Euphoria’s Blog for Green Mamas

advice, news & freebies

Our Kindergarten Rhythm August 20, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years),Family Culture — Rachel @ 5:52 pm
Tags: , ,

It’s the first day of school for many children, but not in our house.  Our first day of school was earlier this August, because mama couldn’t wait to get started!  We’re finishing up our 3rd week of Kindergarten.  Now that I’m a veteran homeschooler (HA!), I thought I’d share our school rhythm with you.

kidsMy kindergartner, Aria, is almost 5.  Because of her birthdate, she’ll do 2 years of Kindergarten before starting first grade, in order to stay on tract with her public school counterparts.  I also have a 2 1/2 year old, Liam, in the mix.  For us, Kindergarten means adding a focus story to our week, and allowing that story to play out as it may in our weekly painting and coloring times.  It also means a new weekly beeswax modeling session and a weekly poem or memory verse, usually pulled from the story itself.  Lastly, we added a handicraft day to Aria’s week, which creates a time for learning to tie, braid, sew, etc.

It wasn’t to hard to work these elements into our lives, since we already had a solid rhythm that’s been supporting us for over half a year.   Since I work part-time, I had a meeting with my other caregivers (2 grandmas) to share my plans for Aria’s Kindergarten year and ask for their participation.  One grandma took over the weekly beeswax modeling session, while the other does the handiwork project.   Coloring and painting fall on my days at home.  At the beginning of the month, I gave each grandmother a one-page summary showing the weekly story and memory verse for each week, plus ideas for handiwork and modeling.  As each week arrives, I pass along a copy of the focus story in advance, so Grandma can read ahead and have it on hand during the week. 

Here’s our weekly rhythm:

  • Monday:  New Story – No expansion
  • Tuesday: Beeswax Modeling
  • Wednesday: Repeat Story, Give Memory Verse & Coloring
  • Thursday:  Handicraft
  • Friday:  Repeat Story, Say Memory Verse & Painting

And our daily rhythm, at least on my days at home:

  • 7:00 – Wake & Dress
  • 7:30 – Breakfast
  • 8:00 – Complete dressing routines & Early Morning Bible Study w/Memory Verse Time
  • 9:00 – Get moving via Outdoor Play (with a Playdate on Fridays)
  • 10:00 – Snack
  • 11:00 – Free Play
  • 12:00 – Lunch
  • 12:30 – Rest Time
  • 1:30 – Aria’s Storytime, then free play or right into Art Time, if it feels right
  • 3:00 – Snack
  • 3:30 – Art Time: Coloring/Painting if not done earlier
  • 4:30 – Dinner Prep
  • 5:30 – Dinner
  • 6:00 – Family Time/Baths
  • 6:45 – Bed Prep and Bedtime Stories
  • 7:00 – To Bed

As far as “school” time goes (and I use that term loosely, since we’re learning all the time), it works well for us to have split our day into two mini sessions.  Right after we’ve finished getting ready for the day, we have a little Bible time at the table, prayer to set the tone for our day, and then we practice our memory verse.  If I can, I teach Aria how to act out the poem or Bible verse to help her remember, and then she’s off to play.  This session takes about 10 minutes!

The next session is placed after her rest time, when she’s eager to reconnect with me.  I read her the focus story of the week, and sometimes go on to read some stories of Liam’s choosing afterwards.  More often they’re ready to play.  This week, our story was a Russian fairytale “Masha and the Bear”.  Aria just LOVED it!  So, after storytime she enlisted Liam and I to help her reenact the storyline for as long as we were willing.  This kind of play with the story is really the most ideal way for her to work through its meaning and value.  While she played, I set up our coloring supplies so we could move into coloring session whenever the time was right.  This school session takes more like 30 minutes, including the art time.  Afterwards, I change my focus to housework and dinner.


Nature Play & Nature Study with Young Children August 8, 2009

naturesplaygroundSince I posted Getting Outside in Hot Weather, I’ve been enjoying this focus on outdoor play and casual nature study with my little ones.  We LOVED “Nature’s Playground: Activities, Crafts, and Games to Encourage Children to Get Outdoors”, which I found at our library!  The book has so many gorgeous and inspiring pictures of children having fun outside:  climbing tress, hiking, playing in the mud, catching bugs, building natural forts, lying in tall grass.  The pictures alone launched my 4 1/2-year-old on a verbal monologue about the grand hiking trip she will do someday.  Since then, she and daddy have visited a local forest for her first hike. 

Besides pictures, the book has a ton of ideas for neat ways to play outside with nature.  We took a jaunt down to our almost-dry pond bed to wade through the mud (I really just watched that part).  We’ve caught more bugs, frogs, and spiders than ever before.  Most of the activity ideas are really ideal for the 6+ crowd.  I plan on holding off on purchasing the book for a few years, for that reason. 

Besides enjoying “Nature’s Playground”, I’ve found a few more ways to enjoy the outdoors with my kids.  I purchased a spiral bound, blank notebook for our “nature journal.”  Last week we visited the botanical gardens armed with a few ink pads and our journal.  Aria and Liam both enjoyed stamping various leafs and blossoms to our pages.  I wrote the common species name under each print.  Now that’s one way I can actually learnmushrooms plants – just 6 or so at a time.  We left with inky hands, as I’m sure you guessed.  I plan to add pressed flowers to our book soon, and to let it continue to evolve, adding whatever nature-oriented observations or mediums seem right.

Since my children are young, the idea is not to cram their heads full of information, but to nurture a sense of wonder and curiosity about nature.  To that effect, we aren’t running around reading lots of children’s non-fiction for our homeschooling “science”.  Instead, we have a Waldorf-inspired nature story as my daughter’s focus story every few weeks, we play creatively outside and – hopefully – I share my genuine interest and knowledge about nature in ways that are spontaneous and real. 

Trouble is, I’m not all that knowledgeable about nature.  In fact, I’m probably more interested in nature study now than I have ever been before. To equip myself, I’ve purchased a series of pocket field guides for familiar trees, wildflowers, insects, butterflies, etc.  I discovered a great series published by Audubon that’s geared towards children.  frogsThat’s just what I need!  (I checked out many complete field guides from the library on wildflowers and felt like I was reading a foreign language).  On Amazon, many of these guides are available used for pennies, plus shipping.  Here’s the National Audubon Society Pocket Guide to Familiar Reptiles and Amphibians, as an example.  Every spread has a full, page-sized picture and a simple description with all the key details that you’d actually want to know.  My whole family (even dad) has enjoyed paging through these!  Just this weekend, we discovered a Red Velvet Ant, Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Northern Tooth Musrhoom and Wolf Spider.  Good times!


Creating an Art Studio for a Young Child – Part 5 July 14, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years) — Rachel @ 3:28 pm
Tags: , , ,

Part 5: Organization

art basket on the tableLast night, while my husband assembled our new Ikea art table and storage bookcase, I scrambled to make sense of our growing stash of supplies.  For the last week, the kids have been painting and gluing whenever they find a spare moment .  I can’t wait to share their excitement over the new set up, with all the glorious room and accessible shelves.  Here’s how I organized our supplies!

At the Table

I placed a large basket at the table for supplies they are likely to use everyday (like scissors and crayons) and supplies I’d like to encourage them to use (like modeling beeswax and paper scraps), which might get lots among the wonders on the art shelf.  I expect to rotate some of the speciality supplies in this table basket.  It’s a fun way to keep things fresh.  Otherwise, I kept the table wide-open.  I wondered if I will actually make an effort to continually wipe it clean of crayons marks, or if I’ll be happier to let it take on a scribbly, no-bother allure.

The Lower Shelves

The lowest, most accessible shelves host our collection of collage materials, paint brushes, wacky scissors, glue and etc.  I stored these supplies in open tins, open baskets or Ikea’s Burken jars.  These jars have a push on/off lid, so they’re easy enough for my 2-year-old son to handle.  Baby food jars come in handy too, for storing very small supplies like googly eyes.  I also repurposed some containers – so get creative!  Use neutral-colored containers so the shelf looks organized, rather than overwhelming.  Simple colors and glass jars also help the child to see the supplies… not your containers!  Be sure that your child can actually see everything, without removing lids.

kid's art supplies organizationBy the way, that basket of paper shreds in the lower right hand corner is not my idea.  My daughter periodically cuts up paper and insists we keep it around.  Sometimes the paper scraps become rain or snow (just imagine that mess!).  I have hopes that Liam (my younger child) will decide to cut and paste that pile to his liking!  Otherwise, it just seems to grow…

In the Middle

Just within my Liam’s reach are the middle shelves.  I bought an extra shelf so that I could create a paper storage area.  It’s the perfect home for construction paper, copy paper and our huge stack of quality coloring paper higher up.  I add my drawings to the construction paper pile so that they can be reused as project materials.  The basket at right is our coloring basket with Stockmar stick crayons, our crayon sharpener and crayon shavings (which we save for craftings).  I’m hoping my 2-year-old will choose to leave that basket be, so as to protect Aria’s 16 piece stick crayons from getting broken.  Liam’s block crayons are in the basket on the table.  There was also a spot for a frame of one of our favorite fairy postcards.  I’ll have to see that it doesn’t get mistaken for an art supply!

Higher Upstoring art paper for kids

Here I’m storing several baskets of paint and a basket with supplies that Aria will use, just out of Liam’s reach.  Then I have some mommy-only access shelves with our Stockmar watercolor painting basket, some ceramic watercolor painting dishes, tissue paper, etc.  At the very top, I bought three large Ikea Branas baskets to store extra supplies out of sight.  The rest of these baskets were happily given to me by my mother when she discovered my lofty art studio plans.  I made use of everything she gave me, because you cannot have enough baskets!

I’d like to Add…

Now that the project is finished, I have discovered a few more things that would improve our set up.  We really could use another bookcase to shelf our supplies.  I know that our stash is going to grow in the next year, and the shelf is already stocked!  I’m going to ask my husband to build a shallow shelf that hooks to the underside of our table on one side.  This will allow us to store large items like our coloring pads, wooden watercolor boards, over-sized painting paper, etc.

Our double-sided easel is wonderful!  It’s so sturdy and well made.  In fact, I think we may have to start offering those at soon!  Having a paper roll on only one side doesn’t make much sense, though, when I’ll have two children painting at one time.  I’d like to add another paper roll set up, and buy some extra paper rolls.  The quality of paper in that roll is very, very nice!

And, at Aria’s request, I plan to add an art line on the wall at her level.  She’s like to hang her art herself, and it would be handy as a self-serve place for paintings to dry.  We can always use more space to display art!

And that’s a wrap! It’s been a blast creating this space for my family.  young child's art studio tableI hope you can garner some helpful tips for making your own artistic space for your child.  If you’re looking for ideas of playful, open-ended art projects you can do with your child, definitely see one of my favorite new blogs The Artful Parent.  Her blog is quite inspiring!  Here is a list of fun activities she’s still working on bringing to life.


Creating an Art Studio for a Young Child – Part 4 July 10, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years) — Rachel @ 8:50 am
Tags: , , , ,

Part 3: Stocking up on the Best Supplies… Continued!

Now that you’ve got your basics, here are some ideas your child can grow into.  When it comes to all these options, the best art supplies are the ones that fit your child’s personality, fine motor skills and your ability to cope with the mess!

More Great Art Supplies for Preschoolers & Up

  1. Watercolor Paints:  Now you’re in for a treat!  Wet watercoloring is a method of painting that’s classic to the Waldorf tradition.  It involves painting on a wet piece of heavyweight paper, laid flat on a painting board.  The colors come alive, dancing on the page and effortlessly creating beautiful new hues.  Simply purchase red, blue and yellow to bring the entire rainbow to your child in living color.  We use Stockmar’s watercolors, which are made in Germany and used by Waldorf schools around the world.  Palumba has a set of the primaries for $21 that should last for about a year, if you paint weekly.  For a better value, buy the larger bottles!  Wide, flat brushes are ideal – but try what you already have.  Use that large painting paper I recommended in the basic supplies. 
  2. Painting Boards:  For wet watercolor, you need a board on which to spread out your paper without any bumps.  Usually, you’ll take this board to your water source and then transport it to the table.  When painting is over, the paintings must dry on the board without being disturbed.  I love a natural wooden board – it’s a beautiful background for your child’s work.  Palumba makes an ideal hardwood board for $15 (medium, 15×21″).  We also use our board as a portable mini work surface for play dough, gluing, etc.
  3. Paint jars:  Ok, this one is a luxury.  You can store and use your mixed watercolors in baby food jars.  Or… you can purchase a paint jar holder that prevents tipping for $17.  A 3-jar holder is all you’ll really want.  The wooden base means that an errant elbow doesn’t send all that precious paint across the room.  We found ours at Palumba.
  4. Colored PencilsYou don’t know what you’re missing until you use a nicecolored pencil.  Washable, erasable pencils generally apply poorly.  When your little one is no longer writing on the walls, buy a set of 12 Lyra Ferby colored pencils.  They have a chunky, triangular shape that’s pretty unbreakable.  And, as you know, that triangular shape encourages a proper pencil grip, which will be essential for writing well later on.  Palumba has the best price at $15 a set.  While you’re at it, get the Lyra beeswax crayon sharpener.  It works for these pencils and your Stockmar beeswax crayons too.
  5. Glitter Glue:  The only thing more exciting than access to glue is access to glitter glue!  Here’s a way to fulfill their craving for sparkle without the absolute mess that using real glitter involves.  (And more power to you if you give them glitter too).  glitter glueAvailable at mass-markers or Discount School Supply at $9 for this six pack.
  6. Collage Ingredients:  Feathers, shells, pom poms, ribbon, pipe cleaners, goggly eyes, and the list could go on and on.  There’s no end to the possibilities when you give your child a diverse assortment of materials.  Most of these can be snapped up for a few dollars at Discount School Supply.  Try to limit yourself!
  7. Recyclables:   Alright, these are free!  Start saving toilet role inserts, paper towel roles, egg cartons, interesting boxes, smooth-edged cans, etc in a nice basket on your art shelf.  These items make perfect bases for those collage projects.  Can you see a robot in your future?

More Great Art Supplies for Older 4’s & Up

  1. Fun-edge scissors:  Now that he finishes a project with a bit more intent, surprise him with some new cuts.  You can find these at your favorite mass-retailer, or online at Discount School Supply where a pack of 12 different edges is just $12.
  2. Modeling BeeswaxWhen your child starts feeling “too old” for play dough, it’s a great time to introduce this modeling medium.  It’s sold in hard sheets that look like oversize pieces of gum.  You warm it in your hands (or in a bowl of warm water) and the beeswax becomes very pliable.  It’s good work on those fine motor skills for your child to work with resistant beeswax.  When she’s done, the beeswax will cool in the shape she has made and can sit out indefinitely.  To use again – just warm and repeat.  It NEVER dries out!  12 sticks for $20 at the Wooden Wagon.
  3. Pastels or Oil Crayons:  A nice addition to your child’s resources is a simple set of soft pastels.  These do tend to break, so don’t invest in an expensive set yet. 
  4. Funky Paint Brushes:  She’s ready to experiment with texture and shape.  Combine tempera paint with a set of funky brushes for a whole new look at painting. wackyWe have this $8 set of “Wacky” tools from Discount School Supply, and it’s quite fun!

Lots of fun stuff!  Next time I’ll share tips on organizing all this fun in a way that’s engaging, easy-to-access, and nice-looking too!


Creating an Art Studio for a Young Child – Part 3 July 9, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years) — Rachel @ 6:27 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Part 3: Stocking up on the Best Supplies

So this is where it starts getting really fun!  Last night, after the kids went to bed, I unpacked a new box of craft supplies  from Discount School Supply.  Colorful feathers, sparkly pom poms, sea shells, funky paintbrushes, oh my!  I was forced to hide the loot so that we’d be able to get out the door this morning!  Our home studio is going from stocked to super-stocked.  (Note: We are homeschooling, so I have a totally credible excuse for going a little overboard, right?). 

Whatever you buy, make sure it’s high-quality.   Better a small assortment of smooth, vibrant crayons than a huge box of Crayolas.  Your child will appreciate the difference, and you’ll enjoy the results!  Cheap nylon paint brushes waste paint (they hold paint) and don’t apply as nice.  Lightweight paper results in disappointing paintings and drawing with cheap colored pencils is plain frustrating!  When in doubt, avoid everything Crayola.  Don’t plan on finding your supplies at your favorite mass-marketer.  It takes more legwork, but if you buy quality supplies they last longer, work better and add up to more fun!  As any artist will attest, it takes the right tools.

Now, this is not to say that everything has to be expensive.  www.DiscountSchoolSupply is an excellent source for savings and they have free shipping too!  There are items on which to splurge and items on which to save.  If you’re a do-it-yourself kinda person, checkout www.ChubbyPencilStudio (dedicated to eco-friendly supplies),  www.AToyGarden (great prices & service, poor organization), www.Palumba (great prices and best painting supplies), www.ImagineChildhood(sturdy furniture and unique items) and www.theWoodenWagon (excellent assortment!).  Or, save yourself some time and browse through these lists!

Basic Art Supplies for Toddlers & Up

  1. Crayons:  Beeswax Crayons from Stockmar.  You’ve got to start with these!  They apply beautifully and smell like honey!  A small pack of 8 sticks or 8 blocks will do at this age.  Learn why block crayons are best for babies and toddlers here. Your 4+ child will enjoy more colors if you can afford it.  If not, she can make every color of the rainbow with those 8 blocks, since they can be blended (ex. blue with a little green over it makes teal).   At the Wooden Wagon:  8 Stick Crayons $12.50, 8 Block Crayons $12.50, 16 Stick Crayons $24. 
  2. Blank Paper:  You don’t need coloring books.  They don’t even help!  Coloring on blank paper invites true creativity and doesn’t hem your child in with lines.  Use regular printer copy paper for everyday, if you’re going to give your child free access.  If you’re going to parcel it out a bit or want some paper that won’t show-through when you color on both sides of the sheet, buy heavier paper.  100 sheets of heavy, 160# paper is just $24 at AToyGarden.  paintAnd at 9.75″ by 12.75″, it’s just the right size for coloring.  This is what we use at home for our weekly “coloring time.” 
  3. Tempera Paint:  Tempera paint has a texture kids enjoy, and is not as messy or as pricey as watercolor.  You can fingerpaint with tempera, if you like, so don’t bother buying special “finger paint.”  Crayola paint looks awful when it dries – cracked and flat.  Plus, it smells strongly of fumes.  I just bought Colorations Simply Washable Tempera Paint, which comes highly recommended.  It’s not as fumy as Crayola, and the prices are great at Discount School Supply – a pack of 11 liter bottles is just $18.60! 
  4. Paint Brushes:  At this age, you’ll need one paint brush per paint color being used.  Make it a natural bristle brush.  The cheapest brushes fall apart and may not apply as nicely.  But, don’t get a really nice brush (like those $11-15 brushes) for a 2 or 3 year old.  brushWhen your child pulverizes the brush with his painting gusto, you may feel a bit sick to your stomach.  It doesn’t matter if you choose a round or flat brush – your toddler won’t notice.  You can buy brushes at your local craft store, where you can touch to ensure you’re buying a quality brush.  I like to shop online, so I bought a set of 24 Wooden Chubby Brushes for $19 at Discount School Supply.  It’s more brushes than I needed, but the quality is excellent for the price, and they fit perfectly in our paint pots.  Another good choice is the variety set shown here, which retails for just $11.  These brushes will be suitable for watercolor too. 
  5. Paint Pots:  I resisted getting these.  Probably because I hate plastic.  But, they’re genius!  paint cupsEach plastic pot has a non-spill lid that stays on while you’re child paints, plus a second lid that seals for storage.  No more washing out paint pots, waisting paint and time.  If you prep the pots, your child could self-serve paint too, if you’re that brave.  This set is only $6.50 at Discount School Supply.  The color-coding makes it easy for little ones to dip their brush in the right pot, without mixing colors.  Also available in white.
  6. Large Painting Paper:  Kids love big paper.  You can use a roll of paper which attaches to your easel or sits on the tabletop ($18 from Imagine Childhood).  Try to find a roll of thick paper, or the paintings aren’t going to be very nice for keeping.  Also buy some large, heavyweight paper (usually considered watercolor paper).  Larger is always better, because you can cut it in half when it suits you.  A pack of 25 premium, 24 x 17.5 sheets is available at Palumba for $8.  I use our paintings on heavy paper to make cards and backgrounds for new projects.
  7. Smock & Splat Mat:  These are good investments for your sanity.  Do NOT buy vinyl, which released toxic fumes into the air.  Choose from safe, wipeable options from www.MimitheSardine or even use something made of cloth.  A tablecloth you don’t want makes a find mat – just throw it into the wash from timeto time.  We have cloth apron-smocks, because they’re cute hanging in our art room.
  8. Easel:  An easel seems like a luxury for a young child, but I’m sold on the concept.  When my two-year-old paints on a table, he gets paint all over his arms and stomach.  If he uses our tabletop easel, the paint is just on his hands.  In addition, an artist will tell you that painting on a vertical surface provides a better perspective of work-in-progress.  Choose a double-sided easel, preferably with paper attachment and adjustable height.  Ours is a sturdy, plastic-free design from Imagine Childhood for $102.  
  9. Play dough:  Kids get a lot out of working with play dough.  It’s three-dimensional and very tactile.  If crumbly, dry-out Crayola play dough just doesn’t do it for you, try Eco-Dough!  The texture is very smooth!  Colors are great.  It’s dyed with natural dyes (which are healthier if ingested).  And…. if it drys out just add olive oil to bring it back!  18 oz (including 5 colors) is $20 at www.ecokidsusa.  At Mama K’s etsy shop, you can buy 20 oz (including 5 colors) for $20 – but her all-natural dough is also scented with essential oils: lavender, bergamot, sweet orange, lemongrass, and geranium.  There are also countless online recipes for making your own dough!
  10. Glue:  Here’s something you can pick up from Target.  Good old Elmer’s glue always does the trick.  You can also experiment with stick glues, but most dry out before you have a chance to use half. 
  11. Scissors:  Last, but not least, add some child-safe scissors to the mix.  Just look for something with the razor enclosed in plastic, so there is not sharp point.  Your child will joyfully cut and paste for hours on end.  Here’s a good way to put junk mail to use!

Whew!  My list for your 3-4 year old will have to post tomorrow!  But, your time is well-spent getting set with these supplies.  They’re the backbone of your Artist Nook or Dedicated Studio and will be used for years to come!


Creating an Art Studio for a Young Child – Part 2 July 8, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years) — Rachel @ 7:02 pm
Tags: , ,

Part 2:  Clear Expectations for You & Your Child

Your Expectations

What are your motives behind creating this space for your child?  Do you have dreams that he will become the next Picasso?  Do you imagine she will entertain herself for hours on end, and leave the place as spic and span as she found it?  Do you have defined expectations for the type, quantity or quality of “suitable” work? 

As parents we have many hopes and dreams for our children.  We want to teach them to do their best work, to put things back where they were found and to follow through with what they start.  Good.  But what part of that do we want to bring to our expectations for the art studio?  Art is messy.  Art is about personal expression, more than producing a product that serves others.  Art is free. 

In my opinion, a child’s art studio is about freedom and accessibility.  I start with that premise and then bring in my other values in ways that won’t undermine that central one.  But, that’s just me.  You need to think about your expectations and goals.  If cleanliness and organization are of utmost important, limit the supplies to a very manageable amount and rotate them out to mix things up.  Invest in a splat mat for the floor and a wipe-able workspace so you can teach your child how to clean up when he is done, rather than getting all worked up when he’s still in process.  Mimi the Sardine’s splashmats are one of the few that are vinyl-free, so they don’t emit toxic fumes.  You can make painting much less messy by getting paint cups that minimize spills and paint mixing.  If you want to encourage “best work” you may want to limit the number of pages of paper your child has access to on any given day. 

Basically, think through what it is about “art time” that tends to bug you.  Maybe you hate getting it all out and putting it away…  Having it out all the time where your child can access it herself may be just the solution!  You can make this work by doing some of your own creative thinking, and getting a clear idea of what you expect from your child.

Your Child’s Expectations

Now, what about your child?  My art studio may be about freedom and accessibility, but it’s not a free-for-all.  As I set up the table, I say “This is the place, your very own place, for you to do all of your creative work!”  When I bring in new supplies, I show her “Look, we can fit all of the feathers in this pretty jar.  They won’t fly away when we keep them in hear.”  You’ll want to organize your art space (we’ll talk about that later) and then, very clearly, with words and actions share some expectations with your child about how it is to be maintained.  “These shelves have all of the fun supplies that you can use any day.  Up here, on this shelf, are the supplies that you should ask for me to take down.” 

Here are some expectations I share with my 4-year-old:

  • Always wear your smock when painting.
  • Ask for help with higher-up supplies.
  • Never use someone’s work or property for your artwork without asking.
  • When you leave the art studio all supplies must be tidied – markers must be capped, paints must be shut, brushes must be brought to the sink, and other materials must be returned to their homes (baskets, jars, etc).
  • You can leave your work-in-progress out, but the supplies themselves must be tidied.
  • Use our clean-up supplies to wipe up paint, glue, markers, or crayons from the workspace and floor.  Ask for help if things aren’t cleaning up well. 

One final word.  You also want to share with your child a positive, excited attitude about creating art.  After all, this is about exploring new things, making something unique, and developing his creativity – not primarily about following rules.  You want him to expect fun!  You can foster a positive atmosphere by spending time with your child in the art studio, from time to time.  Watch his art come to life.  Make some alongside him.  Appreciate his art by displaying it creatively.  Show him it matters!  Surprise him with new mediums or tools from time to time.  Celebrate when he takes risks, whether or not the product turned out just right.  Remember – it’s about the process!


Creating an Art Studio for a Young Child – Part 1 July 7, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years) — Rachel @ 7:57 pm
Tags: , , ,

Part 1:  Why Art is Important & Planning Your Space

Why art?  As my husband said last night, “It’s hard to be creative if you haven’t had any practice.”  If you feel it is important to nurture creative and imaginative thinking, do art with your child and create a space where he or she can make something new “all by myself.”  This type of freedom fosters self-esteem, a willingness to explore, to take risks and to try new things.  (Plus, it can happily engage a child for quite some time!).  These are the seeds of problem-solving and expressive writing that we all hope to see come to life in later school years.  As a bonus, working with various mediums develops fine motor skills that will come in handy when your child learns to write.

inspiration from the Artful Parent

Do you have a place in your home for your child to create?  Can she access her crayons?  Do you have to go to all sorts of trouble to set out supplies everytime he feels like gluing and cutting?  There is a better way.

You know your child best – what she can handle properly.  You know your limits – what level of “mess” you can tolerate.  But realize that a thoughtfully created art space may actually simplify your life.  How?  By making art enticing for your child and easy on you.  The keys are Careful Planning, Clear Expectations, Quality Supplies & Kid-Friendly Organization.

Planning Your Space

To get started, think about an area in your house for storing supplies and creating art.  Your child must have a table.  A large table at a child’s height is ideal, but your own kitchen table covered with a wipeable cloth will do.  If you can have a dedicated table it will minimize prep and clean-up time considerably, while allowing you to relax about dings and paint.  Even a small dedicated table is better than sharing the kitchen table.  Think of this as your child’s future desk.  (You were going to give him a desk, right?)  The table could be in his room, in the corner of your kitchen, office or living room.  But, find a space for that table and a solid little chair.

Next, think storage.  It needs to be located as close to that table as possible.  Carting paint from room to room is a recipe for accidents.  If creative materials such as pipe cleaners, goggly eyes, feathers, etc aren’t even in the room where your child is working, how likely is she to think to use them?  If you’re the one toting the supplies, facilitating your child’s art can become a burden.  Do you have a shelf – that’s perfect!  You can place everyday items within your child’s reach and those items you’ll want to parcel out higher up.  On a shelf, everything is visible, inviting your child to start something new or add an unexpected touch to her current project.  Drawers could work, though they make creative materials less visible.  Need to conserve space?  Use several large baskets to corral groups of supplies and stash them as close as you can.   

Sample Plans

The Dedicated Studio:  You want to make art a part of your everyday life.  Carve out some space in your most “creative” room for your child’s table.  I love Ikea’s Vika series for modern, affordable tables. They’re available in some nice, generous sizes.  Choose the Vika Oleby leg at just under 18″ to bring the table down to a child’s height. For the ideal set-up, add a floor-to-ceiling adjustable bookshelf and place that right beside the table. Ikea comes through again with the Billy Bookcase series. My favorite will store all your supplies for $90.

The Art Nook:  You’d like to keep things compact, affordable and under control!  This Ikea table set  (pictured right) is ideal for a very young child or a small space. Bonus – it comes with two chairs for just $40!  Fasten a low shelf to the wall just above the table to place supplies he’s using today in order to save room on the table for his work. Store supplies in a few baskets on high wall shelves above the table or even stored under the table. The Leksvik wall shelf (or anything similar) has hooks that could come in really handy. Hang baskets from the hooks filled with crayons, pencils, glue, scizzors and what not. Or, for a really affordable solution, just use these $4 Kroken caddies along with the coordinating $4 rail to place supplies at your child’s level, but just above that small workspace.


Public School: Have you Considered the Implications? June 30, 2009

Filed under: Family Culture — Rachel @ 2:36 pm
Tags: ,

The words of John Taylor Gatto, former New York State & New York City Teacher of the Year:

You aren’t compelled to loan your car to anyone who wants it, but you are compelled to surrender your school-age child to strangers who process children for a livelihood, even though one in every nine schoolchildren is terrified of physical harm happening to them at school, terrified with good cause; about thirty-three are murdered there every year.  Your great-great-grandmother didn’t have to surrender her children.  What happened?

If I demanded you give up your television to an anonymous, itinerant repairman who needed work you’d think I was crazy; if I came with a policeman who forced you to pay that repairman even after he broke your set, you would be outraged.  Why are you so docile when you give up your child to a government agent called a schoolteacher?

I want to open up concealed aspects of modern schooling such as the deterioration it forces in the morality of parenting.  You have no say at all in choosing your teachers.  You know nothing about their backgrounds or families.  And the state knows little more than you do.  This is a radical piece of social engineering as the human imagination can conceive.  What does it mean?

One thing you do know is how unlikely it will be for any teacher to understand the personality of your particular child or anything significant about your family, culture, religion, plans, hopes, dreams.  In the confusion of school affairs even teachers so disposed don’t have opportunity to know those things.  How did this happen?

Before you hire a company to build a house, you would, I expect, insist on detailed plans showing what the finished structure was going to look like.  Building a child’s mind and character is what public schools do, their justification for prematurely breaking family and neighborhood learning.  Where is documentary evidence to prove this assumption that trained and certified professionals do it better than people who know and love them can?  There isn’t any.

The cost in New York State for building a well-schooled child in the year 2000 is $200,000 per body when lost interest is calculated.  That capital sum invested in the child’s name over the past twelve years would have delivered a million dollars to each kid as a nest egg to compensate for having no school.  The original $200,000 is more than the average home in New York costs.   You wouldn’t build a home without some idea what it would look like when finished, but you are compelled to let a corps of perfect strangers tinker with your child’s mind and personality without the foggiest idea what they want to do with it.

Law courts and legislatures have totally absolved school people from liability.  You can sue a doctor for malpractice, not a schoolteacher.  Every homebuilder is accountable to customers years after the home is built; not schoolteachers, though.  You can’t sue a priest, minister, or rabbi either; that should be a clue.

If you can’t be guaranteed even minimal results by these institutions, not even physical safety; if you can’t be guaranteed anything except that you’ll be arrested if you fail to surrender your kid, just what does the “public” in public schools mean?

An excerpt from the prologue of his book, “The Underground History of American Education:  An Intimate Investigation into the Prison of Modern Schooling.” 

Mr. Gatto is a well-respected public speaker and writer who shocks the world with his candid criticism of the modern schooling movement.  His book “Dumbing us Down” is a short collection of thought-provoking essays that will get any parent thinking in new ways about what’s wrong or right about our education system.  Although the average person may not agree with all of Mr. Gatto’s opinions, the average parent can definitely benefit from being exposed to his unique perspective on the public schooling tradition.


Coloring with Block Crayons: For Babies, Preschoolers & Moms too June 11, 2009

This past school year, it has been my privilege to “homeschool” my preschooler.  I can’t say anything but positives about the experience.  It has brought us closer as a family and I have seen so much growth in my preschooler and in myself as a parent. 

One of my favorite parts of our preschool routine has been a regular “coloring time” on Wednesdays, at which time my 2-year-old, 4-year-old and I sit down with crayons and blank paper.  Coloring on blank paper was all but unheard of in our family before fall of 2008, when I dove into Waldorf head first.  Early on I choose to relegate our coloring books to the top shelf of our craft closet, soon to be forgotten.  My daughter was a bit off-kilter at first.  She didn’t know where to start with blank paper.  Even now, she’s stumped at times.  My son, on the other hand, who has only ever drawn on blank paper, goes at it with gusto.  He already tells us that his 2-year-old squiggles are daddy or a house or a cat.  I think his imagination flows more freely because he’s never been hemmed in by coloring book lines or been made to feel that a “proper” bear looks like Winnie the Pooh. 

One of the things I enjoy most about our coloring times is the crayons we use.  Of course, I grew up with Crayola.  Turns out there’s something way better – beeswax crayons.  These crayons are made in Germany with a beeswax base, instead of with oil, making them more eco-friendly, more vivid and surprisingly sweet-smelling.  They’re pricey (natural always is, right?), but they last a long time.  Also, the colors can blend, so red and yellow make orange, etc. which actually can create beautiful effects, while teaching a little science in the process. 

We have both Stockmar’s block crayons and Stockmar’s stick crayons, both of which are available at  The block crayons are rectangular blocks.  At times, when my son doesn’t feel like coloring, he’ll actually make towers with them!  The stick crayons are nice and thick – like Crayola’s chunky crayons for tots.  But, although they seem tougher than Crayola’s, they do break.  I hate that.  It’s never seemed to bother my children much, but broken crayons just grate at my nerves.  I attempt to limit my youngest to a particular set of stick crayons that’s already pretty broken, but I’m sure you can imagine how insistently he goes after his older sister’s set. 

If I was to do it again, I’d save the stick crayons for kindergarten or first grade, and only have block crayons for now.  And, that’s not just because I hate broken crayons.  When I color alongside the children (which I do about 1/2 of the time), I’m finding I prefer the block crayons.  You can set the background awash in an even, pale blue with a few swipes of the blue block.  You can make interesting and useful shapes by twisting the blocks as you move them.  And, it seems easiest to blend colors when I’m using the block crayons. 

I recently purchased a DVD by Sieglinde de Francesca, called “Coloring wtih Block Crayons: Emphasizing the Primary Colors”.  It is available at a great Waldorf homeschooling site  The DVD has been a treat.  I’ve learned simple things that make coloring more fun for all three of us, as well as worked on some drawings that are developing my extremely limited coloring skills (I hated coloring as a child).  I tell you, it’s absolutely breathtaking what can be created with three simple block crayons – red, yellow and blue.  Here’s a great teaser on YouTube for the full DVD that’s sure to have you inspired to try some block crayons!


Better Late than Early April 14, 2009

Filed under: Family Culture — Rachel @ 8:57 pm
Tags: ,

Way back in 1989, Raymond and Dorothy Moore published “Better Late than Early: A New Approach to Your Child’s Education.”  In the book they presented thorough research supporting the rather old-fashioned idea that young children thrive best in a home environment, and do NOT gain from academics in preschool and kindergarten. 

“Better Late than Early” has become a catch phrase for the decision to de-emphasis early academics. Many helpful books have explored the same premise from slightly different angles, including “Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk”, “Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less” and “Your Child’s Growing Mind”

I was raised in an academic household and, in school, I was often defined by my “ahead-of-the-game” status since I graduated two years early.  It doesn’t come naturally for me to assume this “Better Late than Early” idea, but I have to say that all of the research – ALL OF IT – supports the concept. 

In our lives, adopting a “Better Late than Early” mentality supported our decision to take our oldest out of a local preschool program in favor of keeping her home.  It challenges me to resist the desire to practice writing and phonics with my 4-year-old.  It encourages me to consider “mundane” time together cooking, coloring, painting, cleaning or playing outside as valuable, enriching experiences far more developmentally appropriate than any LeapFrog learning toy. 

If you are like most parents, marketers have already sold you the various teach-your-baby now, get your child on the fast-track to success type products.  Don’t feel bad.  Sadly, the researches and child development experts just don’t have the same marketing clout as big business.  I do challenge you to pick up one of the books I’ve mentioned above or simply click over to this very informative article Teaching our children to write, read & spell to get a birds eye view of the risks of early academics vs. the benefits and ease of waiting.