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Archive for the ‘art education’ Category

On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “P.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter P …is for Painting.

One of the activities that the girls enjoy doing is painting. When they were younger, they did quite a bit of wet-on-wet watercolor painting.

Watercolor Painting
Sophia doing a wet-on-wet watercolor painting.

I would soak the watercolor paper in water for a bit, lightly dry it off, and then she would paint using all-natural paints. The paints were made from plants and were from Germany. They were nice quality paints which resulted in some pretty colors.

Initially, I had the girls start with painting only one color. Then they learned to combine a couple of colors.

They also have enjoyed painting clothes and accessories.  When they were younger, the painting was more abstract; and as they grew older the did more representational/realistic painting.

Olivia Decorating a Purse with Fabric Paint
Olivia decorating a purse with fabric paint.
She is wearing a shirt she painted and
used when she did art and crafts projects.

One Christmas, the girls received paint kits. They traced the first letter of their first name onto a canvas and then added different shapes and swirls around the letter. Using a variety of acrylic paint, they created their own unique images.

Painting on the Day after Christmas
The girls painting the first letter of their first name on canvas.

Another activity the girls enjoyed was tracing their hands onto canvas, coloring the hand with oil pastels, and then painting with watercolors around the outside of the handprint.

Olivia Painting with Watercolors on Canvas
Olivia making a handprint picture
with oil pastels and watercolors.

They also have enjoyed painting without a paintbrush. They’ve used fingers, hands, pine needles, marbles, and vegetables.

Sophia Doing Marble Painting
Sophia doing a Valentine’s Day painting with marbles.
Sophia Painting Her Potato Print Shamrock
Sophia carved a heart into a potato.
Then, she made 3 prints of the heart to make a clover shape.
She added the stem, ground, and
some details with a paintbrush.

Doing vegetable and fruit printing was a fun process. Using peppers, apples, celery, and other fruits and vegetables yielded some interesting and pretty prints.

Vegetable Print Painting in Ag Class
The girls with other homeschoolers doing
fruit and vegetable printing.

Using hands and getting messy are the fun parts of painting for the girls.

Olivia Making a Handprint Christmas Tree
Olivia made a handprint Christmas tree.
She’s painting the tree trunk and snow with a paintbrush. 

In addition to creating their own images and work, they also enjoy using painting kits. Early on, they did some simple watercolor painting with pre-printed images.

Sophia Watercolor Painting
Sophia doing watercolor painting with pre-printed images.

When they were 7 and 9 years old, they each did a paint-by-numbers kit. These are not the kits that I grew up with which were substantially easier.

These kits had very tiny spaces, lots of blending of paints, and required much patience and time. The end-product is one that both the girls were so proud of and framed.

Olivia Painting by Numbers
Olivia doing a paint-by-numbers painting.

They each entered their paint-by-numbers paintings in the county fair and/or 4-H; and both did very well. Entering the paintings for 4-H (in Cloverbuds and Crafts) was a great way for the girls to share their experience about painting and what they liked/found challenging about the process.

Olivia with Cloverbud Judge
Olivia meeting with the 4-H Cloverbud judge
to discuss her painting.
She’s 7 years old in this picture.
Painting has been and will continue to be an important part of homeschooling. It’s been something the girls truly enjoy, and it gives them an opportunity to creatively express themselves.
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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “O.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter O … is for Orchestra.

One of the elements of homeschooling for our family is music. Starting at the end of fourth grade, both Sophia and Olivia were/will be given an opportunity to choose an orchestral or band instrument to learn in addition to piano.

They both have a strong interest in orchestral music, so it looks like that is what area they’ll choose. Having an interest in the orchestra most likely stems from attending student performances at the Minnesota Orchestra.

Girls at Minnesota Orchestra
In March 2010, the girls and I attended “Carnival of the Animals”
at the Minnesota Orchestra. In the background,
the orchestra is warming up.
At the Carnival of Animals concert, there were a variety of instruments played – including the harp. This is an instrument that Sophia has become interested in (more information below).
Minnesota Orchestra
The harpist isn’t yet out for warming up,
but there are other musicians practicing before the performance.
Because of Olivia’s vision, we have been able to be seated in either the first or second box seats. This has been such a blessing.

Not only can Olivia see the stage, but the girls become even more engaged in the performance since they can see some of the musicians’ faces and expressions, and how they place the instruments.

Girls at the Minnesota Orchestra
Attending the Percussion Spectacular in October 2009.
The girls are 8 and 6 years old in this picture.
One of the most memorable pieces was played by musicians from the Minnesota Orchestra as well as youth performers. The youth walked down the aisles with their instruments – from the back of the concert hall to the stage. Together, the youth and adults played a piece. Seeing youth perform on stage was quite inspiring for the girls.
Concert at Orchestra Hall
Concert in December 2010 with youth and adult performers
playing together.
Another reason why we enjoy going to the Minnesota Orchestra is that they partner with other non-profit organizations to create multi-disciplinary and multi-art performances. In the December 2010 concert, huge puppets from Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater joined the orchestra on stage to act out one of the songs.  It was a dramatic and moving performance that the girls still vividly remember.
Concert at Orchestra Hall
Actors and musicians doing a piece from Hansel and Gretel.

Sophia and Olivia also have watched orchestral performances on television. One of the historical performances was done by Yo-Yo Ma at President Obama’s inauguration. 
The music was beautiful, and his enthusiasm and smile were contagious. What an inspiration! Both Sophia and Olivia were born in China, so it is wonderful when they can see positive, Chinese-American role models (female or male).
Yo-Yo Ma Playing at the Inauguration
Yo-Yo Ma playing at President Obama’s inauguration
on January 19, 2009.
The girls also have had opportunities to play instruments at different museums and parks which has been fun for them.
Olivia playing a xylophone
Olivia playing a xylophone at the Minnesota History Center.
What is interesting to see is how artists combine music and nature.  At the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum many years ago, there was a wonderful summer exhibit that did just that: combined art with nature.
Playing Acorns and Leaves
The girls with two of their friends playing
leaf and acorn bells.

Seeing handmade instruments created from everyday objects is another creative and inspiring way that the girls have learned about music. Again, at the Minnesota History Center, there was a display of a variety of percussion instruments made from items commonly found in one’s home.
Wrench Xylophone
Sophia playing a xylophone made from wrenches.

After being introduced to a variety of music and the orchestra, the girls each wanted to take piano lessons.
Olivia Playing the Piano
Olivia was interested in learning how to play the piano
long before she took lessons.
Part of learning how to play the piano is participating in the semi-annual concerts (one at Christmas and one at the end of the homeschool year).  Sophia performed at a nursing home for her first concert at Christmas time in December 2010; and her second concert in May 2011.
Sophia at Spring Recital
Sophia at her second concert in May 2011.
Once the girls reach the end of fourth grade, I am asking each one to pick an instrument that they want to learn how to play (in addition to the piano).  Sophia chose the harp in May 2011.

Practicing the Harp
Sophia practicing the harp.

Olivia is interested in the flute and piccolo (on the other end of the spectrum in terms of instrument size).  She still has two full schoolyears to decide if this is her true interest.
Olivia Behind the Strings
When Sophia stepped away from the harp for a moment,
Olivia ran her fingers along the strings.
Listening to the harp is relaxing and calming.
During the summer of fourth grade, Sophia began taking private lessons for harp. She will continue doing this through fifth grade, and then participate in student orchestras in sixth grade.
There are both homeschool and public school orchestras.  Both orchestras have concerts throughout the year which will give Sophia opportunities to perform publically. 
Until then, she shares the gift of music with her grandparents and family.
Playing Music for Grandparents
Above and below: Sophia performing for grandparents,
an uncle and aunt, and family.
Sophia Playing the Harp

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Welcome to the Fun in the Summer Sun event!

Each Monday until September 7th
Mama to 4 Blessings along with Harvest Moon By Hand,
Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, and Sweet Phenomena
will be hosting Fun in the Summer Fun link up events.

Here’s the line up:

1st Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer activities”
2nd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer crafts”
3rd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer recipes”
4th Monday of each month: link up your “How to stay cool in the summer heat”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

This week Sophia and Olivia did two different crafts that they enjoyed: embroidery and beading.

Sophia embroidered a pillowcase with a horse and foal design. The supplies were all ones that we had on hand: a pillowcase, embroidery floss, and an iron-on pattern. I never have used iron-on patterns, though they were something that I wanted to try after seeing the selection at Joann’s.

Sophia’s embroidered pillowcase.

Sophia worked during the week on the design and was very happy with how it turned out. She’s 10 years old, and has being doing embroidery now for several years.

Sophia used the backstitch
to do her embroidered pillowcase.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Olivia enjoys doing arts and crafts – anything that lets her creatively express herself. She picked out a loom that can be used for both beading and cotton-floss weaving.

Olivia working on her beaded bracelet.

She chose to make a bracelet with red, white, and blue beads. I set up the loom for her; and then Olivia beaded the bracelet. She followed a graph-paper chart that I did based on a picture of a bracelet pattern she liked that came with the loom.

Olivia used a sewing needle to secure the beads
in place on the bracelet.

It took a lot of concentration and patience, but she completed the bracelet within a half a day. She’s happy with it, and wants to do more beading…but not right away. “My hand needs a break. It’s tired,” she said.

Olivia wearing the bracelet she made.
Now it’s your turn! What are some fun ideas for crafting with kids?

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Over at Creating My Way to Success, Jill interviewed me about what I create and my definition of success.  I’ve included my interview below if you’d like to read it.

After you’re done at Harvest Moon by Hand’s blog, I’d like to encourage you to visit Creating My Way to Success.  I originally found out about Jill’s blog through her weekly “Round Tuit” post.  She features inspiring work made by several people each week, and then anyone can link a project they’ve completed (craft, cooking, or anything creative).

As Jill says, “…maybe it’s a project you’ve completed that you’re proud of – something you have wanted to get done for a while and need some extra motivation to get going on it – or you’d just like some of that fabulous encouragement, praise, and motivation that bloggers are so good at spreading around.”

She also has a section on her blog for clothes upcyling projects which over 100 people submitted projects to – including photos and tutorials.  It’s an excellent resource if you want to find a new purpose for old clothes…and make a positive difference on the environment.

After my interview, there’s a link for you to include your blog.  By visiting and following one another’s blogs, we spread the word about all the creativity out there…and countless inspiring ideas!

Here’s my interview with Jill (Jill’s questions are in bold type; my answers are in regular type):

What do you create?

When I think of what I create, I divide the items into three different groups:  things that I sell, share, or support. 

SELLING

My main way of selling some of the things that I create is through my shop on Etsy, Harvest Moon by Hand.  My goal is to help people enhance their homes by offering natural products which are calming and uplifting; and inspire creative and imaginative play in children.

Two Rainbow Window Stars
Window stars that are available at

I do this by:

– Creating handcrafted items made of natural, quality materials.

Beeswax Heart
Hand-poured beeswax impression
available at Harvest Moon by Hand.

– Creating imagination-inspired, eco-conscious items from materials that would normally be recycled thereby lessening the impact on the environment.

Wool Felt Bears & Bunting
Handmade bears with miniature bunting
made from a felted wool sweater.
Available at Harvest Moon by Hand.

SHARING

Another way that I create is sharing ideas through writing.  My blog, also named Harvest Moon by Hand, focuses on a variety of subjects, and gives readers a “behind-the-scenes” of what life is like at Harvest Moon and what provides the inspiration for its products. 

Mosaic of Needlefelted Alphabet ATCs and ACEOs - Tactile Art and Learning for Children
Set of needlefelted alphabet cards that I made
to help my daughters learn their letters
and corresponding sounds. 
The wool cards also can be used for spelling words.

Some of the topics I tend to write more about on my blog include: art, education, embroidery, family traditions, food/recipes, holidays, homeschooling, nature, reading, and sewing. 

August Journal Quilt without Border
Hand-embroidered journal quilt I made during 2010. 
This quilt is one of twelve that were made monthly for a year.
More information about the journal quilts and
what they symbolize are at Harvest Moon by Hand’s blog.

SUPPORTING

A third way that I create is by supporting my family by making or doing things for personal or family use. Some of the ways that I create on a day-to-day basis for my family are by:

– Making healthy meals and trying new recipes;
– Creating family traditions; and making good memories that the girls can look back on when they are older;
– Developing a personalized curriculum for each of my daughters based on their educational needs;
– Sewing clothes or quilts;
– Making sensory items and a memory quilt for my dad who has Alzheimer’s Disease;
– Making hand-embroidered toys; and
– Crocheting blankets.

Addy Unit Study - Sugar Cookies Round 2
I helped Sophia make sugar cookies one afternoon
after reading a book about a girl who made cookies.
She formed the dough into letters,
spelling the words “Family” and “Love.”

Why do you create?

That’s a good question.  In some ways, I think that asking me why I create is like asking me “Why do you breathe?” or “Why do you eat?”  Both breathing and eating are necessary to sustain life. 

I consider creating and creative expression – whether it’s a product, a memory, something to eat, a lesson plan, or playing a song on the piano – ways to sustain and enhance others’ lives as well as my own.  

Do you sell your creations? If so, how? Where?

I sell some of the items that I create through my shop (Harvest Moon by Hand) on Etsy.  What I enjoy about having a presence on the internet is that my work has been purchased by individuals and businesses throughout the world – including many states in the United States, Canada, Brazil, several countries in Europe, Australia, and Japan.

Rainy Day Activity Book - Button Flowers and Insects/Birds in the Garden
Pattern for a hand-embroidered activity book
available at Harvest Moon by Hand.

An equally important part of running a business is giving back to the community.  A couple of years ago, a local church asked me to make window stars for their fellowship hall/welcoming area.  I donated about 20 stars that they displayed in the windows around their Christmas tree.

Origami Window Stars at Church
One of the windows at a local church
where I donated some stars for
their Christmas display.
I also have made window stars, hand-embroidered ornaments, and other handmade items as “thank you” gifts for those who have made an impact on my life and who have indicated that they like the work that I do.  Sharing an item that I made by hand with someone who will appreciate it is something I enjoy doing.

What mistakes have you made or lessons you have learned?

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in trying to run a business. I do not have a business degree (my undergraduate degrees are in Psychology and in Communications, Telecommunications, and Theater; and I did some graduate work in Arts Administration), so I’m not as skilled as others who have a strong business background.  I’m learning as I go; and having Harvest Moon by Hand has taught me a lot about different aspects of operating a business from home.

Children learning taiko drumming from
a Theater Mu performer. 
This picture was taken during one of the
Create & Cultivate Art Camps
that I founded and directed right at the farm for many years.

One of the most important lessons, for me, is not to give up.  I’ve tried lots of different ways to be self-sufficient by running my own business or non-profit organization.  Some things were very successful (not neccessarily monetarily, but in terms of positive impact on others)…and others failed miserably on all levels. 

Campers petting one of the sheep at Harvest Moon.
The camp program drew children from a 50-mile radius;
and featured hands-on opportunities to learn
the connection between agriculture, the arts, and nature.

When faced with failure (or multiple, repeated failures as was the case many years ago when several things failed all within a few years of one another) life can get pretty discouraging.  I’ve had to step back at these times and objectively look at what was successful and what didn’t work, and come up with another idea, hoping that the new one would be the one that works well. 

What, to you is success? Have you achieved it yet, or are you on your way towards success?

To me, success isn’t related exclusively to money….it’s related to giving.  There are some core questions that are always in the back of my mind that guide how I view and work towards success:

– What are you doing to make a difference in the world? In your community? In your family?

– How are you making the lives of others who are having difficulty (or who have less than you do) easier?

– How are you enhancing the lives of the next generation? (These children are the ones who will be in charge when you are older…in business, government, and healthcare. Helping children now benefits everyone in the long-term.)

I know this is a very different view than some other people have regarding success.  Traditionally, success is equated with how much money you make and accumulate; how big a house you have; or how many “toys” you own.  Simply having lots of money and not using it to help others, to me, is not success.

My dream would be to have an even more profitable business – so that I could give more.  When I look at the opportunities to help…to make a difference…it would be nice to be able to have the financial resources to make gifts to others or travel to places to volunteer (beyond just donating items or time which my daughters and I do now on a weekly basis to various organizations). 

So what’s next?

I enjoy developing patterns, and would like to create more PDF patterns for natural, hand-embroidered children’s toys.

Felt Zebra on Green Wool
PDF pattern for a hand-embroidered zebra
available at Harvest Moon by Hand.
I also did a 52 Weeks of Baking challenge in which I tried new recipes each week for a year.  I modified the recipes so that they were dairy-free (so my oldest daughter could eat the food).  I typed each of the recipes along with modifications made, a photo of the recipe, and lessons learned during the week. 
My next step is to format the recipes into a book and print two copies – one for each of my daughters.  I’ve considered making some extra copies and trying to sell them since appetizing, dairy-free recipes for children aren’t always easy to find.
Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls
Sourdough cinnamon rolls that I made during
the 52 Weeks of Baking challenge.
They were incredibly good…and dairy-free!

Many years ago, I wrote a multi-disciplinary curriculum for families who homeschool that was based on creative reuse (it was called “Waste Not” and “Second Impressions”).  My daughters at the time were not old enough to do many of the activities over the ten-month period that I piloted the curriculum and activities to a local homeschool co-op. 

Handmade Pillowcase
Handmade pillowcase made from
a used (and cleaned) bedsheet and extra fabric.

So, I would like to revisit the curriculum, do the activities with the girls, and re-format the curriculum with pictures of the activities that my daughters enjoyed the most.  The photos of the projects, tutorials, and information would be available in PDF format through my shop. 

Wool Felt Cat Toys
Felted sweaters that were cut and
made into cat toys.

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On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “I.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter I ….is for Investigation. 
When I think of homeschooling, a lot of what the girls and I do relates to investigation.  Every day there are many ways to learn through investigation.  Below are some pictures of how the girls learn by investigating.
Investigating the Environment
Girls Playing in the Pond
Sophia and Olivia exploring the pond.
The  girls enjoy exploring the pond, pastures, and nature trail on an almost daily basis.  Seeing a variety of birds, toads, and frogs – sometimes ones we’ve never seen before – leads us to identification guides to help us figure out what we’ve seen. 
We use the Handbook of Nature Study (both the book as well as the blog that offers Outdoor Hour Challenges) which has been a highlight of learning about the environment.
Investigating New Ideas through Reading
Nice and Comfortable Doing Homeschooling
Reading outdoors in the early fall.
A key part of homeschooling is reading, and the main curriculum that I use (Sonlight) offers a wealth of high quality, “living” books that cover history, geography, literature/reading, and science.  We make at least one trip to the library per week, sometimes as often as two or three times, to check out new books as well as books on CD. 
Reading aloud, listening to audio books, and reading independently happens on a daily basis.
Investigating Wildlife and Anatomy

Sophia Exploring a Jaw with Teeth
Sophia examining parts of a skull
using a disposable fork and ruler
(having more “scientific” equipment would be nice).
Living in the country provides many opportunities to discover living wildlife – eagles, hawks, foxes, minks, deer, pheasants, and owls.  By traveling to different parts of the state and country, we also have seen birds and wildlife that we normally would not see here which is exciting.
We also have seen plenty of wildlife that no longer is living.  Going on walks with the dogs has provided close-up views with some animals that walked too close to the road. 
Sometimes, after winter, an animal’s bones remain in the ditch.  Although this is kind of gross, I have used plastic bags to pick up the bones and lots of bleach to clean them.  In that way, the girls have been able to learn about the anatomy of different animals (like a coyote, for example) – something they would, at best, only be able to read about if they didn’t live where they do.
Investigating the World Through Geography Lessons and Travel

Olivia Balancing on a Rock
Olivia balancing on a rock in
Grand Marais, Minnesota.
A major part of homeschooling is learning about the world.  We are wrapping up a multi-year ABC journey around the world where the girls learned about a different country for each letter of the alphabet (with the exception of “X” since there is no country that begins with that letter).  Starting this fall, we will be starting with a multi-year study about each of the 50 states which we’re very excited to do! 
Traveling – within the state, throughout the country, and to foreign countries – plays an important part in homeschooling.  Learning about different cultures and ways of life; different types of land; and food all help the girls appreciate the world they live in.
Investigating Math and its Connection to the Natural World
Measuring a Worm
Sophia measuring the length of a worm.
Learning math facts is one thing…but when the girls can apply math skills that they’ve learned to real life, the facts and skills make even more sense.  The girls enjoy measuring things – for example, how long something is (like the worm shown above), the distance between an animal’s tracks, or how deep a woodpecker’s hole in the tree is (see the photo below). 
Measuring Depth of Woodpecker Hole
Sophia measuring the depth of a hole
made by a woodpecker.

Investigating Science and How Things Work

Learning about Switches
Learning about electricity and circuits;
and getting a lightbulb to work.
Both the girls enjoy science and doing experiments.  When I was in elementary school, I don’t remember doing many science experiments.  In junior high, I recall dissection lessons (worm and frog) and using bunsen burners.  In senior high, there were limited experiments as well. 
It’s too bad because the highlights for science for the girls (and me) have been the hands-on experiments we’ve done which have enhanced the lessons and reading materials.  For topics that were a bit more challenging (e.g., electricity), doing the experiments made all the difference for the girls in terms of comprehension and retention.
Investigating History and Cultures

The Girls and a Mummy
Sophia and Olivia taking a look at a mummy
when studying about Egyptian history and culture.
From the start of homeschooling the girls when they were Kindergarten, history has been a fascinating subject for them.  A few years ago, we read the entire American Girl series and Little House series (both which focus on American History).  When we began using the Sonlight curriculum, the girls were introduced to world history. 
Sophia has moved onto learning about American History at a much deeper and broader level than she did when she was younger.  She will continue with American History next year before learning more about ancient cultures and world history.
We covered some of the ancient cultures when the girls were much younger.  Learning about Egypt and the ancient Egyptians was very interesting for us all.
Investigating Music and Creative Expression

Wrench Xylophone
Sophia playing a wrench xylophone
at the Minnesota History Center.
Music has played a central part of homeschooling.  In the early years, music was focused on listening to CDs of various types of music by a variety of artists.  The girls also enjoyed playing child-size percussion instruments at home, and large-scale instruments or unique instruments (like the wrench xylophone pictured above) in public.
Currently, the girls are both taking piano lessons, and Sophia is starting to learn to play the harp.  Olivia wants to play the guitar or the piccolo (though she has to learn how to play the flute first).  In addition to playing instruments, the girls also sing in a children’s choir and perform at least once a month during the school year.
Olivia Making a Handprint Christmas Tree
Olivia painting a tree with a paintbrush
and her handprints.

Creative expression is also done through painting, drawing, coloring, handiwork, pottery, ceramics, and sewing.  Having ways to express oneself through the arts is as critical of a component to homeschooling for us, as is any core subject (e.g., math, reading, science). 

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In my life this week….

The girls and I finished planting the flower garden in the backyard.  The vegetable garden is doing well and all the vegetable seeds and onion sets are now up and a few inches tall.

I’ve been helping my Mom and Dad both by helping at their home as well as making lots of phone calls for my dad’s medical issues and Alzheimer’s Disease-related challenges.  Updated my Dad’s CaringBridge site so family, friends, and others struggling with the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease know what’s happening.

Have been taking Olivia to special ed at the local school to help with reading (she has a couple of learning disabilities that affect how she can process sounds and words) and speech.  She enjoys going there, and has made some new friends both in special ed as well as in the second grade classroom where she spends about 45 minutes doing various activity centers with other students.

Worked on a couple of orders for Harvest Moon by Hand.  Made some more window stars to give as gifts.  Made one just like this star that I did during the winter: 

Purple and Blue Star
Window star in a pattern I created.

My favorite thing this week was…

Listening to harp music in the home.  Sophia is learning to play the harp, and her teacher assigned her a piece called “The Purple Bamboo.”  It’s a pretty piece with glissandos.

She asked me to help with the piece since there are a couple sections she wants to make sure she’s playing correctly.  I told her that I never learned how to play the harp so I’m not the best person to ask.  “It’s okay…you know how to play the piano.  You’ll know how to help me.” 

I need to remember how much confidence she has in me now as a ten year old…especially when she’s a teenager and may see things a different way.

Places I’m going…

No major trips are scheduled for the upcoming week.  The girls have piano lessons about 45 minutes from here on Thursday, so I’m going to look at places that are near there that may be good for a field trip.  On Tuesday, Sophia has harp lessons about 40 minutes from here.  There are a few places along the way (including a county park) that would be nice to visit.

Things I’m working on…

Outside, I’m trying to finish planting one more vegetable garden, and then try to work on several smaller flower gardens.  The goal is to have everything done by June 27th when the girls’ 4-H club comes for a visit.

I need to rent a log splitter and chipper to get six trees that were sawed down out of the pastures.  The trees were either damaged by insects (ash borer), lightening, or wind.  I’ve never used either of these pieces of equipment, so it will be interesting to see how that goes.

Both the girls are in 4-H, so I’m helping them with their first demonstrations as well as providing guidance with some of their projects.  This, along with doing projects for the county fair (in the open class division), is a major focus of the summer.  It gives the girls opportunities to learn about new subjects that are different than what they learn during the “formal” school year (September-May).  The focus during June-August is learning new skills and doing activities that they may not have time to do during the balance of the year.

Books I’m reading…

I’m reading Calico Bush to Sophia. It won a Newberry Medal and is a book that we’re both enjoying.  Olivia listened to it for a bit, but it didn’t interest her as much as some of the other books I’ve read to the girls. 

During the upcoming year, one of my homeschooling goals for the girls is to read a significant number of Newberry Medal winning books to them, with the eventual goal of reading all the books.  We also are going to read all the Caldecott books (we’ve read over 30 so far). 

A quote, a video, a link, or picture to share…

I’ve been enjoying the flowers this year, and am so happy to see some of the perennials already blooming.  The irises just started blooming this week.  The girls and I transplanted them last year and they didn’t bloom.  I was worried that they wouldn’t fare well moving from a shade to sunny garden.  This year, there are many blooms…all beautiful shades of purple (one of my favorite colors).

Here’s a flower from one of the big containers that I helped my dad plant in May.  I think it’s such a pretty flower.

Yellow Flower

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As part of the girls’ homeschool education, I want them to know how to play at least two different musical instruments. 

During the past nine months, Sophia has been learning how to play the piano.  I thought about starting lessons earlier; however she has learned how to play easily this year and is motivated to practice multiple times each day.  Her piano teacher said she progressed through more books/levels than any other student this year.  To me, that’s a good sign that it was the right time for her to begin learning how to play an instrument.

Beginning with the next school year (fifth grade which starts in July since I homeschool the girls year-round), I suggested that she learn to play an instrument in addition to the piano (either one that could be played in the orchestra or band). She picked the harp.

Sophia Playing the Harp
Sophia learning how to play the harp.

So, a couple weeks ago, we went to Musicmakers – a company that sells a variety of harps and other string instruments.  After looking at the different harps, we chose this one: a 31-string harp that is 54″ tall. It weighs about 24 pounds so it’s pretty easy to carry around…just a bit awkward.

This particular harp has all the levers on it already. Though it isn’t necessary at this stage to have levers on a harp, if she’s interested in the instrument long-term it’s good to have the levers on so she’ll be ready to use them.

Some of the strings on Sophia’s harp are different colors (e.g., C is red, F is blue) which helps the player find the string/note much easier.

As mentioned, Sophia knows how to play the piano.  I also know how to play the piano (thanks to my parents who paid for ten years of piano lessons for which I’m so grateful!).

Me Playing the Piano
Me playing the piano.
(Picture taken by Sophia.)

Knowing how to read music – especially piano music – is very helpful when playing the harp since there is some similarity between the two instruments.

Part of the Piano
Two pictures of the inside of our piano
while it was being tuned.
Piano Being Tuned

To me, an important part of playing instruments is the desire and willingness to share one’s gifts with others.  Starting as early as four months into playing, Sophia began participating in recitals.  She played in one in December at a nursing home with other students who are homeschooled and one in May at a church also with homeschool students.  Both were attended by well over 150 people.

For both recitals, she memorized two pieces, and was able to play them on a grand piano.  Getting comfortable playing an instrument in front of an audience from the beginning is much easier than doing your first recital after years of playing. 

Sophia's First Piano Recital
Sophia playing a piece at her first recital.

Olivia, who is 8 years old, will be starting piano lessons this summer. Sophia has been teaching her how to play some songs from her first music books; and Olivia practices each day…just like her older sister.

Olivia Playing the Piano
Olivia, at age 5, already wanting to play the piano.

Although choosing a second instrument to play comes later in elementary school, Olivia has expressed interest in playing the piccolo (although she has to learn the flute first in order to play the piccolo I’ve been told).  She also wants to play the guitar, but needs to wait until fourth grade when her hands are large enough to play a standard-size guitar. 

Olivia said, though, after hearing the harp and seeing her sister play it, “Well…maybe I might want to play the harp instead.”  So many possibilities in the mind of a child!

Olivia Behind the Strings
Olivia trying her hand at playing the harp.

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