Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fall Days

In the last month in North Central Louisiana, we have had rain nearly every day. And I don't mean just a little sprinkle. There are flood warnings out all over. It has rained relentlessly. The kids and I have been stuck inside getting all kinds of school done.

But Monday, the day started out cool and clear, and the report was that it would stay that way for the day. The high was only going to be about 70. So as soon as we finished up our morning chores and a quick spelling lesson, out the door we went. They played most all day.

When I first came out to check on them, Little Sister's arms were deep in a bucket of muddy water. They all three told me of how they were using the water and some mud they had dug up to make rocks. They were going to let them dry in the sun, and one day, years from now, people would find them. Wow! I was impressed. And then when they tired of playing in the dirt and digging, they headed to the front yard to rake leaves to jump in.

Tuesday promised to be a great day as well. So again, as soon as morning chores and a quick reading lesson were finished, out we went. This time, though, I told them to steer away from the water, because I didn't really feel up to the mud in the house again. So they headed, instead, down the hill to the woods. My husband cleared out our woods enough that the kids are able to safely play in them, but they still are full of trees, mud holes, treasures, and all kinds of other things. They built a fort to begin with. All three of them pitched in to make it just right. Later, I saw My Man and Little Sister gathering acorns and piling them up. At one point, Big Sister came in and asked me where her nature book was, because she had found a really cool new plant, and she needed to look it up to find out what it was. I saw her for a LONG time walking around with her book looking up all kinds of plants and trees. Also, Big Sister and My Man decided to each get a sack to fill with all kinds of things - pinecones, pinestraw, acorns, holly leaves, and anything else they came across - because My Man wanted to make a diorama with his, and Big Sister wanted to make fall wreaths to sell at an upcoming craft fair. Later in the afternoon, when we had come in, My Man set to work putting his diorama together. It's still not quite finished, so I'll post a picture later. (In case you're wondering, a diorama is a miniature scene of something - woods, city, bedroom, house, just whatever.)

This morning, I informed the kids that this would be our last day to be outside for awhile. This evening, there is a 70% chance of rain again, and it will last for a few days. So once again, after morning chores and a quick math review worksheet, the kids headed out the door. They have been swinging from pine trees, running through the woods, trying to catch falling leaves, collecting more things for their projects (which we will work on more tomorrow while it's raining), and all kinds of other fun things. Again, they have been finding all kinds of cool unusual plants, and they have been trying to figure out what they are. And since our woods are full of mushrooms, we took the time to study a few of them, talk about what they are, and how we are to NEVER eat them in the wild. We came in long enough to eat lunch. Big Sister and I tried a new recipe of dandelion pesto over pasta. It was absolutely terrible! But the point was not necessarily to make a prize winning dish, but to experiment, practice our measuring skills, and talk about the many uses and qualities of the common dandelion plant. (I still consider it a great herbal remedy, but, hey, medicines aren't really suppose to taste good. But it wasn't my favorite as food. We'll probably try it in another recipe before giving up on it as a food.)

After lunch, I sent Little Sister to take a nap, while the two older ones did some reading. But as soon as they were each finished, they came running wanting to know if they could head back outside. There was a vine out there that they found, and they wanted to go swing from it. So out they went. The day isn't finished yet! There is much more to do and see and play before the rain comes. And they will probably be out there until that time.

(Let me put in here that I did not just SEND my kids out each day. I was with them most of the time. Being that it was a little cooler, I stayed inside with the baby when she was awake. But as soon as she went down for a nap, I was back outside spending the day with the other three. I wanted to spend time learning and having fun WITH them.)

In the last three days, my kids have learned so much in their school time! And I'm not talking about the few worksheets that I made them do each day just to say that we "did school." I'm talking about the time they have spent outdoors exploring nature, researching the things they found, exercising their muscles, using their imaginations, being creative and constructing things from what they found - the list goes on and on. Being in nature is science at its best! It has been a fun three days.

And tomorrow, when the rain sets in again, we will be back inside with our books and pencils and computers. We will be doing the fun learning that is awaiting us inside. But until then.....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Big City Studios

Let me start out by saying this - I am NOT an artist! I can't draw, I didn't take art in school, and I do good to color a picture with my 3 year old that looks somewhat acceptable. My husband, Brient, is a "jack-of-all-trades", and he can generally pull off anything he puts his mind to. But he's not exactly an artist, either.

So a few weeks ago, when I realized we needed to pull together a backdrop for our new Sunday night children's program, I got a little, shall we say, STRESSED!! I had no idea where to start on such a huge project. I did know what I wanted! That was something, at least. But how to get from nothing to where I wanted to be - well, that was going to be a challenge.

What I wanted was to steal the idea for the backdrop from our previous church, because theirs was GREAT!! A few ladies there had pulled together and made it absolutely amazing! So the first place I started was sending an e-mail to my good friend (one of the very talented ladies from the church), and asked her advice on where to start with ours. Tracy gave me some great advice on paints and how to get going in the right direction, and I was SOOOO thankful.

But with all her great advice, I still AM NOT an artist. So I put the call out to anyone who wanted to come lend their artistic abilities to help get this thing off the ground. Quite honestly, I didn't really expect anyone to offer help. Nowadays, people are just too wrapped up in things with their own families and lives to have any time to give to someone else. Occasionally, you might be able to bribe someone to help you - if there is enough in it for them to make it worth their while. But....

Within just a few hours, my dear, sweet, wonderful friend, Chelita, offered to come with her husband, Matt - as soon as we needed them - and help us paint this huge mural. WOW! These two people are VERY artistic, and I could not have asked for better help!!

I need to stop here and explain a bit about this family. First, they don't go to the same church as we do. What that means is, they offered their help, and their 2 boys would not even be in this class to enjoy the product of their work. Also, they live nearly an hour away. It cost them a lot in time and gas just to meet up with us. There was nothing in this for them - except, of course, some great red beans and rice that I fixed for supper. These people have a LOT going on in their family and lives right now, but that didn't stop them from wanting to lend a hand. And for that, I am SO VERY grateful!

So, the plan was made. We would meet up on Friday at our church to pull this backdrop together. With a lot of preliminary help from Matt, Brient had our canvas prepped and ready to go by the time Friday rolled around.

We started from square one - hanging the canvas. Brient measured everything, and he and Matt attached it to the wall with some blue latches. Then, we sketched out the picture using the overhead projector and some artist charcoal.

Now, we were ready to really begin! Chelita and I started with the big parts. I wanted to make sure I had a job that I COULDN'T MESS UP! So I got the words!

We kept working all afternoon filling in all the little parts and pieces of this scene. At any given time, there were three of us painting. The other one was either taking care of kids, getting a drink, or washing out paint brushes. Because of the number of hands working, it came together MUCH quicker than we expected.

Since we are homeschoolers, both of our families get to take our kids everywhere we go. We don't have the option of leaving them with someone so we can take care of business. But that's JUST how we want it!! Matt and Chelita's two boys and our three kids had the best time playing in the big gym together. We brought all kinds of toys, video games, and movies, and they had the whole place to run and play tag. But there were a few times when they wanted to be up in the middle of what we were doing. They needed some paint to make their own masterpiece. So, Brient pulled out a HUGE piece of cardboard, gave them all a piece of artist charcoal, some paint, and some paint brushes, and they went to town. Later, two of them came back wanting to do more, so we gave them plates to paint. They all had such fun!!

When we arrived at the church to begin this project, it was about 2:00 in the afternoon. We took a few short breaks here and there, and we stopped for supper. But, for the most part, we worked hard for the whole afternoon. It was 9:15 when we left the church. We left tired, worn out, and ready for bed. But we were all so proud of our accomplishment. And all the way home, Little Sister kept saying, "It was a good day. But I'm not ready to go home yet."

This was a HUGE undertaking, and, had we not had any help, Brient and I never would have finished this in an afternoon - or a month. But thanks to this sweet, wonderful family, we finished the backdrop for our new class. The kids at our church are going to be so excited when they come in on Sunday and see it!!

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Suess