When God Made You (a book review)

I like to include books in our Easter baskets each year, and this year I found one so lovely I bought it for my godchildren, too! I love a book that puts beautiful illustrations and poetic images in children's hands, and even better, this book challenges them to think poetically, too. When God Made You is a delight. We don't celebrate Easter until later this year (see why here), so I'm still waiting to share it with my kids, and I can hardly wait!

Each page introduces a new child from a different culture and with different gifts. It goes on to explain the unique recipe for each child: seeds, fizzy candy, drum beats and wood. My oldest daughter loves drawing connections to metaphors, so I believe she will like thinking about how these "ingredients" work together to make each child's unique skills and strengths. The book ends by asking, "What beautiful things was God thinking when He made you?" I expect we will have silly and serious conversations about what beautiful things in our world might make up each of us.

The book clearly presents God as the maker of people (and beauty!), but doesn't go much farther to explain God. This has the lovely affect of encouraging children to see God through his creation, and leaves the door open for you to discuss your faith in the way you choose.

The illustrations initially look like fanciful watercolors, but the more you look, you can see illustrator Megan Elizabeth Gilbert included collage elements as well. The pictures are full of new things to find with each reading.

The author Jane Meyer encourages children to write or draw their own page for "When God Made You," and send it to her! Here are some instructions I put together to get my kids started, with my own little entry below. I'll have to share later when the kids do their own.
1. What do you do really well? (an action, e.g. painting)
2. What do you like about that? (looking, color, being playful)
3. What kinds of things help you do it? (brushes, pigments, flowers, icons)
4. Where do you live, and where do you do your action? (Tennessee, upstairs)
5. Write your explanation of what God was thinking when He made you!
6. Draw a scene of you doing your thing in your place. Be sure to show what is unique about where you live, and include the elements that you like and that help you. Hide some of these elements here and there so people don't see them all at first (because isn't that how God hides things in us?).
When God made Laura, he spattered her cheeks with copper and tickled her fingers with foxgloves. Then he gently opened her eyes and brushed her lashes with sunlight and clay and gold leaf. Stepping aside and pointing, God said, "Laura, paint!"

*This book review contains affiliate links, but I bought the book and reviewed it out of my own delight!


Leap Year Time Capsule Printable

I'm probably sharing this too late for many people to enjoy it now, but here it is anyway. We're filling in these little printables with our measurements and favorites, and then we'll bury it in the back yard. Happy Leap Day, friends!



9 Ideas for Living Book Activities

Whenever I choose a good book for our homeschool, and I want to find activities to go with it, to enrich our study of the book. So I google: "BOOK TITLE homeschool." I inevitably find a few blogs with a pdf bundle with cutesy clip art images to go with the book that teach math and spelling and seem aimed at lower elementary kids, but isn't at all what I want.

After some thought, I realized [what is probably obvious to veteran homeschoolers] that I'm finding unit studies, when what I really want is to engage in a living book study. Of course, living books don't require worksheets! They teach by engaging you in a well written story. As we stretch out a book over a few weeks, I find we enjoy engage with them in hands-on ways.

So here's a list of ideas (for my own sake as much as yours) for enjoying a living book with kids drawn from our recent experience:

1. Historical/Geographic context: Often this is the reason I've chosen a book. A quick check on Wikipedia can provide a lot of this information, and then you can look up the location on the globe or map, or note other stories you know from the same time period to draw connections.

2. Themes: Although sometimes the themes are obvious, sometimes we study something that I'm less familiar with and I need a little help. Right now we're reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland because we're going to see the ballet next month. I realized my knowledge of the story is pretty limited, and I was thrilled to realize that Cliff's notes are online. A quick read on the Themes section is a good starting point for what I can expect and what kinds of conversations we may have.

3. Recipes: Food is an important part of many stories. We especially enjoyed cooking as we read through the whole The Little House Series one year. Making lemonade, butter, maple candy, and fried cakes were all helpful insights into pioneer life. [We absolutely love the The Little House Cookbook!] We also had a lot of fun making turkish delight when we read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

4. Recreating scenes: Focusing on some of our favorite scenes helps us live within the story a little more. We made a diorama of the cabin in the woods after reading The Courage of Sarah Noble, and built a lego sod house after reading On the Banks of Plum Creek.

5. Wildlife: Notice what plants and animals play important roles in the book. Look them up in field guides. Read about them. Draw them. Find videos of them on youtube. We chose Island of the Blue Dolphins especially because of one child's interest in sea life, but we encountered so many new creatures throughout the story. We often had to look up words to figure out what kind of animal it was, or food she was eating. We enjoyed watching videos of Karana's devilfish.

6. Handicrafts/Games/Activities: Experiencing the different types of activities of people of different times and cultures can be a lot of fun. We tried a few Little House on the Prairie crafts with My Little House Crafts Book, we made a thaumatrope after reading the Kirsten books.

7. Write about it: I had already planned to have my kids write a mini-book report on Stuart Little, but when they were unhappy with the ending they ended up sitting down to write their own new endings. This was a lot of fun and helped them think through the story a bit, as well.

8. Field Trips: When we read The Trumpet of the Swan, which is is just lovely fiction, we decided to go to a local park and read the last two chapters of the story there while eating lunch and feeding the ducks and geese. [We wished our park had swans, but we enjoyed the geese anyway!] Other times we have read in a noisy restaurant, or the train museum, to add a little ambience to our story. I find its harder for little ones to pay attention for long this way, but its a fun way to finish (or begin!) a new story.

9. Watch the movie: I won't let the kids watch the movie until we've finished the book, but they are often excited now to realize a book has a movie. It helps for them to actually see and hear the clothing and styles and accents of a story. Its also fun to discuss how the movie was different from the book and why. I'm generally impressed that they prefer the truer plot of the book to the movie, but they can also appreciate the fun of the movie. We've especially enjoyed seeing Anne's puffed sleeves after reading Anne of Green Gables, and the tree house of The Swiss Family Robinson.

So there you go! My best 9 tips for activities to go with your living books. Turns out I knew what I was doing more than I realized, and next time I'll skip the googling!

Links are affiliate links!


Time Scavenger Hunt Printable

We studied time last year, and this lead to a little printable activity I wanted to share with you. We started with our little clock and our math workbook, but I wanted to do something a little more fun. I made up a quick Time Scavenger Hunt by drawing some pictures of a few things I knew would happen today. When they happened Lou had to write down the time and add hands to the clock. Easy peasy, but lots of fun! Since I made it last year, we've used it again now and then when we needed a refresher.

She wanted to do more so I made up some printable pages. I drew in the drawings, and will let Lou write "when the clock coo coos," "the baby cries," and "lunchtime." You could easily mix it up by writing in the event and letting them draw the picture, or writing in a time, and let them watch the clock to see what's happening when the time rolls around.

I use a .05 copic pen to draw with a nice black line. I made a few variations of the pages, and one includes some reminders for how to read the clock.

Grab the printables below!


Daily Illustration Project: Fool Daily

Well, friends, its time I [nervously] let you in on a little secret. 

I've challenged myself with a daily illustration project. I am attempting to draw a quick comic every morning and post it on Fool Daily. My style is still a little shaky and I'm exploring different subject matter and media, but I'm enjoying the technical challenge! 
I'm trying to keep it fairly simple so I don't fizzle out, but that possibility is always looming. I've waited two weeks before sharing, to give myself a chance to build up a habit.

school hours from Hourly Comic Day
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that much of my inspiration comes from Connie Sun's beautiful daily illustrated status messages. I started following her a couple of years ago after reading about her on NPR, and then this interview on The Rumpus. I wanted to be a cartoonist when I was a kid, but it was one of those things that seemed far away and unrealistic (like being a ballerina or zoo keeper), until I started following Connie. Somewhere along the way, I lost interest in being a zoo keeper, but I still love the idea of drawing comics.

So, I'm making a beginning, hoping to see it improve and flourish! I hope you'll check it out!


Snow Day: Snowfall Chart Printable

We were supposed to get 5-7 inches of snow. We stacked our firewood, bought the kids' long-johns for playing in the snow, and I stayed up late the night before making a snow measurement chart. Yes, of course, snow like this is a learning opportunity, I thought.

And we got 1.4 inches. Boo.

But at least I have an accurate measurement!

We learned how to measure snowfall here. And measured several times throughout the day as the snow continued to fall. We lost interest when our last measurement didn't change. But, the nice thing about printables is that you can use them again! Here's hoping for another snow day! Grab the printable pdf here.



tucked away in the corner of my bedroom last month
I've had various studio arrangements over the years. When I was first married, a large drafting table filled much of the space of our bedroom. After we had kids, I moved my things to the awkward end of our long kitchen. During that time, my studio evolved more and more into a sewing studio, and I collected bins of fabric and notions stacked alongside the map table where I stored my paintings. When I had a big job to do, John and the kids would leave for a weekend at grandma's so I could take over the living room.

There was a brief time, when we moved into the new house, I had an entire room with a door. The closet and shelves and desk were all mine for sewing and painting. [See my pretty portrait in the sidebar?] Oddly it was a year between projects and so I didn't really use it much. And then again things changed, John started working from home, and sometime later we needed another nursery.

So I've been using my table top easel here (bedroom?) and there (kitchen table?) for the last few months.  As the new year begins and I am trying to devote myself to a new project. Oh, I'm so easily distracted. So a new space is in order.

a tidied-up lego-land loft

Our loft has been used for nothing but lego-land for months since we're doing school downstairs. I think lego-land, when kept tidy, might just be an inspiring place to work. My giant crocodile and the girls paintings adorn the space, making it a pretty happy place. So, I've carved out a corner for my old sewing table with the desktop easel nested on top (drawings courtesy of little ones). My own little attic atelier.

a table top easel for a new year and new project

As I'm focusing more on illustration projects and homeschooling, I'm posting more often at Many Mercies than here. You're welcome to join me there, or wait around for me to pop in here. Either way, I'll try to keep you posted when I've got more to share about my latest project.

Happy New Year, friends! May your projects be full of joy and success!


Some days...

Some days you're looking into your public school options... and then some days, homeschooling really does look like this. 


Adventures in Printing

I have prints available of some of my small paintings here or at the link in the sidebar. I've had a crash course this week in scanning artwork, and the geek in me is finding it pretty fun. The print above of St. John Orthodox Church is to scale with the original and shows the rough texture of the canvas and thick paint nicely.

I've included a few oils and watercolors, and a few illustrations as well. Prints can be ordered in several sizes, on greeting cards and a few other products. My Old Testament Timeline is also available here, and I recommend the 17x24" poster.