Joy Dare :: Unframed Art

Unframed art is really prolific around here. There are stacks and stacks of the stuff everywhere you look. Messy art projects are not something I am naturally thankful for, but I’m trying to not let the chaos bother me,

But recently, all the children have been branching out extensively in their artistic endeavors.


Sophie is the queen of all art forms. She’s not afraid to try her hand at anything, and is generally quite pleased with the results.



Kinsley seems to show some aptitude in the sculpting department.


Our charming penguin family was a gift from my creative mom. The kids love getting these guys out each Christmas season. They like to imagine all sorts of “clever” conversations taking place between the three gourds.

And the art behind them is by my awesome brother. I asked for an Ansel Adams style crayon art piece, and that is what he made me.



Puzzles, another art form we are certainly thankful for.  Especially these two.

Joy Dare Blog<


In a year.

It’s been more than a year since I’ve blogged. Life has been full of really crazy up and downs and I’ve needed the downtime. But I’ve missed blogging! I have no idea if I’ll keep up with the ol’ blog or not, but for today, here goes.

IMG_2124The kids are still wild and woolly.

IMG_1182Seriously, there’s never a dull or quiet moment around here.

IMG_1134 copyAnd guess what? We’re adding to the chaos come March. We couldn’t possibly be more excited about this little expansion project.  I’m currently the main one doing the expanding.

IMG_1184 copyIn a year, Truxton has completely mastered reading, and more importantly in his book, collected hundreds of frogs. 

IMG_0593This summer we’ve discovered that Kinsley has Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, and we are learning to cope with that development. In other news, she finished The Lord of The Rings since last summer. Now, if we could only master some basic addition, I’d be thrilled.

IMG_1302 copySophie has polished up her reading skills, and blossomed into the general ring leader of all miscellaneous children. Her younger two siblings constantly look to her for inspiration and guidance. It’s scary I tell ya.

Gillian is still basically her sweet, easy going self. Except when she’s not. Then boy, can she be rotten. I swear that we skip the terrible twos, but pay for it at age three. She’s begging to learn to read, because being the only non-reader in a family is just way too hard on a person’s psyche. And she’s getting it, actually. So by next year all the kids should be readers.

Wait, no. I forgot about Baby X. Who, by the way, purports to be a girl.

IMG_2260Yeah. You can pray for us.

Continue reading “In a year.”

Chalkboard Table

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For more than two years now, I have intended to do something with this coffee table, but never got around to it, until yesterday. It is a laminate surface, so I wasn’t sure if it would work to paint it, until I discovered chalk paint about a year ago. Boy, is that stuff wonderful!

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I used a DIY chalk/chalkboard paint recipe with sanded grout, and made it on the thick side, hoping to create a better writing surface.

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In between coats (I did two) I sanded it down to a satiny finish with 600 grit sandpaper. Normally I would wax my chalk paint, but as it turns out, if you don’t wax your surface, you magically end up with a chalkBOARD!

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The chalk goes on like butter (whatever that means) and it erases beautifully, and up to the point where I was uploading these pictures, I thought the whole thing was just pure genius. But as the kids continued to (very exuberantly) use the chalkboard table, I began to notice slight scratches in the paint. So apparently it isn’t working so well with the laminated surface. If I had to guess, I am thinking I shouldn’t have put it on so thick.

I have a (non laminated) train table to paint in the next few weeks, so I will see how the chalkboard surface works on that. Meanwhile, I just need to come up with a magic cure for the peeling paint on this baby.

Nature Study – The Oppossum

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Nature study is an area that consistently suffers in our schooling, even though I was determined not to let it slide.

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So when the Xplor magazine showed up and peaked Kinsley’s interest in opossums, I decided to roll with it, mostly to assuage the guilty feeling of failure.

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The Handbook of Nature Study didn’t have anything on the opossum (Did I miss it? Are they not blessed with these chicken eatin’ varmints across the pond??) so we turned to youtube. Where we basically got distracted by cute possum videos for 45 minutes. I suffer from shiny object syndrome.

(I actually kind of feel like that mama possum sometimes.)

We learned that baby opossums are about the size of a kidney bean when they are born and that an entire litter can fit in a teaspoon. The gestation period is only 13 days, and they nurse without stopping for two solid months. They are the only marsupials in the US. Fascinating!

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Then we sketched us some ‘possum (this is acceptable grammar when discussing a possum, I believe).

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Then Kinsley read to us from The Adventures of Unc’ Billy Possum.

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She is quite the expressive reader!

I am motivated to do better at nature study again. For now.

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We were peacefully doing our artist study this afternoon. At least as peacefully as we ever do anything around here. The artist for this term is Jacob van Ruisdael, and today the girls were imitating his style using the painting Two Watermills and an Open Sluice at Singraven (in case you want to know 😉 ).

I had settled the two youngest with children’s watercolors and was using the time to organize our nature study for the week, and enjoy a cup of coffee.

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I really wasn’t paying attention to Gillian, who was keeping herself quite busy.

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It was a moment of weakness for which I paid dearly.

Joy Dare :: A Gift Hung, Held, Heard

A Gift Hung


My black and white crayon art was a birthday gift from my super talented brother Jacob. I asked if he could pull of an Ansel Adams feel, and he sure did! It’s one of my most favorite pieces of art.

A Gift Held


I had to include Gillian here, since she makes certain that she is the main thing I find myself holding. That’s okay though, she’s pretty cute!

A Gift Heard


When we snagged our bird-songs clock from a neighbors yard sale, I was thrilled that both the kids and I could learn some of the bird calls in such an easy way. Unfortunately, I neglected to make sure that it was accurate, and after several months of me calling the name of each bird at the top of the hour, Dan pointed out that the clock must be set wrong, and I realized that we had learned all the wrong songs to all the wrong birds. Oh well. We’ll get around to bird songs someday.

Joy Dare :: 3 Gifts Sweet

Mom and I were talking about Three Gifts Sweet, and we realized that could go a couple different directions. There’s sweet like, “Oooh, that tastes sweet!” Sweet like “Awww… so sweet!” and then sweet like “Schaweeet!” (didn’t think of that last one till just a bit ago, Mom!)

So, really, I only thought about the “Oooh, yummy!” kind of sweet.


We snagged these at our discount grocery store during an emergency run for flour and nutmeg. Yes, no nutmeg DOES qualify as an emergency. They were cute, festive, and dipped in white chocolate, which made the children very happy.




But look! Papa is helping the girls identify a bird that they spotted. Awww, so sweet!


I am very thankful that Dan can make it home on lunch breaks now. It’s nice to see an adult (and one I like so much!) halfway through my day. Plus, we give him a rundown of the school day while he’s here, and he often has something to add. It’s one of my happiest blessings right now!


I also managed to score this yummy Christmas-ish coffee at the discount store. Which is schawheet! (But shhhh… don’t tell anyone about this last one, because some just might make it under the tree for certain family members at Christmas time!)

Education is a Science of Relations – part one

In the midst of packing away our books in preparation for our move, I have stumbled upon so many fantastic books that have been passed down to us by my parents. Each book seems to contain a wealth of encouragement and motivation for me, and I hesitate to pack it away into a box, resenting the certainty that I won’t read that particular book anytime soon. So even while I attempt to pack everything up in neatly labeled boxes, I have managed to accumulated a basket of books that are simply too good to put away. I am attempting to read a bit from each in the mornings, and to steal moments with each book when I sit and nurse Gillian.

This morning I was reading from the Charlotte Mason Companion, by Karen Andreola, a book that has been a favorite of mine since my mom first bought it when I was a young adolescent. I have browsed through its worn pages for more than a decade now, first I looked through the book for ideas to carry out with my younger siblings. In my mid teen years I read exerts dreaming of what it might be like to apply these wonderful ideas to my own future children. When my first daughter was born, I borrowed the book from my mom and skimmed it again, determined that the philosophy that Mrs. Andreola had to share would be a guiding light in the bringing up of my little people. As a tired mama to four children six and under, I kept the Charlotte Mason Companion by my bedside and intended to read it again, just as soon as we made it through the next harried day.

I am reading it again now, from cover to cover, and since I have to pack it away soon I find myself wanting to copy many exerts so that I can remember and motivate myself as Dan and I discuss and plan our approach to educating these lovable little munchkins this next year. So bear with me… read some of these ideas if you feel like it, and hold me to them. What I am sharing today comes from chapter four, entitled Education is a Science of Relations

“We parents can become quite anxious about covering and completing all the requirements for a particular grade level, and seeing that our children excel in the skills demanded of that grade level. It’s a woeful business when parents look toward doing what the grand system of education says is right for a child within their little homeschool. But when parents pursue knowledge for its own sake they need not be subservient to this grand system. Many young children hunger for knowledge. Yet they dutifully serve the system of textbook overview with never-ending worksheets and, under a system that does not feed their hunger for vibrant, vital knowledge, they begin to pine away. It is then that Mother loses confidence and feels discouraged and unqualified to teach. The children, for their part, find it harder and harder to obey. Parents and children alike are stuck in a system that stifles curiosity and initiative, and makes learning uninteresting.” ~ Karen Andreola, “A Charlotte Mason Companion,” page 29

I keep having to remember that thought, over and over again. From what I see around me, I think it is a good reminder to all parents who choose to home educate. We decline what The System has to offer, but still bind ourselves to it. I feel that in a way we embrace the worst of both worlds.

“The idea that vivifies teaching. . . is that ‘Education is a Science of Relations;’ by which phrase we mean that children come into the world with a natural [appetite] for, and affinity with, all the material of knowledge; for interest in the heroic past and in the age of myths; for a desire to know about everything that moves and lives; about strange places and strange peoples; for a wish to handle material and to make; a desire to run and ride and row and do whatever the law of gravitation permits.

Therefore. . . we endeavor that he shall have relations of pleasure and intimacy established with as many possible of the interests proper to him; not learning a slight or incomplete smattering about this or that subject, but plunging into vital knowledge, with a great field before him which in all his life he will not be able to explore.

In this conception we get that ‘touch of emotion’ which vivifies knowledge, for it is probably that we feel only as we are brought into our proper vital relations.” ~ Charlotte Mason

Relationship with God

“…But we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all education (which may at the same time be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection.” ~ Charlotte Mason

Relationship with Man

Perhaps the main part of a child’s education should be concerned with the great human relationships, relationships of love and service, of authority and obedience, of reverence and pity and neighbourly kindness; relationships to kin and friend and neighbour, to ’cause’ and country and kind, to the past and the present. History, literature, archeology, art, languages, whether ancient or modern, travel and tales of travel; all of these are in one way or other the record or the expression of persons… ~ Charlotte Mason

“The greatest maxim of all is that children should be brought up as simply and in as domestic a way as possible, and that (not interfering with their lessons) they should be as much as possible with their parents, and learn to place the greatest confidence in them in all things.” ~Queen Victoria

What a joyful reminder that it is our duty as parents to put our children in touch with the with the study of persons and with God’s dealing with persons. How sobering to realize that our relationship, as their parents are the first human relationship they will observe and in turn, act out. It is our great privilege to introduce our children to biographies, historical fiction, myth and delightful picture books all written by authors who truly love their subjects!

“…Historical events are interesting to us mainly in connection with feelings, the sufferings and interests of those by whom they are accomplished. In history we are surrounded by men long dead, but whose speech and whose deeds survive…” ~ Emerson

Relationship with Ourselves

In Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote:

This above all, to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!

Charlotte Mason wrote a little book which she entitled Ourselves. I have not read it yet, but am linking it here partly as a reminder to myself to read it soon! She suggested that it be read little by little, and given by means of Sunday talks.

Relationship with the Universe

“The child who learns his science from a textbook has no chance of forming relations with things as they are because his kindly obstrusive teacher makes him believe that to know ABOUT things is the same thing as knowing them personally,” said Charlotte Mason

I have so much to say here – about nature journals, and astronomy and bird watching… but my little charges are all awake now, and have wet diapers and tummy aches, and they need their mama. I will have to get back to the rest of the chapter tomorrow, but at least I have motivation for today! 🙂