poetry and the class picnic blouse



Sadie took me for a walk the other day.  Fortunately, we didn't have a disagreement about the destination - a newly-opened donut shop. Before we left, we picked out poetry books for our weekly Poetry Tea Donut Time and packed them in the stroller. I must have a good excuse to head to a donut shop. This one was mildly homeschoolish. The smaller crew gathered up all of the Shel Silverstein they could find, while I brought my favorite

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I didn't need to provide directions. Sadie and her brothers knew just how to get there. They have hound's noses for donuts, my kids. Which is good, because it freed me up to take pictures of this dang cute blouse. 

It's the Class Picnic Blouse from Oliver and S that I made for Sadie about six months ago. I loved this one so much that I cut out three more. I should know myself better. Whenever I cut out several garments at once, the first one is a delight to sew. The subsequent projects start to feel like an obligation, which drains the joy out of sewing for me. I granted myself permission to relegate the un-sewn pieces to the scrap collection, a decision helped along by a growing toddler, who was quickly sizing out of the original cuts.  Ahhhh. Creative freedom! 

You've seen the fabric before, both on the Clara Dress pattern front, me, and - if you have visited my home - on a handful of curtains. I purchased an entire bolt of this Nani Iro double gauze a handful of years ago. (The crazy things you get to do when you're a sewing pattern designer!)

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Sadie is pushing along her galimoto. The galimoto is imbued with a kind of magic that can make a toddler walk for miles without complaint.  Twelve dollars well-spent, plus it's lasted through all three of my kids. 



Destination reached. Poetry was read, and pages were made sticky with donut detritus. Bodies were moved, urban wildlife was noticed, and real-life math discussions were had. I'd call that a successful day of homeschooling.

Below is what happens when you ask her to smile! Spunky, this one. Super spunky. 


the evolution of a space

trying it on

our new studio

Here's our studio, as we call it, just after we moved in. It was one of the first spaces that I put together, knowing that Finn needed a space for independent play amidst the chaos of moving boxes and complete disaster in the rest of the house.

our new studio


It's an odd room, this studio of ours, as it also serves as our primary entry/exit door. The room is essentially cut in two by an invisible hallway leading from our exterior door to the kitchen, the area with the bookshelves having a tile floor and the rest of the room being painted plywood (until we can afford the hardwood floor.)


It has always housed books and art supplies (both the boys and mine), as well as the occasional basket of blocks and random stuff that seems to settle in this room we use so much.


writing letters

writing center times two

This little table that I originally brought in to house my own art supplies was quickly comandeered by Finn, and I made it into his letter writing station.



We've tried our cozy reading spot in various locations - looking for the best light, the best use of space.



And here it is today. I moved in the big table from my sewing room to better serve my two artists (as well as myself.) Added the shelves, which house many art supplies that are now freely accessible to Finn. These include acrylic paints, scissors, oil pastels, various crayons, sequins, beads, saved bottle caps and juice tops, googly eyes, glitter glue, watercolor, papers of various sizes, paint brushes and containers, a low-heat hot glue gun, as well as a bunch of recycled materials that I keep in the wire basket under the table. All of his letter writing materials are accessible, too. Lachlan can access the paper, crayons and some washable markers - the rest are (intentionally) too high for him to reach just yet.

Yes, we do have a computer in the space - Finn, at almost four, does 30 minutes of Reading Eggs a day, does the occasional yoga video, and occasionally watches Mathtacular or a science video. If you're conflicted about screen time, I found this post written by Jaime Martin of Steady Mom very helpful in providing me the necessary prospective. Allowing Finn a bit of time on the computer during the weekdays allows me to spend some precious moments focused on Lachlan exclusively - something that's so rare! 

The big, braided rug (an ebay find) really improved the space - now they have a large area for play. I gathered baskets for housing dress up clothes, blocks, car tracks, and puppets. Those small bolga baskets that are hanging from tree branch hooks are homes for our legos, story stones, finger puppets, and felt animal masks. Smaller baskets on the shelf include various toob animals (these are great if you can't afford the more expensive wooden animals - they inspire play just as much!) and a basket for small cars. We also have a bigger basket on the floor for larger cars, as well as a piece of wood that they use to race the smaller cars.


Finally, our snuggly reading nook is just where it needs to be - right by the bookshelves and the cozy bird watching window seat. 

This room is how I keep my two boys, now 2 and nearly 4, busily playing, both independently and together. I'm sure it won't stay this way forever, but it feels like a very sustainable set-up, able to accommodate children of various ages and interests. Right now it feels perfect for us.

I hope you enjoyed the tour!

projects in progress






:: Second Milo on the needles :: Snow Pixie hats on the cutting table ::

:: Other project-themed books ::

These handful of days have been off-kilter. Following an unprecedented string of good days, in which everything seemed to flow, the boys (and myself, no doubt) trudged through the last two days with low energy, sapped patience, and a general grumpy malaise. 

This time, though, I have a peace about it. I've come to expect these days, just as I expect the perfect ones. It even feels, dare I say ... comforting. I feel grateful to pass through very human situations together as a family; grateful to learn about each other and let each other experience a full spectrum of feelings. 

It also feels good to hop into a project in the creative space that opens up after a patch of ho-humness. There's plenty to do in the studio between now and Christmas, and the gift-making is kicking into gear. I'm also really liking my circular saw, and have my eyes on some of the projects in this book once the chicken coop is done.

And - I can't recommend highly enough Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert. It speaks to me right where I am as parent just starting off on the homeshooling journey, which can be totally daunting if you see all the ideas that can be done out there on the internet and all of the facts that can be passed on to a child. Here's an exceprt:

"Try to avoid pulling attention away from your child's project (his deepest interest) with random, one-off activities. Save casual field trips and similar activities for times between projects. The less you distract your child with random activities and interruptions, the more engaged and focused he'll be. You're giving him the opportunity to stay longer with what he cares about most; you're giving him the chance to build something really meaningful." 


Back to my projects. Have a wonderful weekend!

Art Co-Op

Guest blogger Charlotte, here again!  I'm constantly inspired by Meg's beautiful art ideas for children, so today I thought I'd show you what my kids have been working on with their friends.

This girl isn't mine! It's our friend, Neela.

Two or three times a month, my kids plus three other families get together and do art projects.  There are thirteen children altogether and they begin participating around age 3.  Our oldest is 10.  They are all engaged with the work, though the younger kids skip the more formal lesson portion and join in during the messy parts. This week we did print making while studying the Impressionists, as shown above.  It was also a Gallery Day, where we display their work from the month.

The materials for this week's project weren't cheap, but since there were four families and not any more ink or brayers needed than for just one child, it ended up being fairly reasonable.  We typically trade off teaching and bringing materials, and it all seems to even out in the end.  We are using the Joyce Raimondo series of books, which have great projects that are grouped by type of art, such as Impressionism, Pop Art, and Surrealism.  Each week we do just one artist and two or three projects.  We typically supplement with a few library books about the artist as well, but the planning itself is not difficult.  

Although we use these books in a group setting, they are great for family projects at home too.  Some of them only require paper and crayons or materials from the recycle bin.  

What art books for children do you enjoy most?


Hi, I'm Charlotte and I'm guest blogging in this space for Meg while she prepares for Quilt Market this month.  I feel honored to be writing here on this very page where our special friendship began.  I started reading Meg's blog before Finn was even born and sometime during his early months I realized that Meg and I lived in the same town, with boys just a few months apart.  So I wrote to her, and it felt something like writing to Punky Brewster when I was seven years old, only instead of a junky fan club postcard and Punky headshot, I got a playdate with Meg, the crafting and parenting rockstar. (Guess what?  Despite being starstruck in the beginning, she's just like you and me!) We found some common ground.  We got to know one another.  Then we got pregnant at the same time again, this time with Lachlan and my little girl, Kenzie.  We rode that rollercoaster together, and our bond strengthened.

Meg is one of my best friends, and when I thought of what I could say during my time in this space, I kept coming back to Meg herself.  I hope to share the things I love about Meg with you, and give you a more intimate look at the woman behind the blog.

This week we headed to our favorite river spot together, me with my four kids and Meg with her two. We hope to make this a weekly adventure through the seasons and this week's visit didn't disappoint, with clouds and rain and sun all in the same visit!  The rain didn't dampen our spirits and even made the views more beautiful.

I suppose to an untrained eye, nothing remarkable was happening.  Kids played.  Kids got wet.  Boots got muddy.  Insects and snails were captured.  There were smiles (a lot) and tears (a few) and lots and lots of snacks for our busy adventurers.

It is easy to get caught up in the daily grind.  We could spend that extra half hour cleaning house or doing one more work task or simply  choose to stay inside on a slightly damp day to avoid the mess and fuss.  But we wouldn't want that, now would we, Lachlan?

No.  Because the outdoors has lessons to teach us.  My own over-active brain slows down and breathes deeply.  Questions bubble forth from my older ones with regularity - do trees have DNA?  How do the leaves in the river affect the ecosystem?  Did the rocks erode from rain or from the river when it was higher?  They relax and open themselves fully to the experience, with creativity and problem solving blending into one seamless experience.  And Kenzie?  Well, she's been hesitant around steps lately.  My house has six sets of steps inside (yes, six!  they vary from 1-3 steps all the way to a full flight) and she was refusing to go up or down them, protesting to be helped each time, even transitioning from room to room.  But outside?

Despite their size and irregularity, she conquered that fear.  Thank you, nature!  And thank you, Meg, for bringing this city-girl out into the wild every week and reminding me that we have so much to learn just by being present.

rah-rah storytelling

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Show Me a Story, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways ... did you recognize the stones in my calendar? Just a small tribute to what I believe to be an absolutely magnificent new book.

As a blogger, I receive the occasional catalogue of soon-to-be-published titles, and this one immediately caught my eye and I requested a review copy. That was six months ago or so, and I've been eager to have it in my hands the whole time.


We love a good story. From the time Finn was a wee one, we would tell him stories about his day - mundane stories that he would listen to with as much rapt attention as an eighteen month-old could muster. Lachlan, though prone to more movement than his brother was at that age, now requests a Sparkle Story when we're in the car.


Patrick is a self-made storyteller, having a wide array of humorous, real-life tales that he conjures up in social situations - from living with two elderly, Irish uncles who wandered his suburban neighborhood looking for a pint to sleeping on the edge of a cliff in an indigenous community in rural Mexico.

My storytelling is self-conscious. Hesitant. But for my boys? For my boys I can tell a story. And that's what I love about Show Me a Story . Like a puppet show, it adds a visual dimension to storytelling that takes the focus off of the teller and gives hesitant tale-crafters - either a parents or young children - something visually concrete - a hook, of sorts - on which to hang their stories.


The book is filled with craft ideas to inspire and expand a child's (or family's) storytelling passion. The story rocks are just the beginning, and most of the projects require little by way of specific crafting skills (i.e. sewing or knitting - although some of the ideas do involve fabric and simple sewing.) I found many of the projects to be appropriate for Finn to use, if not make. Each project does have a suggested age range for use as well as an age range for making the material.

I think storytelling as an art is woefully overlooked in most curricula. The ability to "hold" an audience, to think on one's feet, to craft a compelling narrative - fiction or non-fiction - often gets lost. It gets lost in our emphasis on being consumers of stories rather than makers of stories. Of course, reading and writing skills - from listening comprehension to communicating via the written word - are key skills that play a huge role in the potential formation of the person as "storyteller," and certainly enrich our lives in their own right. But we often stop there and never explore our full potential as storytellers. For many of us, (myself included) we're just beginning to tap into storytelling as creative expression now that we have a doting and forgiving audience in our young children.

When I was living in Mexico, I had the pleasure of getting to know a wandering Italian puppeteer, a lanky fellow who sewed his own felt vests and made bread from a culture he carried around with him in the pocket of his baggy pants. His Spanish was more Italian than not, but the children loved his stories. Not all of us are destined to be nomadic story minstrels, but anyone can be a storyteller, in any profession. Patrick is one. I think his ability to tell a good story has helped him both professionally and personally. If you're interested in exploring your own inner storyteller, or if you'd love to encourage your children tap into their storytelling spirit, please grab a copy of Show Me a Story . You'll love it, I know.


How can you not love a book that ends like this?

what's today?

Here's my answer to Finn's question:




Turns out, our days are pretty simple. Simple enough to be described by one or two main activities a day, in three year-old terms. In my terms, it's more like "wakeupprocessphotosbloggoforarunshowerpacklunchremembertoscrubthepoopoffofthatdiaperetc ..."

You know.

But isn't it nice to look at it like this instead? I think so, too.


I've edited out the name of Finn's Waldorf nursery as well as a friend's name, but here's the low-down:

- Everything I used here was found either in my scrap fabric pile or in my art closet, except for the metal clasps - I think they're called findings? - which I found at Michael's and hot-glued to the activity squares.

What you'll need:

-smooth stones, one for each child

-mat board. I found mine a while back at the Scrap Exchange, a creative reuse center

-fabric and paper scraps

-one larger piece of fabric (brown linen in my case)

-thin cardboard - cereal box thin (this is for the brown labels)

-hot glue gun

-metal findings, both rings and clasps

-Mod Podge

-acrylic paints or other paints if you wish

-Micron pen for little details

-random stuff around the house

-felted wool sweater for the "day" pockets for the stones



Go at it! I can't really give you any specific instructions other than I used collage, got crazy with the Mod Podge and hot glue, and had a lot of fun doing it!

Happy weekending, y'all.

games for three year-olds

homeschooling and games

Those who know me well will find it comical that I'm writing this post.

I'm not really a game person. Growing up, we rarely played board games, but we did get out Scrabble on occasion, and I've always enjoyed that.

I think I would like playing a board game with adults, but I always end up watching the kids when the board games happen when extended family comes to visit because, as we all know, if Mama sits down to relax, there's some sort of siren that goes off that demands her immediate attention. A spill, a book to be read in her lap, a diaper to change, a snack to be made and consumed, an art project to do, etc. etc.

But lately, I HAVE been able to play some board games. Board games for three year-olds. And I'm liking it.


The first is Zingo - a snazzy bingo game for pre-readers that has a very fun-to-operate tile dispenser. We first played Zingo with our friends on our trip to the mountains this past winter, and I'm glad we decided to add it to our (very small) collection.

homeschooling and games

Peaceable Kingdom makes really great cooperative games. This one, Count Your Chickens, is gratifyingly quick to play and fun for counting practice. Finn wants me to tell you that he likes the spinner.

homeschooling and games

Another game we like is Busytown, which has a big playing board that needs to go on the floor. This means that Busytown play is, for the current family stage we're in, relegated to Lachlan's naptime. The part of this cooperative game that really holds Finn's interest is the search for objects in the illustrations. You find as many objects as you can in the allotted period of time, then you count up how many you found. I'll be honest - this game isn't boring for parents, because the searches are a good challenge, even for us!

homeschooling and games

When I was teaching in Mexico, we had the most lovely, handmade Balancing Moon game. It was a favorite among my students, so when I found a similar one at a local store, I snapped it up. I don't think it's easy to find - this is a slightly different version on ebay.

homeschooling and games

It's a simple game - a good introduction to the concepts of balance, weight, and gravity. A fun after-dinner family activity.

homeschooling and games

Here's a homemade favorite. This is our family memory game, which I blogged about here. You can find the instructions for making your own out of fabric in Alicia's wonderful book, or you could make a simple version from printed pictures backed with a pretty scrapbooking paper.

homeschooling and games

What are your favorite games for little ones?

mama solidarity


I just want to add something here - an apology of sorts - if this post made any other mama feel overwhelmed in any way. My dear friend commented to me today that some people might feel worried that, if they're not teaching reading at age three, then they are not "up to par" as a mother. Let me tell you something - we mamas need to stick up for each other. Breastfeeding, bottlefeeding, co-sleeping, crib sleeping, no TV, media-rich, public schooling, private schooling, homeschooling, working, or stay-at-home. Being a mother is the hardest job out there. We all have ideals that, at times, we can uphold with ease, and at other times, life just throws us curve balls. You totally don't need to homeschool to be the best mama for your little one, nor do you need to teach them to read - it's just as acceptable to wait for that to happen in school! This reading stuff is a teeny tiny part of our days. Most of it is outside, unstrucured, and - like many households with young children - chaotic. Also, Finn goes to a Waldorf home nursery two mornings a week, and my parents care for both boys those afternoons. I'm a mix between an working mama and a stay-at-home mama, and I have the odd advantage of having a partner who is in the same boat as me.

There are rough moments when I think to myself "There is no way I can homeschool this boy, I can barely keep my cool!" There are moments when our biggest work around here is recovering from all of the anxiety produced by Lachlan's heart condition and the crazy months of hospitalization. There are moments of such sibling disharmony that I wonder if I'm doing something totally wrong. There are moments when I wish I had more time to be with the boys, and that I could really be a stay-at-home mama. That will never happen. 

I always try to remind myself that I am what they need. And you, dear readers, YOU are what your child needs - working, breastfeeding, bottlefeeding, school-choosing or choosing to homeschool, Montessori or Waldorf - the life we provide for our little one is challenging and chaotic - even desperate - and totally beautiful in all of its imperfections.

You know I speak from the heart here. I'm a mama of a breastfed until self-weaned child and a pumping, then formula-fed child. I'm a mama of a little boy whose biggest challenge is overcoming his fears and learning to control his temper and get along with others, and the mama of a contented extrovert who lets the world roll of his shoulders. I'm the mama of a little baby who was born naturally in a birthing center and had his first nap on his daddy's bare chest, and the mama of a little baby who was born in a hospital with thirty medical specialists in the room watching, a baby we had with us for forty minutes before they took him away and hooked him up to an IV, in preparation for his first open-heart surgery two days later. By the time they took him away, I had a rush of oxytocin and spent the next few hours in a blurry haze without my baby boy to cradle as the love hormone did its non-productive work. I know we all have different circumstances. We all have very different children who are their own people - not just products of who we are or how we act as parents. We are all mamas, and we all love deeply, tenderly, and in a life-consuming and life-giving way.

All this to say that you totally don't need to feel pressured to teach your three year old his letters! ;) And I hope, as we begin exploring this new part of our family's life, that you will always remember that what I offer here is in the spirit of solidarity and idea sharing, not dogma or judgement or anything of the sort. We all go our own ways, and those ways are unique to each family.  

Much warmth and love,



starting on the homeschooling journey

homeschooling and games

homeschooling and games

That, my friends, is Finn's first legible letter. With all the hoopla and busyness that occurs every day at our writing center, his interest in all things letters and words has blossomed into a passion. It's time.

Time for me to start doing a little bit of planning, time for me to organize all of the learning materials that I collected while teaching 3-6 year old in that one-room Montessori schoolhouse in Mexico, time for a little daily activity - playful-yet-planned - to guide him down the path to literacy.

A year or so ago, I wasn't so sure that I would take proactive steps to help him to read. I very much believe that learning must come from a place of joy, curiosity, and intrinsic motivation. At two-and-a-half, Finn showed no interest in letter games and such. I was fine with following his lead, even exploring a more Waldorf-ian, later reading pace with him. I still think that is a wonderful approach for many children.

But my boy is intense and passionate about most everything. He's into it, and I will follow his lead. The more I think about it, the more I know that using games and fun activities to teach phonics and sight words is the right approach for him. The more "unconscious" he can be about learning to read, in the same way that a young child absorbs his mother tongue without effort, the less frustration he'll have down the road.

Although I have my graduate degree in Montessori education, a whole slew of handwritten curricula "albums," as well as experience teaching in a classroom, teaching my own child is a different ballgame. I've found that most of the Montessori materials are far out of my budget range, plus I'm running a business so I don't have time to make all of the traditional Montessori materials by hand (although I do have a good number that I made back when I was teaching (and before I had my own babies!) Plus, learning at home (at least in my home) is much less formal than it would be in a classroom setting. 

I felt a little lost with where and how to begin. And I'm trained in this stuff! It was all just a bit overwhelming. Until, one fortuitous day, John of Montessori At Home contacted me about using one of my photos in the next edition of his e-book. Why yes, of course, and oh my - what is this book?! He sent me a copy and I breathed a sigh of relief. Here it is. For all of you wondering how the heck to implement Montessori in the home, either in a homeschool or as a supplement to classroom learning, this is a real jewel. It's packed with sequential learning activities, it's organized, and it's not overwhelming. John, a former teacher and administrator himself, tells it to you straight. The activities are home-centered, the materials are easy to find, and he lets you know what you don't need to buy, as well as what materias are truly useful in a home setting.

Unlike How To Raise An Amazing Child the Montessori Way, which is a great introduction to Montessori for parents of young children, Montessori At Home is an organized curriculum for the 2-6 year-old.

Speaking of other Montessori parenting books, did you notice that two of my boys are on the cover of Learning Together: What Montessori Can Offer Your Family? As far as I can tell, it's only available in the UK, and I don't yet have my hands on a copy. A few more of my photos are used inside the book as well. How fun! Check out this review at How We Montessori.


Photo by How We Montessori