Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Yarn Along

So here I am again with a little yarn along update.  It may look as if I've been busy but if you know the truth of it, these little toy horses have been in the making since before Christmas.  I just have so many projects and so little time.  Don't we all?  I picked it back up again for a few stitches yesterday and I hope to finally finish three little toy horses for my girls (hopefully before NEXT Christmas~!!)
On the reading front, again, I haven't had time for anything too heavy so I am enjoying browsing back through this wonderful little pattern book Toymaking with Children.  Its one of those books that I imagine will live on my shelves forever.  I can see this sweet book touching the lives of my own children, other children I care for, grandchildren and maybe one day getting passed on to a time I will not see.  It's a keeper.

Monday, January 28, 2013

February Photo Contest - Sponsored by Oak Meadow

February Photo Contest by Little Acorn Learning
~Sponsored by Oak Meadow

We are so excited to once again host our well-loved monthly photo contest over on the Little Acorn Learning Facebook Group.  We are pleased to welcome our sweet friends over at Oak Meadow as our first Photo Contest Sponsor.

This month, the top five contestants who have photos with the most votes in our contest will receive a FREE guide from Little Acorn Learning of their choice (a value of $24.99).  In addition, the #1 winner with the most votes of all will win a gift basket inspired by Oak Meadow's latest Arts In Education journal. The gift basket includes these Oak Meadow Bookstore bestsellers: The Heart of Learning, Book of Nature Crafts, Main Lesson Book Kit, Beeswax Crayons, Modeling Beeswax (Total Value: $90).

WOW!  This will definitely be our best contest YET.
Oak Meadow is our very favorite homeschool curriculum provider and we have used their materials with our own girls at various points during their own education.  They offer a complete, creative, and well-rounded curriculum designed for homeschooling families.  In addition, Oak Meadow also offers a fully accredited online school which provides all of the benefits of learning at home with the support of an experienced teacher and official school records.  Please go check out their offerings and support another wonderful holistic business.

With Candlemas approaching in only five days, we thought it very fitting to host the February Contest with Flames and Shadows as our theme.

Each month, members from across the world participate in our photo contest.  After receiving the theme for the month, they search through their best digital photos to find pictures that best match the topic provided.  Photos of  nature, holistic parenting, family, home care, crafting and children are all wonderful and welcome subjects.

Three photos per family can be submitted.  We then ask our community to vote on the photos they LIKE best by clicking thumbs up underneath the entries they feel should win.  Contestants are welcome to pass the link of their photos to family and friends online to try to receive more votes and they are encouraged to vote for their own photos as well.  At the end of the contest, the LIKES are tallied up and this month, the top five contestants who have photos with the most votes will receive a FREE guide from Little Acorn Learning of their choice (a value of $24.99).  In addition, the #1 winner with the most votes of all will win a gift basket inspired by Oak Meadow's latest Arts In Education journal. The gift basket includes these Oak Meadow Bookstore bestsellers: The Heart of LearningBook of Nature CraftsMain Lesson Book KitBeeswax CrayonsModeling Beeswax (Total Value: $90).

How to enter:

Send no more than 3 photos per family that you feel fit the theme  Flames and Shadows to by 1/31 8 p.m. EST   - Please do not post photos directly to our page as they are hard to manage and get lost easily.  Include your full name, email and permission for Little Acorn Learning to use your photographs in any marketing in our guides, on our Facebook Page, website and in our guides.

Tell your family and friends to vote for your photos by clicking LIKE underneath each one.  Remember to vote for yourself and copy and paste the link to your photos to spread the word.

We will tally up the votes and winners will be announced on February 2nd.

Good luck!!!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Nature Club - Birds and Feathers

We need the tonic of wildness... At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and see be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable.  We can never have enough nature.  

~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
This week in Nature Club we learned about birds and feathers.  While outside on our nature walk, the children brought along birdseed and left it out for the winter birds.  We walked quietly using all of our senses.  I asked the children to really look, listen, feel and touch without making sounds.  They found so many beautiful birds and discoveries.  
 Each week they look for items that are in their scavenger hunt papers inside their Nature Notebooks.  It was really sweet to see how they all worked together to find various items.  I love that it is a mixed age group because the older children help the little ones and it is so much more natural than traditional classroom settings.
 Back in the classroom we talked about how different birds nest and the importance of feathers.  Did you know that feathers are waterproof and help keep birds dry or that some birds build their nests with seashells? 
I showed the children photos of some of the more common birds in Connecticut and the ones that I often see at my bird feeder.  I had a few Blue Jay feathers from my yard and I asked the children to go through the guide book and identify the correct bird the feathers came from.  They were so proud of themselves when they figured it out and tried to match exactly where on the body the feathers came from.  
I really enjoy working with children in this way.  Some of them in particular are so enthusiastic about our earth and learning about nature.  You should see their faces and hear their comments.  It is such an amazing experience to be able to share this time with them and watch as they make discoveries and develop such a deep love for the natural world.  
  My hope is that I am planting little seeds in their hearts that will one day bloom and help to change our world.  From what I've seen of these young people, we have a lot to be hopeful for.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Yarn Along

I decided to jump on the Yarn Along bandwagon with the rest of my sweet blog sisters.  A great way to share what is on the needles or hook and also see what others are reading.  Our dog Caicos wanted to be the one to show you the photo ;)

As you know, I'm wrapping up the Cardiff Cowl I spoke about in this post.  I'm in love with the yarn and the pattern is easy enough to go quickly and changes enough to keep my interest.  It should be done in a day or two when I can find the time to sit and finish it up.  I hope to make a matching hat for it if I have enough yarn left over.

Because I write so much, it is very hard for me to carve out a lot of heavy reading time.  Right now I am at the beginning stages of a big project so I am keep my reading light and inspiring.  My friend Sara sent me The Waldorf Book of Poetry as a gift last month and it is exactly what I need to get me in the mood to write seasonal children's crafts and activities.  An amazing addition to my library and I'm thankful to have it.

The temps are dropping like crazy in Connecticut.  Today is was 7 degrees.  SEVEN!  So if I can crochet a little faster maybe my neck will at least be warm soon :)


Wildlife Tracking

A big part of my Nature Club will be for the children and I to learn to identify various parts of nature when outdoors such as; which leaves come from which trees, bird identification, plant, herb and weed identification and of course, learning to identify which animals make certain tracks.  This time of year we have a lot of snow in our area so it is a great time for us to go out and discover the tracks of wildlife left behind.  But tracks are also left behind in dirt,  mud and sand so don't give up.  While finding actual bear tracks may be difficult, there are plenty of other animals that will leave behind a trail for you to follow.  Be sure to send us in any photos of your discoveries and we will share them here at 

**the following activities come from our January 5 Day Childcare Program

Wildlife Tracking

Supplies Needed:
(all optional)
Magnifying Glasses
Nature Notebooks
Field Book

During your nature walk today, go hunting for signs of the midnightfrolics of wildlife.  Can you find little animal tracks?  Big tracks?  What type of animals do you think caused them?  Can you tell from the prints whether or not the animal hops or walks?  Bringing along magnifying glasses will encourage your little detectives to really search for clues! 

A critical thinking question to ask young children: 

When the pathway has not been shoveled, would we be able to tell if a visitor had come to the front door?  How could we tell?  

Let older children journal in their Nature Notebooks.  You may even choose to take photos of the tracks you find to keep in your notebooks.  Make drawings of each print.  Which animal do you think it came from?  Go to your library or online to research further.  

Making Bear Tracks

Supplies Needed:

Plaster of Paris
Measuring cup for powder
Water and measuring cup
Container to mix in Spoon and knife

Even if you do not live where you can find tracks left by bears, you can have fun making pretend bear tracks, using your own feet! The hind foot of a bear has a shape that is very similar to the shape of our feet, as you can see below.

To make your "bear track" you will need to fill a pan or small tub (big enough for you to put your foot in) with moist sand or dirt. With your bare foot, step into the sand, pressing down hard, to make a good, clear print. Using a nail, sharpened pencil, or other small, pointed stick, make "claw prints" above each of your toes.

Measure ½ cup water into the bowl.  Slowly add 1 cup plaster, sifting it through your fingers.  Stir until smooth. It should be like pancake batter.  Carefully pour into track, filling all of it (claw marks, too).  Wait until it is dry - probably 30-45 minutes.  When it is hard, gently cut around it and lift it out.  When you pour the plaster into the print, be sure to get some into the "claw prints." When your cast is hard and dry, lift it out carefully. Brush or rinse the sand off, and you will have your own "bear track".  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Riding Solo

I have returned from a fun adventure to Vermont after a very exciting business meeting that I cannot really share details of just yet but promise to as soon as I can.  I chose to go up a day earlier so I packed my bag, put on some good tunes and drove up to this beautiful state that I fell in  love with years ago - Solo.  I wanted my husband to join me but he was focused on work so I went alone.
 I don't travel alone often but I have come to a place where I can enjoy and make the best of it.  I often feel I must function alone as a mother and it has become ok. After checking in to the most beautiful antique hotel you have ever seen, I went next door to enjoy a nice dinner and a few glasses of wine.  And yes, I got a table by myself... I read a few wonderful magazines, people watched, caught up on some emails and planned out discussion points for the following day.  It was bliss.
On my walk back to the hotel, it began to snow.  A absolutely perfect night to start a new crochet project, watch some guilty TV and enjoy the quiet that settled in between the four walls, a luxury that I do not often have and only need a small bit of before I begin to miss my daughters too much and crave the chaos of my big family home.  
 This project is hopefully going to evolve into this delicate Cardiff Cowl that I came across on Raverly crocheted with this delicious Dewberry Berroco Vintage Yarn that I've had in my stash way too long.  It's soft and the color just grabs at me. I know this will be one of my favorite homemade wears once it is done.   
 After the meeting, I found this amazing little shop filled with beautiful treasures from India.  I could have spent the entire weekend in there just looking and buying up all of the beautiful fabric bedding, clothing, wall hangings and treasures.  
 But I was good and only left with three small recycled sari journals for my daughters.  Although I would have loved to fill my bag up with these beautiful colored bracelets.  
 Driving home was a bit longer because of the holiday weekend and snow that began to fall on me half-way home.  Vermont has my heart. I love the mountains and the people.  I feel at home and in my element when I am there and although I couldn't wait to get home to see my babies... its always a little hard leaving when I visit.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Nature Club - Discovering Pinecones

“What if parents, grandparents, and kids around the country were to band together to create nature clubs for families? What if this new form of social/nature networking were to spread as quickly as book clubs and Neighborhood Watches did in recent decades? We would be well on our way to true cultural change.” 

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, and Chairman, Children & Nature Network
My Nature Club for Kids in grades K-6 began today.  The program is being offered through my local town's Park and Recreation and I'm really excited about it.  Teaching children to love our earth is something I am passionate about and it feels really good to be a part of something like this.
This week we learned about different types of pinecones and what pinecones really are.  Do you know? This is a wonderful description by Kate Simmons:

"Believe it or not, there are two types of pinecones.  The female (girl) cones are the woody, pointy, scaly kind that you probably first imagine when you think of cones.  They hold the beginnings of pine tree seeds.

The male (boy) pinecones are smaller and look more like plants than cones!  Male pine cones hold pollen sacs, and it just so happens that pollen is what the female pinecones need to get their seeds ready for scattering!

So how does the pollen from the male cones make it to the female cones?  It's carried by the wind!  The pollen eventually fertilizes the seed beginnings in the female pinecones so they are ready to be scattered and new pine trees can sprout!"

The children found this pretty amazing :) 
Outside we went on a Nature Walk and did a Scavenger Hunt.  Look at the animal tracks we found!  Deer?
When we returned to the classroom, the children journaled in the Nature Notebooks we made together.  These special journals will be a big part of our program and it will be a place where we can keep track of all the special discoveries we make together.
The meeting ended with the timeless and true activity of making Pinecone Birdfeeders.  This never gets old as many times as I do it in my children programs and the children could not wait to get home and find a special branch to hang it on.  
In one two hour meeting we covered so many important topics just by simple discussion, such as:  habitats, endangered animals, pollution, environments, food systems and more.  I hope this inspires a love of nature in these sweet little people.
How about creating a similar program in your community?  I'd love to hear about any nature initiatives and projects with children you are a part of that helps spread the joy of our earth with little ones. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ladies Vest with Ribbed Edging

Back in September, we had Brianna's 6th birthday celebration at a local farm.  While there, I got my hands on some of this beautiful purple wool yarn made from the sheep at the farm.  
I wasn't really sure what to make with it until I found Patricia Hobson's beautiful crochet pattern for this Ladies Vest with Ribbed Edging so I was definitely slow going at times with all I have going on.  
But it was a nice worsted yarn and it worked up very quickly.  I really love crochet for its simplicity and the ease in which you can fix mistakes as they occur.  This yarn was warm and beautiful but a little bit scratchy so I knew it wouldn't do well on bare skin.  I decided this vest would work great as it would layer on top of other clothing and be a good use for a scratchy but warm wool.  
The project followed me around a lot.  It even found itself in daycare and the little ones enjoyed helping me wind up new balls of yarn when I needed them.  Winding yarn is a real favorite activity around here with the children.  
It got put away for awhile as we dealt with Hurricane Sandy - took a mini-vacation and went on a cruise and prepared for the holidays... but one way or another, it made its way back into my hands...
And slowly but surely its form started to take shape.
The ribbing was actually the most time consuming part of the project but it really makes the vest so much more pretty and was well-worth it.
 And just yesterday - Viola!  It was complete.  I'm very excited I actually completed it in time to use this season... usually, I'll begin a project for one season and finish in an entirely different one where I can't wear it!  Now what to make next?  
What are you working on?  Anything good to share?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Pass the Peace

"I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go."  

Rachel Joy Scott (1981-1999)

Student, First Victim Of The Columbine High School Massacre

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is on Monday, January 21st this year.  After the tragedy in Newtown last month, I am more inspired than ever to help spread goodness and peace in our communities.   The random acts of kindness that people across the world are doing in memory of the victims lost is inspiring and something Martin Luther King Jr. would be quite proud of, I believe.  
These simple and beautiful felt flowers can be made easily with the children in your care and left behind wherever you do a good deed as a reminder to pass it on (here is an example of cleaning someone's car window after the snow before they wake up).  

As you can see, we used the colors of Sandy Hook Elementary, however; you can also use this tutorial as a way to make pretty pins and hair clips for the little girls in your life in various colors. 

Supplies Needed:

100% Wool Felt
Needle and Thread
Pipe Cleaner (only if you want a stem)
Wool Roving
Tag with Message if you Desire

Making the flowers is very simple.  Begin by cutting out a long wavy, pointy or fringed strip out of your felt.  There is no right or wrong here.  Experiment and see what types of flowers different designs make.

Simply roll this strip into a little flower bud and put a few stitches in the back in order to keep it together. 

Next cut out two flower shapes with four petals each (or experiment with more petals!).  Make one larger than the other and layer them placing the little bud in the center.  Add a few stitches to the back of your flower to hold everything together.    

Next wind green wool roving around a pipe cleaner and clip at the correct length to create the stem and when done attach the stem to the back of your flower with a few more stitches.

Your 'Pass the Peace' flower is now done.  

Don't forget to add a tag and spread the love.