Sunday, October 1, 2023

Fun with Foraging

My friend Megan said they did a lot of learning about foraging during her son's 3rd grade homeschool year. It is a perfect topic for that age group. We aren't planning on doing a Foraging block (although we may talk about it a bit as part of the Early Humans block), but I do have some links to share.

Foraging with Kids: 52 Wild and Free Edibles to Enjoy with Your Children

by Adele Nozedar

In fact, I just had someone gift us some chicken of the woods mushrooms recently, and we made the recipe I've linked to below. It was very yummy!

If you have favorite foraging resources, let me know!

How to Clean Chicken of the Woods by Forager Chef


    for school

    special guest Abby Kruse - how to process acorns for flour
    Sep 12, 2023


Chicken of the Woods


    for school

    check my Foods of the World webpage for our notes on making Foraged Goldenrod Tea (Sep 20, 2022) for North America

Maple Syrup

    for home

    field trip to Megan's to learn how they tap their sugar maple trees
    Feb 12, 2023


    for school

    my Pawpaw Recipes post
    Sep 12, 2022

    we also made Pawpaw Jell-O and Pawpaw Fool (Sep 12, 2022) as well as Simple Pawpaw Salsa (Sep 13, 2022) as part of Foods of the World


Sea Rocket

Shagbark Hickory

    for school

    special guest Derek Erwin - how to make shagbark hickory syrup
    Oct 19, 2022

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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Art History - Louise Bourgeois

In my Art History 2023-2024 blog post, I decided October would be Louise Bourgeois. Here are some resources and my planning notes:

Louise Bourgeois
1911 - 2010


art examples from Tate Kids
Cell (Eyes and Mirrors), 1989–93
Spider, 1994
Man, Keys, Phone, Clock, 1994

lesson plan ideas from Tate Kids
- Cell Design
- Spider Poem

Spiders Spin Webs

by Yvonne Winer

lesson plan ideas from Tate
- Opposing Forces
- Journeying
- Your Bedroom as a Cell
- Exquisite Corpse with Objects
- Celebrating Friendships
- Words and Phrases

art examples from The Studio, June 2018
Maman, 1999
Spiral Time, 2009
Ode à la Bièvre, 2017

lesson plan ideas from The Studio, June 2018
- Diary Entry, week 1, p.7
- Family Member Animal Sculpture, week 2, p.5
- Geography Assignment, week 3, p.1
- Spiral Art, week 3, p.6
- Larger Than Life Sculpture, week 4, p.1
- Fabric Scrap Collage, week 4, p.3

Encyclopedia of Artists

volume 1, pp.56-57
Nature Study: Eyes, 1984

YouTube video recommended by Lotus
This video documents the installation of Louise Bourgeois' giant spider sculpture in the garden of Fondation Beyeler in Riehen (Basel, Switzerland). The video shows how the legs of the spider are assembled, and how the different parts of the sculpture -- legs, body, eggs, head -- are put together and how the sculpture is erected.

Inspired by the "family of repairers" quote, I could teach the children how to patch their clothes! I just attended a workshop on this -- "Three Saucy Mends to Enhance Anything" with Kate Sekules -- a few days ago during the Making Zen online retreat.

We could also do some weaving (with the cordage we made?) and there was a workshop about that too! "A Practice Project Wall Good Enough to Display" with Ruth Woods.

The chapter book read aloud recommended by Lotus for this month is Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. Great idea! When we finish it, I can also introduce the Charlotte's Web cursive workbook for the older children.

teacher background information:

I decided to join Lotus Stewart's full Art History Kids website (The Studio) and get access to her past lesson plans. I think it will really help me this year to have so much already done for me. There are old lesson plans for Louise in the Archives (Jun 2018) and the new plans are out right NOW (Oct 2023)!


week of Oct 2:

week of Oct 9:

    Wed -

    Sat -

week of Oct 16:

    Wed -

    Sat -

week of Oct 23:

    Wed -

    Sat -

week of Oct 30:
I can't resist having us do something with spiders on Halloween!

    Tue -

Favorite Quotes

"Tell your own story and you will be interesting" - Tate Kids website
(also The Studio June 2018 plans, week 4, p.6)

"My complaint about language is that it is perfect, indispensable, but not enough. It doesn’t say everything." - Craig Starr Gallery article

"I need to make things. The physical interaction with the medium has a curative effect. I need the physical acting out. I need to have these objects exist in relation to my body." - Tate website

"The written, the spoken (into a tape recorder), and my drawing diary, which is the most important. Having these diaries means that I keep my house in order." - Tate website

“My childhood has never lost its magic, it has never lost its mystery, and it has never lost its drama. All my work of the last fifty years, all my subjects, have found their inspiration in my childhood.” - The Studio June 2018 plans, week 1, p.1

"I came from a family of repairers. The spider is a repairer. If you bash into the web of a spider, she doesn’t get mad. She weaves and repairs it." - The Studio June 2018 plans, week 2, p.3

"In my sculpture, it’s not an image I am seeking, it’s not an idea. My goal is to re-live a past emotion." - The Studio June 2018 plans, week 2, p.3

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Friday, September 29, 2023

List of Prairie Demonstration Gardens

We have a really big yard and I'm always so tempted to use it for BIG school projects. The last time we were studying Botany, in Spring 2021, I was really excited about converting part of the yard into tallgrass prairie. I even created a whole tallgrass prairie page on my website. Now I'm thinking about doing a floral clock garden or large sundial project. It's so hard to decide!

A Backyard Prairie: The Hidden Beauty of Tallgrass and Wildflowers

by Fred Delcomyn and James L. Ellis

Sundials: Their Theory and Construction

by Albert Waugh

While I'm pondering all of this, I want to make a list of prairie demonstration gardens in our area. I keep finding them all over the place!

Illinois Natural History Survey: Tallgrass Prairie

And a wonderful vintage resource:
Erigenia: Journal of the Southern Illinois Native Plant Society, issue no 4, August 1984 (PDF)
"The Meaning, Experience, and Dimensions of Prairie," pp.5-14 and
"The Prairies of Southern Illinois," pp.15-30, both by Dr. John Voigt

Today Zac and a friend and I went to check out the brand new visitor center for Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, and when we walked the nearby trail there was the biggest planting of prairie grasses I've seen so far! It was so unexpected and we wandered around in it for quite a while. The trail also took us down to the lake, of course, which the boys loved.

If there are so many demonstration gardens around, maybe I don't need to plant one and I can focus on building a sundial in the field. This would work out really well as the older group is studying calendars & clocks in October.

    Nearby Bits of Prairie

    Carbondale IL
    - Chautauqua Bottoms Nature Preserve
    - Flaglands Demonstration Prairie
    - Oakland Nature Preserve

    Carterville IL
    - Harrison-Bruce Historical Village

    DeSoto IL
    - Faulkner-Franke Pioneer Railroad Prairie

    Makanda IL
    - Little Grassy Fish Hatchery

    Marion IL
    - Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge

    Murphysboro IL
    - General John A. Logan Museum

    Benton MO
    - Sand Prairie Conservation Area

We also visited Bison Bluff Farm in Cobden IL during the Fall Farm Crawl, which is a wonderful experience if you're trying to envision the prairie.

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Arabic Numerals & Arabic Words

I had so much fun looking up Quechua (Inca) and Nahuatl (Aztecan) words that are still used in the English language today, and I thought it would be interesting to do the same for Arabic words, given that I'm currently researching medieval Islam and its contributions to... oh... everything.

Arabic numerals, by the way, turn out to actually be from India and are now more correctly referred to as Hindu-Arabic numerals! According to, "They originated in India in the 6th or 7th century and were introduced to Europe through the writings of Middle Eastern mathematicians, especially al-Khwarizmi and al-Kindi, about the 12th century."

And zero, of course, has its own incredibly interesting history.

In the BBC article below, Hannah Fry quotes math writer Alex Bellos as saying, “The Renaissance was really sparked by the arrival of the Arabic number system, containing zero. And when that happened, the black and white world of arithmetic suddenly became glorious and technicolour.”

We couldn’t live without ‘zero’ – but we once had to - December 6, 2016

(Next month, by the way, the younger children in our homeschool co-op will do the classic Waldorf Quality of Numbers block where they learn the Hindu-Arabic and Roman numerals for quantities 1 to 12. The older students will have their own Math topic -- learning the history of how calendars and clocks came to be -- and we will do some really fun hands-on projects!)

The enormity of the influence of a civilization on us can partly be measured by how many words from that language have been incorporated into English. Let's see what etymonline has to say about English words that come from Arabic roots (often passing through intermediary languages in the process).

506 entries!!!

Naturally zero is one of them. Here are some more of my favorites:

I think all of these entries are very interesting reading -- I learned a lot of new words -- but I was particularly surprised by all the connections between Arabic and Hebrew. They are both Semitic languages! I never knew that!

If you're interested in more about the Quality of Numbers block, here are my notes from 2016, 2019, and 2021. I've also written an online course. Enjoy!

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Building a Pumpkin Racer

In Science Club, our first task for "Things That Roll" is to build a pumpkin racer! I'll keep up to date on my notes here. The race is Sat Oct 28 at 2 pm.

Thu Sep 28

    review gravity, air resistance, friction, "spinning force," and inertia

    address questions about antimatter (which is a real thing) and antigravity (which is a sci-fi thing)

    share the results of a recent experiment about whether antimatter is subject to gravity just as matter is

    Nothing’s the Matter With Antimatter, New Experiment Confirms
    The New York Times - Sep 27, 2023

    overview of Simple Machines, focus on lever and pulley experiments

Thu Oct 5

    review of Simple Machines, focus on wheel & axle experiments

    special guest Justin Harrell

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Monday, September 25, 2023

Charlemagne & Baghdad

My oldest student is doing a special year-long project on World History and we are beginning her study with the Fall of Rome and the Middle Ages. Our main resource is The World of Walls: The Middle Ages in Western Europe by Polly Schoyer Brooks and Nancy Zinsser Walworth. Here are my notes from teaching this block in the past.

When we got to Charlemagne's chapter in The World of Walls, we also read The Elephant from Baghdad by Mary Tavener Holmes and John Harris, and it got us really interested in knowing more about Baghdad's role as a flourishing center of world knowledge while Europe was mouldering in the Dark Ages. Here is the beginning of my brainstorm and list of resources:

In the article from The Guardian, Jim Al-Khalili writes,

    "By the eighth century, with western Europe languishing in its dark ages, the Islamic empire covered an area larger in expanse than either the Roman empire at its height or all the lands conquered and ruled by Alexander the Great. So powerful and influential was this empire that, for a period stretching over 700 years, the international language of science was Arabic."

We are fascinated to learn more about this time which is not well enough represented in our History resources. Let me know if you have suggestions!

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Photos - Form Drawing & Cordage week 3

We just wrapped up week 3 of the school year. Thank you to all of the parents for your support! A special thank you goes out to Destinee for donating our water delivery service this school year (the children have loved the delicious water and the glass bottles!) and to Guy for contributing yucca leaves for Cordage and for mowing the yard this week. It looks beautiful!

I typed up an overview of the Cordage main lesson block (a big thank you also to Kamea for helping set up the upcoming field trip to Cache River!). And this week in Form Drawing we worked on freehand spirals and circles.

Other blog posts that go with this week:

We continued to read The Burgess Book of Nature Lore by Thornton W. Burgess at lunchtime. Our snacktime picture books this week were The Zieglers and Their Apple Orchard by Alice Flanagan (introducing Circle Time), Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Helen Berger (FD: circle), How a Shirt Grew in the Field by Marguerita Rudolph (fibers: flax/linen), and The Dragons Are Singing Tonight by Jack Prelutsky (introducing the Dragon Festival). We also read Pink Is for Boys by Robb Pearlman as part of the Rainbow Rice activity.

Here are some photos from our week:

the Extra Yarn chest... freshly painted and ready to be decorated with spirals

practicing with chalk in the driveway...

and with a paintbrush & water on a chalkboard

when they feel ready, they each draw a spiral on the chest

it's beautiful!  
ready to be filled with yarn and stand in a proud place in our classroom

this HUGE lobster pot is perfect as a dye pot!  it has an enormous capacity, and the steamer insert makes it perfect for bundle dyeing fabric too

we add our acorns and plenty of water and simmer it for 20 minutes, then let it sit overnight to cool

step 1:  complete


Socken Zocken


Stamp Game

Racks & Tubes

mulching the Pollinator Garden and building Fairy Houses

our first foray into Cordage is with raffia

Cody is the guest teacher


finger knitting

Morning Math - a BIG multiplication problem!

Golden Bead Material

Golden Bead Material Activity Set

Stamp Game

an explanation of the spelling of < dyeing > and < dying >

both of these have two-step word sums!

die + ing ---> diing (replaceable e) ---> dying (toggle y to i)
dye + ing ---> dying ---> dyeing (the homophone principle)

goal setting

Pony Reins

Bugs in the Kitchen


adding dyeing with acorns to the MLB

adding raffia cordage to the MLB

we check out the color of our finished acorn dye

everyone helps to strain the acorns & caps out of the dye bath

the squirrels are delighted to find 900 g of acorns already collected for them!

we pour the material into some old fabric masks from early on in COVID 
(two layers with one end open and one end sewed up, like a pocket)

they work perfectly to let the dyed water through and leave the solid materials behind

the children squeeze them to get every bit of colored water out

step 2: complete

a few children have the original handwork bags (this one was made years ago by a grandparent), but most of them use our new handwork baskets

we look at milkweed fibers with magnifying glasses & jeweler's loupes

as always, a rough draft and edit before adding to the MLB

setting up the birthday ring for a birthday celebration!

a lesson on using the Stamp Game for long division

in Art History, I show them some additional painting by Piet Mondrian

they try to figure out when they were painted by comparing them to other work throughout his career

I bring the dye pot back up to a simmer and put in four different materials

we tie the yarns into hanks for dyeing, and I put the loose wool fiber into a drawstring mesh produce bag (used only for dyeing)

simmer for 20 minutes, then let it sit overnight to cool

step 3:  complete

lots to do on Thursday!

more fibers for Cordage explorations

these images come from the wonderful FREE eBook Pre-Revolutionary Ropemaking in the American Colonies

working on our Knight peg doll kits from A Child's Dream

Waldorf in third grade emphasizes "the maths of practical life," taking math from pure computation into application

this also involves some real-life practice in knot tying!

the peg dolls are simply adorable

we also read a book of dragon poetry, all in preparation for next week's Dragon Festival

the Bobcats make homemade bubble wands using 10 gauge wire wrapped in wool yarn

and they test out two homemade bubble recipes -- Mile High and Durabubble

in our final step in the acorn dyeing process, we take the materials out of the dye pot

step 4:  complete

the Bongos have a wet-on-wet watercolor painting experience with cool blue (Prussian) and warm blue (ultramarine)

Prussian blue make the best green; ultramarine makes the best purple

they enjoy watching the colors flow and blend

watercolor painting is emphasized in Waldorf education, so we have a lot of special watercolor painting supplies

Science Club on Thursday afternoons is also a lively time

the Nature Table is still set up for late summer, but soon I will need to change it over completely in preparation for next month's main lesson

Zac and I visit a wonderful garden on Friday... a possible field trip destination for October

and the Cordage workshop on Sunday was also fantastic!

Steve recommended several books on Ancestral Skills

many families from our homeschool collective were able to be there

everyone started by making cordage from raffia

and then it was on to part II of the workshop:  getting usable fibers from yucca leaves

Steve brought some red ochre as well, in case people wanted to fashion paintbrushes

all you need to get the fibers out of yucca leaves are large smooth stones...

pounding sticks...

and scrapers!

This post contains affiliate links to materials I truly use for homeschooling. Qualifying purchases provide me with revenue. Thank you for your support!