This blog by children's book author Melissa Wiley originally appeared at ClubMom.com. All posts and comments have been moved here, to this archive. Comments are still open, so feel free to chime in. For new posts, please visit www.melissawiley.com.
have a question...
Why use watercolors? Do you also use other art mediums for painting?
Also what about lead in the pigments? After all the issues with
products from China, I'm being more vigilant about this and it's nearly
impossible to find non-china art supplies in my price range!
Wow, good point about the question of where our art supplies are coming from. I've been on the toy watch for a long time, but it honestly hadn't occurred to me to look at where our paints were made. I know you can get German-made watercolors from Stockmar, but as you say, those are pricey, and I have an uneasy feeling about Stockmar anyway. (Edited to add: There's a long story here! This is a shift for me. I have enthusiastically recommended Stockmar many times in the past.)
Hmm, this bears looking into.
As for "why watercolors"—for me, there are lots of reasons. I've never used oils, but my sense is that they're expensive and messy and harder to clean up...don't you have to clean your brushes with turpentine or something? You see how ignorant I am on that subject.
We do use tempera paint sometimes, and my kids love the little jars of acrylics for painting those unfinished wooden things you can pick up cheap at Michael's. (More made-in-China stuff? Probably. Sigh. Hadn't occurred to me.)
But we like watercolors best for painting pictures, because of the luminous, swirling colors, the easy blending, the pleasure of watching the heavy paper absorb the translucent paint.
Oil pastels are a rare treat: again, their mess factor is too high for regular use.
My three oldest girls are taking an art class right now, and the medium for many weeks has been chalk pastels. They are really enjoying using them, and they've learned an awful lot about tone and shading and texture. I think chalk pastels are an easy medium to use for experimenting with shading techniques. And the cleanup is a snap.
Where and how do you store/display the finished artwork? I find this
even more daunting than the creative process. How do you (any of you)
respectfully manage the output of your oh-so-productive junior artists?
I'd love to hear any thoughts.
Ha! On this topic, my thoughts amount to a dull buzzing in the head. Our current storage method is: pictures hung on the fridge, and a large and ever-growing pile of beautiful finished work on the laundry-room counter, waiting to be hung or stored or something.
When we moved last year, I had to sort through boxes and boxes of such treasures. I tried to pare down to the best or most adorable work, but it was sooo hard to part with any single painting or drawing, you know? The masterpieces that made the cut are now languishing in a box in the closet, most of them.
So I'd love to hear other people's answer to this question.
Our fridge is on the fritz. At first it was just the freezer side, so yesterday, with all our frozen food rapidly thawing, I cooked all afternoon. The fridge was still working. I filled it with parmesan drumsticks, pork chops, cooked chicken breasts, tortellini salad, and a meatloaf. That's more than I usually cook in a week. Ha! That's more cooking than I've done some entire months! I felt positively Betty Crockerish.
Then I zipped off to a baby shower for two beautiful friends. Had I realized the fridge was going to go kaput as well, I would have taken all those nice meals with me. Wouldn't that have been perfect? Some nice meals for the ladies about to give birth?
Alas, Betty Crocker's vision did not extend past bringing the bag of defrosted strawberries to the shower to puree and serve over the scrumptious almond pound cake we were serving. (It was a Tastefully Simple catalog party as well as a double shower; that was our cover story. Yum.)
Ah well, I'd been needing to clean out the fridge anyway.
Busy days here, lots going on. Also, I have a whole bunch of great materials to review here, but that means reading them or trying them out first. It's good stuff: more day planners, the sewing books, a cool art curriculum I've had since last year (we needed to give it a good try before I could blog about it), some Latin materials, the delightful new Nancy Brown adaptation of Chesterton's Father Brown stories, the new N.E. Bode novel, a bunch of other books. Some of these reviews belong over on Bonny Glen, so I'll let you know when they're up.
Right now I'm tackling email. It, too, has piled up. Some of the questions in my in-box are of a general nature, applicable to broader circumstances, so I think what I'm going to do right now is post some of that Q & A here as I go along. (Names withheld, of course.)
A reader asked for suggestions for comic books suitable for young children. My answer:
I'm afraid there isn't much to choose from nowadays. Most of the superhero comics are far too adult.
What are good are the new book-length collections of superhero
comics reprinted from the 60s and 70s. They're called Showcase
Presents. My kids LOVE them. Batman, Superman, Teen Titans, etc.
My hubby occasionally writes an issue of Scooby Doo, and he's always careful to make it appropriate for our 6 yr old. :)
I blogged about Showcase Presents at Bonny Glen here.
Whoops, my time's up. Didn't get very far, did I? Well, I guess that leaves more for next time!
As I've mentioned before, mommyspeechtherapy.com is a good source of tips for how to work on specific speech sounds with your children.
As I work (and play) with Wonderboy, I've come up with a few games of my own that are helping him practice the new sounds he is learning to produce. One particularly sweet one is how we practice the p sound, which is still relatively new for him. I thought it might help if he could feel it, feel how the air explodes from one's lips during the puh sound. I touch my lips to his cheek, like a kiss, and say words like piano, pizza, apple, emphasizing the p. He has begun to reciprocate, pressing his little face to my cheek and puhracticing his puhlosives. It's so cute, I want to eat him up, like pizza or an apple.
We also use the Visual Phonics signs to help make consonant sounds pop for him. Since sign is Wonderboy's other language, having signs connected with sounds makes a lot of sense to him. If I make the visual phonics sign for the first sound in a word, and then follow with the whole word, both in English and ASL, he gets that the sound itself is something that can be broken out of the word and made on its own. So: buh, buh, baby. The "buh" is the Visual Phonics sign for the sound made by the letter b: you hold the ASL sign for b up to your mouth, and as you say "buh," you move the b sign rapidly away. That's the phoneme sign.
We do this over and over, all through the day. Guh guh go, kuh kuh car, puh puh pizza. (Yes, more pizza. If you spend much time at my house, you know that we are all about the pizza here. I don't cook for people. I invite them over for pizza. Can't make it? Eh, we'll order that pizza anyway.)
We're working on developing his listening differentiation skills with a game we play with Rilla. Wonderboy thinks he is teaching things to Rilla (and he is), and this makes it loads of fun for him. He doesn't realize he's making big leaps himself.
We have a stack of pictures of objects with sounds we're working on. Right now it's the f sound, so we have fish, frog, fire, phone, etc. I lay out two or three of the cards and give Wonderboy or Rilla a block to hold. Then I'll say the name of one of the items on the cards, and the child whose turn it is puts the block on the right card. It's a very simple game and both the little ones eat it up.
For Wonderboy, what the game is doing is helping him hear the subtle differences between similar-sounding English words. With his hearing aids, he can hear a good deal of speech, but not everything—not some of the soft, unvoiced consonant sounds. So I lay out pictures of phone and bone, or fish and dish, and the game—which is great fun, especially because of the antics of little miss Rilla—hones his listening skills.
I think he is doing a lot of lip-reading. He's a crackerjack at the game when he can see my mouth, and has more difficulty if I hide my lips behind a hand. When he sits beside me and chatters away, as is happening almost constantly these days, he cups my chin with one determined little hand, turning my face toward his. This is indescribably sweet, I have to say. At a birthday party a couple of weeks ago, a friend's mother was watching Wonderboy talk to me, and she said, "That is so dear! The way he studies your face! He can't take his eyes off you."
It is dear. It's a good idea, though, to help hone his listening skills without visual clues when we can. So we play another game, also with Rilla, in which each child hold a little ball up to his or her ear, and I cover my mouth and make a sound. The game is simple: when the child hears the sound, he or she drops the ball into a container. We use an empty tennis ball canister. The main purpose of this game is to get Wonderboy into the groove of what happens in a hearing test when we go to the audiologist. In order to accurately test his hearing (and therefore ensure that his hearing aids are calibrated correctly, in the way that will give him the best possible amplification), we need him to respond to each sound he hears. The ball-in-canister game is one we can easily duplicate in the sound booth.
It's also great fun. Rilla thinks it's a hoot! Her excitement is infectious, and Wonderboy and I are usually in giggles the whole time. They hold the balls up to their ears just to reinforce that they are going to listen. Wonderboy thinks Rilla jumps the gun a lot; he doesn't realize that she is hearing sounds that don't exist for him. He doesn't seem to hear S or SH at all.
When Scott and I moved out of our little 2nd-floor Queens apartment to a rental on Long Island with a real back yard, the first thing I did was buy a bird feeder. And when we moved to Virginia two years later, the box with the bird feeder was—I'm not kidding—the first one I unpacked.
I am nutty that way. We love to feed the birds.
We've been participating in Project FeederWatch since our very first Long Island winter, paying an annual $15 for the privilege of helping track bird populations in North America. It gives the kids experience with collecting and tabulating data, hones their powers of observation and perseverance, and provides our whole family with the immense joy of getting to know our local feathered friends. Even baby Rilla is part of the fun; standing at the patio door watching the birds is one of her favorite pastimes.
This is just a smidgin of what's available on the Cornell page, so if you're into Latin be sure to click through and check it out.
We've settled into a nice rhythm with our Latin studies...we continue to be unschoolish with most subjects (even the word "subjects" feels too schooly for the way we're encountering All That Interesting Stuff There Is to Know), but Latin falls into our "things we learn on purpose" category.
Jane is putting in about four days a week on Latin: two days with Latin for Children and two days with Latin: Book One by Scott & Horn.
We all continue to practice the vocabulary chants from Latin for Children, including Beanie. And I pulled out our copy of Lingua Angelica, a beautiful collection of hymns in Latin, published by Memoria Press, the same folks who do Prima Latina and Latina Christiana. The Lingua Angelica set includes a CD and songbook. We listen to a song many times until we know it by heart, and then we talk through the translation. It's fun and quite a painless way to expand our understanding of the language. I say "we" because I'm learning Latin right along with the children.
(I say "right along." Ha. I should say, "trailing behind Jane, and barely managing to keep pace with Bean.")
I know it's been quiet here this week. We had quite a week! Where to begin? Too much to tell. Family in town...an infected foot (shudder)...an overnight trip to L.A. to see Springsteen in concert oh my goodness so phenomenal don't even get me started...Halloween...All Saints' Day...did I mention we saw Springsteen in concert?
A wee bit of advice: it is unwise to dance on an infected foot. I'm just saying.
Well, I think the Union-Tribune sums up today's status nicely with this headline: "No new evacuations, but fires far from out." They have a very good update (with links) this morning if you'd like today's top fire stories. Laurie at Sea Glass Hearts has a nice update too, as well as a thought-provoking look at what impact the fires are likely to have on the Diocese of San Diego. I urge all my Catholic friends to read her post—those of you who live outside this Diocese could certainly help with your prayers.
We ventured out of the house yesterday afternoon for the first time since Sunday. Our young friend had a birthday to celebrate, and it would take more than a little particulate matter in the air to thwart such important plans. The air was pretty clear in their neighborhood (though probably still not terribly healthy to breathe—"dangerous air quality" warnings are in effect all over the county. Here at home, our eyes and throats burn when we step outside to water the plants. At least, they did yesterday. I haven't been outside today.
Well, it looks like the Santa Anas are indeed dying down. Today is expected to bring winds from the west. Most news sources seem to agree that this will improve the fire situation greatly, but the air quality is going to get worse. A lot of the smoke and ash that was blowing out to sea will now be wafted back over the city. Even in the closed-up house, my throat is dry and burning.
Speaking of the Santa Anas, if you go to the LA Times website and scroll down a little way below the main picture, you'll see a link called "Sketchbook: How Santa Ana winds fuel fires." It pops up a series of rough pencil-sketched diagrams demonstrating how the Santa Anas are formed and how they start and feed fires.
The Harris fire is still pretty ugly on its eastern side, threatening more homes there as it eats its way toward the Cleveland National Forest.
As I mentioned at Bonny Glen this morning, I'm finding the KPBS Twitter feed to be another excellent source of updates. It only gives brief bulletins (that is the nature of Twitter), so for in-depth information you have to dig elsewhere, but it's a very good and informative starting point.
I was particularly interested in this series of blog posts about deaf evacuees at Qualcomm Stadium and what accomodations have been made for them. Jane and I were pleased to see a sign interpreter next to the podium at all the news briefings we have watched.
Speaking of Qualcomm, I'm seeing conflicting reports of how many people remain sheltered there. Yesterday I read 5,600, then I read 11,000, and this morning KPBS is reporting there are only 800 evacuees left there? I know many evacuated communities have been reopened and people have begun to return to their homes, but that many, in that short a time span? Maybe it's a typo—8,000 would make more sense.
As for us, we had a more normal day yesterday—normal for an at-home day, that is, but not normal for the busy day of activities it was supposed to have been. We canceled Shakespeare Club, alas, and actually settled down to some lessons in the morning. Jane and I did a big Latin review (I am trying to keep up with her Latin studies, and failing woefully), and everyone did some math. The younger girls have created a whole village of Sculpey creatures—enough to fill a miniature Qualcomm Stadium.
The posts on these pages originally appeared at The Lilting House, my ClubMom blog about home education, fun learning resources, and special needs children.
When I decided it was time to wrap up my work at ClubMom, I moved all the Lilting House posts and comments to this archive. Comments are still open, so feel free to chime in on any post that interests you. I love to hear what my readers have to say!
These days I am doing all my new posting (including on many Lilting House topics) at my primary blog, Here in the Bonny Glen. There you will find posts about my books, other people's books, my family, home education, and many other topics.