Saturday, July 12, 2014

Out West

We're off to dig for dinosaur bones. We'll see you when we get home!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Graffiti on our Lockers

I've had these old lockers from the IU Wrestling Team's locker room for a LONG time, and that whole time they've always been the same chipped black and red paint with IU Wrestling stickers on, because they were so freakin' heavy that there was just absolutely no way that I was going to be able to move them across the house, down the stairs, into the yard, and back again.

Our new house, however, has a wheelchair ramp! Matt is god-like in his strength, and the man can move anything if he's got a ramp. He moved those lockers out of our old house (and I don't know how the hell he managed that, but he did), onto a trailer borrowed from a friend, off that trailer at our new house, and set them in the driveway for me, with the agreement that he'd move them inside and put them where I wanted them whenever I wanted him to.

Because I'm a pretty tacky person at heart, I didn't want to refinish the lockers to look cute or anything like that, mind you. Instead, I wanted to camp them up with graffiti!

I primed only the front of the lockers, because priming them was an insanely, stupidly difficult job (that steel mesh made brush-on primer a Sisyphean ordeal of constantly mopping up drips, and it also absolutely soaked up spray-on primer to very little effect, since 98% of it simply went through the mesh):
No matter where we live, you'll always be able to tell which driveway is ours!
On Independence Day, after the parade and the park, we went to the hardware store and bought spray paint in every rainbow color, plus black. I couldn't find a silver that I liked, and we already had gold at home, because Syd had wanted to make a PVC pipe "light saber" for a friend's birthday the previous week.

Off and on for the rest of the long weekend, whenever the kids had a mind to, they took spray paint to lockers, and oh, my goodness, they had a fabulous time with it:

I really just needed them to get down a random base layer that looked like decades of old graffiti that had been painted over tons of times, and they did a masterful job.

We also spent a lot of time talking about graffiti as an art form, which explains Will's little lecture on graffiti art in this video:

That kid is going to be a superb politician/professor one day: she can parrot back parts of her reading or one of my lectures or something heard on NPR, mix in stuff she knows on her own, and add in whatever VERY firm stance that she has immediately taken on the issue, presented as fact, and will defend unto death. Currently, you should hear her talk about the drug industry--a Michael Jackson song came on the radio yesterday, which got us talking about him, which got us talking about drug overdoses, which got us talking about drug abuse, which got us talking about pain management, which got Will ranting about how someone needs to finally map the human brain, dang it, so that people can alter their brains to do what they want without drugs (I don't know how that became the takeaway, but there you go--add mad scientist to her future career possibilities).

When the kids had happily covered every square inch of the lockers with color, I added some text. I had wanted Matt to do something really stylized, but he was spending the day at our old house and I was impatient, so I just did it myself with my junior high bubble letters:

It's part of Matt's last name, plus if you're going to do graffiti you have to have a Doctor Who reference, plus the year that we moved into our new house. 

With all of these house projects that must be done before we can stop living in chaos, preparations for our impending road trip have taken a serious hit. If you know me, you will be shocked to hear that the children and I have not intensively studied for this trip yet! We plan to listen to the Little House books during our trip, not before, and the entire Little House and paleontology unit studies are now going to have to be completed AFTER our trip, not before as they clearly should be. 

I must take deep, calming breaths as I think of that, and remind myself that a vacation can still be fun even if you haven't spent two months studying for it...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Independence Day 2014

You've got to be at the parade bright and early to score the best spot!

But no matter where you sit, every kid gets a free flag to wave:

I've been told that our parade here is a little strange (I just think it's weird that it doesn't have many horses, and it doesn't begin with a mock gunfight as the parades in my Southern hometown do), but we love it!

I'm pretty sure I take a photo of this guy every year.

This kid LOVES herself a parade.

The biggest difference with the parade this year is that it's no longer in walking distance, but all that means is that we got to park next to a near-ish playground and then walk over. And if we've parked next to a playground, then we might as well spend an extra hour after the parade playing!

I LOVE when the Fourth of July falls on a Friday or Monday; I cherish that long weekend spent at home, particularly this year, when I refinished my lockers with the kids' help (more on that later); refinished my former overhead projector cart and now brand-new school supply cart (more on that later, too!); packed the kids for camp (required much shopping for mess kits, white T-shirts, socks that go OVER the ankle, non-aerosol bug repellant, etc.); hung out with the kids elsewhere while Matt ran a garage sale at our old house, mowed the lawn there, packed up the rest of our stuff, cleaned up, and signed the paperwork for our first official offer(!!!); mostly refinished a dresser; sanded down a bookshelf to varnish; and did many, many, MANY other we-will-never-finish-moving-in-to-this-dang-house projects and endless chores. 

And of COURSE we also went to the drive-in--Transformers is really good, y'all, especially when seen under the stars from deck chairs right in front of the projector, ice cream from our favorite local ice cream shop in our hands, amateur fireworks sounding every now and then from off in the distance.

It's kind of the perfect life, you know?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Latest: Vacant Lots and Kids Working with Tools

a round-up of some of my favorite DIYs suitable for kids

As the kids have rediscovered the books and kits and toys they'd forgotten about until everything got boxed up and moved and unboxed (like Christmas! Every day!), they've also remembered how much they like these big projects that involve lots of tools and noise and paint and mess. Now that we have a driveway big enough to support multiple simultaneous projects (at one point on Saturday, there were sidewalk chalk, three different furniture painting projects, scooter play, and two chickens all on the driveway at once, with room to spare!), and a garage big enough to easily put away and store tools and half-finished projects (my days of lugging that work bench across the house and up a flight of stairs every time I want to use it are OVER!!!), woodwork becomes a lot more fun. The kids discovered that their fingers are now strong enough to press down the nozzle on a can of spray paint, Will has been happy to help me sand endlessly, Syd is nimble with the removal of furniture hardware, and both can be pointed at the primer and a piece of furniture and simply left to it.

And when they're home with me tomorrow, I plan to introduce them to varnish!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Magnetism and Electricity Self-Directed School

There are some shelves, formerly of the general store, that I'm in the process of varnishing (right now I think I'm wearing as much varnish as the shelves are!) for the children's rooms. I intend these shelves to neatly store (how I'm going to go about that "neatly" part, I don't yet know...) all of the children's kits and projects and playthings; one of the things that I've noticed about my kids is that only when their things are neatly stored and regularly rearranged do they interest themselves in them.

Syd, for instance, has played with her wooden dollhouse (given to her at the age of two) more since we moved it to our new house and set it up in the living room than she has in her entire ownership of it prior to this. Will set up and completed a world map with stickers of the prehistoric animals that lived there. They've both asked me to play board games that they've rarely touched before. Syd got out this magnetism and electricity set that once fascinated Will, and was herself fascinated by it:

Gracie really likes where I put the table in this room.

Be warned: this kit is LOUD!

Here's the outfit that she's wearing here, by the way:
Momma-dyed playsilk tied into a tunic, with leggings as a belt
I'm glad to know that even this unexpected, lengthy holiday from my formal schooling is rather schooly when done by these intellectually curious, active, engaged kiddos. We may not have completed the paleontology or Laura Ingalls Wilder unit studies that I'd hoped we would, nor has Will made her comparative study of American and British government, but still there has been science, and engineering, and woodworking, and hiking, and lots and lots of reading, of course. 

Definitely not enough math, but I suppose the kids need me to be in charge of SOMETHING to earn my keep...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Latest: Poop and Libraries (and the Antique Furniture Hiding in My Outbuildings)

for Insteading, a discussion of humanure composting and wastewater gardening

and for Crafting a Green World, an article about a little kid forced to shut down his Little Free Library

Here on the home front, there's not as much unpacking going on as you'd think--can't really put things away when there's nothing to put stuff ON, or IN, you know--but I've got a dresser half-painted in the garage and my lockers half-painted on the driveway, and the card catalogue also out there waiting its turn, and tomorrow evening, perhaps, before we walk across our yard to go watch the new Transformers movie at the drive-in (I'm torn about letting the kids watch this one--on the one hand, I think it'll will be too scary and too long for them, but on the other hand, I didn't let them watch X-Men with us last weekend, and you can't let kids live next door to a drive-in and not let them go to ANY of the movies!!!), I'm going to take Matt on a tour of the old garage and the even older general store, and point out to him all of the antique, unfinished wooden storage units that I want him to move inside for me. 

Namely these--
behind the egregious photo of my stove--toy shelves for the living room and children's bedroom?
MASSIVE dresser with tons of these little drawers that just sit on the shelves--wants to live in my bedroom and hold my pretty things?
feed bin? Super gross right now, but could hold a hell of a lot of fabric all nicely folded and out of sight
display shelves from the general store--maybe these would be better toy/treasure shelves, given the kids' insistence on displaying ALL THE THINGS
And I haven't even been into the attic yet! It requires bringing a ladder in from the garage, which I'm not up for, but the kids and Matt did it once. The kids tell me that there's a fire truck up there, and Matt says that there are Christmas decorations from who knows when. 

I'll check it out when I've got the downstairs sorted...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Indiana Unit Study: Homeschool Field Trip to the Eiteljorg Museum

The Eiteljorg is not one of my favorite museums. Its artifacts are beautiful, but I don't think that it includes nearly enough breadth and depth in its exhibits; what should occupy the entire museum fills merely three galleries, and most of the downstairs children's gallery is contextually unrelated to the rest of the museum. The Western art theme appears tacked onto the American Indians focus, as if the curators couldn't quite figure out how to usefully juxtapose the two major collections that they were given.

To add to that, I've never come even close to getting over my pique from the time that I visited with the kids perhaps three years ago and found the staff as a whole to be shockingly aggressive about the children's behavior. Perhaps they had all just taken a workshop on managing children or something, but in the course of one morning (I was fed up and took the kids to the zoo for the afternoon) we were chastised three entire times for things that we did not do (we were never chastised for anything that we did do, of course--this is pretty braggy, but my kids are excellent museum-goers). As Will drank from a drinking fountain just outside the restroom in the lobby, while I stood just inside the open restroom door to supervise both her and Syd, still in the bathroom, an employee came over and informed me that my children had to stay with me. As soon as Syd placed her hand on a red velvet rope in front of a large painting, an employee came over and told her to stop leaning on the rope. As we were leaving the children's gallery after peeking in and deciding it was too untidily chaotic to enjoy, an employee came over and told the children that they were supposed to put things back after they played with them, and they could not leave until they helped her clean up.

Nevertheless, our Indiana study included a large Native American component, so I considered revisiting the Eiteljorg to be a must-do. Fortunately for the current crop of docents, as I came loaded for bear, this trip was uneventful, and lots of learning was done:
I was fascinated by the many origin stories and pre-contact artifacts, although surprised that I didn't see more on the Mound Builders, our particular area of emphasis in this unit.
We also spent a lot of time with the Plains Indians, since we'll be in their area this month!

The kids enjoyed the hands-on stations--I would have liked to have seen one in every section of the many galleries.
Check out this decorative horse tack!
We now know the difference between a wigwam and a teepee.
We loved the art and artifacts.
Even those she's completed that particular activity for her Girl Scouts Brownie Pottery badge many times over, Syd still enjoys sketching pottery.

Although I think we've exhaustively covered fourth- and second-grade American history this year, I still need to firm up some Native American sites to visit on our upcoming road trip--Syd, in particular, is very interested in the Plains Indians--and I'd still love to find a truly stellar Native American museum to visit one day. 

Perhaps fifth and third grade American history will require another road trip to D.C?


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