A bit of Calligraphy (handicrafts)

P1050967 Since this is my first year with our Charlotte Mason homeschool co-op, I am not teaching any classes by myself. My main role is assistant to the handicrafts teacher – which is pretty much my dream come true. Because I LOOOOOOOVE handicrafts! Calligraphy, watercolor, sewing, knitting, quilting, collage, you name it – making useful and beautiful things by hand is what I was made to do! And it brings me such pleasure!!!

“I am, I can, I ought, I will” was the motto of the students in Charlotte Mason’s school. And this is the cover of my commonplace book (which is a lined Moleskine Cahier book). I plan to do another calligraphy of the motto with some fancy flourishes in a frame to display in our schooling room.

Our CM co-op incorporates a monochrome (all one color – i.e. pencil or pen, not with multiple colors of paint) reproduction of the subject of picture study (more like a visual narration than trying to reproduce the artist’s work), so we both needed an unruled notebook to hold the sketches. P1050964


Below, you can see all of Adele’s school supplies: Adele’s leather-bound moleskine watercolor notebook, her picture study sketch notebook (I used an unruled Moleskine Cahier notebook), and a cute little (lined) polka dot notebook that I found for $1 on clearance! I just love that Adele is using high-quality art supplies. I think it helps Adele to treat her schoolwork with a lot of respect. And, these notebooks will be used for more than just one year; in some cases, they will be a lifelong treasure. =)



When Mom tries to squeeze in a bit of sewing, the kids run amok!

Everett exploring Adele’s math manipulatives . . . IMG_1970 IMG_1971


P.S. FYI this is not a sponsored post. Moleskine has never heard of me! I don’t like “name-dropping” brand names but I also know that it’s nice to know what other people use if they think it is a quality product.


Around here lately – September 2014





IMG_1968We have our first official day of homeschool co-op this Wednesday and we are sooo excited! We got some new school supplies – somehow that really makes it even more fun, right?P1050937 P1050938 P1050939

I’ve begun work on Eleanor’s hexagon baby quilt!

P1050956 IMG_1969


I’m also working on some “art” for inside the little crib nook in her room. I was inspired by THIS and THIS. It’s going to be two similar pieces side by side. So far, I’ve just done the first layer or so on one piece. I’m going to redo a few parts once I get some more paint that matches the colors in her quilt a little better. Note – you’ll have to turn your head sideways – I’m too lazy to go back and rotate the picture.


And, I’m finally sewing the cushion covers for Adele’s window seat. FYI, it’s a soft purple design for the main fabric and I decided to go with neon pink jumbo piping.

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

I think it’s safe to say that kid pictures are Grandma’s love language! We love you!




P1050899 P1050894

P1050923 P1050911 P1050909




This one looks like Pippi LongstockingIMG_1962I crossed Everett’s legs to inhibit his tendency to push into extension. We do this in the stroller too. It looks funny, but it helps his hips and it helps him sit up better.


IMG_1957 IMG_1961

We had a playdate at a park with a little water feature. Did you know that my kids LOOOOVE water?

IMG_1943 IMG_1940 IMG_1902


In August, we went to the Mary Cassatt exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. WOW! And we brought some prints home to do some Mary Cassatt picture study.

This one was my fav.


This is a Monet – it’s Adele’s favorite. I had never seen this painting before, but when we got home Adele promptly showed it to me in one of our books.




This is a Rembrandt – Girl with a Green Watering Can – a long-time fav of ours. We bought prints of this one for picture study at home.


The kids lately Summer 2014


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


OK, these top pics were of the kids in Maine before I got there (I was in Minnesota with Eleanor at the CM conference), which is why Adele is wearing a long-sleeved neon shirt underneath a lacy top paired with pajama bottoms. Oh, to be five!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.




This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At the National Cathedral in DC – we took Everett to an intensive Anat Baniel therapy bootcamp right down the street.


Supplies for Keeping Notebooks – What I Use

I’ve had a few requests for an updated list of supplies. So here it is. I am not a professional artist or anything like that, but I have tried a few different things and I’ve found several supplies that I really like to use. When I started my notebooks, I searched all over to find what other people were using, just to find a place to start, but I had a hard time finding a list like this.

First of all, if you haven’t read Laurie Bestvater’s book, The Living Page, then you should start with that. In her book, she has a list of  suggested “keeping” supplies (although mostly generic descriptions and sometimes it’s nice to have a link to something specific) and, I admit, I kind of went wild. But, I think good quality art supplies are the best kind of “toys” or even “educational tools.” I am going to provide links to amazon because it might make things easier for someone who wants to just click and buy. I definitely prefer to support local small businesses, but oh-my-goodness “click and buy” without leaving the house is really helpful for me in my current stage of life. And, just a reminder these are NOT affiliate links. I have absolutely no bias in recommending any of these items.

Nature Notebook Supplies that I Use:

I realize now that my “better quality” supplies probably haven’t improved the quality of my artwork at all, but they HAVE made the process of using them more enjoyable. And, that is worth it to me =). Also, these are just the things that work for me, and even though what I like might not be the best choice for you, it’s possible that reading why I do or don’t like something will be helpful information. I hope so, anyway!


I have tried a variety of paint palettes, but this one is my current favorite. It is not small, but I did not want to use two separate palettes, so this is the one I use at home and also for travel. The palette comes empty and you use tubes of watercolor paint to put the colors where you want them – I suggest you take some time to plan out your colors in a way that makes sense to you before you put any paint down (I wish I had been smarter about my layout). Also, a little bit of watercolor paint goes a really long way, so you don’t need much at all in the palette. If you are doing nature study in a co-op group, you might consider splitting one really nice set of paint tubes between ten or so palettes – you’d probably still have lots leftover. This palette also has a long skinny section that holds a paintbrush or two. It even has a nifty spot to hook your thumb through so you can hold it when you are painting without a table (in my lap!). I bought this inexpensive set of paints and they work for me, but I haven’t tried a lot of brands of paint. Also, my nature journal is kind of bulky, but its beauty makes up for its weight. It is a handcrafted leatherbound watercolor journal from etsy.  I can see the appeal of a smaller palette and a smaller journal, but these sizes work for me.

When I started my nature journal, I was frustrated when I tried to add details to my painting. I thought I needed a very small detail brush. I bought about five brushes (less than ten dollars each). Recently, I invested in one real sable brush and I wish I had started with that instead of buying multiple brushes. I personally don’t use more than one brush when I’m painting, so I think it’s best to get one high-quality brush. Also, the sable brush I bought (size 8) is a lot bigger than the small brushes but the bristles come to a point, so you can still paint a nice detail.

I’ve also tried several brands of waterbrushes – it’s a genius idea where the brush holds water in the stick part and you release the water by gently squeezing. But, since I am doing dry brush technique, I use very little water (just a few drops for a whole painting), and these get too wet too easily for my taste – but they aren’t expensive, so try it – you might love it.

Commonplace Book Supplies that I Use:

Screen Shot 2014-08-09 at 10.04.49 PM

I bought a leather cover from etsy that holds three moleskine cahier notebooks. I love it! I like that I can take the books in and out easily, although I haven’t needed to yet. I thought I would be filling up a cahier book every month or so, but I write really small and am not even one-third of the way through my first one so far.

Calligraphy Supplies that I Use:

I have ventured into the world of pointed nib dip pen calligraphy. And it is sooooo fun! I bought this book, which has been the perfect guide!

Screen Shot 2014-08-09 at 2.58.55 PM

These are my favorite nibs (they’re for manga drawing), but it’s a good idea to try lots of different ones. I also prefer the manga nib holder (because it’s wood and has a cushion at the top — and it’s not any more expensive than the plastic ones). I have several different inks – my favorite is a manga ink, because it’s a very rich dark black (almost shiny), but it’s also the most dangerous because it takes a long time to dry and some parts stay wet even overnight – this means that it is easy to ruin your whole project with one wrong move. It is so hard to do calligraphy without getting ink all over my fingers! I don’t mind ink on my fingers but I do not want it on my paper! =) I also have Speedball super black and also Daler Rowney FW Acrylic Artist ink. I think each ink reacts differently with different nibs and especially on different paper. You really can’t do calligraphy on printer paper. I use smooth bristol board paper.

Screen Shot 2014-08-09 at 2.57.37 PM

Mrs. Bestvater suggested a writing desk (on an incline) in her book and I remember hearing how that’s helpful for calligraphy too. I tried a few ideas for making one myself, but I recently bought this one (large size) and I think it’s really great – very sturdy. I struggle with good posture, so having my writing surface higher really helps. I tried this wooden easel first because I like the look of the wood and it’s less expensive, but it is really intended to be used in a more upright angle – when I had it farther back it kept sliding down flat when I put pressure on it (as you do when painting or doing calligraphy). I ended up keeping it though because it really is lovely and it can still be used for upright painting and also for displaying picture study books.

Keeping Supplies that I do NOT recommend:

I bought a white sharpie with oil-based paint in it, that I hoped would allow me to add white dots on top of watercolor, but it isn’t nearly opaque enough. White gouache paint (the kind that comes with most watercolor paint tube sets) applied with a (not very wet) paint brush works much better.

I’ve also bought several sizes of Micron pens, but the super-fine tips seem to break quickly and they are not cheap. When not broken, though, these pens are excellent.

In my opinion, multiple brushes are a waste of money. I don’t want to mess with holding lots of brushes when I’m painting in my lap outside, so I think it’s best to put the same amount of money into one good brush.

I bought this Niji roll, but I don’t trust it to protect the bristles of a fancy sable brush (I just use the plastic sleeve it came in — it’s like stiff plastic tubing — and store the brush inside my plastic paint palette). I do have a few pencils that I like to use but I keep those at home and don’t like to fuss with them “in the field.”




To Minnesota and Maine and home again – July 2014

I had the privilege of attending a Charlotte Mason retreat in Minneapolis. My roommate brought her baby too! I thought Eleanor was a super-chubby baby until I saw Samuel, who is about a month older and extremely healthy! I think Eleanor must have had a growth spurt on the plane ride because she had really thinned out and looked especially scrawny next to her roomie.


I consider myself a Charlotte Mason purist, so the Charlotte Mason Living Education Retreat was just the thing to encourage me for the upcoming school year. I have zero desire to go to a generic “homeschool conference” in a humongous convention center with five thousand different curriculum vendors.

In a comical scene where I misread the schedule THREE times in a row, I encountered a conference attendee who asked about doing Classical Conversations with a Charlotte Mason curriculum. [Now, I will be the first to admit that I have not actually experienced Classical Conversations. For that matter, I haven't  done an official year of homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way yet -- I am not even a real homeschooling mom using any curriculum or philosophy yet. But, I can't keep quiet when I hear questions like this. Not that I'm an expert, mind you -- but I certainly do have an opinion!] I responded that you could do anything you want, but doing CC would not be using the CM philosophy. CM focuses on ideas before facts, CC gives facts (to be memorized) for years before the child is allowed to feast on the ideas. As my dear friend Charissa reminds us, Charlotte Mason said, “The mind is an organ nourished upon ideas ONLY.” She elaborates further: “An idea is the live thing in our mind that grabs hold of us.” And, “Things of interest and ideas come before facts and symbols.”

I think, the educational model/philosophy/curriculum/etc. you choose all boils down to your goal. What are you trying to achieve? And a few more critical questions: how do you view the child, and how do we even learn anything, anyway? I know for certain that I have different goals for my children than the public school system and we fundamentally disagree on how children actually learn and even in our view of the child. These issues were brilliantly discussed and fleshed out by Dr. Jennifer Spencer in her talk “How Firm a Foundation.” I expect that the contents of her talk will be published by the Charlotte Mason Institute this year, along with the rest of the keynotes from their summer conference. Highly recommended!!

Because I, like Charlotte Mason, view a child as an image-bearer of God and a person, not an empty vessel to be filled with facts of the teacher’s choosing, my job as the “teacher” is really more of a facillitator. As such, I: provide the atmosphere, spread the feast, cultivate habits of attention and observation, provide a culture of self-education, provide scaffolding, ask for narration/copywork/conversation/etc., foster a love of books, not get between the child and the “thing” (the book, the music, the painting, etc. . . .), and not try to be my child’s Holy Spirit. I need to let the Holy Spirit and the books (or the “things”) themselves be the teacher/tutor. My role is to expose the child to a wide variety of subjects, because I don’t yet know the Holy Spirit’s calling for the child.

Perhaps the contrast between the CM philosophy and what-I’m-trying-to-avoid (in public school and also the classical method) are best described by James K. A. Smith in Desiring the Kingdom (quoted in The Living Page): “What if education was primarily concerned with shaping our hopes and passions — our visions of “the good life” — and not merely about the dissemination of data and information as inputs to our thinking? What if the primary work of education was the transforming of our imagination rather than the saturation of our intellect? . . . What if education wasn’t first and foremost about what we know but about what we love?”

To me, this “better” idea of education, the Charlotte Mason philosophy, if I may be so bold, is really the sanctification of our mind (i.e. the bringing of our mind into submission to the Spirit). And, it is really giving the child the tools to self-educate in order to ultimately become equipped to serve and glorify God in that unique way that God planned from the beginning.

During the morning devotion at the conference, Nancy Kelly shared about the deeper meaning of “shalom” from theologian Cornelius Plantinga, “In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight – a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Saviour opens the doors and welcomes creatures in whom he delights.”

Nancy Kelly also quoted Saint Irenaeus, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God.” Boom! How can we glorify Him if we don’t even truly “see” Him. How can we behold Him until we learn to look? And it all comes back to the art of noticing, cultivated by the notebooks.

In The Living Page, Laurie Bestvater says the purpose of a nature notebook is the acute observation (noticing) and recording of God’s creation. It is more about the process than the end result (i.e. what is happening in the heart and mind is more important than how accurately you are able to portray God’s amazing creation with your feeble art skills). She also says that the nature journal is a source of delight for a whole life, a companion. She is right! I’ve only had mine for a bit longer than a year, but it really is a source of delight to me.

Keeping a notebook is actually transforming me too. I see things now that certainly have been there all along, but I never noticed them before. Also, I have been programmed to be a consumer (quite successfully, I might add), but this, too, is changing. While we were out and about in Maine, Adele noticed a multitude of tourist shops and asked me about them. I told her that when people go on a vacation they like to buy something to remember the vacation once they are at home. Well, I could feel the urge to buy something myself, but then I remembered my recent entries (the puffin and the sea gulls) in my notebook and I didn’t feel the need to buy anything to “remember” my vacation.

I have posted my nature notebook entries on this blog as I’ve added them, one at a time, but I thought I would post them all right here – so they are in one place. I’ve added some fancier tools along the way (a quality paintbrush and new paints) so it’s kind of cool to see how things have (hopefully) improved since I began. And, I’ve recently started learning real calligraphy (pointed nib dipped in ink) – I’m excited to add that into my nature notebook too! I’ll start with the most recent entries and work backward.


We went to Monhegan Island for a day and hiked to some very lovely views. We stopped for a little rest and I decided to paint a puffin because my landscape skills aren’t really able to capture the beauty of what I was seeing. Adele painted a puffin right beside me!


My almost-done puffin and my paint palette that I love love love!