Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Creating a Functional Homeschool Room

Our homeschool room has been a work in progress and a great learning curve for me in terms of function, design and utilizing our space to the fullest.

Willms Grove Elementary's (that's what we call our school ;) ) is located on the main floor of our 1913 house in the front "parlour". It was a space that was separate but very open to our main living room and one that we never really used to its full potential until we decided to put the school room there. Initially it was going to go in the basement but we gravitate to sunlight so that wouldn't work.

It was my mother who suggested that we just build cabinets in that room.

These cabinets are one of the key features that allow us to have school in this room. It would drive me crazy if we had open book shelves and school supplies everywhere in my sightline of the living room where we relax.

It's amazing how so much storage can take up so little space. We have ten foot ceilings and so we built a window seat/shelf along the entire wall and then eight foot cabinets on top. Almost the entire project is made from 1 x 12's which meant that we hardly had to cut anything and it's nice solid wood. The cabinet width is 11 1/4 " (which is what a 1 x12 ends up as) and the perfect depth for binders and books. We used plywood on the back and One Good Side Ply for the doors with a 1x4 trim. We like rustic around here :)

The cabinets are whitewashed even though you can't really tell. They're going to get another coat soon.

We kept it pretty simple on the inside. I used 3/4 " ply to make the shelves and wrapped them in fabric to make them cute. We have cork boards and magnetic strips on the inside of the door and hang our artwork and pocket charts there. The doors are often open during school while we use it as extra wall space and can close and keep everything neatly tucked away after school hours. 

It's amazing to me how much can be stored in a cabinet only 11 1/4 " deep! The only thing not in them are our story books which are in front facing bookshelves on another small wall. 

With a pre-k and a grade 1 student we find a table the most effective. It's a drop leaf and so becomes quite small if we don't need it for a while (like breaks or on the weekend). I scored vintage school chairs at the thrift store a few years back. I still love them. Right now the window seat is acting more as a shelf for library books and boxes of early readers. 

Our writing and colouring supplies always stay on the table so we just make sure they look cute. 

Right next to the school table is my desk and office hutch. Being that close makes prepping a breeze and makes it possible for me to work while they are working. We use the Mac a lot for educational videos as well so it's handy that they can view from their seats. 

(All of my photography business packaging materials are in the hutch next to the desk as well.)

 The view from living room.

The view of the living room from the school room. It's close!

 Ever since we started I have struggled with endless mountains of paper ending up all over the school room. Even though they all have binders they get filed into I didn't find it feasible to file each one as we finished it. That meant that I'd have a pile of handouts that we'd be ready to use that day and then a pile of finished work on the floor.

Recently I made it a goal to put a better paper management system in place. On a trip to the States we spent some time in Hobby Lobby and my good friend Ruth came across this beauty. Initially I couldn't figure out if I could fit it in the room but the tall one suggested this location. It's perfect. It also started black but I'm not really a black in my house kind of gal so I went all Midas on it and turned it gold.

Handouts for the day go in the top slot and then finished work goes in the appropriate subject slot throughout the day. At the end of the week I sort into subject binders and as a result we have NO floating papers! Mission accomplished. The kids know where their work goes and so we have found it to be super simple and streamlined. I love it. 

Also, I found that desk and another at Sally Anne last week. How could I not bring them home? The chair swivels!!! And both chair and desk adjust for height. Even though we still primarily use the table I brought one desk inside for times when they want to work on their own a bit. The metal parts are also going to turn a pretty vintage mint green as soon as I have the patience to tape off all the wood so I can spray it. 

So that's Willms Grove Elementary! In our years of owning this house that we love we have learned more and more about how to make the best use of our space. A homeschool space does not have to be huge to be effective. It just takes a little planning and some 1 x 12's!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Life is a Stage

The girl one started dance this year and she had been so excited about it from May until September. When it came time for the first class though she suddenly panicked and did not want to go in alone. This is so rare for her. She is second born and generally fearless.

After working through the first class with her we had many conversations in the week following.

Me: "Han, after your birthday there is going to be a big dance show. You will be on a stage, in a costume, there will be lights and lots and lots of people to watch you dance and they will clap. If you don't go to dance class, you can't be in that show."

Now, most people would assume that that would be a ludicrous thing to say to a little girl who is struggling to get over her fear to go to dance class with strangers but not with this one!

Han: "Well, I'm really feeling scared but I really want to be in that show. I guess I'll go to dance class."

And she hasn't looked back since!

This past week was their dance picture day and so before bringing her for her group picture we managed to squeeze in a 5 minute mini shoot outside on a loading dock - her own little stage.

When I do a shoot of my kids (especially the girl one) I try my best to let them take ownership of it. I want to capture their personality and their creativity. So, when she insisted on her red glitter "Mini Mouse" heels (that totally clash with her pink outfit) I of course said, "Sure. Whatever you want."

Not only do we get totally unique photos but I also find my kids 100% more cooperative when they get to have input.

All poses were strictly her own ideas :)


Definitely one of my favourites.

So random.

Throwing it down cause that's how we do ;)



LOVE, love, love. This one is going big. Big, on a canvas and on the wall.

Ha ha. There has been much input for names of this pose:
" Thanks but no thanks."
" Take it easy there mister."
"Wo -oh oah"

Somebody put their sassy pants on today!

This one she calls "Look at my little baby."

Is this how ballerinas do it?

Strike a pose - now Vogue.

Ah, life is a stage for this sweet girl.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Find the Fallen Shout Out

I’m going to jump completely out of my comfort zone today and write a little about music! Here’s my list of disclaimers:
- I know very little about the technical side of music
- I can not at this time play any instruments
- I find it very challenging to sing on key

ALL that said… I LOVE to worship. In the past years I’ve come from being the person who rarely had music on ever (and would turn off music in my friend’s houses) to having my favourite worship music playing in our home a good chunk of our day. So, it is in that spirit that I want to give a little shout out to the band Find the Fallen out of Yorkton, SK!

My husband (the tall one) has known FTF’s frontman Jon Tieszen since Kindergarten and even though they started out as mortal enemies with nothing but hate for one another they eventually grew to love each other like brothers and ended up roommates through Bible College and beyond. I even owe Jon and Crystal’s (vocals/keys) wedding for lighting a wee little fire under the tall one’s butt to buy me a ring and were blessed when Jon and Crystal sang at our wedding before they were famous Covenant Award nominees. Oh - didn’t I mention that? Well, they are. They were recently nominated for Rock Album of the Year for their debut album as well as Collaboration of the Year with Fresh I.E. 

See. Famous. 

In addition to those two stars, Dustin Wilson (Lead Guitar), Kyle Brewer (Drums), and Troy Janzen (Bass) come together to make up Find the Fallen. Their debut album is titled Shooting Stars and Satellites and is a diverse album that takes you on a journey through squealing guitar driven rock, authentic modern worship and uplifting get your body moving pop.  

It really is that diverse and there is something there for everyone. I specifically was drawn most to their song “All Around” as I sensed such an authentic heart for our Father and His glory. 

I had a chance to get a little insight into their writing process and their heart for this band. They very much collaborate as a whole team and have learned to not hold onto their own ideas too tightly as every song is very much a group process that continually evolves as each of them contributes. 

I love that each song in and of itself is a testimony as to who God is, though the band takes it even further in their concerts where not only do they perform but they create a worship atmosphere that invites attendees to participate as well as respond to God. Whatever your taste in music one has to appreciate bands that pave the way for Christ to be glorified in every genre and FTF is a part of that movement. 

If you’re interested in taking a listen you can check them out at ReverbNation as well as on iTunes (and wherever else you buy your music!)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Frozen Shoot

The girl one has been making anything and everything into an Elsa costume since seeing the movie Frozen. If you've looked for an Elsa costume you'll know that Disney ran out and you have to buy one on the black market for like $1000. I'm not exaggerating. I've literally seen them on Ebay for $1000!

We decided that we just needed to make our own. I finally finished it all today and so we did a little Frozen shoot on the docks of Boundary Dam Arendelle.

This was our third option for an Elsa dress (I have 2 thrift store dresses that I refashioned). I managed to randomly find a teal lace shirt at Dollarama and then sewed the teal satin on it to make the Elsa dress. Much less expensive than buying it on the black market now that Disney has ran out of all things Elsa.

I made the awesome "ice powers bracelets" after seeing THIS cool idea. I opted to sew mine onto the stretchy crocheted elastic instead though.

The Elsa Braid. This is such an important feature. The girl one makes everything an Elsa braid. I wasn't in love with the Elsa wigs out there and the girl one is already blonde so we just needed some length. I ordered an inexpensive hair extension on Amazon.com, clip it under her hair and braid it into her real hair. I love the effect!


Now is the part of the post where we have our power ballad - Let it go!

She's actually singing the song on the docks. Such passion, such angst.

Being able to swish a cape at the end of the Let It Go is also very important and so we whipped one of those up today as well. Makeit-Loveit had a great tutorial for a no sew cape and I used that. Super easy. One recommendation though is not to use a bowl for the neck circle. It came out too big.

I LOVE this shot.

So there we have it. A DIY Elsa costume and photos that will make me smile for ages :)