention to “Common Core” until it hit our schools and started affecting my children.  As I started to research what it was and what it involved and asked my children how they were being taught different subjects in school I learned something that really opened my eyes to our current education system.  Not only were the teachers struggling with teaching common core either from not enjoying what they were required to present or because it was difficult to present, but it also made it impossible for the teachers (that we love because they work outside the box and really teach our kids well) to teach our kids, some of the best teachers have even given up teaching for a different profession altogether.  For example: so many restrictions were placed on my girls science fair projects this spring that it was no longer a fun science fair project but drudgery that everyone in my house groaned about and didn’t look forward to.

My son’s experience with first grade this year has been a rollercoaster, and while I couldn’t ask for a better teacher, because she is an amazing woman who not only manages to keep my son who is quite ahead challenged each day and engaged in school, but she also manages to do that with the kids who are struggling.  In a perfect world we would all have teachers that could reach our kids and teach them as well as she does and homeschool wouldn’t even need to be considered.  If you want to read more about his challenges read my previous post about drugs in school.

Finally I looked at the school’s calendar and schedule for the rest of the year.  I was surprised to find out that from January to May the only thing the schools are teaching our kids is how to take tests.  No new material is being taught.  They spent a couple of weeks doing drills and practice problems to get the kids ready for the upcoming test and then the following week they test.  Then this cycle is repeated until the end of April.  By the time they reach May both the children and teachers are burned out mentally and don’t do much until the end of school.

After much prayer, debate with my husband and pondering I came to the conclusion that I’ve had enough and so have my kids.  I talked with each of my girls individually and had them pray about the issues as well.  Together we felt it was time.  Our family was going to stand up and say “Enough.”  We were going to take back the control of our learning and education and learn how to love learning again.  With the decision made my family’s journey into the realm of homeschool has begun.  Where we go from here I have faith in the Lord to guide me as I begin crafting a new talent.  The talent of teaching my children and crafting a curriculum to fit their needs and interests.

This entry was originally posted on June 19, 2015 on my previous blog.  I am currently moving it's contents to this blog.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

My First Grader’s Experience with Pills at School

In January while washing laundry I found a little Ziploc bag with a assortment of different pills in it in the wash.  Not labelled in any way and each pill was different.  Needless to say I kind of freaked out a bit with my husband as we talked about how to approach the kids and handle the situation.  Fortunately for them it was a quiet freak out that they didn’t witness.  All they saw was the calm and composed approach we used to deal with it.  So I started with my fifth grader and the conversation went something like this “Hey sweetheart I was doing laundry today and I found something weird in the wash that isn’t mine.”  I showed her the baggie and asked.  “Is this yours or do you know anything about it by chance?”  She insisted that she had never seen it before and didn’t know what it was.  Knowing I can trust her because she is always honest with me, I moved down the line to my fourth grader.  Same conversation and same answer.  While it was a relief it was also more worrisome because now I only had my younger children left to ask.

When my first grader walked in the door from playing outside I asked him the same question.  His response “Are those mine mom?”  I calmly asked him to tell me a little bit about the bag.  “Oh, a friend at school gave it to me but I didn’t know what it was so I just put it in my pocket and forgot about it.”  Did he take or eat any of the pills? No.  Did he understand that this little bag was considered drugs? No, he face turned very pale and he insisted that he would never take drugs and didn’t know that medicine was drugs.  The details of the event were that another first grader had given him the bag on the playground during lunch time and told him not to worry about it because he would forget that he gave them to my son.  Fortunately, because we have a child with epilepsy and a heart condition we have previously instilled in all of our children how dangerous medicine can be and that if they take their brother’s pills or anyone’s pills without mom or dad knowing they could get sick and die.  Because of this knowledge about medicine and not the talk about drugs we had with my son, he was protected and knew better then to take any of the pills he was given.

My son’s teacher was contacted and the school principal got involved and I gave the principal the now partially dissolved pills from being in the washing machine to show the other child involved and the child’s parents.  Do I think the other first grader should be punished severely? No.  This may shock you and you may disagree, but at the age of 6 years old I firmly believe that this child didn’t understand that he was doing something so dangerous any more then my own 6 year old son did.  I only wanted to make sure that the child understood that it was dangerous and should never happen again.  Honestly, it could easily have been a daily pack from mom’s purse with her vitamins and a pain killer or something, but it was not something that I could just let go.

Now that it has been dealt with I have had the strong impression that I needed to share our story.  Not because I wanted people to tell me what they thought about how it was handled, but because children deserve to be protected.  I have always wondered when the right time to warn my children and teach them about drugs and medicine was, and I can honestly say that with the world the way it is today that as soon as they head off to school, or as soon as they can reach the medicine cabinet is when you should be talking with your children.  Tell them what medicine they are taking when they are sick and why you are giving it to them.  Explain what could happen if they took too much of it and help them understand that when you take something and you don’t need it because you are sick it is considered drugs.

This entry was originally posted on March 22, 2015 on my previous blog.  I am currently moving all of it's content to this blog.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Beginner Friendly Skirt Project & Pattern Review

My husband is the oldest of nine children.  I know what you’re thinking “WOW!”, right? and” How did his parents keep their sanity?”  Well, fortunately they did and I happen to be lucky enough to be married to a wonderful man.  There are about eighteen years between him and his youngest sister.  When she started planning her wedding, most of her older siblings had already married and many had children of their own.  Since this created a challenge for large family photos and knowing who belonged to who, she came up with a wonderful idea to color coordinate each family so you could tell who belonged to who in the photo’s.  My family got burgundy red.  So Zephanie ordered matching burgundy ties for my husband and our two boys and I had a choice to make.  Do I shop and shop and shop until I find the right color dresses for both my girls and I or could I get creative and make something to match in time for the wedding?

I bet you can guess which option I chose.  I had previously purchased some burgundy rose fabric I had planned for a different project.  Using it for the wedding though was a chance to good to pass up.  I had a daughter who refused to wear dresses under almost all circumstances so I knew I was going to have to compromise and we settled on matching burgundy skirts with white blouses.
I chose two different patterns for the same style skirt for this project Simplicity #2576 and New Look # 6762.

If you are looking for a great beginning project look no further.  The skirts in these two patterns are simply quick and easy and are great for building confidence with your sewing skills or for a quick and fun weekend afternoon project.

Things I loved about this Simplicity pattern:  With only three pattern pieces to deal with, cutting out the pattern and prepping it for pinning to the fabric was a breeze.  The first page of the directions goes over the steps of picking the right size for you, how to prep the pattern pieces and the fabric, and how to cut the fabric.  Definitely a great choice as a first project for a younger sewer as well, because it explains the reasons for each step along the way.  My TIP:  Once you pick out your fabric, take it with you and take the time to browse the trim and ribbon sections of the store.  It may surprise you with what fun and beautiful options you will find to make your skirt one of a kind.  Overall I give this pattern 5 out of 5 stars because of the ease of the project and nice clear instructions.

I am always finding the cutest clothes when I shop for my girls and very rarely do you ever find the cute stuff in the women’s department.  I don’t know about you but I don’t mind ruffles and bows, bright colors and fun trims from time to time if done well.  Since I am still a beginner myself when it comes to altering patterns, trying to re-size the pattern I used for my girls was just not an option. So I was so thrilled to find the exact same pattern in a large enough size for me.

Things I loved about this New Look pattern:  Since I purchased this pattern specifically for the skirt to match my daughter’s, the included patterns for shirt and pants were just bonuses.  The shirt is a raglan style, with the slanted sleeve seams which is in style right now.  I am looking forward to making a few of these after my surgery that is coming up this week.  The directions for the skirts are written with slightly different wording but they are the same steps as the simplicity pattern.  Overall, I give the pattern 5 out of 5 stars because, although I haven’t made the shirt yet, the skirts worked out nicely and quickly without any issues or confusion.

So, if you were to compare the two patterns skirt for skirt, I have to say I liked the simplicity one just a little bit more, because the directions were written just a little bit more clearly, which made them faster to put together.

The good news is I got the projects done in time for us to head out for the wedding.  The bad news is we got down the road and clear up to Provo, Utah before I realized that after packing my garment bag with our dress clothes, I gave it to my husband who hung it in the coat closet so it wouldn’t get wrinkled while we packed; then, both of us neglected to get it put in the car!  With over 12 hours of driving there was no way we were going to turn around and go back for them.  That is the bad news.  We stayed with family in Salt Lake, Utah that night and spent the next day shopping, finding suits for my boys, and trying desperately to find something that might come close to the right color for the girls.  We weren’t able to find burgundy but we were able to find red dresses for both the girls and amazingly enough I not only found a burgundy skirt, but a nice blouse to go with it for the wedding.  I count my many blessings for that small answer to prayer.  How did the wedding turn out you might ask?  Well, things went off without a hitch and the pictures turned out great even without my girls matching us exactly and that is the saving grace.
  • Did I have fun making the skirts?  Definitely.
  • Would I make the skirts again?  Of course! Especially to teach my girls to sew.
  • Do we wear them often after the wedding?  Quite a bit, they are super cute and work great for church on Sunday’s.

This entry was originally posted on August 7, 2014 on my previous blog.  I am currently moving all of it's contents to this blog.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Typerwriter Art What a Talent!

While puttering around on Facebook this morning, checking in on family and friends posts and dropping notes to say hello I came across this news article that really inspired me.

Here is a man who faces challenges and struggles every single day of his life.  Yet he is inspiring people and using his talents and determination to create beautiful works of art to share with those around him.  I would never before have considered using a type writer of all things in the way this man can, but I am inspired by it.  So take a moment to watch this news story and let yourself be inspired too.  Then look at yourself and your life and answer the question he poses:

“What Can You Do?”

Just as Paul knows his gift for typewriter art is a talent from the Lord, each one of us has talents.  And it is our job to figure out what those talents are.  Once we know what we can do, developing and sharing those talents with others strengthens us and allows us to grow.

This entry was originally posted on September 12, 2014 on my previous blog.  I am currently moving all the content to this blog.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Up-cycling Window Valances into Toddler Dresses

My baby girl is finally getting old enough that it was time to move from a portable bassinet for sleeping to a more permanent crib.  While getting the location of the crib cleared out and the bed set up I pulled out the bag that I had stored my baby girl bedding in since our family’s last use of it.  Tucked in with the sheets, bumper, and bed skirt were three valance curtain panels.  These panels had been perfect when I first set up my eldest daughter’s nursery years ago, but after several moves and some custom bedroom paint they just didn’t fit the room the new baby was going to be in at all.  My first thought was to put them in the bag of clothes items we had outgrown and were getting ready to donate.  But before I could actually bring myself to do this pinterest struck again.  I had been posting ideas for up-cycling different types of clothing all week on my sewing board and the idea of up-cycling these darling window treatments was too irresistible to pass up.  So I dug around and looked through my baby and toddler patterns until I found something that I thought would fit the length and width of the panel well.  I ended up choosing the pinafore dress from Simplicity Pattern #2461.

After cutting out the pattern pieces and looking over the sewing directions, I decided that I only had enough fabric to do view C out of the curtains because sleeves in view A or B would not work right because of the style and layers of the panels.  The pattern itself also called for an open and curved back on the pinafore which worried me because the layers of material weren’t going to look right with a curve and a ruffle in them.  It was easy to feel a little frustrated and I went back to my pile of patterns and tried to find one that might look better.  I didn’t have anything that I thought would work any better than the pattern I had already chosen.  Which meant at this point I was going to have to be creative or give up on the project.  These curtains I admit hold a great deal of sentimental value for me and the idea of giving them new life and letting them be used one last time had me determined to figure out how to make this project work.  After some serious thought and moving pattern pieces around a bit I decided to alter the dress style itself.  I left off the back sections completely and opted for two front pieces.  One front piece to work as intended and one to work as the new back piece so these curtains would work out in the design the way I wanted.  Since this pattern is a multi-size pattern it gave me the flexibility to choose the size 3T that would fit exactly with length of the curtains.  I cut the two front pieces out one curtain and had just enough at the top for the yoke sections as well.  It surprised me that I was able to get an entire pinafore out of one panel and after looking at the other two panels I decided I would just be crazy enough to try mass production sewing on a small-scale and make three dresses at the same time.  Looking back on the project now I can honestly say I am not sure what I was thinking.  By using pre-sewn curtains it actually took quite a few of the steps out of the project and made it faster to complete, but I now had three of them to make so I am certain it didn’t save the kind of time it would have if I had only been making one.

After finishing the pinafore itself I knew I was in it for the long haul because I wanted the cute under dress with the short sleeves to go with it.  So I ended up using a 40% off coupon at JoAnn’s and found some really cute moss-green fabric to match the valance colors.  While I was shopping the color choice I wanted brought my fabric options down to three, satin which dries with definite water spots when it gets wet so not a good choice for a baby who drools and spits up, an acetate which can only go to a dry cleaner also not the best choice for a baby or toddler, or a pretty cotton poly blend that was machine washable.  I can’t stress enough when you fabric shop for small children always take the time to read the care instructions on the end of the bolt.  It will make you happier in the long run so you don’t accidentally ruin all your hard work because you forgot to read it and washed something that shrank or stained.

Things I loved about this view A & B dress pattern:  I really liked the short sleeve vs. long sleeve option.  Living out here in the desert we don’t need long sleeves very often and this versatility was nice.  I absolutely loved the way they used the bias tape along the neckline and collar.  Collars are always something I have struggled with a bit and the directions and bias on this section really made this collar much easier to put on.  Things that need to be fixed about this dress pattern:  In step 16 where it goes over the sleeve directions it doesn’t reference which sleeve option the directions apply to or that they apply to both.  You have to read ahead to 17 to figure out that it applies to both sleeve options and a little clarity here might be useful.  My Tip:  For the step of hemming bottom edge zigzag stitch the very edge and set you stitch width to the 1/4 inch they say to press.  This will give you automatic fray prevention and a fold line so you can skip ironing those teeny tiny edges and possibly your fingers.  I figured this out the hard way.

Things I loved about this view C pinafore pattern:  This particular dress has an option for a super cute butterfly shaped pocket.  I know I didn’t use it on my up-cycling project but it is really cute and I definitely see myself using it on a future project.  The pattern sews together well enough that I had no problems switching the back section out for a second front piece allowing you to substantially change it into an almost completely different dress giving it extra versatility.  My TIP:  After sewing my yoke section down completely my stitching line across the front as not completely straight.  I covered this with cute little green daisy flower trim.  You will want to be extra careful when sewing this down to keep the fabric from slipping around at all or be prepared to cover that seem with a bit of trim or ribbon.  I also used a package of bias tape in a matching color along the arm holes for the shoulder ties instead of fiddling with making my own ties.  If you opt for this short cut be mindful that bias tape does come with random seams in some packages so be prepared to cut around those or use them.  I cut my bias tape to the length they had you cut the fabric for making your own ties.  I also recommend that you cut them a little longer than this.  It will give you a slightly more draped bow when you tie it on the child wearing it.

This pattern also comes with pieces and directions for shorts or bloomers.  While they look cute I can’t say much about them because I didn’t make them for this project.

Overall I give this pattern 5 out of 5 stars because even with the lacking reference on the sleeve instructions it wasn’t difficult to put together and it is super versatile and has tons of styling options written right into the instructions and photos giving different trim and contrasting collar suggestions.  It really gets your creativity flowing and allows you see some of the options you have.  Finally don’t be afraid to add things like the decorative buttons I put on the front of the pinafore for extra cuteness.  This only lets you express your talents a little more and personalize your project a little better.

This entry was originally posted on July 31, 2014 on my previous blog.  I am currently moving all of it's contents to this blog.