Saturday, December 7, 2019

{Getting Started with Handicrafts} :: Book Binding

I almost called this series "Handicrafts for the Non-Crafty," but I decided that it's important that we as mothers redefine ourselves and be open to changing self-perception and self-description. I am not a particularly crafty person by nature, but that doesn't mean I can't become one by habit! Skills are learned, and it turns out that I like crafting much more now than I ever thought I would. So let's say "Getting Started with Handicrafts" with the idea that we are starting with few skills and little knowledge in the area but that we will learn and grow alongside our children.

You can read a bit about my personal handicrafting story here (scroll down a bit to the photos of me and my kids): Meet the Maker.

These posts are NOT written from the perspective of an expert -- neither in Mason's approach to the craft nor in the craft itself. They are written mom-to-mom, answering frequently asked questions I get about our personal experience with these activities, all of which our family has picked over the past few years and now practice regularly and joyfully.

For many years, handicrafts was my nemesis on the Mason timetable. I didn't feel like I could give it dedicated time with all the littles underfoot. I got creative and made it a priority and I'm so glad I did.

Here's my plan for the series so far:
Book Binding << we're here!
Knot Tying
Sewing with Felt
Needle Felting

Thanks for reading along!


I didn't originally have book binding in the line-up, but then I had an introduction to this craft at CM West :: Retreat at Puget Sound. I brought it home to my kids and it caught on like wildfire! So easy, so few supplies needed, and a super-useful result. My Form 1 daughters can do this with very little help, and Form 2 and up are now experts. And I have to admit: I am finding it super fun too.

(Fair warning: if your kids are friends with my kids, you are very likely getting some of these sweet notebooks in your home this Christmas. They have been binding up a storm in preparation! And I might also be gifting some of my own... :))

I can't take any credit at all for discovering these items or the way to do it. Emily Pastor gave me such a good start at CM West. So I'll direct you to some tutorials, share the supplies we are using and a few tips, and then let you have at it!

(And a related side note: if you are in the Northwest and interested in Charlotte Mason, check out the new account of CM Northwest! Charlotte Mason West has split into two groups to better support the regions we are dedicated to, so Amber and I are still planning Northern California events and then they have a team of ladies in both Oregon and Washington that are dreaming up day events, retreats, and more.)

On to the crafting...

What You Need

Once you have what you need for simple saddle-stitched book binding, you can easily make a ton of them. And even though you might not have everything you need already in your cabinet, the items are easy to find and inexpensive. Definitely worth investing in for the Charlotte Mason homeschool!

Basic supplies:
8.5 x 11 cardstock for the cover
regular printer paper for the inside pages
ruler and scissors
binder clips (medium or large size)
an awl (or a large nail can work fine too)
waxed thread or linen thread
a large-eye needle (often sold with the thread)
bone folder (also useful for sloyd!)
** This looks like a perfect starter set: it has the thread, needles, bone folder, and awl in one pack.

Optional supplies:
photo corners and small pieces of cardstock for labels (you can also use sticker labels or just leave blank)
a hammer (we actually use a kids' one from my boys' woodworking kits)
a piece of scarp wood or very thick cardboard for protecting your table when you hammer

these cardstock pads are from Dick Blick and so pretty!

A Quick How-To and Some Extra Tutorials

I have a simple write-up below, but here are a bunch of tutorials if you like visuals:
Design Sponge
Easy Bookbinding Two Ways
How to Bind Using a Saddle Stitch
And a video here -- we use the method that starts at about the 4-minute mark.

Those are all a bit different (and a little more complicated, I think) from how I learned, so here's the way Emily taught us at CM West:

1. Fold a piece of cardstock precisely in half. Crease well. That's your cover.

2. Fold five sheets of printer paper in half, one at a time. Nest them inside each other, lining up the edges as well as you can. Those are your inside sheets.

3. Place the folded inside sheets into the folded cover, lining up the crease and edges. You have assembled your book! Now it's time to stitch it together.

4. Unfold the book as-is so that the pieces are in the same order but flat again, then clamp the stack of papers together with a couple binder clips, one on each side. Make sure the edges meet on all four sides.

5. Using your ruler, mark the halfway point along the inner crease with a little dot. (That should be at 4.25'' if you are using regular-sized paper.)

6. Make a dot at each inch along the crease for two inches above the center dot and two inches below the center dot. You should have five dots along the crease now.

7. Punch holes with your awl at each of those dots. We line the crease up along a piece of scrap wood and tap the awl a few times with the hammer at each dot to get a good hole.

8. Cut 20'' of thread and thread your needle.

9. Sew your binding, as shown here. (This looks more complicated than it is!)

10. Once you have sewn up and down the crease, tie your ends and trim them.

11. Refold the notebook and admire your finished work!

12. Optional: to make a sweet little label, cut a rectangle of cardstock to the desired size, put sticky photo corners on each corner of the label, then carefully affix to the front of your book. This step can be a bit tricky but adds a nice touch.

A Few More Tips

Before punching the holes, I like to bend the notebook to make sure they are all lined up in the crease. If they aren't, your outside binding will look a little wonky.

Some needles have smaller eyes than others. Large eyes make theading the thick waxed thread easier, but then they can be tricky to push through the holes for little hands. You can play around with the size of the needles or just punch slightly larger holes for younger children.

We like to have various colors of thead so we can do contrast stitching or match up our paper and thread in different ways. Since the binding is visible from the outside, it's a fun way to jazz up the notebook.

All of our materials except the paper neatly stores in a plastic shoebox. It takes less than five minutes to make a notebook, so this is a simple one for kids to get out and put away on their own once they have had some practice.

These can easily be "dressed up" or "dressed down" depending on the recipient. You can make some very fun notebooks for younger kids or more classy notebooks fit for mamas.

You can change out the kind of paper inside to make something sturdier, lined, dot gridded, etc. Obviously a thicker paper will be a bit harder to fold and to punch and sew, so you might want to experiment before switching from printer paper with your kids. But once you get the hang of it, these can be very customizable.

It's nice to have a craft that is good to make and good to gift for boys and girls, kids and adults alike. And if you're looking for a crafty activity that will keep your kids busy all winter break, this one should do the trick!

And a warning: once your kids start making their own notebooks, they will likely want to start writing and drawing more too. So make sure to have plenty of free time on the calendar and get ready for an onslaught of notebook-keeping! ;)

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

{What We're Reading}

Beryl Markham's West with the Night (a CMEC selection for high school geography)
Cather's Death Comes from the Archbishop (first read this ten years ago -- time for a revisit!)
Alcott's Little Women (re-reading for my local book group)
Verne's Michael Strogoff  (just finished this exciting and satisfying story, which ties in wonderfully with our focus on Asian geography this year too)
Mason's Volume 4 and Volume 1 (for my reading groups)
...And of course I am keeping up with the coursework for our Mother's Education Course through the CMEC, which includes dipping into the volumes but also reading some new-to-me Parents' Review articles each month -- what a joy!

I have been reading quite a bit lately as the weather has finally turned colder and I'm spending more time indoors at the end of this pregnancy.

As a Family
Hawthorne's A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales (I planned these as literature selections for my Form 1 and 2 kids this year, but it turns out the Form 3 kids have been listening in the whole time anyway, even though they have already read them many times on their own! We just started Book 2.)

...And I'm trying to choose a good Advent read for us all together! We are already reading The Way to Bethlehem and The Christmas Rose, as we do every year, but I'm seeking out something fresh to add in. I went through my shelves last night and am thinking Alice Dagliesh's Christmas might be a good fit this year!

Vincent, age 13
Betz's Yankee at Molokai (he has been on a biography kick)
Montgomery's Rilla of Ingleside (I wasn't sure he would make it through the Anne books but he did!)
The Story of the US Coast Guard (probably to balance out all the Anne -- LOL)
Tolkien's Tales from the Perilous Realm (started it right after Gianna finished it!)

Gianna, age 13
Tolkien's The Silmarillion (first time and adoring it)
Rankins' Daughter of the Mountains (tie in with our geography focus on Asia this year)
Gaskell's Cranford (I handed it to her when I finished it last month)

Cate, age 10
D'Angeli's The Door in the Wall (a re-read many times over!)
Sarah, Plain and Tall series (she read the first and then never picked up the sequels -- until now)
Lenski's Strawberry Girl (pulled back out when a penpal recommended it :))

Xavier, age 9
Henry's Stormy, Misty's Foal (he couldn't believe it when I told him Chincoteague was a real place!)
Ransome's Swallows and Amazons (we have listened to the whole series on audio, but this is his first time reading it)
Reynolds' Winston Churchill (one of his biographies from this term and a big favorite)

Bridget, age 8
Wilder's Farmer Boy and Little House in the Big Woods (reading aloud to her little sister -- they always have one or more Little House books going)
The Borrowers series (fun, as always)
The Light Princess (she just fell in love with MacDonald and I'm guessing The Golden Key will be next!)

Clara, age 7
She was determined to get out all the seasonal books the first day it really rained hard for the season -- and that was just this past week. Since then, she has been carting these around...
Tudor's Around the Year and Beskow's Around the Year
Over the River and Through the Wood, with woodcuts by Christopher Manson (love)

The Little Boys, ages 5, 4, and 2
They are still on a singalong songbook kick, so our folk song picture books are in HEAVY rotation!

Drew spends a lot of time following Big Kids around and requesting to be read to, especially Chicka Chicka 123 (not one of my usual picks, but he has been on a numbers kick lately), The Fire Engine Book, and Krauss and Blair's I Can Fly (one of my personal faves).

Justin got just a couple books for his birthday that have become fast friends...

The Mother Goose Songbook and Gregory Griggs and Other Nursery Rhyme People (selected and illustrated by Lobel).

And Damien's current selections: Eloise Wilkins' Poems to Read to the Very Young (a new pick for him but always popular with my older kids) and Lois Lenski's Small books (constantly!).

In the Mail
I have been on a bit of a buying moratorium lately since the holidays are coming up and I can't use the very good excuse of "school shopping" this late in the year. ;) But there have still been a couple very exciting arrivals lately...

Riverbend Press has reprinted all five volumes of Mason's The Saviour of the World in beautiful hardcovers. For now, I bought the one volume my Form 3 kids are using this year, but I plan on buying them all in the new year. :)

And it's always a happy day when Common Place Quarterly arrives!

That's what we have been up to -- how about you? What are you reading? Are you buying books for gifts? I have been doing a bit of book-related far new Bibles for my older kids are en route and I have a bunch of classics like The Enormous Egg, The Cricket in Times Square, and Rabbit Hill ready to go for nephews. Still brainstorming a bit for my own kids, but I know some of Lois Lenski's Regional America books are on the list, and I'm hoping to finally get the beautiful saint books illustrated by Lydia Kadar-Kallen. We'll see what ends up under the tree! :)

Monday, November 25, 2019

{This and That} :: Thanksgiving and Advent

It's Thanksgiving Week and the First Sunday of Advent is coming up this weekend! With that in mind, I thought I'd kick off with some links from the archives that might help in your planning...

On Thanksgiving:
Cooking Up a Thanksgiving "Feast"

And on Advent:
A Time to Prepare (written SIX years ago!)
My whole Advent archives with lots of ideas for observance


Let's talk gifts!

As usual, I'll be spending some time this week trying to get Christmas gift plans and purchases in order so I can spend a quieter Advent. I always have a few last-minute things I have to handle in December, but it's nice to get the bulk of it finished or at least planned out so it doesn't consume my mental space in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

If you are looking for ideas too, I have a bunch of gift ideas for you in the posts below...
A Few of Our Favorite Things (ideas from last year)
What We're Reading...and Crafting and Playing :: Christmas Edition
My Top Ten Christmas Books for LittlesOur Favorite Keeping SuppliesCM-Friendly Easter Basket Ideas (...that would be great for Christmas gifts too!)

My {Getting Started with Handicrafts} series is also a great place to start for gift ideas. I love gifting art and craft supplies, partly because they promise lotsof worthy leisure time and partly because they are consumable and therefore aren't adding to our household clutter. ;)  (Speaking of, I have another post coming up later this week that I think you'll love! It's our newest crafting obsession. :))

And to add to the ideas: a few of our favorite things from THIS year...


These reusable sticker pad sets by Melissa and Doug have been a huge hit with my littles (and middles) this year. Several of the kids got them as birthday gifts early in the year and they have been in daily use since then.

I got my two oldest daughters a set of these stretchy floral headbands for their birthdays and they love them.

My almost-11yo daughter just picked out a new commonplace book and she chose one of these. They really are eye-catchingly pretty for the tweens and teens in your life.

If you don't yet have a portable terrarium (aka critter shack!), it would make a great gift for any age, all the way down to the littles.


And before I totally switch gears here, a couple ideas for mama...

I have three books on my personal wishlist this year: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, The Woman Who Was Chesterton, and The Day is Now Far Spent. These have all come highly recommended by friends and I'm itching to read them! Do you have any books on your to-buy list?

And if education and encouragement is what you're after, the 2019 CMEC Retreat Package provides a healthy dose of both! :) Perfect timing as we head into those challenging winter months. (The 2018 Retreat Package is still for sale also if you missed it last year.)

By the way, the CMEC will be offering a DISCOUNT on both packages in honor of Thanksgiving later this week, so if you haven't purchased yet, this week is the time to do it!


Speaking of the CMEC, this past week were our Winter Form Meetings. Two nights to meet online Form by Form, sharing successes and struggles, getting answers to questions, and thinking through a few topics that moms often have questions about.

This term, we tackled dictation and mapwork. I posted a follow-up on Instagram and was deluged with DMs, so I'm planning a post here on the blog soon. We are finding some simple maps to be a wonderful accompaniment to our geographical readers.

Speaking of Instagram, I also put up a live in-process look at brush drawing in my Stories a couple weeks ago, courtesy of my 8yo, Bridget. (Her finished work is on the right below.) I saved the videos to a Highlight, so you can see it at the top of my feed. Even if you aren't on Instagram, you can still click over and view -- just click the little circle labeled "Brush Drawing." Hopefully it is a helpful look at another simple but rewarding part of our week. (We are using May Mallam's lovely reprint from Riverbend Press for our lessons, alternating with painting from life.)


Justin turned four this month!

I am so thankful for this little guy. What you can't see from these photos is how absolutely filled with life and joy he is. He brings smiles to all of us every day, and there is nothing I like better than watching him sing musicals to himself, draw "weekly paintings" (he's dying to be a big kid!), or cuddle with baby brother. He is a gift.

And that's our last family birthday of the calendar year! Although Justin always corrects me that the last birthday in our family is actually Jesus. Can't argue with that. :)


I was thinking of taking Advent off from the blog, but I have quite a few posts in the queue that I'm hoping to get to, so I'm taking that on as part of my Advent observance instead! We'll see how many I finish before baby arrives in (hopefully) early January. Stay tuned! :)

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Tuesday, November 5, 2019

{This and That}

Hi there! Can you believe it's November?! Which also means I am now in the third trimester with Baby Cruz -- just nine weeks left. :)


Last month, I had the chance to attend the Schole Sisters meetup down in San Luis Obispo. What a treat! We had lunch and then a short walk to the beautiful Mission.

Funny thing: I have done podcasts with both Cindy and Pam and have worked with Dawn Garrett for years online but had never met them in person. So this was so exciting. And it was so nice to see Mystie and Brandy again too!

I took a couple photos in the Mission museum to draw into my Book of Centuries.

I find now that wherever I go, I gravitate toward the artifacts and decorative arts sections thanks to beginning my BoC a few years ago.


Three September birthday girls had super celebrations!

I am so blessed in these beautiful daughters! Our Baby #10 is scheduled to share a birthday month with Cate (my only girl NOT born in September), so we'll likely have three girls in September and two in January. So special.


We have moved on to Term 2! So far, this year has gone more smoothly than any year so far. We have had time for almost "all the things," and everyone seems happy and thriving. There have been setbacks and struggles here and there, but really we are all enjoying our school days.

I totally expect things to get wild up in here once Baby 10 arrives, so we have been moving through the year full steam ahead with no breaks. I'm glad everyone has been happily on board. I'll admit: I could use a break! But I am thankful that they don't seem to need one.


Since the baby will likely arrive just after our Christmas break, I have planned exams to be semesterly: so one full set at Christmas and one at the end of the year. But we still wanted to do a shortened set of exams at the end of our first term for our Family Subjects that change term by term: artist study, composer study, recitation, dance, solfege, special study, etc. We took a Friday afternoon and did an hour of narrations and an hour of recitations/performance with our usual celebration. It was simple and fun!

We had our usual hodge podge of end-of-term treats:

supplies for bookbinding - more on this in an upcoming {Getting Started with Handicrafts} post!
a couple additional pairs of embroidery scissors so everyone now has his own
more twistables for the little boys
silhouette paper (we are going to do some silhouette work this term)
chalk crayons for Clara

and a few related books:
Devaney's Blood and Guts: The True Story of General George S. Patton
Bold Leaders of World War I
Moody's Mary Emma & Company (the next for them to read in the Little Britches series)
The Story of the U.S. Coast Guard
The Gettysburg Address, illustrated by
With the Bible Through the Church Year


This past week we had Halloween, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day, so we went a little light on studies to accommodate the observances.

But we also had the last Latin class of the term for my oldest two, in which they gave their recitations -- Roman dress required! It was nice to have it coincide with Halloween week because they were planning on being early Christian martyrs anyway (St. Tarciscius and St. Cecilia), so we planned for double duty garb. ;)


And my merry band of saints for Halloween:

Vincent actually switched it up at the last minute after seeing Xavier's St. George costume and decided to be St. Martin of Tours. :)

One of our favorite stops is always the fire station by our house. The firefighters are always so happy to get visitors trick-or-treating! We don't get a ton of kids in our neighborhood.


Last but definitely not least, I announced last weekend that the 2019 CMEC Retreat Package is now up for sale! Head over to check out the full description as well as read about our suggestions for using both individally and in groups. :)


Hope your November is off to a good start!