Saturday, June 01, 2013

Gift Idea: Teams and Coaches

I wanted to share a recent creation.  I took several ideas I've seen floating around (mostly on Pinterest) and combined them to create these little gems:

I had fun playing with my new (and first) die sets.  Above, I've shown just a few of my favorite configurations of the team name, number, and player name.  For the players, we (Jack helped with this part) attached satin cord as an adjustable length necklace.  For the coaches, I just attached reclaimed handles from discarded paper bags (I love finding new uses for the gift and shopping bag handles, which I harvest whenever I see one destined for a landfill!)  On the pieces for the girls and ladies, I added some layers with glitter and sparkle (look closely at the pieces with the turquoise cording).  They are subtle, but in the light, they sparkle ever so nicely!

Here are the posts where I gleaned some of the ideas I used:
Washer Stamping and Filling the Letters with Sharpie

Washer Stamping and Filling
Paper Covered Washers
Painted Washers (I used Spray Paint and Permanent Marker to make the Baseballs, but started out with this as my idea source.)
Slip Knot Necklace (I tied the square knots three times each, because the satin code is so slippery, and I left the ends long to make them easier to grab and pull).

I added my own twist by applying a brush on acrylic in thick layers on the paper and painted surfaces.  Next time, I think I will find a two-part resin to layer on this type of item, because even a week after application, the product I used takes a mark when pressed firmly (with a finger nail, or even a rubber band).  Though, they are still smooth enough to serve their purpose here.

Oh!  One other thing, the knots on the necklaces.  I regularly look at JD Lenzen's Fusion Knotwork on his You Tube Channel, Tying it All Together.  I wound up watching several of his videos, then creating something that worked well for me.  I just looped the satin cording around and around, tying it different ways until I found one I thought was secure and nice to look at.

So.  That's it.  I used the above links.  Played a great deal, and created these fun pieces.  Now, to help my (almost) 13 year old niece make a set for her basketball team!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Homeschool Talking Points

Three years ago, Rock Springs, Wyoming was implementing a Daytime Curfew.  There was a general outcry from the homeschooling community.  The Chief of Police ask me to help educate the local Police Force; to help them understand just what homeschooling was/is.  Here are a few of my talking points from that presentation:

  • There are many reasons to homeschool and many methods that parents approach it with. Many of these methods include children being out in public during the “traditional” school day. Additionally there are some families that use a combination of home and public schooling (different children or different times of life).
  • Fear (from Police with the Curfew) limits the ability to effectively Homeschool children. 
  • We use the environment to teach. The world is a learning environment.
  • Volunteer – Community service creates hands on learning opportunities as well as socializing the children.
  • Curriculum and schedules vary by family… think of what could happen to our children if parents that worked away odd shifts (oil fields, mines) were to keep their children home, and school them on a schedule compatible with their work weeks.
  • Wyoming is great about Homeschooling! It’s a very permissive state in which to undertake this adventure!

Some General Information About Different Approaches to Homeschooling

It is interesting to me that while we haven't been officially "Homeschooling" since October 2011, I am still approached by people with queries on the how's and why's of it.  I still consider myself a "homeschooler", and as such remain an advocate for the modality.  Recently, I dug up this bit of information I compiled in 2009 to help educate the Rock Springs Wyoming Police Department.  (I also found all of these photos archived in our 2011 Homeschool Year Adventures.)

One of the best things about homeschooling is the fact that there are different approaches available. No two children are exactly the same. Each child has a different learning style and each family has different routines and needs. Many educational methods lack the ability to adapt to the unique needs of the individual, but homeschooling is different. A homeschool approach can be whatever best fits for the particular student and family.

Although every homeschool is unique, certain homeschooling "styles" have become very popular. Most homeschoolers do not follow one style or method exactly. Instead, they select the ideas and suggestions that fit their family and eventually end up with a method all their own. The following are the most popular homeschooling styles.

  1. School-at-Home - This homeschool approach is very similar to education in a traditional school setting. Homeschool parents who choose this method typically use standardized textbooks and curricula to teach their children. Homeschool parents who use this method often create traditional lesson plans and adhere to homeschooling schedules. Other homeschool parents choose to purchase lesson plans. Some who use this homeschool approach set up separate schoolrooms, complete with desks for both the homeschool children and the parent teacher. However, this is not always the case as homeschooling lends itself to just about any location.
  2. Unit Studies - Available free or for sale to homeschoolers. Also how to make your own.

  3. "Relaxed" or "Eclectic" Homeschooling - Some like to pick and choose among various methods, enjoying the flexibility it affords.
  4. Unschooling - Natural learning is letting your child lead the way.

  5. Classical Homeschooling - Many Christian and other families prefer a liberal arts education for their children, including lessons in Greek and Latin, as well as formal instruction in logic.

  6. The Charlotte Mason Method - This approach advocates reading good books from original sources and spending lots of time in nature.

  7. The Waldorf Method - Developed by Rudolf Steiner, this method emphasizes arts and crafts, music and movement. Students learn to read and write by making their own books.

  8. Montessori - Maria Montessori advocates observing your child, removing obstacles to learning and providing children with real, scaled-to-size tools to use.

  9. Multiple Intelligences
  10. Distance Learning - Companies and schools that provide teaching assistance as well as learning materials. These schools vary widely in their choice of method, let alone formality.
  11. Enki Education Method - Enki is it's own wonderful thing. Besides drawing from the best of Waldorf, Enki also draws from Montessori, the United Nations International School, Theme Studies and even the discovery learning of John Holt.

  12. Resource Centers & Cottage Schools - Mini-schools are springing up among homeschoolers all over the world.
  13. Studio Teachers - Young entertainers and athletes often need especially accomodating tutors, willing to travel with them.

  14. Tutoring - Hiring a tutor makes a family (and the tutor) fall under the tutoring laws of a state's education code, rather than under homeschooling laws, especially if they intend to hire a tutor full time.

  15. Umbrella Schools - Independent Study Programs, Distance Learning Programs, Virtual or Cyber (Internet) Schools, Charter Schools, Learning Centers, DVD/Video Schooling.
  16. EarthSchooling - The new generation of ecletic schoolers considers the entire EARTH their school. We don't stay at HOME! Some travel the USA or the WORLD or have a classroom OUTDOORS. We may "homeschool" part-time or full-time or we may be involved in after-school or weekend enrichment activities. What we all have in common is that we base our schooling on the needs of our family &  we create our own "ideal school" from the many varied resources available.

    There is no typical homeschooled child or homeschooling experience. There is no recipe. Parents say it is all about 'customizing' learning for their kids.

    Some homeschooled kids participate in selected public–school classes and activities. There are parents who replicate the regular school day with class periods and packaged alternative curricula. Other parents encourage their children to pursue their current interests and avocations (creating complex Lego villages, modeling clay, writing plays, learning about Native American architecture) as avidly as possible, believing self-directed learning to be the most joyful and rewarding. Immersion in the natural world and volunteerism were mainstays of other homeschooling environments.

    This data was compiled from these websites:

    Other Helpful refrences:
    The Homeschooling Book of Answers by Linda Dobson. Almost four dozen homeschooling experts answer just about every question on homeschooling how-to's. After nine years of homeschooling, I still refer to this book.
    Homeschooling: The Early Years: Your Complete Guide to Successfully Homeschooling the 3- to 8-Year-Old Child by Linda Dobson. The best resource for providing answers to the unique challenges (and opportunities) of teaching the very young child at home.
    Homeschool Your Child for Free by LauraMaery Gold and Joan M. Zielinski offers more than 1,200 resources for home education on the Internet and beyond. Reassuring advice and stories accompany links to amazing educational sites. The most used homeschooling book in my library!
    Homeschooling: The Teen Years: Your Complete Guide to Successfully Homeschooling the 13- to 18-Year-Old by Cafi Cohen. As the cover states, "If you're homechooling a teenager you'll want -- and need -- this outstanding book." Cohen makes homeschooling a teen fun. (Well, almost!)
    How to Get Your Child off the Refrigerator and On to Learning by Carol Barnier.  This book may be the single biggest aide I found in allowing my sons’ to learn in a way best suited to their natures.  It helped me understand that “a math lesson shouldn’t be confused with a writing lesson.”  It really is okay to teach them while they are in motion, instead of forcing them to sit still and be quiet!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Happy Birthday Young Lady!

Time to wish lovely lady I once knew a happy birthday. She turns 18 is just a few short minutes. I have not been able to speak with her since she was 7. Over the years, I have shed many tears over her and my forced separation. I have long-awaited the time when we would be able to speak again. That day is nearly upon me, and now I find myself hoping she will be open and receptive to communications.

Serina Mae Thomas (aka: Sera), I love you so! Years apart have only made that love grow stronger. I hope that one day you and I will be able to speak again... you have only to send me a note or look me up on Facebook, and you will find me there. I hope this day is simply wonderful for you. Happy, happy, HAPPY BIRTHDAY Sera!!!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Mark Kistler 3D Drawing Camp

Yesterday a dream of mine came true! I get to attend (with my boys) to a Drawing Camp with Emmy Award Winner, Mark Kistler. As a kid of the 80's, I use to watch "Captain Mark" on PBS as a member of his Imagination Station DRAW SQUAD! His enthusiasim and easy-going style helped me to become confident as a budding artist surrounded by a family of artists. I still don't consider myself a "great" artist, but look at what I drew yesterday as I attended the class:

This was what I worked on for a bit in the evening last night:

And today, at Camp Day 2, the fun continued as we explored an OCEAN theme.

Tomorrow is DINOSAURS and Friday will be MONSTERS, ALIENS, PENGUINS and whatever else we throw in.

What is even better about this experience is that Mark's Staff kindly offered us a FULL SCHOLARSHIP when they found out about all of Frank's surgeries, and his current preparations for yet another surgery. Parents and Grandparents are always welcome to attend, and for this camp, Jack has also been invited to sit in. As if that wasn't enough, Mark is welcoming us in two classes... so we attend for 2.5 hours each day this week full of drawing fun.

I'm loving the observations Frank is making. Things like "I noticed that Mr. Kistler doesn't use an eraser" or "as I'm sketching more, I'm getting faster." During the past month, as we've realized that Frank will be facing yet another surgery, we have been unable to get his mind off of the upcoming medical procedures (and their accompanying pain). This class has been just what he needed! He can't stop drawing! As if Frank didn't draw enough before this... now we just can't get him to put his pencil down... like when it's time to get out of the van or go to bed or anything, he's always got to "finish one more detail" on his drawing. Yeah PENCIL POWER!!!

My own excitement about drawing is over the top too! Seriously, yesterday, when I found out we would be attending I couldn't stop bouncing, screaming and getting shivers from head-to-toe. All this rekindled enthusiasm is probably just the kick in the pants my creativity inspiration source has been needing. I find things that I haven't done for years coming back to be easily to share with my sons. Today I explained to the boys that it is important to sketch first, then darken, which is like "whispering on the paper first, then increasing your voice and getting louder and louder." I think, perhaps, that using color is like YELLING at the paper.

One thing I've been intrigued by is all the different ways Mark offers to encourage a love of drawing: books, TV series, personal camps and assemblies, DVD's, and online art lessons (free and subscription services). If you'd like to get a feel for his fun-loving style, Mark offers a lot of free online lessons at his website:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tutorial - Sensory Blanket - Snuggie Remake

I have been doing a lot of reading lately on Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism and Asperger's. One of the things that really struck a cord is the characteristic of difficulty sleeping AND thrashing around during sleep. Both problems Frank has always had. I am forever wondering about his "rat's nest" of a bed... it's seriously like a small animal lair, with lots of trinket's and treasures tucked into the layers upon layers of bedding and pillows, with a small spot in the middle where he actually lays.

What I started noticing in my reading is that physical input is helpful, and by creating a cocoon or shell around the body, it can help with rest. One thing that can be done is to invest in a weighted blanket. Another idea is to sleep in a sleeping bag. We tried this with Frank, but he just slipped right out. So, I kept thinking and finally decided that perhaps modifying an existing item would work. I picked up a Snuggie (for under five dollars) at a Thrift Store. And in a few minutes, I refashioned it into something that Frank has found to be very functional and helpful for his sleep.

  • Snuggie type blanket
  • Sewing Machine (or hand held needle)
  • Pins & Scissors
  • 12" of elastic
  • Large Safety Pin or Bodkin (for threading elastic)

Photo from Snuggie website.


1 - Spread out the Snuggie, inside (seam side) up.

2 - Fold the sides over so that they overlap in the center and pin the top two layers (just the sides) from the bottom up.

3 - Stop pinning about 1/3 of the way from the top.

4 - Sew ONLY the side layers (now in the center front) together. You will have to push the back of the Snuggie out of your way. I just start at the top edge and scrunch the fabric up around my sewing machine as I go. Be patient and work the material smooth for about 10"-12" at a time. I find that my "three step" zig-zag holds up a little more on the stretchy knit, but a straight stitch of hand-stitch will work fine too.

5 - Lay the Snuggie out, and smooth the bottom edge. Center the seamed front, and pin the bottom edge.

6 - Starting about 8" in, sew across the bottom edge. Slow down and carefully work your way over the large lump in the center. Stop sewing about 8" from the other side.

7 - By leaving the two openings on the sides, you have created a double benefit... feet can stick out for walking, or just to get some cool air it gets a little warm.

8 - Look at the top hem. If it is closed, make a careful slit through one layer of the fleece, just large enough for the elastic to fit in.

9 - Using the bodkin or safety pin, feed the piece of elastic through the top hem.

10 - Secure the elastic at each edge of the top hem by stitching through all layers.

11 - Try it on for size. You may need to sew a little more (or less) of the front center closed, depending on how much wiggle room you like. My boys like there Snuggie's open about to their waist, which allows room to get in AND for air when they are a little warm.

At other times, they completely cover themselves, pulling the top edge over their heads.

My boys are in the four to five foot range of height, and this works well for them. If this were for someone taller and they want the ability to cover their head, a small piece of cloth may need to be attached to the top for a hood.

I have been quite delighted with this solution for my son. He has responded very well to his Snuggie, and is very protective of it... so much so that I had to make a second one for my youngest, because the eldest would never share his... at all. He even likes to wear it around during the day and will often bury himself on the couch in it. It provides him with an easy way to withdrawal when he needs some quiet time.

On a related note, we are currently working on creating a Weighted Blanket for my eldest... and I am sure that my youngest will then want one too. Of course, since my boys have grown up with fabrics and quilts, they want A LOT of fabrics in their blankets... so I think I will have to call ours Weighted Sensory Quilts. :D

As ever, please let me know if you try this project and how it works for you and yours.

Oh yes. And one other thing that has worked well for Frank is to sleep in a folding cot... without the inflatable insert. Again, it creates a restrictive, tight feeling around him. An idea I've had but have yet to implement is for him to sleep in a hammock... hung right in his room. I look forward to trying it for him. He just seems to sleep easier when he can bundle up tightly... but he is also warm-natured and doesn't want a lot of warmth, just restriction.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Upcycle Project: Toy Couch out of Box

This past week, after a full day of doctor's appointments, the boys wanted to go to the mall. We were to tired that night, but went the next day. Of course, you know that "the Mall" is code for Build-A-Bear Workshop and Game Stop. While there, Jack decided he liked the fold-out couch.

Jack was considering saving up the $20 to purchase it. During the week, Jack made a bed out of a small pillow, an empty storage basket, and a few of his favorite Fat Quarters of fabric (sheet and “blanket”).

Still, Jack kept talking about the actual couch. I got the idea to repurpose a sturdy box, that was just the perfect “couch” shape. Tonight, we took this Crest box (18”w x 9”h x 6.5”d), and designed the cushions for Jack’s Teddy Bear, “Babi”.

We drew and discussed at least four different cushion options before Jack decided that two cushions (like our own couch) were best, so the bear can “build a fort” with them later.

Jack helped choose the fabrics out of his scrap bag, and insisted the cushions needed zippers. We even had some zippers in his favorite color Jack “had” to have at a recent fabric store excursion. Jack handed me fabrics and snipped threads… when he got bored and started cutting into the pieces, Tom took him out to the garage and they picked out a color to spray paint the outside of the box.

By the time they came inside, the first cushion was ready to be stuffed… which Tom and Jack did with a bag of old rags.

The cushions are both made with the same fabrics, but are different on top and bottom so that Jack can flip them over depending on what mood his bear is in. I thought it was very interesting that Jack's Bear's Favorite Colors are Red, White, and Blue (which are quite different than Jack's favorites of Red, Green, and Orange). Notice that some of Jack's favorite colors still made it into the cushions.

The only thing missing are the throw pillows that Jack insists Babi needs… perhaps we’ll make those tomorrow.

All in all, a fun project and I am so glad that I finished it within a day of thinking of it, and in just about 2.5 hours, start-to-finish of actual production time.