crafty · family fun · Homeschool

Day 231: On Mapping and Blurred Lines

Today our geography class took to the streets on bikes. The kids’ assignment was to confirm that their map of the neighbourhood was accurate and complete. N suggested heading north today (the map is centred on our house), so we elected him leader.

I have no idea how good a ten-year-old’s sense of direction should be, but I do know that I want my kids to be able to navigate our neighbourhood confidently (and to give useful directions,) and eventually to know how to get home from anywhere in this city. I’d put those two things firmly in the category of “skills for fully-functional adults.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, N seems to have a better sense of direction than R. It makes sense: N’s neighbourhood friend lives farther away than R’s, which means his independent travel covers a lot more territory than hers, and that’s before we even consider his independent 2-kilometre commute to school last year.

As we rode today, I asked the kids what direction we were travelling in. N was almost always right. R was wrong, often comically so. Good thing I brought a compass along. R was insistent that her friend’s house was south of us (it was to the north, actually) and the only way I could get her to bike just a little farther north was to insist on going to the post office. Fortunately, she realized her error before I had to correct her. When we stopped at the post office, the kids pulled out their map and made a few changes: the friend’s house was added, as were the crosswalk, the post office, and the name of the nearest cross-street.

I managed to slip some errands into our school day too: we mailed a package at the post office (actually, I send R and N inside to do it) and picked up some fruit and vegetables at the grocery store on our way home. But errands are only one of the ways that we’re blurring the lines between school and family life.

Today R and E were very intent on playing with their dolls—and I allowed it, even though it was eleven in the morning and they both “should’ve” been doing school work. I simply couldn’t see the harm. They played very happily together until I called them to get ready for our bike ride. This afternoon, N left his writing project open on the computer and followed E downstairs to see the bookmarks she was busily making. Twenty minutes later he was still downstairs, calling for me to teach him how to make a yarn tassel for his bookmark.

We didn’t finish everything I wanted to today: by dinnertime we still hadn’t started history or literature. But the kids are always happy to be read to, so after dinner R made some lemonade and the three younger kids listened raptly as I read to them from The One and Only Ivan, the novel we’re studying this month. It was such a good segue into bedtime that I’m going to try to do more of our literature classes in the evening.

blogging · crafty · education · family fun · Homeschool · Jewy goodness · Just the two of us · Kids · Uncategorized

Day 214: Is there any problem bribery can’t solve?

Did you know that good intentions do not work like caffeine?

It’s true! I was full of good intentions yesterday, but that didn’t keep me alert and awake long enough to carry them out. In other words, I fell asleep last night right after dinner and completely missed posting day 213. I regret nothing except not writing my post earlier in the day.

We’ve now wrapped up our first week of homeschool. It’s always hard to measure learning—I can tell you what I presented to the kids, but can’t say for sure that they learned it—so I won’t. Instead, I’ll tell you what didn’t happen this week:

  • We didn’t start each morning raising our voices to get the kids out the door, racing the clock, or cursing the traffic.
  • I didn’t spend twenty minutes sitting on the Allen Expressway on the way home from dropping the kids off at school. In fact, I didn’t spend an entire hour of each day sitting in traffic.
  • Nobody had to clean out stinky lunch containers that had sat all week in somebody’s backpack.
  • I didn’t spend my evening fighting with the kids about homework.
  • I didn’t feel like all the time I spent with my kids was stressful or rushed.

For the sake of balance, here’s what did happen this week:

  • Some people woke up early. Some people slept in.
  • Mr. December and I made time to do a bit of stretching and go for a short walk every morning before homeschool started.
  • The kids took breaks when they needed to, usually outside, and worked until they were done.
  • All the assigned work got done.
  • K spent hours developing a new-to-her technique for jewellery making.
  • We had poetry night and movie night; it was no problem when they ran later than bedtime, because we don’t have to get up super-early anymore.
  • I spent yesterday afternoon in the park with R, drinking Starbucks drinks and talking about the weekly Torah portion (more on that in a minute.)
  • I connected with each child over their school work this week and used our relationship to help them get into subjects they otherwise disliked.

All in all, it was a very good week.

I was unsure of how I wanted to approach Torah study in our homeschool, but I knew that I would… somehow. As of last week I had decided to do a class on the weekly parsha, but then I had a better idea: every week, one child would learn the parsha with me and then tell everyone else about it over Shabbat dinner.

When I first announced it, this idea went over like a lead balloon.

I wasn’t willing to change the plan because of the kids’ objections—just think of the precedent it would set—but I’m not opposed to tweaking my ideas. I’m also not opposed to bribery, which I decided to apply in large amounts. I announced it on Thursday night at the dinner table:

“So here’s how parsha is going to work. One lucky kid is going to go somewhere with me for hot chocolate or some other special drink, and then we’ll sit down with our drinks and a treat and learn the parsha together. Then at Shabbat dinner, that kid will teach everyone else a bit of what we learned.”

The response was instant and overwhelming:

“I call being first!” “No, I call being first!” “Can I please be next?”

I had already assigned parsha to R for this week, so yesterday we walked to Starbucks, picked up our pre-ordered drinks (I do like that option,) and sat down in the park to discuss Torah.

Now, I don’t pretend to be a Torah scholar, but I did learn a lot of it in school, and I can read and understand Hebrew fluently. So R and I worked our way through creation, the Garden of Eden, and Cain and Abel. We touched on ideas of whether the stories in the Torah are true; where the text might be hinting at multiple gods; why God created plants and animals “of all kinds” but only a single human; and other ways the Cain and Abel narrative could have gone. She was excited to realize that she knew several verses by heart already, since we sing them every week as part of kiddush (the Shabbat blessing over the wine.) Far from the painful slog I had feared it would be, our discussion was animated and dominated by R’s questions and observations.

R didn’t display the same enthusiasm when it came to sharing her learning at the Shabbat table. I had to prompt her with questions and got relatively short answers in response. But her impression of doing parsha with me is a positive one. In the end, a love of engaging with our sacred texts is a goal that will lead the children to the more specific goals of knowing what the Torah says and what it means for us.

Next week it will be E’s turn to learn with me and present the parsha (which covers Noah and the flood and the tower of Babel) at dinner. I’m envisioning a demonstration with stuffed animals, but she might still surprise me. I’m just happy that she’s already excited about it.

blogging · crafty · DIY · education · Fibro Flares · Homeschool · Kids · love and marriage

Day 212: Never Eat Soggy Waffles

At 9:10 this morning I dumped an armful of supplies on our kitchen table: plastic cups, sharpies, scissors, straight pins, and magnets.

“I thought we were doing geography.” R said flatly.

“We are.” I confirmed. “Sit down.”

We began with the sort of thing you might expect—cardinal directions and map reading skills—and pored over a map of Canada to show the kids how the “far north” places we’ve driven to don’t even touch northern Ontario. This is a big country.

So what about the aforementioned supplies?

At the last minute, just before we started this morning, I remembered a book that explains the science of compasses and shows you how to make your own compass. I tore through the books and supplies, leaving some chaos in my wake, but emerging from the basement with my armful of stuff.

The kids were surprisingly into the DIY compass project. Even K took care to make the compass rose look cool (even though that part was completely optional.) We learned a bit about the earth’s magnetic field and why stroking the pin with a magnet renders the pin magnetic. As it turns out, we knocked geography and science off our list with this one activity.

I’m amazed that I’ve been able to write blog posts that stay on one topic, because the thoughts in my brain are all over the place, all of the time. This afternoon I was ordering groceries online… wondering whatever happened to one of the doctors we were supposed to follow up with… thinking about how soon I could set up my new printer… remembering that I had to work with K on her Bat Mitzvah stuff tonight… realizing that R was shirking her work and thinking about how best to enforce it… with my head still stuck on our writing exercise this morning… confirming the orthodontist appointment for next Thursday… arranging to return something we ordered that just didn’t fit… anxiously wondering when I last paid the VISA bill (easy to verify, but it flits into my mind nevertheless)… all in the same ten-minute period. It’s exhausting.

Speaking of exhausting, Mr. December has had an awful lot of evening meetings (to accommodate several different time zones) that have kept us up past my intended 9:30 bedtime. Tonight he yawned and admitted that he’s really very tired… right before going back into his office for the 8:15 meeting. Poor guy. And poor me. We usually try to go to bed at the same time so we have a few minutes together at the end of the day, but another couple of weeks of this will put me in fibro-flare territory. I’ll just have to go to bed all by my lonesome. If I do it now, I’m on track to get my ten hours of sleep.

crafty · DIY · education · Homeschool · Just the two of us · whine and cheese

Day 208: Too Much Information?

Something’s wrong with this, but I can’t figure it out.

The magnetic notice boards I ordered from IKEA arrived today. We’d just finished going over the schedule and deciding how much time we needed every week for each subject, and I went downstairs to finish printing, laminating, and cutting the magnets.

I had the magnets all printed, laminated, cut, and ready to go; so when the magnetic notice boards I ordered from IKEA finally arrived this morning, I was eager to try them out. I used ⅛” wide masking tape to create the grid and filled in the times and days. Then Mr. December and I went to town with the magnets, slapping them down and rearranging them until we were satisfied with the result.

But the next time I looked at it, it suddenly seemed overwhelming and confusing to me. I’m not sure why. Is there just too much information in one place? Is it just that the asymmetry of the board is visually uncomfortable? Are the grid lines too thin, or too close together? I was suddenly a lot less sure of this system.

“Maybe this kind of board should just be for our own reference, and the kids should have a board that just shows the current day’s work?” I suggested to Mr. December. “If it’s overwhelming for me, how would it be for R — she’s only nine!”

I already knew what he would say, and he didn’t disappoint: “It’s already made. Let’s try it for a week or two and see how it goes.”

Here’s where my perfectionism and my “go big or go home” mentality work against me. I want to start the school year off with everything we need, including materials and supplies that look beautiful and are ready to use. From that perspective, I don’t really want to use a test version. I want to have something solid.

(If only the local school board had taken that approach to e-learning. I hear it was a total mess. If only there was some way to test an online platform before going live… and to test each student’s connection before the first class… if only they’d had, like, a whole summer to work on the launch of e-learning. Oh, well. I’m sure they did their best. Right?)

I’m too tired to figure this out tonight. Mr. December and I spent most of the day working out our plan. All we did was talk for six hours, but it was exhausting. I have way more empathy now for people who have to sit through endless meetings. I think I’ll go to bed soon, then wake up in the morning and attack it with fresh eyes. Either that or I could distract myself with a craft: I obviously need my magazine files to be covered in pretty fabric before school starts, right?

crafty · DIY · education · goodbye clutter! · Homeschool · Keepin' it real · Kids · The COVID files · whine and cheese

Day 206: Why do I do this to myself?

It’s 9:12 p.m. and I’m only just starting my daily blog post. Okay, you may be thinking, you’ve got four kids. I’m sure you were busy all day. Well, yes… if going down an internet rabbit hole counts as busy.

You see, yesterday I was at the fabric store getting hooks for my bedroom curtains when I saw an adhesive chalkboard calendar on sale. It seemed like a decent idea, given some of Mr. December’s ideas about scheduling, so I bought it.

Today I took it out of the package and discovered there was no place I particularly wanted to put it. On the one hand, we need a family calendar where everyone can see it, and on the other hand, I don’t need everyone to see my calendar if they don’t live here.

(Of course, with COVID it’s a pretty sure thing that we won’t be having guests anytime soon, but still…)

I have a thing about being able to hide the chaos in my house. That’s why the command centre in the corner of my dining room has a door that, when closed, hides all the stuff and camouflages the cupboard. If you hadn’t seen it open, you wouldn’t know it was there. It’s exactly what I like: accessible and visible to people who need it, invisible when there are guests.

So this morning I sat down at the computer and tried to figure out how to hide this calendar decal when I want to. I thought of a reversible picture frame with the calendar on one side and a nice family photo on another… which led me into the photo program on my computer, hunting for a beautiful family photo I could print… but then I realized that we don’t really have any great family photos. So I went back to the internet and looked for a nice art poster instead. This made me realized that those wooden magnetic poster hangers are easy to reverse, so I should get those instead of a heavy frame… and I could just make a poster, or maybe a watercolour painting… which led me to look for extra-large watercolour paper.

I suddenly just how much time had passed and how useless an exercise it was. We already have a family calendar: it’s in the command centre. Of course, it’s on the back wall of the cabinet, so it’s not super obvious. But that’s easily fixed: I hung it on the inside of the cabinet door with the clips that used to hold the kids’ checklists… the clips aren’t needed for anything else, because the checklists will be on magnetic boards this year. So now the family calendar is easy to see, and still easy to hide, and I could have just done that in the first place instead of going down a three-hour rabbit hole.

Then tonight, I was messaging with a friend and mentioned that I miss the cottage. I wondered what it would be like to be able to go up to a house on the lake anytime I wanted, and have my stuff there waiting for me, and be able to sit by the lake and not have constant construction noise outside my house day and night. So I hopped onto a real estate website and started looking at cottages. The kids got into it, too—now I know that K would happily live in a small bunkie, and E just really wants a bunk bed—and an hour later, Mr. December came upstairs from his meeting and said, “We’re not buying a cottage. We don’t need one. Get on AirBnB and I’ll find you a cottage you can go to tomorrow.” Thus ended my second rabbit hole of the day.

Here’s what I didn’t do today: I didn’t finish organizing my curriculum materials. I also didn’t make sure that the kids’ pencil boxes have all the school supplies they need and are accessible. I didn’t get the kids to help me clean out their cubbies in preparation for new materials. And I didn’t call the window company about replacing the attic window that’s broken again.

Why do I keep doing this to myself?

crafty · DIY · el cheapo · goodbye clutter!

Day 163: Closets Big and Small

Apparently my kids are interested in cleaning up their closets; all it took was a few bags of new clothes, and suddenly I had both R and N asking me to help them sort out their closets. If I had known that was all it would take I’d have dragged them to Value Village years ago.

They filled up a total of four laundry baskets full of stuff they can’t or won’t wear anymore. N’s closet went from being an avalanche every time we opened the doors to a neat and orderly wardrobe. He asked for hooks for his ties and hoodies, so I made him some s-hooks out of a nice blue coat hanger I had, and attached them to his pull-down closet rod.

I used up a couple more wire hangers in R’s room, but not for her closet. It seems that her dolls were jealous of R’s tidy wardrobe and wanted a place to store their clothes neatly — or so R told me. It just so happened that the ends of the wire hangers fit perfectly into the pre-drilled holes in the bookcase that we’ve been slowly turning into a doll house. Two hangers and a bit of duck tape later, I had fashioned some little shelves and installed them in the dolls’ bedroom. Have a look:

This dollhouse has been one of my proudest IKEA-hacking moments. R desperately wanted bunk beds for her dolls, but the ones for sale in the stores were upwards of $120 each. On top of that, they would have taken up the entire room in her dollhouse — the proportions would have been all wrong. I mulled over it for a couple of days and then, after looking very closely, I realized that there’s an extra row of holes in the sides of the bookcase about six inches from the back. I realized that IKEA had very shallow shelves for these units too, and that two such shelves could be dressed up to look like bunk beds.

I bought some doll bedding on sale and then cut it in half, creating two sets of bedding that fit the narrow shelves perfectly. Then, Because my motto is (according to my best friend since childhood) “Go big or go home,” I went a step further: I cut and glued some very small pieces of trim to make a bunk bed façade that attached to the front of the shelves.

There are six dolls and three bedrooms, so I still need to build two more of these façades — not to mention some more of those neat little shelves. I look forward to seeing whose rooms stay neat longer: R’s or the dolls’?

crafty · DIY · Jewy goodness · Kids

Day 152: Good thing I kept those DVDs

I finally found a use for that stack of blank DVD-Rs that’s been hanging around our storage room.

When we decluttered our basement playroom five years ago, I said, “You know what, these might come in handy. I’ll hang onto them for now.”

When we packed everything up to put into a storage pod when we renovated I said, “I know it sounds silly, but I really think we’ll use these for a craft someday. I’m keeping them.”

When we unpacked and organized our storage room, I said, “Those would probably make great sukkah decorations. Better keep them. I’ll get around to using them one of these years.”

Today I finally got around to it.

N’s most recent Tinker Crate (like a Kiwi Crate, but for older kids) was a “spin art” box. He built the circuit with a motor and a switch, finished assembling the flat plate to put the paper on, and situated it all in the box. Then the fun began; we were all just a little fixated on the beautiful patterns we made just by switching the motor on and dropping bits of paint onto a piece of paper as it spun.

Today I was looking for sukkah decoration ideas that are waterproof and could be reused year after year. You know, the same search I do every August when I decide to prepare way ahead of time. Pinterest kept showing me repurposed CD crafts, and suddenly my brain switched on and I realized that I should do spin art on the DVDs I’d saved for so many years.

The paint that came with the spin art kit was washable, though, and I had visions of our sukkah as a Salvador Dali painting, with the paint dripping sadly off of the DVDs as it rained. No, washable paint was out — I needed something waterproof. Enter nail polish. It’s not something I usually keep on hand, but I’d just bought a variety of colours for a science experiment. Armed with the spin art Tinker Crate, nail polish, and a stack of DVDs, I went outside with E and R to experiment.

The results are pretty cool. See for yourselves:

Thirteen down, thirty-three to go… and then we’ll do the other side as well, so we can hang these as a mobile in the sukkah.

Of course I need to build the sukkah first. I have to do the bulk of the build before we leave for the cottage, because we’re returning on Erev Sukkot. So I’ll put up the frame before we go, have all the roofing, furnishings, and decoration ready to install, and just put it all together as soon as we get back. It’ll be a challenge, but I think I’m up for it.

Next on my list: Figuring out what to do for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur at the cottage. Any ideas?

better homes than yours · blogging · crafty · DIY · Kids · Montessori · Renovation

Day 142: A sunny room for a sunny girl (house tour)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on our house tour. I have to admit that as much as I want to “keep it real” and show you our house the way we live in it, I kind of wanted to do a bit of cleanup first, maybe fix the window coverings that kept coming apart, that sort of thing. I think you know as well as I do where the time for that has gone. (*cough**homeschool**cough*)

Let’s do E’s room today. She picked the colour herself, which some might say is unnecessary in the case of a three-year-old, but it was very important to Mr. December especially that the kids make those choices. She chose “Mellow Yellow” for the walls, which is sunny without leaning too far towards green. I love that E’s room is at the end of the hall. It faces due west, so in the afternoon the room seems to glow. Many times I’ve walked in to turn off the light, only to realize that the light wasn’t on. The combination of Mellow Yellow and sunshine just makes it look that way.

Her door, like all the other doors in the house, isn’t painted all one colour. Instead we painted the centre panel and the splines (the edges of the door) in the colour chosen by the room’s inhabitant, and the stiles and rails are white.

As in other parts of the house, Montessori philosophy heavily influenced our decor choices in E’s room. Here’s her desk area. We used an adjustable-height desk and a children’s desk chair, set low enough that when she’s seated her elbows are at or above desk height and her knees are at a right angle. It the right height for her to be able to work at the desk with her feet touching the floor. I attached one of IKEA’s SKADIS pegboards to her desk and added a few shelves, cups, and clips. E herself decided to populate it with pictures of her younger self, birthday cards, and a few school supplies.

It’s important to note that this desk picture, as well as a few others in this post, was taken from E’s eye level. I think that’s essential to appreciating how she sees her room. There’s not a whole lot going on above the four foot mark. To give you a better sense of the scale on the whole, I’ve also taken some pictures from the adult’s perspective, like the very first photo at the top of this post.

E’s reading nook is really the result of a trip I made to HomeSense. I found this little armchair with elephants all over it and felt that it would be perfect for E. Then, as we were starting to unwrap and hang our artwork, the microcalligraphy painting called to me. I hung it at E’s eye level, not ours.

(An aside about the painting: it’s the first piece of art Mr. December and I ever bought together. We were in Israel while we were dating and happened upon this gallery in Tzfat. The artist specializes in microcalligraphy, meaning that by writing the words of a biblical story in tiny, tiny letters, he crates pictures of the story itself. When I saw the Noah’s Ark print, I leaned over to Mr. December and said, “That would be perfect for a kid’s room, wouldn’t it?” To which he replied, “Let’s buy it for our children, then.” Note that we weren’t even engaged at the time, although I suppose we had already agreed that’s where we were headed.)

The reading nook also happens to be conveniently located right next door to Peppa Pig’s house:

At E’s level, too, against most of our decor instincts, is where I installed the cute yellow doorknobs for her wardrobes. On opening the doors you can see that I arranged the drawers and hanging rods so that E could reach her everyday clothes by herself. The wardrobes are PAX from IKEA, which means that as she grows and her storage needs change, I can swap out the interior fittings and rearrange them to suit her needs. Have I mentioned that “retaining flexibility” was a high priority for both Mr. December and me?

As you can see in the photos, the height of the doorknobs and hanging rod make sense when viewed from E’s eye level:

E’s bed was my choice: since we don’t have a guest bedroom but would like to be able to have guests, three of the four kids’ rooms are able to sleep at least two people. That way we can get the kids to double up and give one child’s room to our guests. This bed pulls out to form a king-size bed (just add another single mattress,) which has been very handy when the three younger kids want to sleep together. Even in its enlarged mode, there are two large drawers underneath for bed sheets and pyjamas.

The yellow bedding is a result of serendipity at work. This duvet cover and pillow sham were mine when I was a teenager. After E had chosen her wall colour, my mom pointed out that it was almost a perfect match for my old bedding, dug up said bedding, and presented it to E for her new room.

I made the Roman shade for E’s window myself, which you can probably tell by the imperfect way it’s hanging. For some reason the cord keeps fraying and breaking even though I’m using the nice kind of hardware (with a pulley wheel and everything.) I need to fix it one day. I found the fabric, which matches the upholstered armchair, in an online store with free U.S. shipping and had it shipped to Mr. December’s company in California in advance of one of his business trips.

The bookcase serving as a headboard is really a placeholder, although I’m not sure if and when I’ll get around to building what I really wanted there. Nevertheless, it gives E’s elephant herd a place to live and still has space for some bedtime books.

What else is missing from my grand plan? I’d like to flank the bed with a bookcase/storage unit on each end, and add some wall-mounted reading lights on either side of the window (what can I say? I like symmetry.) If E so chooses, we can add some more decorations on the walls, although I like how clean and simple it is right now.

That’s it for E’s room. Stay tuned for the rest of the kids’ bedrooms, each of which is as unique as the child who lives in it.

blogging · crafty · Just the two of us · Keepin' it real · Kids · love and marriage · whine and cheese

Day 134: Just for me.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about taking time for myself. Homeschooling during COVID (i.e. can’t really go anywhere or do anything) is a recipe for burnout if I don’t take a break. The thing is, I’m not sure what that break would look like. I mentioned it to Mr. December and he informed me that a break looks just like what I’m doing now.

“Your blog is time just for you,” He pointed out. “Why else are you doing it? Who else is it for?”

Hmmm. It’s true that I blog because I want to, but it still doesn’t feel like rest and relaxation to me. I suppose that it’s time just for me in the same way that quilting was, once upon a time. But it’s not the kind of “me time” I’m thinking of. So what is?

The reality right now is that I just want some quiet. I need everyone to stop talking at me for just a few minutes… ok, fine. A few hours. My ADHD is not the reason why I can’t finish sentences or remember what I was doing. Those problems are caused by moments like this:

I’m talking to Mr. December: “So the home insurance quote came in and it looks wrong to me. I’m wondering if they know –“

“HUG ATTACK!” N launches himself at my midsection and squeezes me like he’s a python.

“Right,” I plow on ahead, patting N on the back as I talk. “As I was saying, they have the alarm on there but they’re ignoring the –“

“UNDERBELLY ALERT!” E sashays into the kitchen holding her shirt up, inviting Mr. December to nibble her belly.

“Not now, E,” he says. “Go ahead, honey.”

“EEMAAAAA!!! I thought you said you’d get me some oatmeal!”

“IN A SECOND!” I call back. Then to Mr. December, “What was I saying?”

“Somebody’s ignoring something,” he supplies.

“You mean our children are ignoring everything we ever taught them about interr–“

“You guys, there’s food stuck in my expander and it’s driving me crazy! Have you seen the syringe?”

I grit my teeth. “Sweetheart, can I see you in my office for a minute?” Without waiting for an answer I pull him into our tiny pantry and slide the door shut. The kids are giggling on the other side. We look at each other, giggle, and kiss. The kids, hearing silence, try to peek into the pantry. I hear R say, “Ew. Gross. They’re kissing. Let’s go play.”

Now, what was I saying? Who knows? This is exactly the reason why I long for the time, space, and silence to think my thoughts from start to finish. The only reason I’ve got this post done tonight is that the kids are playing a computer game with Mr. December and I’m alone on the back porch. Sweet, sweet solitude.

And now I can hear the door opening. A tiny voice wafts out, “Eeema! I’m baack! And I’m hungry!”

Oh, well. It was nice while it lasted.

crafty · DIY · education · Keepin' it real · Kids

Day 129: A History of our Timeline of History

A couple of months ago Mr. December and I decided to teach the kids history by showing them entertaining (but accurate) history videos. I decided to create a timeline on our wall so that after watching, the kids could pin the name and date of the video’s event to the timeline. Great idea, right?

I wanted to use my cute little push pins that have tiny clothespins attached, so I glued some cork to a backing of foam mats (leftovers from our previous playroom) and nailed all twelve feet of it to the wall. Soon the kids began to attach names, events, and dates. Joan of Arc. American Revolution. Henry VIII. French Revolution. Harry Houdini.

Getting real for a second here, it didn’t look fabulous; the edges of the cork were crumbly and I hadn’t disguised the foam backing, so the whole thing looked a bit shabby. I’m trying to tame my perfectionistic tendencies, though, so I let it be… until the day the cork started peeling off of the backing.

Back to the drawing board, then. The cork had come from a roll and it just didn’t adapt well to being held flat. Fabric should do a much better job. And so I found a nice piece of blue fleece and stuck it to the foam mats with extra-heavy-duty double-sided carpet tape. It looked a bit better for a few days.

Then the fabric fell off. Great. I decided to take down everything — foam and all — and try something new, which brings us to today.

Using my utility knife, some duck tape, and a vise grip, I cut a roll of drawing paper (from IKEA’s children’s department) to the height I needed. Then I unrolled it on the floor and cut it to length. With a roll of galaxy-print Duck Tape, I created a border so that the paper wouldn’t start to tear around the edges.

It didn’t quite turn out the way I’d hoped. I used a single long piece of tape for each side of the 12’6″ paper and at some point it started to pucker and crease. So much for my flat and smooth paper timeline. I finished framing the paper with the duck tape and mounted it on the wall with thumbtacks.

It looks okay. Not spectacular, but not terrible. I wish it had turned out a bit better, but I don’t have the patience to make a whole new one right now. The important thing is that the kids use it, right?

“Hey K, hey R, see my new timeline?” I prodded, “Isn’t it neat?”

“Meh.” They both shrugged and went back to their own work.

Thank God for E. Her immediate excitement restored my good cheer after her sisters’ callous indifference. “Where is ancient Egypt?” She asked. “When were the Pharaohs?”

I double-checked the answer with Google. Then E helped me stick the yellow masking tape in a straight-ish line from 3100 B.C.E. to 331 B.C.E. She stood back and marvelled at how much of the timeline Ancient Egypt actually covered.

“Should we put you on the timeline?” I asked her. “I’ll use yellow since it’s your favourite.” I ripped off a tiny piece of tape and stuck it to the timeline from 2015 to 2020.

“There you are,” I said. “Ancient Egypt runs aaaall the way along here, and this tiny speck here is your life.”

Wide-eyed, she took it all in for a moment. Then came what I thought was a non sequitur: “I guess some of the people in Egypt died while they were there.”

Huh? “What do you mean?” I asked. “Where else would they have died?”

“You know,” She insisted, “The ones who built the pyramids and left Egypt!”

“You mean the Hebrew Slaves who left Egypt on Passover?”


So I told her that according to the Torah, the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt for four hundred years — more than a few lifetimes — so she was correct. Many Hebrew slaves died in Egypt.

Then, in the lightning-fast manner of five-year-olds everywhere, she moved on:

“They mummified cats, you know.”

“Do you want to put a picture of a mummified cat on the yellow tape?” I offered.

“Yes. And pyramids. And King Tut.” She added.

And just like that, the hours I’ve spent on making a timeline have paid off.