" Some days we paint with large bold strokes, like when someone finishes a book report or gets a piece of music ready for performing. Most of our days are softer in color. A little dab here a little dab there, following a rough draft, but allowing ourselves to paint outside the lines when we want too. "
~ Deborah Jean

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Homeschool Blog Carnival

Sprittibee is hosting today's Carnival of Homeschooling titled:

School Rooms and the Places we Learn!

 Over the last few days, I've visited some of the most amazing " home learning" spaces!  My homeschoolin' hat's off to all the mom's and dads who have created such inspiring spaces to learn!

As for the DANDELION HOUSE  homeschool, our den has been designated to house most of our educational materials. The walls are painted with Benjamin Moore's  Concord Ivory which is really more of a mellow sunny yellow. It's a warm cozy space even with all the brightly painted furniture! 

 There are two hand painted desks in shades of blue, our treasured antique piano that my mother in law learned to play on when she was a girl,

and large wall maps for when google just doesn't give us the big world view we need. There are brightly painted book cases in green and red which play nicely with the colorful book bindings and odds and ends on the shelves. 

But more often than not, we end up at the dining room table in our comfy clothes, basking in the morning sun while we puzzle through the days lessons  and daily doin's of keeping a CREATIVE homeschooling house a home all at the same time. 

 I love having one  designated room to house our " educational materials " . It helps keep order in the rest of the house, but when we need to get CREATIVE we head to the Dandelion Workshop

Over the years I have filled our home with re purposed flea market finds, and one of a kind hand painted pieces that reflect our optimistic outlook on life and the belief that anything is possible when you... 

" reach for the stars " 

Thanks for visiting our " school room "  We're so glad you stopped by.

Head on over to Sprittibee to see some colorful, inspiring, well organized AND, homey learning spaces!

Friday, September 24, 2010


From Faerie Houses and forts to furniture made with " nature's offerings" ( and a few choice pieces of scrap wood from behind the shed) our 12 year old  daughter created her first piece of WOODLAND ~ FURNITURE!

I'm still shaking my head at how she did it... I know, with a hammer and nails of course! And a great amount of IMAGINATION and INGENUITY!

She fashioned the arched detail with branches and twigs. 

And the legs from left over stumps she found in the cut wood pile.

It's the perfect place to sit a spell on a warm fall day , watch the " girls" scratch and listen to them tell a story or two...

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of WONDER he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, REDISCOVERING with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.’

How do your children AMAZE you?

This post has been entered in the next Hands on Homeschool Blog Carnival hosted by Jimmies Collage on October 11th 2010!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Busy Hands, BUSY WORK or both?

This question pops up over and over in my mind as a homeschooling mom and I always seem to come around to the same answer. More times than not BUSY HANDS wins over busy work every time.

Especially with our son in our early homeschooling years. I was an excited new homeschooling mom of two children. A boy 5 and a girl 3. After much research I purchased a boxed curriculum set and went about trying to teach our son his letters and sounds and  how to read and write when he was of Kindergartner age.

 But our son was a reluctant reader and writer in the beginning. Most of the time I would ask for very little in the way of writing but what he did do had to be his best efforts. It pained him to sit and write...And it pained me to watch him.  Each letter had to be perfect or he would erase it and start again. I was a bit confused by this since he had never been to school but I soon learned that what we were dealing with was simply a maturity issue. He was just too young to do this sort of work happily and with confidence so instead I provided him with loads of  natural wooden blocks, Lego's KINEX, art supplies, play dough, and let him play to his hearts content. And we got outside for exploring as often as we could.

NOTE TO HOME TEACHER:  Let go for now, and  RELAX. He will READ and WRITE someday..:) I've learned so much from our son. He has taught me more than anyone that learning happens when the student is ready and in their own way. Even more, he has taught me that patience is key , no matter what or how you are learning. He's doing great! I'm still a work in progress however.

 I worried ( of course ) that perhaps I  should  be making him "work more" but my heart told me other wise...He was happier ( not in an I got my way happier, but with a peaceful joy ) with busy hands and I knew he was building other things too. He was building the confidence he would need to learn other skills as he grew older.

It's no wonder I fell in love with Charlotte Mason's gentle learning approach for the elementary ages. I was so thrilled to discover that some of the ideas I was experimenting with intuitively were the very foundation of her teaching philosophy. She was a firm believer in making it a daily habit for short but well executed lessons, then on to other things usually outside IN NATURE that would engage and delight the child for hours on end. She encouraged Nature journals, and Narration which we soon added to our " bag of homeschooling tricks". Narration has gone by the wayside as our children have grown and become strong independent readers, but  I'm happy to say nature journaling is still alive and well and encouraged in the Oak Meadow curriculum we currently use.

Nature Study "We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things."
Charlotte Mason~  

What fun it was to read a story to the children then have them " tell it back" in their own words with such interest and enthusiasm. Or to listen to books on C.D. together on a cold winters day snuggled up on the couch together.  Our daughter on the other hand LOVED workbooks. She enjoyed the challenge of filling in the blanks as fast as she could. A homeschooling friend recommended a series of workbooks with a phonetic approach for learning to read called Explode the Code . I started she and her brother with their beginner level workbooks which seemed to satisfy our daughters need to fill in the blanks, and our sons need to get it over with as soon as possible. And even though he didn't dive in to his workbooks with the greatest of ambition, I know he experienced a sense of satisfaction for finishing a small piece of work each day and seeing a gradual improvment over time. This approach lessened his " need to be perfect" to some extent. And yes, he/they eventually learned to read!
 I chuckled to myself many times because to our daughter " busy work" was all about how fast she finished, NOT if the answers were correct or even legible. Most of the time she was right and sometimes I could read what she wrote, but the best part of the whole exercise was to watch her beam at her accomplishment's!

NOTE TO HOME TEACHER: ... This girl loves a challenge and thrives on seeing things through to the finish line... She's taught me a lot about being competitive.  She has a thirst for learning and the drive to get her anywhere she chooses to go... I knew this when she was three. She's a builder too. Blocks, paper and tape were her favorite items to use when she was in the "construction" phase of her growing up. She would whiz through her " busy work" then get her hands busy as fast as she could building something. Sometimes the living room was turned into a private fort just for her and her favorite stuffed animal friends, and other times the floor would be covered with paper villages she had constructed from paper and tape.

And to think some people think it's boring staying home with young children!

( hand painted by Zach with homemade ZEBRA stencil and spray paint )

To this day our children still build with their hands. It's nothing I  instilled. I just nurtured what was already there and natural to begin with. 

  Building anything is pure PLAY to a young child and can be the same for you if you are still open to it! 

 The art of playing and a love of nature is something I hope will stay alive in our children all of their days. 

* the point of featuring these hand painted NERF GUNS IS for ARTS sake only. I think they make an interesting canvas, don't you?

 Busy Hands  busy work or both? I would love to hear about what your children create with their BUSY HANDS!

Who's teachings INSPIRE you in your homeschooling approach?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Whether you are just beginning to explore homeschooling or you are an " old pro ", there is much food for thought about the varied teaching  philosophies and approaches to homeschooling. In addition, there's no shortage of curriculum's and learning materials to choose from which speaks volumes for how much the homeschooling movement has grown. For many homeschooling parents the choices can be overwhelming when trying to choose learning materials for their children. After all, every child is unique in how they gather and process information. This is one of the many joy's of homeschooling!

With a little strategic intuition you can CREATE a happy home and an enriching learning environment for YOUR  whole family...

Classic Literature

While knowing and understanding how your children learn is important, it is equally important to have realistic expectations of yourself as to how you will approach your homeschooling days.  If you know you are not big on routine, or high on structured text book learning, you will have a hard time selling your children on that kind of program too. Don't panic! Just live! In other words, learning happens all the time. While you are busy reading late into the night then lying awake the rest of it worrying, your children are growing and learning anyway... Finding your style takes time. In the mean time...
  • Share your interests and passions with your children. Do you love to read, draw , sing,  paint, ride horses, garden, watch baseball, sew, knit, run, swim,?
  • Read allowed to your children daily.

  • Go to the library and let them check out books they like. Tuck in a few you want to introduce as well.
  • Plan fun field trips! Visit nearby nature centers, art galleries, natural history museums, science museums, 
  • Schedule  time with family and friends along the way. Invite grandparents to science fairs, art shows,music recitals and important ceremonies or award nights  for your children
  •  Volunteer, care for animals, garden, create, dance, make music, grocery shop... you get the idea!

 LEARNING and LIFE go together!

NATURE Science 

Here are a few of my favorite ground breaking educators that homeschoolers and parents turn to for guidance and inspiration!

Charlotte Mason  ~ But give the child work that Nature intended for him, and the quantity he can get through with ease is practically unlimited. Whoever saw a child tired of seeing, of examining in his own way, unfamiliar things? This is the sort of mental nourishment for which he has an unbounded appetite, because it is that food of the mind on which, for the present, he is meant to grow.

music music music
Montessori ~     "Children teach themselves." This simple but
 profound truth inspired Montessori's lifelong pursuit of educational reform, methodology, psychology, teaching,the self-creating process of the child.


Waldorf ~  If you've had the experience of binding a book, knitting a sock, playing a recorder, then you feel that you can build a rocket ship-or learn a software program you've never touched. It's not bravado, just a quiet confidence. There is nothing you can't do. Why couldn't you? Why couldn't anybody?"  Peter Nitze, Waldorf and Harvard graduate, and Director of an aerospace company.

       SNAKEY  By Zachary~ ( acrylics)

Over time we have created our own
 CREATIVE , ECLECTIC and INTUITIVE homeschooling style.

Paper Treasure Chests  ~ By Nicolette

Think  Liberal Arts,

with an emphasis on THE ARTS!

 Children are natural born artists. Their natural curiosity and desire to learn will take them far in life if it is nurtured. Encouraging creativity in our children has been the core of our homeschooling approach from the beginning. I believe in having plenty of  hands on things for them to do as part of their learning whether it is a child led interest or a particular subject that has a project to go along with it. I don't believe young children especially need an art curriculum but there are many good ones out there if you feel more comfortable introducing your children to art this way.

In the GARDEN~ by Nicolette

What children need is access to plenty of Art's and CRAFT supplies and a place to get messy! 

Nature and animals were some of our children's favorite subjects to explore in their early creations. 

  • Provide plenty of art supplies( glitter, glue, poster paper, construction paper, sculpy clay, bees wax, tape, buttons, old magazines for making collages, yarn, string,  a disposable or in expensive digital camera and don't forget to make the time to let them create. 
  • Look to your local community for studio artists and community art centers that offer classes for children. 
  • You might even have some artsy homeschooling friends who offer classes from their homes or studios, or perhaps you will host your own ART classes for kids!

DINING ROOM TABLE + art supplies + children = instant art studio!

ECLECTIC homeschoolers are known for using a smattering of learning materials with a less formal approach on many subjects, often times only using specific texts for individual subjects such as math and language arts. We use Oak Meadow which is based in the Waldorf philosophy and we have found it to be a great fit for us because it's foundation is rooted in art, is centered around the 4 seasons and it offers great flexibility for the student and home teacher. 


Real learning comes from those things a child is truly interested in and engaged in. Don't be afraid to let your child lead the way when it comes to learning...You'll be helping them develop their own intuition for a lifetime of joyful learning.  


 You can be very creative in how you plan your day as a homeschooling parent. Each day is yours to do  what ever you wish! You can be very scheduled, super relaxed or someplace in between.

  • Use your local community, support groups and your IMAGINATION to make your homeschooling days fun and rewarding for all. 
  • Get your young children creating art from the beginning! Stock up on art supplies, turn up the music and get busy! 
  • You can make creative time with your child specific to particular lesson, create with the seasons or just let the creative juices flow naturally!

Let your children be the guide.

 My Big Beautiful Flower 
~  By Nicolette

I just LOVE her pink clouds don't you?

How do you bring the arts home? 

Who has inspired you to be more creative with your kids?

Deborah Jean~

" If you can picture it, you can make it "
 ~ Nicolette

Sunday, September 12, 2010

NOT BACK TO SCHOOL~ tips for a smooth transition

Are you a whirl of energy in September or do you feel overwhelmed at the thought of starting a new school year? Me? I love this time of year! I can feel the rush of Autumn creeping in. My energy and enthusiasm for a new season is high. September is my favorite month of the year. It's a time to settle in and start fluffing and I leave no room unturned. I like living in a space that has a casual order. I don't strive for perfection but I do require my " headquarters " to be clear of UN necessary items. What do I mean by unnecessary? Paper scraps, loose change, misc. screws, dead batteries, UN -repairable broken items destined for the trash barrel, over do library books, and magazines and clothing that can be donated. This isn't always easy to accomplish especially when you share a small home with three other creative beings, a dog and two guinea pigs. Keeping realistic expectations helps.

Nothing says back to school more than a wave goodbye to neighborhood friends as they board the school bus while we slowly return to our tried and true homeschool routine. I'll admit, we've had some bumpy starts in past years. As a homeschool teacher and mom, I'm always excited to begin a new year. I love the feeling of a fresh start, new books, untapped areas of learning, and the sense of adventure as we enter into a new season of learning. That being said, I've learned that my children do not share the same level of enthusiasm...Even with all the freedom they do have throughout the school year to persue their own interests and passions, the thought of buckling down with assigned work is just that, WORK! So... this year will be different... I'm keeping all that excitement under my homeschool hat, and planning a more gentle entry into the new year.

Take a peak at my Not Back to School tips for a smooth transition this year!

1.) In mid to late August start DE-cluttering your "school room". For us that space is our den. We have book cases and desks that need clearing out to make room for new learning materials.... I toss out what isn't needed, store the remaining school work, art projects in storage boxes and donate the rest. If you're looking to make a few bucks back on your homeschooling books try EBay. If you don't want to be bothered with the selling process on EBay why not donate your books to a homeschool friend, lending library or your church?

2.) Plan a few near-by field trips for the months of September and October. While the weather is still pleasant for being out doors you can visit places that won't be as busy now that tourist season is over. It doesn't really matter if they coordinate with any lesson plan. These trips are just for fun and will be a welcome relief from text book learning to your kids who are adjusting to less outdoor freedom as the seasons change. We plan to visit three places that are with in an hour of where we live. The Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory, The Wampanoag Tribal Museum, and the Cape Cod Art Museum.

What could be better than to start the year off with a little road trip for some good old fashioned inspiration in American Entrepreneurship, History and Art?

3.) If you're like most of us, you probably have several house hold projects that didn't quite make it to the finish line this summer due to having fun! Grab your project list and get your older children involved in helping out! Here are a few examples...

Crown Molding~ Have your child measure the linear footage needed for one room. Purchase materials needed. Make sure you have the necessary tools to finish the job and schedule an installation day to complete the project.

Outdoor Painting~ If you have any outdoor painting that needs doing an older child can easily do some scraping and painting. Make it a family affair! I find if I have a big pot of chili cooking while we are all working together we have something yummy to look forward to when the work day is done!

Yard Clean-up~ Gather up the BBQ and summer furniture, clean and store it away for the fall/winter season...Clean and store garden tools etc...Reward yourself later in the season. Rake a nice big leaf pile and jump in!

4.) If you homeschool you've more than likely been asked if your kids do lessons in their p.j.'s. I'm not ashamed to say that we've had many p.j. homeschooling days while drinking hot cocoa and searching the Internet for an assignment or a word that needs defining. Why not be comfortable? It adds to a relaxed HOME ~ learning environment and we all know people learn better when they are relaxed!

Tell us, how do you get your NOT BACK TO SCHOOL homeschool engines running? Or not?

Here's wishing you a smooth start to your Homeschooling year!

Next Post:  Creative Homeschooling ~ do it your way