A few days ago, I finished making this crochet blanket. I absolutely loved making it; the colors are so pleasant, and the pattern was easily memorized, so it was great for show-watching and car-riding. There are countless versions of the pattern online (I’m guessing it’s one of the oldest crochet patterns around), but I followed the one by Jayda in Stitches on YouTube. My blanket is 10 repeats wide (140 stitches, 144 starting chains), and 3 repeats plus one segment tall. I consider each height repeat to be 8 rows of gray, 4 teal, 8 black, 4 teal. I finished it out with 8 rows of gray, because otherwise it felt like I’d “stopped” rather than “finished.”
When I asked the kids what they wanted their new “blog names” to be, our oldest chose Ballet Boy. It’s rather fitting, seeing as though dance is his main “P.E” and extracurricular right now. So, without further ado, let’s meet Ballet Boy.
Ballet Boy is 16, and besides ballet (he’s been the lead role in three ballers now, including having been The Nutcracker twice) his main interest right now is medieval weaponry. He’s been doing loads of research and has started collecting swords. In fact, he’s even started making his own! He spends about half his schooldays in my homeschool, and the other half working with/for his dad. As he’s matured, he’s become a fantastic sounding board for ideas, and an invaluable part of Will’s team.
Ballet Boy is a remarkable young man, wise beyond his years (usually), and incredibly responsible. He’s been our go-to babysitter since he was 13, and it’s so nice being able to trust him in that capacity.
Will does a lot the assigning for Ballet Boy’s school, and under his guidance, our son is learning Earth science and reading Machiavelli’s The Prince (besides the things I assign him as well). They have rousing discussions (so I’ve heard) about his readings.
In addition to sword making and ballet, he has recently shown an interest in learning to sew; I got a new sewing machine a few days ago, so we’ve had a couple of lessons.
I think that’s it for Ballet Boy for now.
Will and I have been married for 19 years. He runs a publishing and graphic design company. The publishing side deals with his own books (he draws comics and writes and illustrates picture books). He also has a magazine, which features comics, stories, and non-fiction profiles. The goal of the magazine is to promote art and literacy in schools. As such, he offers copies free to schools for their students.
The graphics side focuses on helping other self-published authors get their books ready for print. He takes the text and illustrations (when applicable) and sets up the appropriate title pages, fonts, etc.
Outside of work, his favorite books are Cold Mountain and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. He enjoys mobster movies and spy shows. His favorite beverage is iced tea, and one of our regular date nights is to hit our favorite restaurant, sometimes just to drink tea and talk.
Though he works hard, he also likes to play hard. He isn’t opposed to getting down on the floor to play horsie with the little kids or grabbing a Nerf gun to shoot the teenagers.
He is a great interior designer; our home is beautiful because of his eye, not mine. He prefers his music on vinyl, as is proof by our collection of nearly 200 records.
I am blessed to get to spend my life with him.
Because I took a long break from blogging, I though it might be a good idea to introduce my family. I’ll do one member a week until we’re all done, and will likely give the three older boys new “blog nicknames,” so if you’ve been here a while, don’t get confused when that happens. (Their current names were chosen many years ago, and their interests/sizes have changed, which was how I chose the names in the first place. Since I’m kind of starting fresh, it makes sense to do so fully.)
Let’s start with me!
My name is Wendy. I’ve been married for 19 years, and together my husband and I have 5 boys, ages 16, 13, 7, 4, and 1. I’ve been blessed to be able to stay home with my boys since the day our oldest was born. (Actually, I quit my job 3 weeks before he was born.) Four of my boys have been born via c-section, and while I was crushed when I was having my first one (with our second son, an emergency), I actually don’t mind them anymore. The first time we got to “choose” a birthday it was weird, but it’s kind of par for the course now. We have chosen to homeschool our boys, and to help with that I’m a member of the Homeschool Review Crew.
My hobbies are knitting and crocheting. I go back and forth between the two fairly regularly. I like knitting for anything that will be worn, and crocheting for things like blankets and toys. I’ve made many things in many categories over the years. I used to make quilts, but (almost) 3 years ago I got rid of my sewing machine. I’ve recently been bitten by the quilting bug, though, and hope to get a new sewing machine soon.
I sometimes enjoy reading, but it is more for work than recreation these days because I do copy editing for my husband’s publishing company. I also enjoy writing, and a recent children’s story I wrote was published in my husband’s magazine and distributed to over 10,000 elementary and middle school kids.
My favorite animals are elephants (though ladybugs are second place). My favorite colors are pink and brown.
I think that’s it for now. I’m sure you’ll learn more about me as you continue to spend time here.
Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.
After a year off, I am so excited to be part of the Homeschool Review Crew again! For my first review of 2020, I’ve had the absolute pleasure of reacquainting myself with SchoolhouseTeachers.com. In case you’re unfamiliar, it’s the all-in-one homeschool curriculum website run by The Old Schoolhouse homeschool magazine. When I say “all-in-one,” I really mean it, too. With my Ultimate PreK-12 Annual Membership, I’ve been able to find things for all three of my school-age sons (10th grade, 8th grade, and 2nd grade) to do.
There are so many ways to dig around and find things on SchoolhouseTeachers.com. If you’re trying to plan “circle time” with a wide age range of children, you can search by topic. If you’re putting together individual curricula for different children, you can search by age/grade.
For now, let’s take a short rundown of what each of my children used on SchoolhouseTeachers.com during the past month.
In order to find something for my oldest son, I first looked over SchoolhouseTeachers.com “by grade level.” Then I considered his interests as well as what “holes” I thought needed filled in his school year. Using those two criteria, I found the perfect course for him: The National Debt. This is a 24-page PDF that I downloaded to my iPad and sent him via email so he could have it on his own tablet to work through. The course includes reading, vocabulary, and written exercises. When he’d finished the reading on his first day of this study, I found myself really impressed with him because he came out from studying and told me all about not just the course, but also some independent research he’d done based on the course. I love that he took the initiative to go above and beyond what was presented in order to further his understanding of the topic.
For my second son, I followed a similar path in finding something for him. I chose a biography of Nikola Tesla. He’d learned a bit about Tesla through conversation and movies watched with his dad, so I knew this would pique his interest. The biography is on World Books, which is included as part of the SchoolhouseTeachers.com membership. In order to access the huge library of World Books, you login to that website using the username and password found on the members-only information page of SchoolhouseTeachers.com.
In accessing this part of the website (World Books), I had the opportunity to deal with the customer service department at SchoolhouseTeachers.com. I’d logged into World Books a few days before and emailed the link of the book to my son, but then when we tried to access it later, the login credentials didn’t work. Using the instant chat help feature, a very helpful person got me all squared away. Having that chat feature was really convenient and very effective.
My 7-year-old is a very inquisitive child. He loves being read to and learning about many things. Even though we’ve never used a formal curriculum with him, I have no concerns about his education at this stage (except for his reading) because of his curiousness. That said, it took me a bit of time to find something for him. The reading/spelling curricula for his age was a bit beyond him (he’s below grade level in reading but at or above in all other subjects). Combine that with it having been winter break (during which we were very busy with Nutcracker), and I wanted something light for him and I to do together. I found just the thing with the All About Inventions unit study. This teaches children about 15 fairly modern inventions, from bubblegum to Lincoln logs and fruit roll ups to laundry detergent. Each invention is given a short history (just a paragraph or two – enough to explain them to young children, but not to overwhelm them.) At the end of the short histories are a couple of activity pages for kids.
SchoolhouseTeachers.com has more than just classwork, though. They have planning resources (printable planners for kids and moms – and dads – of all ages), a report card generator, college and career planning, and much, much more. There are over 450 classes available, plus videos, ebooks, and interactive content. And the best part is that you get all this for one price for you entire household – not per student. For the single price of $179 per year (or $19.95 per month or $39.95 per quarter), you get access to everything SchoolhouseTeachers.com has to offer. But if you head over there this month (January 2020), you’ll find a coupon code to get your annual membership for just $99 (or $12 monthly), and that price is guaranteed as long as you keep your membership active.
As much as I love and endorse SchoolhouseTeachers.com, though, I encourage you not to just take my word here. Head over to the Homeschool Review Crew blog to find access to over 100 more reviews (and if reading isn’t your thing, some of those reviews are YouTube vlog reviews, and some are very short social media reviews).
For four years running now, my boys have danced in a local production of The Nutcracker. We started in 2016, when I was taking ballet classes myself (I quit because it was hurting my feet; I need to get serious about weight loss so I can do ballet again). The first year, my oldest son (then 13) had the part of the toy soldier in the party scene. My second son was an “extra” in the party scene. Both danced the Russian/Trepak dance with their boys’ tumbling class. For their second year, they had the same parts.
The third year, 2018, my oldest got a promotion. He’d been working really hard, taking multiple ballet classes a week (15-20 hours’ worth), and he was awarded the coveted role of the Nutcracker himself. This left the part of the soldier open, which our second son stepped into seamlessly. This is the same year that our third son joined the boys’ class (the minimum age is 6, and he’d turned 6 that summer). All three danced the Trepak that year.
This year, all their roles were reprised. Because our second son started taking ballet this year, his Toy Soldier dance was expanded to include more ballet movements:
(Pardon the unfortunate angle – I filmed this from my spot in the audience during an actual performance.)
The Russian dance:
And finally, my oldest as The Nutcracker Prince with his Clara:
Ballet has been a very positive influence for my kids (even our 4-year-old takes class now – he’s the only boy in the “Baby Ballerinas” class!), and I wanted to take a moment to share it here.
This year is our family’s first time celebrating Hanukkah, and I am trying to embrace that by making some decorations for our home. (Christmas decorations are easy to find; Hanukkah ones not so much.) Even finding patterns to make your own is difficult, so I created this dreidel and am excited to share it here today.
Gauge is not important to this project. Use any yarn you like and an appropriate hook for the yarn. The hook and yarn you choose will affect the size, but not in a positive or negative way. It’s all about preference. I used worsted weight yarn and a size H hook to get a dreidel about 3x3x5 (including the stem).
chain 11. SC in second chain from hook and each chain across. Ch 1. Turn. (10)
Rows 2-10. SC across (10). Ch 1. Turn.
Row 11: SC2tog, sc 6, SC2tog (8)
Row 12: SC2tog, sc 4, SC2tog (6)
Row 13: SC2tog, sc 2, SC2tog (4)
Row 14: SC2tog twice (2)
Row 15: SC2tog (1)
Fasten off, leaving a long tail for sewing.
On each panel, surface slip stitch a (stylized) Hebrew letter.
Row 1: SC in second stitch from hook and all the way across. Ch 1 and turn. (10)
Rows 2-5: SC across. Ch 1 and turn. (10)
Row 6: SC in first 4 stitches. Chain 2. Skip next 2 stitches. SC in remaining 4 stitches. Ch 1 and turn. (8 SC + 2 chains)
Row 7: SC in all stitches, including the two chains. Ch 1 and turn. (10)
Rows 8-11: SC across. Ch 1 and turn. (10)
Fasten off, leaving a long tail for sewing.
Into the buttonhole made in row 6, attach yarn with a slip stitch. Ch 1. SC into same stitch. SC in each of the other 5 stitches around the buttonhole (the two chains on each side, plus one side stitch on opposite sides.) Join with slip stitch to first stitch of round and chain 1 but do not turn. (6)
Rounds 2-4: SC around. Join and turn. (6)
Round 5: SC2tog three times. (3)
Fasten off and use the short tail to close the top of the “stem.”
Sew the top of the side pieces to the sides of the top piece, one at a time. (See pictures for clarity.) Starting at the bottom of each side piece, sew them together until you get to the upper corner of each one. Stuff lightly before sewing the final side closed.
I hope this blesses someone out there!
I have a free crochet pattern that I’ll be posting in a couple of days, but I wanted to post this tutorial on the surface slip stitch first, because my pattern requires use of the technique. You may be asking yourself, What is surface slip stitch? It’s simply a way to stitch designs onto your work that’s easier than using a crochet chain as an appliqué. The method is easy once you get the hang of it, so if you’ve never used it before, I hope this inspires you to try.
The main thing to remember about this technique is that your working yarn should be behind your main piece all the time. With that in mind, here’s a step by step tutorial. (These steps assume that you know how to crochet and have an idea of the design you want to make.)
1. Insert your hook from front to back of your work, right where you want your design to begin. Attach your “drawing” yarn to your hook with a slip knot, then pull the loop through to the front.
2. Keeping your design in mind, push your hook down through the fabric about one stitch away from where it is now. With your hook on the back of the fabric, yarn over and pull up a loop. With that loop now on the front of your fabric, complete the slip stitch.
3. Continue in this fashion until you’re done with your design.
4. When you’ve completed your last stitch, remove the hook from your work and gently pull out the final stitch. Push your hook back through the fabric in the same spot you just undid that stitch from, this time from back to front. Grab the loop from the second to last stitch and carefully (without pulling too tightly and distorting your stitches) pull it to the back.
5. Break the yarn and fasten off as normal. Tie the beginning tail and ending tail together in a knot at this point, just for extra security. This also assures that your work will stay in place without you having to weave in the ends (since your yarn is probably a contrasting color to your main work, weaving the ends in is less than ideal). Once the tails are knotted together, you can cut the ends short.
I hope this helps you!