Oh, hear ye, hear ye! We have finally finished our chapters on all things castles! I know, exciting, right? And even more exciting than reading about them is building one! I mean really, what says homeschooling more than building a miniature medieval castle on the kitchen table...brick by tiny brick?
Yes, the ole brick'n'build.
See, when we had our children's store we sold this kit where kids could build their own medieval castle. It involved mixing up the brick material (a version of plaster of paris), pouring it into molds, waiting for them to dry, and well, essentially, making bricks...approximately 200 bricks...give or take.
Well, we didn't end up selling all of those kits by the time we closed the store so we brought one home with us...and saved it for when we might someday be homeschooling and studying medieval brick laying...
and who saw that day coming...
yet here we are, nearly two years later, making tiny medieval bricks...lots and lots and lots of bricks. It took about a month...or maybe it was 6 days...I don't know...it seemed endless. We're talking tiny bricks here, people!
BUT, once the bricks were made, oh the fun began! Building 101, for little people. This kit comes with architectural diagrams...how to lay the bricks to make strong walls, how to create the windows and doors, and how to add the tower tops. Very cool! And a most excellent, educational, and rewarding (and yes, somewhat endless) project...
Which required patience...and a lot of glue (and A&W Cream Soda)
Little Gypsy Girl helped (ok, supervised mostly, but somebody has to, right?) while Older Gypsy Girl layered each brick on top of the other, gluing and gluing and gluing, layer after layer after layer.
And then, it was done! And oh the joy! There was dancing and weeping. And the little pet shop critters were finally able to move in. What a glorious day!
Yes, lower ze drawbridge!
Storm the castle! Throw down the gauntlet! Take no (is that a Christmas tree?) prisoners!
This project is definitely going into our crafty hall of fame...though I imagine what took a month to build will only take these pet shop critters a few days to destroy. I suppose that's the medieval way of things.
We continued our castle journey with a few art projects as well. We've been working on perspective in our art studies so I decided to have the girls work on castle drawings using similar perspective techniques.
The goal was to show a castle in the distance, by creating fields and hills in the foreground.
One girl chose to paint hers with watercolors, the other decided to use textured rubbings and crayons. Unique versions of the same assignment.
We took 3 pieces of chipboard (you could also use poster board or cardboard) and cut them into the 3 pieces/sections, then taped them together.
We found some spare ric rac trim pieces and glued those around the edges and painted them with gold paint.
Then the real fun began (for those of us who think drawing and painting is fun, that is). The girls created their castle-y perspective-y pictures to go inside the triptych. I had to tape two long pieces of white paper together to get the size right, then we traced the outline of the triptych onto the white paper to get an idea of how big their drawing area was.
Then they got to work sketching and drawing.
And then painting...
And then gluing...
They turned out quite well, I think! Definitely a keeper project from a great activity book! We went on to do at least a half dozen more of the projects in the book during our studies. I think the triptych was my personal favorite, though.
A now it's time for a field trip to our local Renaissance Festival!
PS: You'll find the link to the castle building kit here. If you read the reviews, the biggest complaint is the time it takes to build the bricks. My response to that is, yes, it takes time, but should every project our kids set out to do be quick and easy? Shouldn't we be teaching them the more time and effort a project takes, the greater the reward for finishing it? What's the rush, eh? Age range is probably best for older 8 to maybe 12?
Here's what I've learned recently about shampoo: Shampoo is not necessary
Our hair is actually worse off because of it. If we stop shampooing for a few weeks, yes, our hair will feel greasy and we'll convince ourselves: "SEE! I need shampoo!" But this is about how long it takes for our hair to return to a normal ph level. Shampoo causes our hair to make more oil because it's not natural for us to be continually cleaning the oil out of our hair. So for a while our bodies will continue to make excess oil. But eventually this process evens out and we are left with heathly, un-stripped, shiny hair. All that's needed is water and maybe a little baking soda and a rinse afterwards with vinegar for conditioning. Your body will naturally produce the oil that's needed to condition your hair. And you'll save money, buy less plastics (and therefore consume less oil), contribute to less consumerism, AND you'll lessen your daily dose of toxins. And, even more importantly, you'll lessen your children's daily dose of toxins! For the WIN!
Most of the ingredients in shampoo "may" cause health concerns (that's a link, click it). The word "may" is used because most chemicals have never been tested. Of the more than 80,000 chemicals registered and used in the U.S. since World War II, fewer than 500 have ever been properly studied for their effects on humans and the environment.
We've been sold a myth. And it's making alot of people very rich. And it's filling our world with yet another dose of unnecessary chemicals and toxins. Just the thought of one less thing to buy at the store makes me a happy camper. And that is indeed, my goal. How many fewer things can I buy at the store. How much do I really need? What is necessary and what is just pure marketing nonsense.
And keep in mind, all these shampoos and conditioners and styling products get washed down the drain and end up in our water supply and in our oceans.
"Shampoo, for example, contributes to high levels of estrogen and estrogen-like substances (endocrine disrupters) in freshwater downstream of sewage treatment plants that damage fish populations and cause male fish to grow ovaries, a sort of liquid feminism. My hometown of Calgary, Canada, studied the fish downstream of where we add our treated sewage to the river and discovered that female fish outnumber male fish 9 to 1. Estrogen runs through it. One study identifies more than 200 chemicals that are still present in wastewater after treatment. But the problem is likely much larger: environmental damage is difficult to estimate because we're dumping chemicals into the environment that have never been studied." - Bill Bunn
Um, and our scalp is one of the most absorbent parts of our bodies. If you're not willing to do it for yourself, at least do it for your kids.
And if you eat fish, then do it for the fish!
(Though, considering the fish are absorbing all of these hormone disrupters in their bodies, you might want to consider laying off the fish, too...it's the chemical circle of life...I'm just sayin')
If you want to read more here's a great blogpost from New Urban Habitat (and be sure and read the comments)