Monday, April 30

Crafting Crocodiles for the Child

I never intended for my blog to be all about arts and crafts. This being my third craft post though doesn't really qualify it as such. Plus, I mostly leave the crafts to friends, especially one great friend who does a fabulous blog that I like. I will say it again, to remind myself, I am not a craft person. I really do not like doing crafts. I have fallen into it because I homeschool my daughter AND want to save money. My youngest daughter loves to do arts and crafts. [My oldest daughter, 6 years old, does too, but she is in a private school for now.] In fact it is the only way I can get her to learn some things. Twice a week I start out the night before or in the morning asking her what art or craft she would like to do. She always picks some sort of animal. Lately it is related to an animal she has interacted with on Sim Animals Africa, or watched on the Wild Kratz or Go, Diego Go. We then Google whatever animal she chooses and look at the images that come up. She picks the craft based on what she likes, supplies we have and if I think we can manage it.
Feeling ambitious today.
Today it was crocodiles, which included looking at alligator crafts. We learned a couple crocodile facts, then I had her practice writing her small “c” and “r” letters. I tried to incorporate some math with measuring out the size of paper, skip counting googly eyes, etc… but she caught on to it and started to zone out on me. Since working on fine motor skills is very important for her abilities I figured that cutting, painting, and applying glue was good enough. Plus, do you realize how much skill it takes to locate two matching googly eyes from a large spaghetti jar full of eyes? You have to match color, size, and features since there are some with colored eyes, pupils, and eyelashes.
The handprint crocodiles were an easy concept, but to make it really cool you have to do Spock’s Vulcan Salute and bend your thumb to your index finger. It is a great motor skill for a little one, let alone an adult.

She painted a paper plate blue too since she thinks we can make a blue alligator out of it. I haven’t decided how we are going to execute that final product yet.

The paper bag crocodiles really are a sign that I am getting a bit more artistic when it comes to creating crafts. I didn’t find a paper bag crocodile craft online. I saw paper towel ones and ones made with little 3 oz. paper cups, but nothing with a paper bag. I am learning you can make almost anything with a paper bag. I figured I would start with the bag and some of my scrapbook paper just like I used for the zebra and lions we did. I love scrapbook paper. It feeds my desire for perfection.
The scrapbook paper I use all the time for our animal crafts.
After I did all the alligator paper on the bag, I envisioned what I needed to do, not knowing if it would really work. I had to use some card stock paper on the inside to make it stronger. I did one staple in the center of the open end of the bag to create the head shape.

Did you know that crocodiles cannot stick out their tongues? We thought that was a cool thing to know so we included a pink tongue inside the paper bag alligator. Personally, I think the finished product came out really well.

I found the clothespin alligators online. They seemed easy, but after painting and 3 hours of crafts, my daughter actually got burnt out.

I wonder what we will do next time. Does anyone know of a curriculum that revolves around just animals or is all arts and crafts based? I would love to find one. I may need to find unit studies on each animal to create my own curriculum that can incorporate arts and crafts. The thing that I found was that there weren’t many animal unit studies that were isolated to one animal. I found unit studies that were of cats, dogs and horses. The rest were more about categories like sea creatures, farm animals, amphibians, reptiles, jungle, etc… She would like very specific animals, like mountain lions.  If anyone knows of a good source or has ideas, please let me know.  

© 2012 All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, April 24

I Surprise Myself

Since my oldest daughter goes to school now, she loses hair clips all the time. She is growing out a short layered pixie style hairdo that she wanted about 1 1/2 years ago.  Growing out super short layers is no easy task. Her hair is always in her eyes. In order to keep some of it out of the way for school she wears barrettes, bobby pins, and/or hair clips. They seem to disappear as fast as I can buy them. I got most of them at the dollar store, but it was adding up. 

Then there is my other daughter who is growing out her hair, thank goodness not layers. I put her hair up in a ponytail most of the time. She would prefer I braid it or do something fancy. The fanciest thing I can do is a basic Topsy Tail and/or put a bow in her hair. Yes, I have an original Topsy Tail tool from 1992. I still haven’t used it to its full potential. 

I am hair challenged. I grew up with a curling iron in my hand. I can curl the heck out of any hair, but can’t braid or anything else to save my life. Actually I can braid embroidery floss. I used to make braided bracelets all the time when I was young. Which reminds me, do you remember the bubble gumwrappers that you could fold and make into bracelets? I found out recently that making those is doing origami. Who knew? 

My point in all of that is that I can braid, but have a hard time with hair and don’t have the patience to do it on a live wiggly child. 
Anywho, I know that God has a sense of humor by blessing us with two little girls that have gorgeous features that are best displayed with their hair out of the way. People tell me, “it is easy, just keep trying and you will get it.” I guess I shouldn’t say I can’t do it, it is more like I can’t do it well enough, so I don’t like it. Heck I have a hard enough time just trying to get a part straight. I can’t do jig jag parts either. I see absolutely adorable hairdos on other little girls that I couldn’t dream of doing. 
What, did these people have Barbie head dolls to practice on all the time? I wasn’t really a doll kind of girl. I preferred Barbie’s camper instead of her. I liked to play card games, puzzles, house, tea parties with stuffed animals, color, and read. When I did get a doll, I tried to use my Mom’s curling iron on it. It was the biggest smelly mess ever. I have a memory of that smell, it was awful.

Hair after the playground.
I have decided that no matter what the girls’ hair may look like, a nice hair clip or bow detracts from the mess. So if the hair clips or bows are pretty and/or unique enough no one will notice the messy hair. Do you think that is a good strategy? 

Hence my latest project: making hair accessories. It is less expensive than even the dollar store. Plus I have put an order into Grandma to please send supplies. Also, I have an amazing friend who does awesome crafts that is going to make me some bows too. I figured we can never have too many hair accessories with two active little girls!

You Tube has been a tremendous help. I never would have known how to do anything without You Tube. See my latest creations, not bad for a very awkward crafter in training. Now if I could just figure out how to stop burning my fingers. I swear I end up with more glue all over my fingers too than on the craft item. I keep something (plate or paper towel) by me to keep all the peeled glue in until I am ready to throw it away. Making these I went through 3 glue sticks. I did all these in one afternoon and evening which I won’t do that again. I think craft sessions need to be less than 3 hours.

If I keep up creating all these craft items I may have to take back my declaration that I am not a “craft person”. I think I have at least called a truce about my hating crafts. Maybe I can inspire others to do crafts for the sake of the children. Well, it helps our budget too since we have a much lower income now. 

Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

© 2012 All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, April 7

Getting Connected Takes Time

First Day of School
After much thought, prayer and reflection, we have sent our oldest daughter, who will be 7 years old in June, back to school. She will not be homeschooled for the next 6 weeks. We found a small private Christian school here that follows the Carden Method of teaching which seems somewhat similar to the Charlotte Mason philosophy. As a 1st grade student, she started March 26, 2012 as one of 14 students in the kindergarten/1st grade class. Next year she may go again where the class is an integrated class of 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade students. I think it is a good way for her to be taught at her developmental stage, not based on her age. She can excel in her strengths and get the assistance she needs for her weaker areas. It sounds awesome in theory. We shall see how it is in practice. I think we are doing what is best for her now. So far, she loves going.
Our children have to learn to share, take turns, wait for what they want and realize that other people have needs and moods, too. We felt we were failing at providing those lessons homeschooling our oldest. This daughter of ours has some mental health issues and learning abilities that have made her a challenging child for me to parent, let alone teach. She needs structure, discipline, and role models to facilitate her learning. Our child can't expect always to have people around her who understand her or cater to her every wish.  She is beyond strong willed and like me in many ways. We seem experts at pushing each other’s buttons. She frustrates me and I frustrate her. She drains and depletes our energy as parents. Most of the time, it has little to do with homeschool. In Vegas, we had a babysitter who would come at least once a week and play and do crafts with the children while I did errands and shopping. This allowed me enough time to recharge. Now our daughter is watching too much television and doing too many video and computer games so that we can try to regroup and recharge.

When we lived in Vegas, we had a great support system that made life as parents of a challenging child manageable. She had friends she could model and I had friends that listened. We had resources that supported us as parents and homeschooling. There was a homeschool gymnastics program that was a reasonable cost. There was ballet, roller skating, ice skating, regular and consistent park days. There were field trips at least monthly, if not more. There were choices and plenty of times we could get out of the house to learn along with other students and parents. The homeschool community in Vegas is phenomenal. We didn’t realize how awesome it was until we came somewhere that is not as unified a community. There are individuals (like Elissa Wahl), churches and groups in Vegas that have made it their mission to reach out and support parents as homeschoolers. It was never easy teaching my oldest daughter as a parent, but she learned and I stayed sane. There was relative peace in the home.

There was no peace here.  Everything was becoming more and more of a struggle. Little to nothing was being accomplished. We were not functioning well as a family. We felt like failures as parents despite prayers and our best effort. Adding schooling onto being responsible and loving parents was not happening. Even with my husband being home and available to assist in anything we needed, it hadn’t gotten any better. In fact, I think it got worse.  We barely could get through a dinner devotion. 14 hours a day of trying to be patient, calm and collected while our child of chaos raged about us became too much. Tensions were high and the explosions were the only consistent things. If we didn’t have therapy (PT and psychotherapy) twice a week, I think I would be in a straight jacket.

It really isn’t about schooling so much as it is that we want to be better parents all around. We feel we cannot be the loving role models and parents our children need 24/7 with little to no breaks. Our energy was drained and depleted after just a few hours each day. Now with her being away at school we are only dealing with 4-5 hours of some chaotic behavior during the week. It has been refreshing. I deeply admire those parents who live with children with autism and other abilities. We are still trying to figure out how to do it all. We hope to be ‘good enough’ parents, helping each of our children to fully develop into the person God intended them to be.

I am still homeschooling my youngest, a kindergartner. I will be able to reach out to more homeschoolers and friends over the coming months to establish the support system we need. I'm learning again that it takes time to establish relationships in a community and having our daughter in a good school for now really helps.