Clay Days


**These posts are no longer relevant as we have finished our homeschooling journey;  but, I’ll leave them up in case it helps anyone with homeschool planning ideas.**  -February 2014

We’ve let the arts fall by the wayside recently.  The Peeps have been so busy with academic pursuits it seems like creative endeavors have been pushed aside.  Well, that’s not entirely true…Peep #1 is an avid writer, and enjoys working on his stories; Peep #2 has always been very creative, and is constantly decorating the walls of her room, her belongings, and herself! (See her most recent transformation in the photo below– red hair!)  But I’m talking about a more formal artistic pursuit, and so when a friend and fellow homeschool mom invited us to come spend some time in her pottery studio once a week for the next couple of months, I jumped at the chance.  I was looking forward to it for myself as well– pottery is always something I’ve wanted to try.  So, last Thursday we arrived at the studio attached to the side of her house, ready to play in the mud!

My friend P’s studio is large, warm, sunny and bright with shelves teaming with books on pottery and art.  Pots in various stages of completion rest along the sills and floor and immediately lend inspiration to n00bs such as ourselves.  P’s passion is ancient pottery, particularly Minoan and Greek, and some of her replicas blew us away.  She is also passionate about technique, and promised us a demonstration of an ancient firing method, which happens in a huge fire pit, once the weather warms enough so that we can go outside.

So, with a bit of history and inspiration in hand, we were ready to begin.  And start at the beginning we did!  Mastering kneading and preparing the clay didn’t take much time, but oh, the dreaded pinch pot!  We’ve worked on these at home before with varying degrees of frustration (usually mine).  After several failed attempts (and as I watched my offspring deftly complete theirs and move on to coils), P surreptitiously produced a mold for me to push the clay into.  I was not too proud to accept and happily finished what will hopefully be a rather nice serving bowl.    But, not to be beaten by a kindergarten skill, I cut off another hunk of clay and took another stab at the pinch pot.  Under P’s gentle guidance I successfully finished a sturdy, though rather lumpy, sugar bowl/salt cellar/pencil cup… haven’t quite decided yet what it’s going to live its life as.

After the pinch pots and coiled bowls, she had us move on to a more advanced skill– hollow pieces.  These are shaped with slabs of clay that are rolled flat and folded into shape– in this case, a large seed pod.  Very cool and I’ll be interested to see how they turn out.  All of us were casting longing glances at the pottery wheels, but we’ll have to wait until we have a little more skill under our belts before we attempt to “throw clay.”  That’s a good thing, I think– we want to do it right, and going through the smaller stages is all part of the process.  It also means more days in that beautiful studio, filled with music and talk and the wonderful smell of P’s dinner drifting in from the adjacent kitchen.  Yeah, I can do with  more of that.

IMG_6104 IMG_6103

Here, There, and Everywhere

To say it’s been a while is a bit of understatement– my last post was over a year ago! So much going on; a little catch-up is in order.

Firstly, a couple of years ago I got a part time job. As the Peeps moved into more independent work I had more free time and started to look for something that might be a good fit, and I found it! I’m working about 20 hours a week for a little art gallery in our local village. It’s very flexible (I can make my own hours) and so works wonderfully for being a homeschool mom of teens.

Speaking of which, yes! Two teens! When did that happen?  This year Peep #1 is a sophmore and doing a lot of on-line and outside classes:


Bravewriter (Writing)

Local Community College:

Other misc:

Biology 101 as a local marine research facility

At home I’m doing Oak Meadow Civics with him, but ultimately doing so many outside classes has really freed up my time. Oh! And, in the last year or so Peep #1 has really developed a passion for writing. This fall he attended the Unschool Adventures Writer’s Retreat in Crested Butte, Colorado, and loved every minute of it. This was his first extended stay away from home (a little over a month), and he had to navigate two airports (a change over) and manage his own time & money while out there. And you know what? He aced it! We are really proud of him!


Halloween at the Writer’s Retreat


The breathtaking view of Crested Butte

Peep #2 Is also doing the Biology and English classes, and an online Theatre Arts class through Curr-Click as well. At home we’re doing Oak Meadow Math 8 and Civics. She is hell-bent on going back to school next year (she will be a freshman) at the local high school. I have mixed feelings about this. I will definitely miss the homeschooling, and I have reservations about putting her in “the system.” But, she has always said she wanted to go to a “regular” high school. She has friends who go to the high school so she won’t be alone in that regard. And, she has always loved theatre, and this particular high school has an excellent drama department. In fact, when she was eight she auditioned and got a part in their production of The Music Man. Peep #2 is very social. She has a good sized group of friends (both homeschool and not), but needs more. So, we’ll see… I have told her she can always come back; whether it’s a day or a semester, if it’s not a good match, homeschooling will be waiting for us!

So… what else? Ah yes– in September we took a trip to France! We had such an amazing time. We spent a week in Paris at DH’s aunt’s apartment, sight-seeing around Paris. So, SO much to see and do, but I think we did pretty well and hit all the big ticket places. The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Bastille, Opera, Musee D’Orsay, Napolean’s tomb, etc etc etc. We also got to visit with DH’s cousins over dinner one night. Peep #1 had become friendly with DH’s cousin’s son, who is about the same age, when they were visiting the States last summer. So he spend the night and took the metro home the next day– again– a pretty cool thing to do considering the Metro, and the language, are unfamiliar to him.


L’Arc de Triomphe!


Taking a walk along the Seine.

paris2013 Eiffel tour

Tour Eiffel


Lunch at Cafe La Source. Steak frites, of course!


Peep #2 takes in the view of the square below from our apartment.


We also came across this really cool sci-fi bar called “The Last Bar Before the End of the World.” Definitely my kind of place. LOL


A message from the sidewalks of Paris. ❤

We trained down to DH’s family home in the country and enjoyed 5 days of relaxing before heading back to Paris for a couple of nights before we came home.


The gardens there were bursting with a beautiful bounty!


Here are some random shots of the property:


Garden gate.


Two towers. 😉



Truly, this was the trip of a life time and I’m so glad we were able to swing it!

Last big thing… for me anyway… a year ago this past November I got an adorable Mini Cooper S. I have never loved a car so much and the Peeps are convinced I’ve gone over the deep end! LOL But it’s a blast to drive (6 speed manual supercharged engine) and yes, it is my official mid-life crisis mobile. Or it would be, if I were having a crisis. 😉


MINI love.

That is all for now. I’m going to try to be better about writing here, but I’ve said that before… only time will tell.

Homeschool Ethos

Our homeschooling philosophy and practice are eclectic.  In the past we’ve followed a typical Classical education format as outlined in The Well Trained Mind.  Having completed the first four year rotation (thus covering history from prehistoric to modern times and all major branches of science), we are now doing something a little different.  I’ve always been a fan of Waldorf and am putting it more into practice.  Last year we loosely followed the topic guides listed at Oak Meadow but also let the Peeps choose their own topics this year based on their interests.   This year we’ll be using the Christopherus guides for 6th, 7th and 8th grades as a base, as well as covering some of the things we didn’t get to last year.  We used the Christopherus Botany program last year and absolutely LOVED it.  So this year I’m adding the Roman and Medieval History to our blocks.

Main Lesson Blocks for 2011-2012:

History: Ancient Rome, the Renaissance, The Age of Revolution and possibly some American History if we have time (or we’ll revisit next year).

Science: Physics, Astronomy, and perhaps some Geology.

Math: Business Math & Geometry

Geography:  in addition to the geography work we’ll do for other main lesson blocks, we’ll do a stand-alone MLB on European Geography.  I also plan to coordinate cooking lesson into our geography studies this year.  Instead of a main lesson BOOK, for this block I plan to have them create a portfolio.

Literature/Drama:  Focus on Shakespeare.  Additionally, Peep #2 would like to participate in another play (a few years back she had a small role in our local high school’s performance of The Music Man) so we’ll be looking into that.

At this point the breakdown looks like this:

September- Rome

October- Middle Ages

November- Renaissance

December- Literature

January- Astronomy

February- Geography

March- Age of Exploration, Business Math

April- Physics

May- Geometry

June- Geology

This is a LOOSE plan, and subject to change!

Daily Skill Practice:

Language Arts:  Vocabulary from Classical Roots A (Peep #2) and B (Peep #1);  Spelling workbook (haven’t decided which yet); oral and written reports, grammar (using Home Learning Year by Year as a guide).  Peep #1 will also complete an eight grade project, as outlined in the above mentioned guide.

Math: Peep #1 will continue working from Saxon 8/7 as well as Mathematics around us.  I plan to purchase or print out daily skill practice worksheets or workbooks for Peep #2.  Peep #1 has been playing around with Scratch, and I’d like him to explore more computer programming this year.

Logic:  The Art of Argument


French:  I want to do more with this this year!  We always let it slide.  I’ve scheduled 3 half hour blocks for french weekly.


Peep #2 wants to continue knitting.  I want her to pick something that we can work on together to finish since her weakness with handwork is actually completing projects!  It worked well us doing the unicorns together.  So we’ll choose something else to work on jointly this year.  She would also like to complete a sewing project, but that is still to be decided.  I’d also like her to play around with a small woodworking project.  I’m thinking about a wooden spoon…

Peep #1 is not a fan of knitting.  I may encourage him to do a very small project (a Harry Potter bookmark?) but won’t push it if he’s adamant.  He would like to do a couple of woodworking projects this year, and specifically mentioned making a belt rack for his karate belts, and I think that’s a terrific idea.  We’ll tackle that one first.  I want to also work on some basic sewing skills with both Peeps.  Sewing on a button and hemming a pair of pants are two things I’d like to see them be able to do by the end of the year.

Art:  I’m scheduling free time in the afternoons for unstructured Art (we’ll do more formal art in our MLBs)

In addition, they will be continuing with their regular activities:  field trips, karate, piano, life skills, science and history classes at local museums, and tennis (while the weather holds!).

Books & Activities from “Life School”

Grammar/Language Arts: Unjournaling, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire, Word Circus, Poem Crazy, Anguished English, Madlibs, Magnetic Poetry, Upwords, Scrabble, Bananagrams, creative writing (poems, stories, plays), journaling, book reports/biographies

Math: What’s Your Angle, Pythagorus?, Mathematicians Are People Too, Family Math, How Math Works, Cool Math, Real World Math, Math on Call, Yahtzee, S’math, Tangoes, Chess, Math Missions CD-ROM, banking, investing, making change, budgeting, recording and analyzing data

History: Roman History and Medieval History from Christopherus, The Age of Discovery and The Age of Revolution (Charles Kovacs) will be our primary texts.  We’ll be supplementing with the Horrible Histories Series, various biographies and history texts and videos

Geography: The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Book, Geography Coloring Book, map reading, Scrambled States, Borderline, Carmen Sandiego, post card project

Science: Astronomy and Geology by Charles Kovacs, Janice Vancleave’s Physics for Every Kid, The Manga Guide to Physics, The Reason for the Seasons, ADventures with Atoms and Molecules (v. 1&2), as well as various science encyclopedias, kits, and videos

Art:  Lives of the Artists and other biographies, picture study, Art Memo, Dover coloring books, Drawing with Children

Music: Lives of the Musicians and various biographies, listening to different kinds of music

Languages: Latin- Minimus, Secundus, Learning Latin Through Mythology; French (curriculum to be determined);  Peep #2 would like to continue playing around with Gaelic- BBC site

Life Skills: cooking, gardening, cleaning, shopping, animal husbandry, sewing, knitting, preserving, computer, email, typing, library skills

Supplemental Resources:

Daring Book for Boys/Girls

Girls/Boys Handibook

Magikal Crafts

Celebrating the Great Mother

Circle Round

Ancient India Block

Wow, we had a really busy second semester, and I just didn’t have the time to blog about it!  Before we get back into it in September, I wanted to record a bit of what we did.  Our two main blocks for the semester were Ancient India and Ancient Greece.  First up, our Ancient India Block.  Lots of stories, myths, and art in this one!  The Peeps really enjoyed submerging themselves in the culture of India.  The Mahabharata for Children and Bhagavad-Gita.  They memorized the Gayatri Mantra, and learned to write their names in Sanskrit.  We learned about Hinduism and Hindu gods and goddesses, as well as the religion of Buddhism and the life of Siddhartha.  We also studied discoveries in math and science from this time and place in history.  It was a rich and satisfying study!

Some chalkboard drawings for copywork…

Chalkboard Mandala

Karma Spiral (apologies for the poor quality!)

And some excerpts from their Main Lesson Books:

Here are a few of links we found useful (note, as of 2017 some of these links are no longer active. I’ve linked alternatives and noted where applicable.)

Science, Medicine & Technology in Ancient India

India & Astronomy

India’s Great Civilization- Gr. 6 (This website at is no longer available or you may need membership to access.)

More Astronomy in Ancient India

Sanskrit Alphabet

The Bhagavad Gita for Kids (Updated 2017)

The Gayatri Mantra (Updated 2017)

Ancient India Plan of Study Gr. 6 (This link is no longer active as of 2017-no alternative found, sorry!)

Next up, Ancient Greece!  I hope to get to that this weekend. Stay tuned. 🙂

Weekly Report 12.10.10

This review is either reeeeeeaaally early or reeeeeeeaaaally late, depending on how you look at it. 😉  Anyway, we are finishing up this week and preparing for Winter Break.  The Peeps have really enjoyed this Native American block.  They wanted to continue right through to break, so that’s what we did.  Tomorrow is our last “official” day of the semester, but we’re planning on finishing up some things –not doing anything new.  So it’s safe to say were done and show some examples of the last part of the block:

We learned about Native American moons and created our own calendars.  Each month we marked the full moons with their names, and drew a picture to illustrate:

March- The Full Sap Moon

January- The Full Wolf Moon

We learned about the Iroqouis tribe as we spent the last couple of weeks reading and illustrating tales from The Boy Who Lived With Bears and Other Iroquois tales.

"The Boy Who Lived With Bears" (and copywork page)

Two Native American Poems (copywork)


"How Birds Got Their Feathers"

Peep #2

Peep #1

A book report from Peep #2 on the novel Birchbark House, and one from Peep #1 on the book Black Elk’s Vision.  Also some Eastern Woodland tribal designs that they copied from my chalkboard drawing.  We used these symbols to make a Pequot game called “Hub-bub”:

MLB snapshot


My Chalkboard Drawing (sorry for the poor quality!)

Sawing the chips for Hub-bub

Peep #1's Turn

The Finished Game!

This game is actually fun– the Peeps have played it several times since we made it.  I think it will get a lot of use!

We read a story about corn– “How Corn Came to Be” (Earthschooling) and had a corresponding form drawing lesson:

We also tried our hands at making simple tools like the ones we’d seen at the museum:

Simple Tools

And finally, we ended our block with making basic dream catchers!

Dream Catchers

Peep #2 was learning about square roots in her Math lesson this week, and I came up with this idea to help her remember.  It worked!

Square "Roots"

This would have been a great tie-in to the Botany Block!

More math for Peep #2 (Peep #1 continued with his Saxon):

Tanagrams- she created the design with her pieces and copied.

Geometry Lesson

And finally– since we’re spending so much time on verb tenses for grammar and it can be a little dry, I had them create “verb tense suns” to help them practice the infinitive form and various tenses.  Here’s an example:

Verb "Suns"

That’s about it!  Since we are off until January, I won’t be posting weekly reports, but I do plan to post now and then on the different crafty things we’re working on for the holidays.  Hope everyone is enjoying this wonderful time of year!