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Unit Studies

Unit studies are a terrific way to incorporate comprehension from a novel in order to cover numerous subjects at once.  Done correctly and with imagination, unit studies are full of fun…for everyone involved.  Done incorrectly and you and your child will arguably be discussing this novel several years down the road with a licensed therapist.  Please learn from my mistakes.

A few months ago, I took a leap out of reality and purchased an online unit study about The Incredible Journey written by Sheila Burnford.  Looking back, it seemed like such a good idea at the time.  But fast forward to over 100 vocabulary words later, scores of pages with unanswered questions and fill-in-the-blanks, and numerous crafts which required the skills of a mechanical engineer and I now know differently.  Several tears and snots later (Piper’s and mine), I vowed never to repeat that error.  My mind was so focused on the fact that I had paid for the darn thing, printed off over 150 pages, and did not want to see everything go to waste.  Wastage is very frowned upon in our family.

When I announced to Piper that we were going to do another unit study, Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, the look on her face spoke volumes to me.   She virtually put her predestined therapist’s phone number on speed dial and pre-booked all future therapy appointments.  All kidding aside, I rethought the unit study.

I decided to let Piper take the lead on this next unit study and make her own choices and activities.  She came up with the notion of creating her own version of St. Nicolas Island where the character, Karana, survived alone.  The only thing stipulated was that Piper had to do the entire island by herself.

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Piper constructed the entire island out of paper mache and then painted it.

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Sand was glued all around the island.

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The entire island took Piper approximately a week to construct and it was fabulous.

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Piper added the wild dog, Rontu, above the cave.

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We were lucky enough to add a crab from our trip to Tofino, British Columbia and found a toy squid at our local store.  Since this photo was taken, our dog Yuuki ate the crab which produced snots and tears from Piper and another valuable lesson learned.

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Piper filed some popsicle sticks to give the appearance of whale bones for the hut. She also added abalone shells and beads.

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Plastic plant leaves were used to represent a kelp bed where the otters resided.

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The entire project turned out great!  Piper enjoyed herself, I avoided a nervous breakdown, and we dodged a bullet with respect to future trips to a therapist…for now.

 

 
 

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Dia de los Muertos Hallowe’en Party

Piper had a brilliant idea for her next Hallowe’en party…Dia de los Muertos (which translates from Spanish to English as Day of the Dead). At first I was taken aback because I was completely narrow-minded and rejected the notion of hanging out with painted sugar skulls in cemeteries. But then I looked at this festive holiday as a Homeschooling learning experience. Here in Canada the very thought of skulls, death, and graveyards, sends morbid and creepy impressions throughout our very existence. It was only after Piper and I researched Dia de los Muertos that we discovered how amazingly beautiful this commemorative fiesta really is. We wasted no time, embraced it, and got to work immediately creating the ultimate Hallowe’en party!

Every Mexican fiesta must have a piñata, so we went to a local appliance store and asked for refrigerator boxes to make our gigantic taco piñata. 

Every Mexican fiesta must have a piñata, so we went to a local appliance store and asked for refrigerator boxes to make our gigantic taco piñata.

I sewed little sacks for each party guest and filled them with organic treats. Piper tied them and placed them in the taco piñata.

I sewed little sacks for each party guest and filled them with organic treats. Piper tied them and placed them in the taco piñata.

The taco piñata turned out fantastic!

The taco piñata turned out fantastic!

Piper made gift bags for the party guests by gluing crepe paper fringe and a sugar skull to each bag.

Piper made gift bags for the party guests by gluing crepe paper fringe and a sugar skull to each bag.

Piper made tissue paper flowers and decorated the ENTIRE house with them.

Piper made tissue paper flowers and decorated the ENTIRE house with them.

I cannot take credit for the ingenious idea of creating our fortune teller booth. The conception originated from here. The tutorial was surprisingly easy to replicate and Piper had a lot of fun.

 

Piper mod podged tissue paper all over the styrofoam head.

Piper mod podged tissue paper all over the styrofoam head.

Piper chose a darker skin tone to paint the head.

Piper chose a darker skin tone to paint the head.

I helped Piper paint the makeup on our fortune teller.

I helped Piper paint the makeup on our fortune teller.

Piper added a wig and a huge silk wraparound scarf to complete the look.

Piper added a wig and a huge silk wraparound scarf to complete the look.

A local appliance warehouse was more than happy to give us a refrigerator box for free. Piper and I painted it blue. (I think it looks like Dr. Who's T.A.R.D.I.S.).

A local appliance warehouse was more than happy to give us a refrigerator box for free. Piper and I painted it blue. (I think it looks like Dr. Who’s T.A.R.D.I.S.).

Piper hand embroidered a sugar skull for the front door.

Piper hand embroidered a sugar skull for the front door.

Fantastic!

Fantastic!

Piper painted cardboard bones to place around the front door frame.

Piper painted cardboard bones to place around the front door frame.

I baked and decorated a sugar skull cake for the party.

I baked and decorated a sugar skull cake for the party.

Next time, I will definitely NOT do so much piping.

Next time, I will definitely NOT do so much piping.

That is one happy kid!

Piper loved it!

I sewed each of the guests their own placemat and then embroidered their name on it.

I sewed each of the guests their own placemat and then embroidered their name on it.

I also gave the guests their own glass to take home.

I also gave each guest their own glass to take home.

 

My front yard looked like a cemetery.

My front yard looked like a cemetery.

Piper's favourite part of our yard was the creepy skeleton dog. She loves animals.

Piper’s favourite part of our yard was the creepy skeleton dog. She loves animals.

We printed off various images of tarot card and signs.

We printed off various images of tarot card and signs.

Since we are Canadian, we used duct tape to stick the tea lights all around the fortune teller booth.

Since we are Canadian, we used duct tape to stick the tea lights all around the fortune teller booth.

Too cute!

Too cute!

The best Dia de los Muertos EVER!!

The best Dia de los Muertos Hallowe’en party EVER!!

 

 

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Steampunk attire

In general, I find clothing manufacturers to have zero creativity and little to no sense whatsoever when it comes to producing clothing for little girls…in my humble opinion. They assume all little girls want to be princesses dressed in pink. I have struggled over the years to find clothes for Piper that she likes simply because she detests pink and refuses to be dressed like a princess. This leaves me in a wee bit of a bind. I am either forced to purchase so-called “boy” clothing or I am literally chained to my Pfaff sewing machine for weeks on end like Dr. Frankenstein madly sewing Piper’s latest original design line.

A true Steampunk girl will always have her keys close at hand.

A true Steampunk girl will always have her keys close at hand.

I must give Piper an A for effort in the creativity department because she has come up with some of the most unusual requests. Over the years, she has gone shopping with me dressed as a wizard (complete with cape and the tall pointy hat), a pirate (thank goodliness that phase has gone), and the eleventh Dr. Who (complete with sonic screwdriver, fez, and bowtie…because fezes and bowties are cool). Some parents would cringe shopping in the produce aisle with a child shouting, “Arrh, matey” while wielding a cardboard sword. I was just thankful no one was ever captured and forced to walk an imaginary plank.

Piper's Steampunk watch.

Piper’s Steampunk watch.

Now, this brings me to her most recent request: Steampunk. I have never in my life heard the word steampunk, so I had to Google it. I found it to be an interesting subculture enveloped around the 19th century steam engine. THIS was something I was excited to sew!

Steampunk binoculars are a must. I made these out of toilet paper tubes.  I painted them bronze, silver, and black and then glue on cogs.

Steampunk binoculars are a must. I made these out of toilet paper tubes. I painted them bronze, silver, and black and then glue on cogs.

I painted welding goggles and then added loupes from Amazon.ca

I painted welding goggles and then added loupes from Amazon.ca

For those not familiar with Steampunk (like I was), there are some serious hardcore Steampunkers out there. Experts who actually build mechanisms which “do something” like in the movie, Wild Wild West with Will Smith and Kevin Kline. Then there are other not-so-hardcore individuals who really could not give a rats arse about technicality and just have fun with an outfit. That would be us.

PIper's Steampunk underbust corset.

PIper’s Steampunk underbust corset. Because I sew, many of the buckles and fasteners were already in my stash. I had spare fabric and decided to create a pattern for the peasant blouse as well.

 

This underbust corset could have been smaller, but I reckon a wee bit larger is better than too tight.

This underbust corset could have been smaller, but I reckon a wee bit larger is better than too tight.

For the underbust corset, I used painters tape and marked Piper like a side of beef. Then I used plastic wrap to create the pattern. Once that was done, I used scrap material to see where I needed to adjust the pattern before I used the more expensive fabric.

 

Since I could not purchase nor find an actual underbust corset patter that would fit Piper, I decided to create one instead.

Since I could not purchase nor find an actual underbust corset patter that would fit Piper, I decided to create one instead.

Piper helped cut out the pattern pieces and pinned them to the scrap material.

Piper helped cut out the pattern pieces and pinned them to the scrap material.

My Steampunk girl!

My Steampunk girl!

I must confess that this outfit took me approximately 2 weeks to complete, but the smile on Piper’s face matched with the big hug told me she appreciated it. Now, she wants a pair of spats to go with it. Only Piper would think of spats. Scrooge McDuck would be proud.

 

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2015 in Home Page

 

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Smithsonian Learning

A few months ago, Piper received some fantastic Christmas gifts from her Grandma Jo, Grandpa Bill, auntie Katrina, uncle Mike, and her cousins. Actually, these gifts were more than fantastic, they were incredibly brilliant because we used them as part of our Homeschooling curriculum. I highly recommend these Smithsonian kits.

We are currently doing a unit study on engine building and the Smithsonian Motor-Works kit fit in perfectly. This kit involved our entire family and we all had a blast putting it together. I can honestly say that it was one of the most enjoyable and interesting projects we have ever done as a family.

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Smithsonian Motor-Works kit

Because Piper has better eyes than her Daddy (and myself for that matter), we elected her to be in charge of the “parts” department. She was thrilled…and so was I because my decrepit eyes were crossed after the first five minutes of looking for teeny, tiny letters and numbers.

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Piper is screwing the pistons to the crankshaft.

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Piper and Daddy are attaching the rocker arm assembly.

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Piper is installing the timing belt cover.

Voila! The entire engine built and running smoothly.

Voila! The entire engine built and running smoothly.

This project was so entertaining and so enlightening. We cannot wait to move on to the Rocks and Minerals unit study in April! Thank you everyone for the spectacular Smithsonian kits!

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These are the Smithsonian kits that Piper received at Christmas.

 

 

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Monster High Sofa and Chair

“Mum! Mummy!! MUMMY!!!! My Monster High dollies need a place to sit down. Would you please make them a gothic sofa and a couple of chairs?”

And there it was. Piper put out her request to the universe (that would be me) and together we looked at gothic sofas and chairs on the internet for ideas. Piper spied some immediately and squealed enthusiastically, “There! Those are EXACTLY what my dollies want!! They told me they want that sofa and those 2 chairs.”

I am pretty sure I have never heard Piper’s dollies speak any sort of language, let alone request gothic furniture, but I did not want to let them or Piper down. How hard could it be to whip up some cute doll furniture? Ha! The website where my 9 year old Piper-girl got her gothic doll furniture inspiration was rather interesting. It came from here. I am sincerely hoping that if Piper’s Monster High dolls are speaking, that they are not informing Piper of what the sofa is actually meant for by listing sexual positions or fetishes. The dollies can enlighten Piper after I am dead and buried.

Monster High living room.

Monster High living room.

So, with glue in hand, Piper and I dove into my fabric stash and our recycle box for all of the materials. I just want to make one thing clear…Piper took more of a “management” position with this project, but she helped as much as she could. I did not want her to slice a finger off with the X-acto knife nor burn her remaining fingers with the hot glue gun. That would be bad for her violin career. I took one several for the team on this project.

Piper helped me cut and assemble the doll furniture out of cardboard, batting, and fabric.

Piper helped me cut and assemble the doll furniture out of cardboard, batting, and fabric.

Piper filled the base of the sofa and 2 chairs with rice to keep them from being tippy. The last thing we needed were dollies taken to the ER due to a neglecting contractor.

Piper filled the base of the sofa and 2 chairs with rice to keep them from being tippy. The last thing we needed were dollies taken to the ER due to a negligent contractor.

I tufted the cushions.

I tufted the cushions.

Piper helped cut out the batting fabric for the back of the sofa and chairs.

Piper helped cut out the batting fabric for the back of the sofa and chairs. Santa had given Piper the excess fabric from when SHE made the Monster High coffin.

We cut out gargoyle wings and tails and then spray painted them to look like stone.

We cut out gargoyle wings and tails and then spray painted them to look like stone.

It is now starting to come together and look like a sofa.

It is now starting to come together and look like a sofa.

Piper decided to add jewelled trim. Brilliant idea.

Piper decided to add jewelled trim. Brilliant idea. I glued all the pieces together.

Once again, I dove into my recycle box and retrieved several toilet paper tubes. I cut them down to size for the bolsters and glued circles at the ends. Then I covered them with batting and fabric.

Once again, I dove into my recycle box and retrieved several toilet paper tubes. I cut them down to size for the bolsters and glued circles at the ends. Then I covered them with batting and fabric.

Piper sewed tiny cushions.

Piper sewed tiny cushions.

Gothic sofa...finished!

Gothic sofa…finished!

I love the red and purple cushions.

I love the red and purple cushions.

Gothic chair...finished!

Gothic chair…finished!

This little project took almost a week to complete, but they turned out terrific. Both Piper and her Monster High dollies are thrilled.

This little project took almost a week to complete, but they turned out terrific. Both Piper and her Monster High dollies are thrilled.

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