Friday, May 30, 2014

End of the Year Report: 2013-2014

Kindergarten was a rather painless year for Junebug.  She enjoyed penmanship, moved ahead speedily in math, and had lots of fun doing various arts and crafts.  She does not like her phonics lessons.  I try to keep phonics time short, but will have to insist on lengthening it when first grade starts up.  She's sounding out four-letter words, so I'm not worried about her at all.  I'll need to do some serious reading aloud over the summer with her.

This is a get 'er done kind of kid.  Super easy student to teach.  Not the biggest fan of reading, but I don't think we've every really found a book series that "hooks" her into reading.  Perhaps I can add that to my to-do list.

She became a whole lot more independent in her working this year, which was great.  She loves to read, and if you can't find her around the house, odds are she's holed up in my bed, reading something.  She enjoys learning Latin, just not the actual writing down of Latin...or English, for that matter.

I am not in love with homeschooling anymore.  I think it's mostly a problem of wanting to do other things more than I want to do school at home.  When you're a stay-at-home mother to lots of very little people, "homeschool" preschool is really just a way to fill the day with your kids.  When you do those first few years at home, it's exciting because you're teaching someone to read, to add, to write.  But now, it's just more of the same every day, with housework piling up all the time, kids getting on each other's nerves all day long, and making the decision to come in short on other things in order to make time for yourself.  When I look at our daily lives, I do not look forward to fourteen years of the same.  I don't even want another year of the same.

With this re-location to Australia, I'm going to give myself permission to do a little experiment with our homeschooling:  I'm going to relax a little bit.  For the six months that we're gone, I'm not going to freak out about setting alarm clocks, or getting work done before lunch.  I am going to enjoy this unexpected gift of an extended holiday in a foreign land, and enjoy the time with my kids while we're there.  We will have math lessons each day, because that's just something I can't let slide, but devote more time to doing rather than sitting and thinking.  I don't want to look back on this trip and say, "Oh, we were going to do that, but our lessons ran long that day."  Yeah, no thanks.

As my life functions now, I'm too tired for any of that, or too worn out by being around people all day to want to spend more time with people in the evening.  I'm an introvert and I need my re-charging time.  So if, at the end of this Australian adventure, I find that I didn't like the relaxed version of homeschooling and/or I'm not interested in returning to our regular way of homeschooling, I'm going to let this go.  I don't want to be tired of my children, even if it means they read at a higher grade level than their peers, or can finish Calculus before their senior year of high school.  I want loving relationships with my kids, with time for fun things.  I don't work outside of the home on purpose, so that I have more time to focus on my family.  Homeschooling feels like it's tearing at that decision.  I don't want to be the Head Mistress so much as I want to be the Mama.

There are loving teachers out there, and I'm friends with some of them and admire them so much, and they love what they do.  They teach because they want to teach, they teach because they believe they are contributing to society, and they teach because they love "their" kids.  I was blessed to spend a lot of time recently with a public school teacher friend, and no one could ever doubt how much passion she has for her job.  I know she's not an anomaly.

I don't know if I should share these thoughts, but they are how I feel.  Sometimes I wonder if other homeschool mothers feel the same way, but are too "ashamed" to admit it.  Sit at a homeschool mother's gathering for a few minutes and you'll hear the inevitable "I can't believe some mothers actually GET TIRED of their children!" line and other like-minded speeches.  And those comments make me feel like a failure.  Having come from a background where I've witnessed gross neglect and abuse of children in many homes, I know the importance of recognizing limits and desires.  I've seen parents snap from stress they brought upon themselves in order to appease their peers, and I'm having none of it.  If other homeschool parents want to call me a quitter, should I choose to send my children to school, that's not my problem, it's their problem with how they're viewing the world.

Do I want the best education possible for my children?  Of course.  But not at any expense whatsoever from our parent-child relationship.  I'd rather my children receive a sub-standard education and be a part of each other's lives after they become adults, rather than perfect SAT scores and perfectly-drilled Latin conjugations and an estranged relationship.  Ideally, I could have both of those good things, but if I have to choose, I'm going with our relationship.

I used to be angry about the "lacking" of my public school education, all the things I didn't learn before I graduated, all the time "wasted" in tutoring my classmates because I finished my work quickly and had nothing else to do.  I should have been bumped up a grade or two, no doubt about it, but that's a decision of a different sort that I can make for my own children if they enroll in school.

As for the "lacking" of my education--my education isn't over.  All those things I wish I had learned in school?  I can learn them now if they're that important to me.  My education wasn't an item given to me only for a limited time, it's an evolving awareness that builds upon my experiences and my years of life.  No one's education is complete at the end of college.  It's GOOD if you feel like you're not done when they plop that degree into your hand--that means you're on the right path to self-enlightenment.  It's only sad if someone graduates and then goes home and declares that they never have to read a book ever again.  I consider that a failure in education.  If my children aren't excited about ideas and adventures, then their education was incomplete.

I do not regret my choice to homeschool my children these past four ("official," six if you count preschool) years.  However, it is wearing on me and I feel uninspired.  Something needs to change.  Hopefully we can figure out whatever that thing is and continue with homeschooling, because I like the idea of homeschooling; but if I can't find the answer in homeschooling, it's OK.  What's important to me is that my children remember that they were loved and adored during their childhood, not where their bottoms were while receiving their educations.  Whatever I have to do to be the most successful at that endeavor, that's what I'm going to choose.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Storybook Hexagon Quilt is Finished!

This quilt serves as a caution against mindlessly window shopping at online fabric sites.  I had no plans to make this quilt, but as I was clicking through SuperBuzzy's website during Christmas break, I spotted a fabric...and in a glorious instant I saw this quilt in my mind's eye.  I quickly closed my web browser and ran away from temptation, telling myself that I had no time for making a quilt like that because I was committed to two other quilts for my children already, both seriously overdue.

But the fabric wouldn't leave my brain.  I stewed about the idea for two whole weeks, all the while reminding myself that I did not have the time to add another quilt to my to-do list.

But then my heart got involved and started pleading with my brain to reconsider.  It was going to be a beautiful quilt, and it would be like creating art, and if I didn't give my heart what it wanted, it refused to care about anything else.



There are three different fabrics used for the fussy cut hexagons, all of which are from Superbuzzy.  The music-themed one is Trèfle by Kokka, and then there's a November Books print by Kokka, and a folksy print by Cosmo Textile Company.  My selvages are pretty sliced up on the last two, or I'd give you more information.

Everything else, besides the solid blue, came from the stash.  I think the gray polka dot on the back is a Riley Blake print, and the roses print is years upon years old.  (I'm tremendously helpful, aren't I?)

The quilting is a mix between free motion and walking foot.  I stippled the string blocks, outline quilted the hexagons, straight-line quilted the white stripes, and then did FMQ scallops around the white stripes and borders of the quilt, with some feather hearts in the corners.

I'm super happy with it.  I still stand by the opinion that I did not have the time to make this, but it's OK in the end.  Sometimes you just have to give your heart what it wants, despite logic and logistics.  My heart is pleased.

Pattern:  "Cat Tails Quilts" from Hexa Go-Go by Tacha Bruecher.

January = Cutting and basting hexagons
February = Piecing hexagon blossoms
March = Piecing string blocks, appliqueing hexagon blossoms to string blocks
April = Assembling quilt top and back (I could have gone faster on this, but I burned out a bit at this point.)
May = Quilting & binding

And that's how you make a fussy, fussy, my-heart-won't-settle-for-anything-else quilt.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Perfect Project to Kick Off Memorial Day Weekend!

Presenting the beginnings of Junebug's quilt.  I had different plans for the quilt pattern when I committed to the project, but she got it into her head that I was going to do a "hexagon quilt" for her as well, so here I am, once again cutting out little shapes to hand stitch.

She thumbed through my various quilt pattern books and fell in love with the Travel Quilt in Quilting On The Go*, which is a big bunch of 60 degree diamonds arranged into stars and...blob box things.  (Oh yes, I'm terribly technical in my crafting descriptions!)  The top will be entirely hand pieced, which is rather intimidating; but I keep running into the problem of not having a portable project, so maybe this will be rather fantastic for me.  The Rocket Age quilt blocks are just a touch too big to tote around anymore.

Junebug loves all things American flag, so when we saw the "Star Spangled" fabric line** we were unhesitatingly sold.  I love that it is patriotic, but not in a military officer sort of way.  She's wanted a red, white, and blue quilt all along, but I couldn't really find a suitable array of fabrics until this line popped onto the radar.  It's so perfect for a little person--more "summer holiday fun" whimsy than "united we stand" seriousness.  (Both of which are good, but the latter is just a touch heavy for a kindergartner's bedroom.)  I've also thrown in some random fabrics from the stash, and am on the hunt for some more low volume with blue and/or aqua.

After cutting out the diamonds, I laid them out a bit to see if the idea in my head translated well into reality.  I was worried that using prints on the white stars would be a little too much, but I think we're going to be OK in that regard, especially if I heavily quilt the colored blob-boxes and outline quilt the white stars.

Junebug is so, so pleased.  I guess it's a rather perfect summer project.  (I call the time from Memorial Day through Labor Day "Patriotic Season" because of all the flag-flying holidays that happen during that time.)

Now for lots of basting and piecing.  Onward into summer!

*Quilting On The Go is a great book if you're interested in learning more about English Paper Piecing.  You can also check out the author's blog, Life Under Quilts, for more EPP inspiration.

**"Star Spangled" is designed by Doodlebug Design and distributed by Riley Blake Designs.  (I think I've developed a little crafting crush on Riley Blake, and their new sister line, Penny Rose Fabrics.)

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Weekly Report: Weeks #39 & 40

We arrived at the finish line.  End-of-year testing took up last week and this week (funny how it takes more time when you're testing three children instead of one...), and when Junebug's last test was done, I yelled, "PARK DAY!!!"  And that's been our last day of school.

And, because I'm just so done with all this, that's my weekly report.

I don't know what I'm going to do about "weekly reports" for the next little while.  Not because we won't be doing anything, but because I'm going to be very busy with this:

It's a temporary re-location and we should be back in the good ol' USA by the end of the year.  To say we're excited is a ridiculous understatement.  I am planning to homeschool while we're there, barring any legal setbacks, and I definitely plan to keep blogging our adventures from the Land Down Under.

So, if things get quiet over the next few weeks, just know that it's because I'm exhausted from packing and filling out the piles and piles of paperwork that accompany internationally re-locating four young children.

So, happy end of school to those of you who are done, and I'll do my best to find time to keep y'all updated on the Aussie happenings.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Rocket Age Hexagon Quilt Progress

I've been toting this project all around town--I've stitched at the park, I've stitched at Bluebird's softball games, I've stitched in the car and at doctor's appointments.  All twelve of the hexagon blossoms are complete, and I've moved on to piecing the string-pieced foundation blocks.  I've only sewn up two full blocks to applique the hexagon blossoms to, so when that second one is done I'll have to sit back down at the sewing machine and whip up more string blocks.  Seeing that I'm actively avoiding my sewing machine in order to spend more time outside before the weather climbs into the volcanic range of temperatures, I'm not sure the next string blocks are going to happen anytime soon.  We'll see.

I didn't use any of the "advertisement" or "mini figures" prints in the hexagons, so they look extra special in the string piecing.  I love, love, love this fabric line!*  With Michael being the rocket scientist that he is, and doing his best to instill that love in his children; and my love for vintage and retro furnishings, this quilt is going to be so perfect for my little Monkeyboy.

It makes me laugh each time I look at the little rocket boy, stabbed in the head.  Sorry not sorry.

With the size of the full string blocks measuring in at 16.5 inches, I'm feeling a little conspicuous when I'm stitching them in public.  This might become more of an at-home project in the future.  So cute!

*The fabric line is "Rocket Age," designed by October Afternoon and distributed by Riley Blake Designs.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Storybook Hexagon--Final stage!

I'm going with a red polka dot binding.  It's stitched on the front, and right now I'm pressing and pinning for its second stitching.  I'm leaning towards machine stitching the second time, rather than my usual hand stitching. I've not done that before, but I keep telling myself that it's not cheating and that it will look just as good done by machine.

I think I might go back in and add another row of quilted scallops in the border.  Too much unquilted space for my liking.

I'm not a big fan of being tied to my sewing machine when the weather is nice, so this part is taking forever because I keep avoiding it so I can go outside instead.  Perhaps hand binding is in my future?  Hee hee.

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Monday, May 19, 2014


I had twenty-one different items on my to-do list, and two of those items were very specific blog posts.  This post is not one of them, but I'm writing it anyway because I want to write a blog post, darn it, and I'm waiting for some water to boil for a reward cuppa herbal tea.  Despite working non-stop all day, I only checked off seven and a half items.  Sigh.  Oh, wait, eight and a half, I forgot that I got my music practice in after dinner.

We are here, being busy and planning for big things.  Of course, big things require lots of extra work, so I'm busy with all that extra work on top of all the things I usually can't complete anyway!  So much awesomeness, all the time right now.  Ah, well, life and all.

Sounds like I need a little random blogging, here we go:

  • Year-end tests arrived a week early, so we did them last week.
  • Children think school should be over a week early since we did those year-end tests a week early.
  • Mama says no to that idea.  Children disagree and aim to exhibit their disagreement in the most irritating ways they know how to do that.
  • As a result, it turns out that children are very good at weeding.  Excellent.
  • Storybook Hexagon Quilt is in the last stages of binding!  Although, to be honest, there's something bothering me about the quilting, so I might go back in and add a little more to quiet that thought in my head.
  • I am spring cleaning my house.  I tackled the fridge today.  It has been approximately seven years since I cleaned the top of my fridge, judging by the photos and documents I gathered.  Oh well, it's clean now.
  • I have a wicked sore throat from singing when I shouldn't have sang.  Our choir did a cool song yesterday, and I was the only one on the top part (love it when they split the sopranos!), so I just made do, then sang for two hours with the Primary kids and then came home and tried not to die from it all.  Lots of tea with honey today.
  • Bluebird is dramatically improving in her softball skills.  Girl was practically afraid of the ball a month ago, and now she's able to throw straight and get pretty close to catching the ball.  Baseball is prohibited in our neighborhood, so batting practice has been impossible to come by.
  • I think our house would be perfectly sized for our family if it wasn't for my insane collection of yarn, fabric, and books.  
  • I'm reading East of Eden right now.  Oh my gosh, I love John Steinbeck.  Serious author crush.  Why me no write like him?  Thank you so much, senior year AP Literature, for introducing me to him via The Grapes of Wrath.  I still have the copy of it that I went out and bought after reading it for class.  My seventeen-year-old self thought it was that good, and my thirty-two-year-old self agrees with her still.
  • I bought a coffee table on Saturday so I can have a place to fold clothes in the living room, thus allowing me to watch TV while doing the dreaded chore.  It's my hope that this will help me to actually fold the laundry.  Ugh, laundry--it's like the math homework of adulthood--some every day and requiring a couple of hours each night.
And my water is boiling, so good night to you all.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Weekly Report: Week #39

One more week!  (And then a week of testing, but whatever, it's different and doesn't count.)

We are dragging.  We get through what's required of us and then we call it good.  We start school when we start school, and we slog through it with lots of interruptions because we are just so tired of looking at schoolwork anymore.  If it wasn't for being a touch behind in math, I'd call everything off and declare it summer break already.

Penguin was happy to point out that her cursive book featured my name on the capital "C" page.

Junebug and Monkeyboy are insane.  I set up an art station in their room so the older girls could have a shot at completing their work away from giggles and shrieking.  The Littles emerge from their room covered in washable ink each morning, but it gives us enough time to forge through math lessons.

Bluebird had a fun little math lesson on tessellations this week that included coloring and cutting out bits of paper.  It was a nice break.  I'm only making her do odd or even problems on homework now.  Meh.

I had a goal of a nature walk this week, but the weather was incredibly temperamental.  I decided to spend time studying the pansies in our garden that have come back after winter:

So pretty, so spring.  :)

And then I took some pictures of my favorite little blossoms:

One more week...

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Quilting the Storybook Hexagon Quilt

I know, I'm throwing a different project at you each week!  I kept busy over the winter with a couple of things, and this little beauty is one of them.  I started piecing the hexagons in January, after I came across the ridiculously cute fabrics and couldn't resist the idea of making something with them.

The hexagon blocks are interspersed with string-pieced blocks, and it's really just so pretty that I waste a good five to fifteen minutes each day just gazing at it and running my hands over the quilting.

Quilting-wise, here's what I'm planning upon doing:
  • String blocks:  Stippling with pink thread.  (Finished yesterday)
  • Hexagons:  Outline quilting with cream thread.  There's twelve hexagon blocks and I'm finished with five of them so far.
  • White borders on hexagon blocks:  Straight outline quilting with white thread.
  • Blue outside borders on hexagon blocks:  I'm thinking about doing scallops, maybe with some sort of loop inside them to give the effect of eyelets?  I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to quilt that with blue thread or white thread.  I think the white thread would make it look more like eyelet lace coming off of the white borders.  But white thread would call attention to my quilting, which is mediocre at would hide the inconsistencies much better.  (You only get better with practice!)
  • Blue borders around perimeter of quilt:  No idea.  Blue or white thread, leaning towards blue.  Feathers?  More stippling?  Meandering flowers?  Interlocking scallops?  So many choices!
  • Maybe doing something with the blue background around the hexagons.  Blue thread, stretchy loops extending from hexagons out the edges.  If I have time and decide it would be good.  I don't want to overdo the quilting; leaving that alone might make the hexagons "pop" a little better.
This is the first time I've quilted something I truly cared about, so it's been a little nerve-wracking.  I'm still very new to free-motion quilting, so I'm forcing myself to keep soldiering on and not fret over every little imperfection.  "Done is better than perfect," is my mantra, which I've adopted from Christina Cameli, whose book First Steps to Free-Motion Quilting infused me with the knowledge and courage to tackle this skill.  I'll get better as I practice more, and this quilt is very nice with my skills where there are right now.  Just be happy.  :)

ETA:  Silly me!  Some of you are asking for a full shot of the completed quilt top, so here it is, via my Instagram account.

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Pictures from Penguin's Last Soccer Game

She even got to kick a dead ball back into play, which is just so cute to watch in its broken-down steps.

Step One:  Run towards the ball.

Step Two:  Make your "I'm SO focused right now" face.

Step Three:  KICK!!!

Step Four:  Make a safe landing.

Step Five:  Open your eyes.