Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Musings on the Creator in Me

Nurturing Creativity in a Family Setting

Long before my computer crashed (for the 4th time in less than a year), I had Amanda Blake Soule's blog, SouleMama, pegged in my favourites list. So when I stumbled across a book in our local library entitled, The Creative Family and saw that it was by Amanda Soule, I felt like I'd found a book written by someone I know. It's a delightful book of "simple projects and activities for you and your children" that now has a half a dozen or so bookmarks of ideas I'd  like to try with our family. And it got me thinking about the ways in which DH and I have been working to nurture creativity within our family. I narrowed it down to three broad categories that provide a framework for our endeavours: Resources, Models, and the Union of Work and Play. I'll elaborate with some specifics in hopes that perhaps you will recognize what you're already doing to foster your family's creativity -- or you will be inspired to explore some new options.

While sometimes it can devolve into the curse of clutter (at which point we freecycle or sell!), we find it very difficult to pass up resources that might be even remotely useful in fostering a creative spirit in our children. Here are some of the things that came to mind as I contemplated our accumulation:
  • creative idea books (related to drawing, painting, creating costumes, building, quilting, cooking, paper crafting, seasonal activities, etc.)
  • art supplies (including beads, crayons, markers, coloured pencils, paint, various kinds of paper, fabric, pastels, clay, adhesives, decorative scissors, sparkles, stickers, materials from the recycling bin, etc.)
  • books about art and artists
  • reproductions of famous art (sometimes just in postcard size)
  • costumes/dress-up clothes (including animal outfits, shoes, dresses, scarves, hats, shirts, accessories)
  • journals (different ones for nature study, art, writing, ideas)
  • technology (including computers and cameras for making movies, photography, fort designs, dream house designs, blogging)
  • instruments (recorders, harmonicas, drums, cymbals, maracas, piano -- and a karaoke machine for those that like to belt it out, loud and clear :)
  • space (usually multi-purpose -- both indoor and outdoor)

Some great art tools that I won in an online contest :)

Clowning around: dressing up -- just for fun.
While I would like to say that we have an abundance of original art adorning our walls, inspiring our children and visitors, we don't. But of course we know that "creativity" goes well beyond art, and it is important for families to see it in action in a variety of ways. So here are some of the ways I've noted that we endeavour to show real life creativity as it exists in the lives of young and old:
  • Mom - The children observe me creating art, scrapbooking, decorating seasonally, cooking/baking, making gifts, writing/blogging, journaling (art, nature, prayer), and sewing.
  • Dad - DH can be seen woodworking, re-purposing (such as turning beds into benches, and windows into photo frames), cooking/baking, designing  and building furniture, constructing functional things around the house, decorating, scrapbooking, composing, directing dramas, singing, making gifts, and drawing.  
  • displays of family art work
  • visiting art galleries (and participating in hands-on activities)
  • touring community places where people use or display their creativity, including farms, gardens, apiaries, gift shops
  • Family Art Day, where Mom, Dad, and all the children participate in a collaborative piece of art

While purchasing food for our dog at a local alpaca farm, we witnessed the BIRTH of this little white lady named "Lola". In addition to that wonder of creation, we also got to see and feel several wonderful products that are created with alpaca fur.
   Union of Work and Play:
I'm not always very good at making learning fun, but I am working at providing opportunities for my children to enjoy being creative while working. Here are just a few ideas along those lines:
  • during read-alouds, they may be engaged in quiet creativity, including drawing, colouring, building, and imaginative play with small figures -- as long as they can demonstrate their attentiveness by participating in discussions about the readings.
  • incorporating a creative component to academic assignments (such as building a model of a scene from a novel, participating in an activity enjoyed by a character in a book, making a poster, writing a story that extends from the end of a book, re-enacting a component of something we've studied)
  • building character by being required to play (so if two sibs have been at each other, they might be required to play a jointly-selected game together in order to restore peace)
  • having the freedom to plan a menu for a family meal, then prepare it
  • setting the table for mealtime with their own personal flair

Exploring new vistas while listening to The Boy Knight
 This is just a glimpse of some of the ways we can encourage creativity within our families. Do you have any other ideas? Please share them in a comment -- I'd love to be inspired by them!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Another Poem

I'm still enjoying making use of my prayer/poetry journal . . .

Response to Matthew 14

How often have I cried for fear
as I was tossed in one of life's storms?
When I had a glimpse of you in the midst,
and you said, "Be of good cheer; it is I;
be not afraid,"
did I walk forth on the waves
and sink in my unbelief?
I did. And I do.
And I cry out,
"Lord, save me!" still.
For I am afraid I will drown
while wishing sometimes I would
so the storms would end for good.
But You steady my ship with Your presence;
You inhabit this vessel,
and I, too, worship you saying,
"Of a truth, thou art the Son of God."

Again I ask -- have you tried writing a poem lately? It doesn't have to be profound or even particularly literary. Try it -- it's fun! And if you think you "can't" -- check this out: I Can.

Friday, January 28, 2011

To Recycle and To Freecycle

It's a fact: I have a really hard time throwing out art work -- even if it's just scribbles of ink or paint. And I've learned that children really do take offense if these "masterpieces" are not valued -- even if they were just whipped up on a whim.

So I have decided to look for ways to recycle art work -- my own and my children's. When I altered my journal  , I used a drawing that I'd done a while before and didn't really have a "purpose" for. Recently, I had the idea (or maybe I read it somewhere -- I lose track sometimes!) to turn some children's art into note cards. There's a thank you note that I've been intending to write, and so I recycled one of DS4's paintings. (I asked first. The original piece that I intended to use was too special to him -- "I don't want you to cut that. It's my creativity," he told me with a quivering lip.)

The envelope is reminiscent of the fancy envelopes DH and I used to exchange while we enjoyed a long-distant relationship. We rarely sent a "plain" envelope -- they were always made from something unusual, or decorated with art work and cut-outs. All I did here was pull apart a "real" envelope, trace it, cut it out, and adhere the sides with double sided tape -- which I'll also use to close it. I should probably wait until the recipient has received this before I post it -- but I'm afraid I'll forget about it once it's in the mail!

That was a quick job, and since I was in the art studio, I decided to take action on a plan that I've had for quite some time -- to turn pretty remnants of fabric into tablecloths. I apologize for the less than lovely photographs -- but my goal was simply to show you that I took an unmeasured piece of fabric, hemmed the edges, and lay it on the table. Easy peasy:) DS12 entered the kitchen and said -- "Let me guess -- we're having spaghetti and meatballs." It took me a minute to process the comment, since it was well past dinner time; apparently the tablecloth reminded him of an Italian restaurant! :)

I've mentioned before that I'm so not a sewer -- but I can deal with lines and hems that don't really matter -- as in this tablecloth. I'm quite tickled with the result and look forward to making more because I've grown quite fond of setting a pretty table whenever I can -- and a tablecloth is always a great thing with which to start.

Now, before you get concerned about the cost of such creativity, I wanted to tell you that the fabric for this cloth -- and the cloths of the future -- all came from Freecycle. Have you heard of it? We have offered and received all manner of useful items that might otherwise have found their way into a landfill: clothes, shoes, boots, dehumidifiers, CD jewel cases, furniture, technological devices (including computers and their accessories), sports equipment (including skiis, skates, helmets, and soccer shoes), an antique room divider  -- and the list could go on. While it has the potential to "feed the need for stuff," it is also a frugal way to support creativity.

Have you acquired anything fabulously frugal via freecycle?
Have you found any creative ways to recycle art? Do tell!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Musings on the Creator in Me

Classically Creative

The theme this week at HSB Front Porch is classical music because the birthdays of both Mozart and Franz Schubert fall at the end of January. I've always loved listening to classical music -- at home or in the car -- but not sitting in concerts, generally speaking. (They tend to make me sleepy, and then I doze off, and that's embarrassing!) I don't have a lot to say about it -- but at the end of this post I'll tell you a bit about what DD8 and I did in response to some of her insights about music and creativity.

But first -- my beloved is a former music teacher, so I asked for his input regarding teaching classical music. He reminded me of some good resources that we've come across over the years . . . The Classical Kids Series has some wonderful story CDs that teach about different composers, including Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Mozart's Magnificent Voyage, and Mr. Bach Comes to Call. Then there are Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concert, in which he and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra bring classical music to life for youth, and Peter Ustinov's Peter and the Wolf, which highlights the different instruments in the orchestra in a child-friendly way. DH also pointed out that it is fun to explore how cartoons and movies employ classical music ("Figaro" and "William Tell Overture" in cartoons, for example, and "Barber's Adagio for Strings" in the movie Platoon) in their sound tracks.

Being a fan of cross-curricular studies, DH also suggests that it's fascinating to compare forms of music in their relative time period to the art, architecture, dance forms, and literature of the same period. For example, in the "Classical Period," all of these facets of the arts were very calculated and structured. Comparison and contrast also prove fruitful in examining two or more periods side-by-side to show the similarities and differences (classical and contemporary, for example). As he pointed out, such a comparison begs the question, "Does society influence the arts, or do the arts influence society?"

Bringing it down to a more personal level, a while ago, DD8 said she thought we should bring the CD player into our art studio "because every colour has a sound." That struck me as a rather profound concept -- so, contemplating this post, I decided to explore it with her and some classical music. DD8 and DS4 selected six or seven colours, and the three of us set to work responding to the music with our paint brushes. As I cranked Handel's Messiah, DD8 advised me: "Every colour has a sound. You just have to pay attention and you can mix them all together into a beautiful picture. You just have to pay attention."

 As she painted, DD8 exclaimed, "Oh, Mommy -- I feel so FREE right now! I just feel so FREE!"

 Here is DS4's "Slide" (Can you see a slide on the left?:) :

And DD8's masterpieces:

While colours had the associations for DD8, for me, every sound had a stroke. All those bronze strokes below, for example, are hallelujahs ;)

When we were finished, DD8 looked at my painting and exclaimed, "Oh, Mommy -- you were really paying attention to the music!" How sweet is she?!?!?! (Sadly, she then switched into, "Yours is much better than mine . . ." Oh, the curse of comparison!)

On another note (ha!) -- It just so "happened" that DH was watching this video when I walked into his office thinking about this post . . .

It moves us away from an association of sound and colour, and our discussion of classical music -- but isn't it a wonderful example of how we can respond creatively to music?

Are there any ways that you especially enjoy responding to music -- whether it's classical or otherwise? Try it! Perhaps you, too, will feel so free!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Polly Pocket Lilliputians -- And Dragon Dreams

Next week we will be celebrating the world of reading with a book fair in the company of some fellow homeschooling friends. DD8 has been very engaged in her study of Gulliver's Travels (an abridged version). We've read the book together several times, made a pictoral timeline (to help her in her narration), and created a model of a scene (her favourite part!). Here is a little glimpse of Lilliput, when Gulliver wakes up to find himself bound and staked to the ground, surrounded by tiny people:

Poor Gulliver!

 (HA! I just noticed that it looks like there's a dead bird on the grass in the foreground! LOL)

DS12 convinced us that the Lilliputians really needed a way to get up and down over those rocks. We figured it could also be a look-out perch to watch for those Blefescuans ;)

As I write this now -- she's in bed listening to Jim Weiss's rendition of the same story -- for the second time through :) I think this story has really captured her imagination! We'll have to try the unabridged version next!

 On another note, the other day I came upon this contemplative dragon sitting on our Learning Lab table. He looked to me like he was plotting a little take-over of Nova Scotia, and then maybe Newfoundland ;) Sometimes it makes me smile to see random toys lying around . . .

Has anything captured your imagination lately?

A Lovely Link . . .

I just had to share this link to Ann Voskamp's blog, Holy Experience. Today she wrote about listening to the inner voice of creativity . . . well worth reading!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Musings on the Creator in Me

Comparatively Speaking

I've been thinking a lot about comparisons lately.

Sometimes comparisons are good. We need to have standards, or expectations, to which we compare ourselves so that we and others in our lives can "be the best we can be." We need to be selective about who sets those standards, of course, but the standards themselves are often a good thing. We can measure "success" -- to some extent -- by the degree to which standards are met. DS12's kybo cleaning, for example, is not complete unless the mirror is polished, the sink and counter are clean and tidy, and the toilet has been scrubbed inside and out, top to bottom. I am not succeeding as a product reviewer if I do not comply with the expectations laid out for me by the host company that connects me with the products I receive. If  DD8 is consistently bombing out in her math lessons, chances are good that I'm not being successful in my approach to teaching her. When we compare ourselves to certain standards, we can see where we are doing well, and where there is room for improvement.

But it's so easy to get sucked in to comparing ourselves to others, isn't it? As homeschooling parents, we can fall into the trap of comparing the behaviour of our children to that of the family whose children are always polite and kind, or whose academic achievements leave our own children in the dust. As homeowners, we can enter the homes of friends and family whose abodes are impeccable and well appointed, and berate ourselves for the fingerprints that have congregated on the walls, the dust bunnies that accost us in the closets, and the clutter that accumulates on all flat surfaces -- overlooking, of course, that said friends and family are not living in their homes with four children virtually 24/7. Or maybe it's our weight, or the quality of our clothes, or the number of family vacations we've been able to afford, or our ability to intelligently discuss a piece of literature. The list of criteria about which we compare ourselves to others is endless.

And doesn't it just kill our spirits when we compare ourselves to others this way? Doesn't it kill our creativity, too? We simply don't want to try anymore because we just can't "succeed."

Some of you know that I have been working through Carla Sonheim's Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists. On Wednesday night, I took delight in starting another lab while waiting for my youngest children as they attended a club. The task was to draw, then paint with water colour, a flower -- either from a picture or an actual plant. Pansies are one of my favourites, and I happened to have a painting of one with me (I should clarify -- it was in a library book. I don't carry pansy paintings around with me ;). So I set about copying it. But the more I worked, the less delighted I became because my work didn't remotely compare to the sample -- it just wasn't good enough. Before long, I didn't even want to play with the paint anymore. I couldn't bring myself to complete the piece.

Thankfully, I looked back at the instructions and discovered that the task went beyond drawing and watercolour. We were to layer it with coloured pencils, and markers, and acrylic paints. Lots and lots of layers of marks and strokes and swirls of colour using different media. So I gave up trying to compare my work to someone else's and abandoned all thoughts of "the way it should be." I just created.

And then I had fun again. I recaptured the joy of being creative, and letting the life of my work flow out of me instead of trying to force myself to do something the way I told myself it "should be done" -- according to standards I'd set for myself based on the work of others. For a while there, I got discouraged because I compared myself to someone else (the artist of the painting I was copying) and didn't "measure up."

It's all about appearances, isn't it? In my mind, my work didn't appear to be as "good" as that other artist. And when it comes to realistically representing a flower in a piece of art, it wasn't. But is that really what is important? Does that mean I was not "successful"? Not really, in the grand scheme of things.

That got me to thinking . . . if I could end up feeling so discouraged by the standard of beauty I'd set for myself in a little art activity,  how do the standards I set for my children make them feel? Do they end up feeling frustrated and inept? Do they end up just not wanting to bother trying anymore, the way I felt in my simple little scenario?

I believe we really do need to set standards for ourselves and for our families -- but we are wise to evaluate the basis of those standards. I am reminded of the story of Samuel when he was instructed to annoint the appointed one of Jesse's sons as king. All the "logical" choices based on the assumed standards were rejected by God. Why? Because "the LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart”  (1Samuel 16:7). Are the standards to which I compare myself and my family based on outward appearances? Or are they based on the heart?

How does all of this really relate to the comparisons we make on a daily basis -- the ones listed above? Well, the bible doesn't tell me exactly how my children should behave, but it tells them to obey and respect their parents. That means their hearts need to be in tune with mine and God's so that all of our lives can be blessed. There is no biblical standard of how clean my house should be, but God's Word does tell me I need to be hospitable. I need to open my heart and home to those in my community who might be blessed by what God has provided me. God doesn't tell me how much I should weigh or what I should wear, but He does tell me that gluttony is sin, my body is His temple, and that I shouldn't worry about what I'm going to wear any more than the flowers of the fields toil and spin about the issue. If I do worry about how my weight or clothes measure up to others', my heart is in the wrong place, storing up treasures where they don't belong. The bible doesn't say anything about having money for family vacations, but it does instruct us to be wise stewards of our resources, and to take time to rest and pray -- so that our hearts are healthy (literally and metaphorically). As for the literature -- we're instructed to hide God's word in our hearts, and to seek Wisdom, which comes from God -- so does it really matter if we can engage in an academic discussion about something some guy or gal wrote during their threescore and ten here on earth?

And when it comes to our children, I can't help but wonder if the questions isn't even more important. Are the standards to which we hold our families killing their spirits? Do we explicitly or even implicitly compare them to others based on appearances (which are often false anyway)?

If you're still with me (and I appreciate it if you are!) -- would you agree that the important standards are all about the heart? I know I've over-simplified a lot of things here, but when it all boils down, what is it to which we should compare ourselves to measure "success" -- be it creative, academic, physical, social, spiritual . . . ? If our hearts are open, I'm guessing the Creator in us will make it pretty clear.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

More Imaginary Creatures

I completed a couple more imaginary creatures. "Baby Bump Bliss" is still my favourite, I think because she was so much fun to create -- but here are her friends, Boo Boo and Stella:

Did he startle you? ;)

I don't know why my snail lady is named Stella -- I tried her out with "Shelly," but it just didn't stick.

Have you had any fun with art lately? It doesn't have to be perfect to be fun!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Prayer and Poetry

This past Christmas, my mom gave me a book entitled, Dear God, It's Me and It's Urgent: Prayers for Every Season of a Woman's Life, by Marion Stroud. I confess that it's not a title that would draw me in -- but I began reading it a few nights ago. I was afraid the prayers would be formulaic, and because they were written as poetry, I figured they might also be filled with forced figurative language ;) However, neither is the case. The words are natural, expressive, and meaningful; I can relate to much of what is written, to the point that it could even be me doing the writing sometimes.

So, a thought came to me, and I wondered why it had never come before. Some of you will remember that I altered a journal last year with the intent of using it as a prayer journal and a poetry journal -- meaning I would record some of my prayers and I would write some poetry in it. Why, then, did it never occur to me to make my prayers my poems????? I've tried it twice now, and I'm finding it quite a useful way to focus my prayers. Now, I won't claim to be writing brilliant poetry, but I figure I'm in good company with the psalmist, David, who set some awesome examples for me.

I know I'm slow, and that there are lots of people out there that already do it, with centuries worth of examples to prove it -- but I thought I'd share today's entry in case -- somehow -- my simple efforts might inspire someone else to give it a try. My bible reading was in Matthew 7, and the verse that caught my attention was: "Your father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him" (vs.8).

Father God, what a blessing it is
to call you "Father,"
to be able to come to you
with the whole gamut of emotions --
fear, pain, sadness, joy, confusion
anger, excitement, frustration --
and know that you know
before we speak
what we need.
Abba Father, you are a true daddy
who rejoices in our presence
and desires to give every good gift
even before we know we want it
because it is what we need.
And you love us
even when we feel most unlovable.
Like children,
we may ask, "Do you love me when . . ."
and the answer is always,
"I love you because
you are mine.
No matter what.
Nothing can pluck you from my hand."
Truly --
what more could we ask
than to be held
in the hand of Him
who holds eternity?

Have you tried writing your prayers as poems? What did you think of the process? What did you think of the product?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Musings on the Creator in Me

Teaching History . . . Creatively

The theme at HSB Front Porch this week is teaching history. While my official teaching qualifications are in English and history, I confess that history was never really one of my favourite subjects, although I enjoyed a history of ideas course in my first year of university. But I think that's because of the great professor I had, still a long-distance friend so many years later. (Don't ask how many!) However, since I've been homeschooling my own children, I have a new-found interest in history -- and for the most part, my children share that interest. I'm pretty sure God wants us to enjoy and appreciate every aspect of His creation, past and present, learning from those that have gone on before us. So I'm sharing here some of the creative ways we've been blessed to have history come alive for us  -- not because we've figured out "how to do it" -- but in hopes that it will inspire some of you:

History as story:
Who doesn't love a good story? There have been times when we've all been at odds, with bickering and complaining abounding -- but when we've sat down to read a good story, even the toddlers have become engaged, though the content was above their heads. Here are some of the specific books that have helped us enjoy learning about the past -- to the point that my children often ask to "do history":
  • Susan Wise Bauer's four-volume Story of the World series introduced us to history in simple narrative form. Supplementing with other books on the topics addressed in the series, we gained a general overview of world history, and learned to see relationships in the histories of different countries and cultures. The activity guides also gave us map work to enable us to see the significance of geography in relation to history, as well as offering ideas for extension activities that made learning hands-on and fun. The CDs were also awesome for listening to in the car, or having as background while playing quietly -- in addition to assisting with the individual lessons.
  • Historical fiction, such as the writings of H. G. Henty. While the story lines aren't always based on fact, much about the particular time periods can be gleaned from the settings of such books.  The bonus was that our vocabularies had a boost from the rich writing style.
  • The History Lives series by Mindy and Brandon Withrow introduced us to a number of key individuals throughout church history. Because information was presented with captivating narrative and believable dialogue, we all remained engaged throughout each of the books.
  • Adventure stories about Christian hymns in the Mr. Pipes series by Douglas Bond always had us hankering for more. We became very attached to all of the characters that were threaded through the whole series -- even the animals -- as we learned about individual hymn writers, as well as the periods of history in which they lived. We also enjoyed learning some of the good, old-fashioned hymns that are too often forgotten in worship repertoires today.
Field trips:
I can't say that we've purposely taken a lot of trips in order to specifically study history, but the most memorable ones have been places where we've been "taken back in time" by dressing in period clothes and engaging in era activities. For example, we went to a local pioneer village dressed according to the time period. We went to a one-room school house for lessons, visited the local blacksmith, and helped one of the village farmers. Because we got to be actively involved in the historical lifestyle, we acquired a better understanding of what life was like in that era than if we'd simply read a book about it.

Of course, museums are another great place to learn about history. When our family travels, we usually spend some time visiting local museums. A trip to Newfoundland enabled us to visit an actual archaeological dig, giving deeper significance to what we were learning about settlers in the area.

Cultural activities:
In our early homeschooling days, when I had more time and energy to consciously plan fun things, we joined forces with another homeschooling family who was studying the same history books we were and had an African feast. We prepared a variety of dishes at home, then came together to eat them. It does take a lot of time and effort -- but the memories are worth it.

Historical movies seem to be getting more and more popular, even in Holywood. While we need to be careful about our selections, movies can be a great way to get a flavour of a time period, and gain some insights into the people and places of long ago. This past holiday season, DD13 and I have been on a bit of a British royalty binge, watching multiple movies about Queen Victoria and Elizabeth I. It's fun seeing the different perspectives that directors take in the creation of their films about the same topic, and it's a good challenge to sift through the fact and fiction by comparing the dramas to more reliable sources of information. As an added bonus, it provides fodder for family jokes that stem from one-liners in the movies that capture our attention and stick in our brains. (Our current favourite from Elizabeth I starring Kate Blanchett: "I don't see with one eye or hobble around on one foot, so why would you think I would rely on only one source of information?" Our favourite from a TV drama about Elizabeth I was: "I don't want to hear any more about it  . . . but I expect a full report when it is done." :)

Veterans Affairs:
An important part of history, I think, is remembering the lives that have been lost fighting for the freedoms we enjoy today. So, we make a concerted effort to do something special for Remembrance Day. One year we attended the typical outdoor ceremony -- but afterwards we joined the veterans at a lunch that they provided. It was a lovely opportunity to interact with people who had lived an important part of our country's history. Sometimes we go to a local school to be involved in their ceremony; sometimes we watch the media coverage of our capital's Remembrance Day activities and read books about things like Flanders Field.

About three years ago I discovered that the Veterans Association is a tremendous resource. At that time, I was able to order teaching videos about the various wars our nation has fought in -- for free. I can't determine if those videos are still available (they were the old VHS style), but Veterans Affairs Canada offers a wealth of online resources. This screen shot (highlighted with my wobbly mouse) gives just a glimpse of some of them:

When our oldest daughters were about 10, a friend told me about an idea she'd heard from another friend -- the idea of having children create history scrapbooks instead of notebooks. My oldest daughter quite enjoyed integrating art and writing with the reading we did for history, and even DS9 (at the time) enjoyed it more than just using a notebook. Here are a couple of sample pages -- simple, but perhaps a little more visually appealing than notes in a book:

From DS's book:

 From DD's book:
 I know there are myriad ways to make history come alive for students, so I hope that some of you will leave some comments and links to share your ideas! Do you have any great ones to offer?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Yesterday's Creativity

I haven't had a lot of time for artsy creativity the last few days, but here is some of the kitchen creativity that has taken place . . .

French potato salad:

Edamame salad:

Cabbage soup (which went over much better than expected with two days' worth of guests!):

What's cookin' in your kitchen?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

More Drawing Lab Work

As I'm able to snatch bits of time, I continue to work through Carla Sonheim's Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists, in no particular order. As I pulled out my sketch book last night, I realized that I hadn't shared my "Eyes Only" page. The task was to sketch in pencil four eyes as identical as possible, then use different media to embellish them -- lead pencil, black ink pen, charcoal, and coloured pencil. Here are the results:

Last night I had the opportunity to work on Lab 8, "Imaginary Creatures," which involved making random strokes of water colour in red, blue, and yellow, then using a black micron pen to define the lines of an imaginary creature that became "visible" when you looked at the random marks, and layering with more watercolour and vine charcoal. I started three, but only had time to finish one, which I entitled, "Baby Bump Bliss." As I had fun creating it, I thought about two ladies that have inspired me -- cyber friends, if you will -- Leah  and Erica -- both of whom are expecting their first child. So, as I played I also prayed for them and their baby bumps. I hope they both get a little smile from my imaginary creature :)

I've never used vine charcoal before, and didn't really know what to do with it, so I just did a bit of shading around the edges. I really don't know much about shading, though . . . Any words of wisdom about that?

I was actually pleasantly surprised at how fun this activity was. I expected to have a really hard time "seeing" anything in my random markings, cuz I'm not much of a visionary. But I got quite a kick out of creating this happy, little critter.

Have you had any fun with your imagination lately?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Musings on the Creator in Me

The theme at Homeschool Blogger's Front Porch this week is "winter" -- probably my least favourite season once Christmas is over. But this year I've decided to find ways to enjoy it a bit more. It may take some creative effort, but I'm going to try -- while still choosing to rest ;)

As I've been packing up Christmas decorations, it has occurred to me that one of the ways I can prolong the sense of celebration is to continue enjoying some of the decor that I have hitherto designated "Christmasy," and thus packed up right after the holidays. Take, for example, this bowl (the whole kit-and-kaboodle purchased at a summer garage sale for $2!):

To me, the pointsettia makes it a Christmas decoration.

But if I remove the pointsettia -- the snow-tipped pine and cones make the bowl of red and gold decorations (which match our regular decor) simply wintery:

Then there are the fun dishes with just snowmen and snowflakes on them . . . why should they be stashed away when they are the epitome of this season, at least here in Canada?

I feel the need to tell you that ALL of the wintery decorations we own were acquired as gifts -- by friends and freecycle -- or purchased at yard sales or deep discount prices. One doesn't have to spend a lot of money to have pretty things :)

The same goes for the snowflake trees and lantern . . .

The snowman cookie tins . . .

And the wintery-white hand towels:

I can also continue to make special wintery treats, like these snowflake "cookies":

(From an old issue of Family Fun Magazine: White flour tortillas warmed slightly, then cut like paper snowflakes -- brushed with vegetable oil -- baked for a few minutes until crispy -- then sprinkled with icing sugar and coloured sugar. Crunchy and not too sweet:)

Another way I can try to enjoy the season fully is by finding more opportunities to chill with my children -- skating, sledding, drinking hot chocolate, and reading aloud by the fire. (By the way -- have you ever tried "Mexican Hot Chocolate" with cinnamon and cayenne pepper???? Yummmmmm! And the cayenne boosts your metabolism -- perfect for this slow time of year;) I can also get creative with my camera, and try to find great shots like this:

(Ya, probably not. Beautiful though, isn't it????)

In her book entitled, Gathering, Linda Fry Kenzle offers some other good ideas for enjoying the pleasures of winter:
* Take up knitting (or any other portable but quiet handiwork) and make scarves for everyone in your family while using the quiet time to be meditative and reflective.
* Make a quilt of simple squares with solid coloured cloth, and when visitors come, give them a permanent marker, inviting them to write a message, poem, or do a drawing on one of the squares.
* Collect garden catalogues and begin planning next year's garden.
* Drink hot apple cider mixed with cranberry juice.

A quick google search also leads to good lists of outdoor acivities, including bird watching and winter scavenger hunts, and some indoor activities for children, such as obstacle courses and art shows that we can also use to keep us happily occupied. So, I think we're set up for spending a fine few months in our winter wonderland.

How about you? What do you enjoy doing in the winter? Is it a season that you just survive, or do you thrive in it?

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