Mother Dragon has a clock in her kitchen that she uses all the time. It’s not a fancy clock, and it sort of stands out around this time of year because it’s so plain. Then the other day Fiddlebug surprised her by sprucing it up for the holidays! As you can see, there is no doubt about what time of year it is now! If you have a plain clock that needs some holiday cheer, here’s all you need to do:
What you need:
> A clock that needs some holiday dressing. (make sure tape won’t hurt it.)
> 15 green fuzzy sticks (once upon a time we called them pipe cleaners)
> Something to decorate the top of each tree shape. Fiddlebug used sparkly colored fuzzy balls.
> Glue Stick
> Fishing line or string
What you do:
1) Make a spiral out of each fuzzy stick.
2) Gently pull down on the outer curve of the spiral while holding the tightly wound inside end to form a cone shaped “tree”. NOTE: You may have to shape it a little bit to get it right.
3) Use the glue stick to attach the “tree” top decoration at the point.
4) Repeat steps 1, 2 and 3 until you have all 15 done.
5) Tape the larger end to the outer rim of the clock at each number.
6) Tie pieces of string or fishing line to the tops of the last 3 “trees”.
7) Tape the free end of the fishing line or string to the bottom of the clock to add hanging decorations.
8) Count down the hours until Christmas!
For many of you, next week begins a mid-winter "break" in your education schedule. I have to laugh about both "mid-winter" as the season does not officially come in until the 21st no matter how much cold and snow have come your way, and "break" because we all know better. This is one of the busier times of year for most people and having the kids set loose from daily studies only adds to the mix.
If you are like me, this "break" is also a time to take a look at the fist half of the school year, measure it's successes, adjust accordingly for the remainder of this grade level, make sure that you are on track for end-of-the-year testing requirements, and spare a glance toward curriculum needs for next school year. Hopefully most of you will find that you are right on track or even ahead of the game. Your chosen curriculum is working great. Your child is having a wonderful time expanding their knowledge base. A quick check of the curriculum for the next grade level has confirmed that you don't require any changes to your plans. You can kick your feet up and relax with a nice mug of hot cocoa.
For the rest of you: Welcome to my boat. Here is an oar. This subject makes me wonder why I even blog about homeschooling, to be honest. The only thing I can come up with at the moment is that I'm an excellent bad example. I have spent more time altering schedules and swapping curriculum than I even want to admit. We have changed curriculum that promised much and delivered little at this point some years creating a frantic need to build new calendars and plug in all new information. We have skipped the break to try to catch up many times. I am there once again this year. I beat the "break" by handling the rescheduling nightmare early, but trust me, if you are not where you should be according to your plan, you are not alone. Those of you who need to compare details and vent a bit can feel free to ask, but I'm sure not volunteering how completely I have failed to keep control over this year. Hint to those of you dealing with work-at-your-own-pace high school: No matter how intelligent your kid is, their pace may not be what is needed. Our home stretch has an emphasis on "stretch".
So, what do you do when your best laid educational plans go awry? Well, first you take a big calming breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Try a couple. Cry if you need to first, I've been there and I've done that. After you breathe, recognize that this is NOT the end of the world. It is a bump in the road, and it may be a necessary part of both you and your child's education. Being flexible is a necessary skill. So is picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and taking the next step after you fall. Then take a step back and look at the problem for what it is: a problem. Not your failure; not your child's failure; whatever happened is simply the product of a plan with a glitch. Look at it as an opportunity to exercise your skills in creative problem solving. Identify the nature of the beast. You can't fix something that you aren't able to see clearly. If it is the curriculum (either too easy or too hard) find new curriculum. Don't just ride it out and hope for the best. If you child can't learn from their lessons, continuing those lessons is a waste of time, and worse can cause problems down the road. If it is a scheduling issue, adjust the time allotments so that assignments can be completed correctly. If there is too much down time and your child is bored, add an extra curricular activity that they enjoy. If you need a tutor, find one. If you have to admit that your child is going to be a kid without a summer break, or a kid who finishes two grades this year, just admit it and plan accordingly. Don't cling to what does't work. You homeschool because you want to teach your child to learn, not because you want to do school at home. Understand the difference. You may need to remind yourself of this from time to time. I know I have.
Whether you are having a phenomenal year or one that is a little clunky, know that this homeschooling parent is cheering for you. I hope you send some good thoughts my way as well. I need them. We are all in this together even though we are each doing our own thing in very different ways. In the end, no matter how the schooling goes, the goal is to release amazing adults into the world. That, at least, I can say I'm exactly on track to achieve.
‘Tis the Season!!!
Here at Fiddlebug’s Forest, this is a time of year to celebrate! Holidays like Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, and Kwanzaa all happen around the end of December, and there are plenty of creatures in the forest who celebrate each of them. Fiddlebug and his friends all happen to celebrate Christmas, so this year they decided to share some of their favorite ideas for decorations with you. They know that not everyone shares in their holiday traditions, but they think that each of these crafts should be easy to change in small ways to fit into your own holiday or even just to brighten someone’s day at another time of year.
Fiddlebug, Bart and Craig wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happiest of Holidays and a spectacular beginning to a New Year!
Deck the Table
One tradition that the forest creatures have is to send Christmas cards to those that they love. It is a way to remind those that are special to you of how much they mean even if the time you get to spend together is short. Bart’s mother loves her cards very much, especially since most of them are from her friends who are awake during the day instead of her nightly schedule. She has found a problem though. The cards are difficult for her to let go of and her pile keeps growing each year! She came up with a wonderful idea that allows her to share the wishes others have sent her with her family and any visitors who happen to stop by. She made beautiful placemats and napkin holders out of them! They really brighten up her table too.
Want to create some one of a kind placemats of your very own? Bart is making some to give as gifts this year too! Here’s all you have to do:
What you need:
Old Christmas cards
Heavy paper (cardstock works great)
Holiday cookie cutters
Scissors (and a big person to help with them if you are on the smaller side)
Cutting Board and hobby knife
Clear contact paper
NOTE: If you want to get real fancy, you can buy laminating pouches instead of using the contact paper and packing tape.
What you do:
1) Choose some cards that have pictures you like and messages that you want to share.
2) Cut along the card fold so you have the entire front picture separate from the inside of the card.
3) You can use the cookie cutter, pencil and scissors to cut shapes out of some of the cards either of pictures or to make messages stand out.
4) Arrange whole card fronts over the entire front of the piece of card stock and then use tape loops on the back of each piece to attach them so they don’t move around.
5) Add the shaped accent pieces and words with tape loops to overlap the card fronts and make the placemat even more unique.
6) Carefully flip the whole thing over so the blank side of the card stock is up.
7) Repeat steps 4 and 5 with other cards and shapes so your placemat is double sided if you would like.
8) Set the placemat aside for a minute.
9) Cut two pieces of clear contact paper slightly larger than your placemat.
10) Peel the paper backing off of one piece of contact paper and throw it away. Lay the clear piece sticky side up in front of you.
11) Carefully lay your placemat on top of the contact paper so you don’t get any wrinkles or air bubbles in it. A big person might be helpful for this part.
12) Flip the placemat so the contact paper is up and smooth it out even more so it sticks better.
13) Repeat steps 10, 11, 12 so the back side of the placemat is covered too.
14) Let a big person use the hobby knife and cutting board to trim all of the excess contact paper from around the placemat edges.
15) Cut a piece of packing tape as long as one edge of the placemat. Carefully stick half of it across that edge so it can be folded over to the other side of the placemat and seal the edge.
16) Repeat step 15 for each of the other three edges.
17) Repeat this process until you have enough placemats for your table.
18) Add your new, beautiful creations to the table!
1) Fold one card front in half so the long edges meet.
2) Cut along the fold so you have two pieces.
3) Fold each piece in half so the long sides meet.
4) Cut along the folds so you have 4 pieces total.
5) Make a loop out of each piece, taping the short ends together.
6) Use a tape loop to attach a shaped picture or message onto the paper loop so it hides the tape.
7) Repeat this process until you have enough to go with your placemats.
8) Carefully slide a rolled napkin into the loop and set it on the table beside the placemats.
No matter how great these smell, they just aren’t to eat!
Sophie’s been at it again. She sneezed and her pixie dust flew all over a bowl of applesauce. The results turned out just right to add a happy touch to any Christmas tree, so she brought one over along with instructions for those of you who might not be able to find pixie dust at this time of year. This recipe makes a lot so you can share them with other people’s Christmas trees too!
What you need:
3 Cups of Applesauce
3 Cups Cinnamon (NOTE: The ornaments pictured used ground clove so are a little darker brown.)
Mixing bowl and spoon
Rolling Pin (optional)
Christmas Cookie Cutters (easy shapes are best)
Food Dehydrator OR cookie sheet and oven
Glitter Glue or other decorations
String and a needle
What you do:
1) Mix 3 cups of applesauce and 3 cups of cinnamon in the mixing bowl. You may have to add a little more cinnamon if the “dough” isn’t thick enough.
2) Roll or pat the “dough” to the desired thickness on a flat surface. The ornaments pictured were between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick.
3) Use the cookie cutters to cut shapes out of the dough.
4) Use the spatula to carefully move cut shapes onto dehydrator trays or cookie sheet.
5) Poke a hole where you want the string to hang the ornament to be with the toothpick.
6) If you are using a dehydrator, stack the trays and turn it on. You will want to change the order of the trays occasionally. Time varies, but you want to make sure each ornament is completely hard and dry before removing them. Usually this will take at least 10 to 12 hours.
7) If you are using a traditional oven, have your big person set it to about 200 degrees. It’s a very low setting so you are only drying the shapes instead of cooking them. Time varies, but you want to make sure each ornament is completely hard and dry before removing them. Usually this will take at least 10 hours.
NOTE: If the ornaments do not completely dry out they are very likely to mold which is really yucky!
8) Once the ornaments are completely dry, decorate them with glitter glue or your other decorating ideas and let them dry completely.
9) Let a big person use the needle to thread the string through the hole in the ornament and tie it into a loop.
10) Have fun decorating your Christmas tree and don’t forget to take a sniff as you walk by!
It's been another Oh-My-Gosh-Busy week here at the Cassity House. I've been making cookies and candy like a mad woman. I admit, this is my favorite part of the Christmas Holiday Season. It gives me an excuse to (over)do something that I love, share the results with family, friends, and people that I simply appreciate, it makes the house smell wonderful, and it's simply yummy.
Cookie baking reminds me of days gone by in our homeschooling life as well. Between helping their dad with tools in the garage and helping me bake cookies, my kids had a pretty hands on experience while learning fractions. As they both seem to have a pretty good handle on what a fraction is and how to handle it in the world of math, I would definitely encourage other homeschooling families to include this type of hands on lesson in their regular day. Public school kids can also benefit with a little after school brush up lesson while helping with dinner or dessert. Fractions are such an every day thing that knowing how to manipulate them can save a lot of time and money in the real world. Getting to know them in a fun way that comes with a sweet reward when the lesson's done is a great way to make sure the information sticks in young minds.
For younger munchkins, start small. Let them count how many parts make a whole with 1/4 cups, 1/3 cups, and 1/2 cups. If they have great motor skills, turn them loose on the measuring spoons as well! As they grow, let them measure for you. Have them predict the number of 1/4 cups they will need when a recipe calls for 2 3/4 cups of something. Then reinforce how those cups need to be level and help them count out to the right amount. Older math whizzes get great fraction practice by doubling recipes, or by halving them. Multiplication and division can be included as well with the creative application of large batch planning. If you don't have a large crowd to feed, just keep the plans on paper.
So this year, spend some time with your kids in the kitchen during the holiday season. It's a wonderful way to get some extra fun time with them while polishing a very necessary math skill!
Bart had a lot of trouble figuring out what Sophie’s fairy dust might do to him if it landed on him. First he thought it might make him a daytime bat with wide awake eyes. Then he thought about flippers that would make him a water bat. He even thought about bright glowing spots on his wings. All of these things made Fiddlebug and Craig laugh, but when Bart came up with the idea of growing head spines like Fiddlebug nobody could stop giggling. Bart decided to make his spines rainbow colored because rainbows only happen when the sun is out and being a night time creature, Bart thought it might be fun to steal that little sunshine trick to have under the stars. Here are the directions for making a spiky hat that you can wear! NOTE: This project needs a lot of help from your big person. Hot glue hurts if it gets on your skin, so your biggest job is to be patient and then have fun when the hat is done!
What you need:
A stocking cap
Colored felt squares
Stuffing material (optional)
Hot glue gun and glue sticks
A big person to help!
What you do:
1) Fold the felt squares in half and cut along the fold. Then fold one of the halves in half the other way like a card and cut it along the fold too. You only need ¼ of the sheet for each spike unless you want them to be taller.
2) Wrap one side edge of the felt around itself to make a cone shape and hot glue the edges. This is good for little hands who want to fold the cones. Just have tape handy so the shape can be held until the big person can glue it. Make sure to glue the entire seam from point to open end.
3) Round the bottom corners of each cone.
4) Hot glue the cones down the center of the stocking cap. This is a great place for little hands to get involved by choosing the order (you can practice rainbow order too) and holding the cones for the big person.
5) Let glue cool and dry and then enjoy your hat!
Bart decided he would be a Bartasaurus Rex if he ever grew real spikes. What would you call yourself?
... still have to go in for maintenance every once in a while.
Greetings from the land of leftovers! Last week's mad dash to complete my pre-turkey day To Do List combined with really spotty internet due to an in house phone line simply made it easier to stay away. I'm sure you all had your own family plans to keep you occupied as well. Now that we are all back and have revived from our tryptophan induced laziness, I thought I might babble for a minute or two about success. Great word, isn't it? Success! It just makes you want to stand straighter and hold your head high. Maybe you'll even strut a little. That's okay, you're allowed. Success will do that to a person.
So, what is success? My 1989 (yes, you read that right) Webster's Dictionary says that success is a noun that means "Issue; favorable result; good fortune;prosperity; something that succeeds." Sounds pretty straight forward, right? So, why does it seem so elusive sometimes? Why does it always feel like we are chasing it instead of standing on the winner's podium? I've got a two fold theory with an added "yeah, but". I now share it with you.
Part 1: You have to know what is successful to you on a personal level. Trust me, this list is NOT the same as your sister's definition. It is DIFFERENT than your neighbor's notion. There may be others in the world with similar ideas about what they deem successful in their own lives, but your personal criteria are just that: Personal. There is no one-size-fits-all definition of WHAT is successful. So, first, you need to really put some thought into where your own finish line and winner's circle are located. If your heart sees success as a toy cluttered house filled with music, stop chasing after the dream of being on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. That is not your dream. It is not your goal. You will not feel successful if you win the photo shoot. Let someone else chase that one and instead find a new musician to introduce your munchkins to while they have amazing adventures in your obstacle course of a living room. The same can be said in reverse with no less conviction or satisfaction. As long as it is YOUR goal, you can succeed. DO NOT let others define your success for you. Trust me, that coffee mug will feel like the biggest trophy in the world when it hits you that you have accomplished exactly what you feel is important.
Part 2: Stop undermining yourself. We are ALWAYS our biggest enemy. ALWAYS. (Did I say that loud enough?) If you are allowing people into your life who are bad for your goals, it is not their fault that they keep you from success. If you allow yourself to be diverted from your path by other things, you took the step away. If you don't stomp down on your inner critic and prove it wrong, you are the one listening to the wrong thoughts. Take a big breath. Get your goal in focus. Now take the next step. You are allowed to grumble if you need to, but you are NOT allowed to let that grumbling get in the way of your future happiness.
Yeah, but...: You are not ALWAYS going to reach your goal. You are not ALWAYS going to win. You are not always supposed to be successful. It's okay! Falling short is important. Failing is necessary. These are the times that you learn the most about accomplishing your next goal. Success that remains out of reach builds our determination. (I'm about to make some parents out there upset. Be warned.) Teach your children that it is okay to not win at everything. Don't let them beat you at checkers all the time. Let them have the satisfaction of winning a ribbon for effort, but don't just give them one for being there. Make them work for their grades. Exercise their minds. Let them figure it out. Let them get the cookie recipes wrong, or miss points on that essay because it was obvious that they just put words on paper without thought. This is how we all learn. This is how we all grow. This is how we all succeed in becoming BETTER even as we fail.
I am a perfect example of all of this. You are a perfect example as well. Take a few minutes to see where your goals lie. What defines success for you? Are you heading in the right direction? If not, reroute so you get around your own road blocks. If you have tried your best and worked your hardest but still can't seem to get there, hold your head up and file the lessons away for next time. Then, lick your wounds, square your shoulders, and go be magnificent!
Being a homeschooling parent for 13 years and an independent author/illustrator makes a person learn quite a bit about a lot of things. Now it's time to pass it on!