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Poisson d’Avril

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I don't like April Fools' Day. Since I'm not a huge fan of practical jokes, it's not really a holiday I have ever gotten into. I've played a prank or two, but I never felt good afterward. But I want to enjoy fun things with my kids so I started looking for practical joke options.

Here's the thing. Practical Jokes involve violating someone's right to consent.

That sounds harsh, but think about these jokes we play, the classic pranks of summer camp and sleep overs. They involve humiliation, confusion, sometimes fear, or general use of someone's body without their okay (drawing on the first person to fall asleep at the slumber party?) Even something that seems totally silly and safe – freezing a bowl of cereal and milk – results in the prankee being confused, and likely being laughed at. If you just take a peek at the language, we play a prank ON someone or do a practical joke TO someone. Never WITH**. Stuff like that matters.

As a parent trying hard to teach respect and consent, I don't feel like a holiday devoted to ignoring consent is really something I can get on board with.

Happily, there is a better way, a gentler alternative full of silliness.

In France they celebrate Poisson d'Avril – the April Fish.

The goal is to tape a paper fish on someone's back, or hold some sort of a fish behind someone without their noticing. When they do notice, the joker says “Poisson d'Avril!” and everyone laughs. It's simple, it's expected. It's easy to say “I don't want to play that this year.” and easy to respect that person's right not to consent to this game. An a parent I can play along, not noticing as my minions “sneak” behind me with their fish.

I made a batch of small felt fish with a little glitter paint and googly eyes. I'm putting them on the table with some tape. And I'm letting Poisson d'Avril rule the day. Already there has been a lot of giggling.


**Side Note: It is, of course, possible to have a prank relationship with someone else. Everyone in the relationship understands that pranks are possible and not done out of malice. Everyone has agreed to play. This kind of relationship is awesome and develops over time, with respect and listening coming from all parties. I'm into that kind of prank. As long as there is mutual consent involved.



DIY Flag Ornaments

I love the way our ornament collection grows, full of memory. The wobbly salt dough ornaments from various childhoods, the bugs we painted with glitter one year (Brother-Bug has a millipede ornament), first ornaments of the kids, the angel ornament that adorned the top my our first mutual tree some 11 years ago – so small a tree (table top rosemary) that this angel ornament was almost too big. My childhood ornaments, Papa-Bug's childhood ornaments. It's precious.

This year I ended up with extra glass globes – empty and waiting. They came in a six pack and I only needed two. So I started looking around online. I found this lovely silhouette idea…

Nativity Silhouette Ornaments

But I wanted something to save This Year.

As you know, we are studying global cultures (and really enjoying it). So flags, I thought. Something fun and special just for us. Something to remind us of this year of travel from home and study of things abroad.

I found flag pictures online, tweaked them in Photoshop a bit, and printed them on vellum. Then following the tutorial I stuck them to acetate and put them in the globes. Of course we added glitter. We almost always add glitter, especially at Christmastime. Glitter and/or sprinkles.

These look really good from all angles, and especially lovely in front of the tree lights. Because of the fragile ornaments, I did most of the actual work. But the kids picked their own flags and were right there in the way while we made these. All four ornaments took only about 20 minutes total.


Sister-Bug chose Brazil. We studied Brazil in September and October and she loves all things Brazillian right now.

Brother-Bug chose Thailand. He wanted Japan, but the Japanese flag would have looked kind of like just a red dot…so he went for Thailand. We haven't had a Thai unit yet, but my mom and her sweetie have travelled in Thailand a lot, so we love it for that.

I picked Hungary for Toddler-Bug. He was asleep (because I wouldn't do a glass ornament project with an active and wakeful toddler). Papa-Bug has roots in Hungary and it seemed like fun. It was really hard to choose – so many good flags out there.

Finally, for Papa-Bug and me, I went with South Africa. Because Nelson Mandela. And wanting the best global representation I could get in four flags.

So that's our ornament of the year. They are glowing and beautiful on the tree. Another memory preserved to cherish.

And now I must be off. Brother-Bug is performing in our local Nutcracker tonight. I have to get my Little Angel (for that is what he is onstage) fed and rested and ready to go. It's going to be a big night.

Happy Tree Trimming.









FLASH Give Away! Baby Blocks

I am a huge fan of my new nieces. Here is a picture of one being held and loved by Papa-Bug and Toddler-Bug. This toddler loves his wee cousin so much.


Clearly this is something to celebrate. (And you wonder where my other niece is? She’s littler and I don’t have any good pictures of her yet…)

Good Natured block set 2

So I am celebrating by Giving Away some wonderful, handmade fabric blocks. Iris Says makes beautiful baby things and I love supporting a Mom using her creativity to help support her family. Mary Beth, the block creator, is offering up a set of soft blocks and three different taggie blocks for my readers to win!

Roadtrip 1

Full disclosure – I am receiving some blocks from Iris Says for doing this giveaway. I love the Iris Says products and I’d certainly buy them for my babies or nieces or whoever. I’m running the give away through Rafflecopter to keep things fair and balanced (and to give you lots of chances to win!). No one in my immediate family is allowed to enter. I am not receiving anything except the blocks I already mentioned.

Wee Wander 1

Using the Rafflecopter Widget at the bottom of this post you can enter to win any one of four prizes. A set of three soft blocks, or one of three different taggie blocks.

This is a FAST Give Away – it closes day after tomorrow! So don’t hesitate. Click on the Rafflecopter link at the bottom and enter, enter, enter.

Iris Says will get them in the mail to you ASAP, hoping the Holiday Magic works to get your blocks to you in time for Christmas.

Owls 1

So which one is your favorite? The soft blocks? (I LOVE the print on these…but foxes are my favorite.)

Good Natured block set 1The Owls?

Owls 2

The Wee Wanderer?

Wee Wander 2

Or the Road Trip?

Roadtrip 2

You can see more of what Iris Says creates at the Website, Etsy Store, or Facebook Page.

Now to enter! Good luck to everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Deeds Again

Last year we tried out our Good Deeds Calendar for Advent. It was a mixed bag for the kids, but I really liked it. At the very least it helped me keep a focus on extending our bounty and love out into the world.

Good Deeds

Here is the original post, and here are my reflections on our experience.

And here is a list of what Good Deeds we might do:

(Note that there are more than 24 here so that I have some wiggle room if the plans don’t always work out…)

  • Send a loving letter to someone.
  • Draw a picture for a child in the hospital.
  • Buy some pet treats and take them to the animal shelter.
  • Donate canned goods to the postal food drive.
  • Today is The Great Toy Giveaway!!
  • Write a list of 5 things you love about someone you haven’t talked to recently, and mail it to them.
  • Take a hike somewhere beautiful. Bring a bag with you and pick up litter.
  • Bring Papa coffee in bed.
  • Make a batch of fudge or cookies and take it to Pasta Plus (where my mom works).
  • Tell Mama something you like about a local business and have her post it to their FB wall.
  • Give compliments to 3 people today. How many people total is that?
  • Play a game with your sibling that THEY want to play. Let them make the rules.
  • Send a Christmas card to someone in the military.
  • Take flowers to a nursing home.
  • Buy some art supplies at the Dollar Store. Donate the supplies to the children’s ward at the hospital.
  • Go out for steamers. Have Mama pay for the person in line behind us.
  • Visit an elderly person and ask to hear what Christmas was like when they were young. Really listen to their story.
  • Plan a Christmas Movie Party. Pick a movie, plan on pop-corn and cocoa! Invite friends and ask them to bring $3-5 each. We will donate the money to a good cause.
  • Have the Movie Party!! Draw a card for your guests to sign. Send/take the money to the organization you are donating to.
  • Donate some picture books to children who need books. Mama will help you find a good place.
  • Write a Christmas card for your ballet Teacher and your scout Leaders about why they are good teachers. Deliver them at class time with a jar of jam.
  • Take these candy canes with you when you run errands to day. Give one to someone you see who looks like they “need a smile”. (I borrowed this idea from Colleen Kessler – Thanks Colleen!!)
  • Out on errands? Hold the door for people coming behind you.
  • Take a donation of food to the Food For Lane County office.
  • Bake a batch of cookies and take them to the Fire Station near our house. Thank the Firefighters for their service.
  • Leave early for Church. Stop at the Dollar Store and buy some personal care product (toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap…). Leave it in the Occupy Medical donation bin at Church.

I am thinking of getting a Good Deed canister to go next to the calendar and putting money in it. That way they can take the dollars out for a trip to the dollar store and buy their own supplies. They don’t have to rely (as directly) on me to do pay for them. It is their Good Deed Money that does the Good.

What does your family do that is similar?

Reason Two – School Scheduled Around Life

Remember when I told you I would write about the big reasons we choose to homeschool? It was a while ago. I didn't really lose track as much as… I have a lot that I want to write about and not much time for writing. I started this post mid-December madness and it did disappear in a blaze of gift creation and other festivities.

Anyway. Back to why we homeschool. Reason Two.

Schedule School Around Our Life (Not the Other Way Around)

It's (was) December. Busy. The Holi-Daze. The kids are jumping off the walls with anticipation. I'm crafting and creating gifts until I can't see straight. Family will be in town, we will go out of town, Santa will come. There's a lot going on. We will cram my and Papa-Bug's birthdays into this fun-filled month as well. A two week “school” vacation just wouldn't cut it. We take the whole month off of our “school time”.

Decorating the tree - who has time for school?

We do the same thing in the Summer. We take all of June and July off to go festing, work at a hot springs, and generally ease into summer. We get back to our books in August, ready (after a two month free-for-all) to settle into some structure. Our August school involves lots of outside time, black berry picking, camping, and other fun summery adventures. We do “school lite”, getting our muscles and minds used to routine again before the classes and groups get going in September.


We don't stop learning. Last month we are did our Good Deeds every day. Baking cookies and making fudge are math and science. Snow has brought with it plenty of discussion of weather, as well as outdoor play. We are making gifts and reading lots of books about the holidays. We were used cookies on a full cookie sheet to learn the basics of multiplication.

But there is too much going on for me to make formal lesson plans, and the kids are too excited to really sit and focus on math exercises and games, or hand writing, or even the alphabet. They are enjoying pajama days and lots of freedom to turn the couch into a StarWars spaceship of one variety or another for hours on end. Apparently, as I was writing the first draft of this article, the Baby Jesus was born on said spaceship.

Snow and food dyes and eye-droppers. Is it learning or just good fun? So often there is no clear difference.

Snow and food dyes and eye-droppers. Is it learning or just good fun? So often there is no clear difference.

I wouldn't want to be forcing them into anything more than brushing their teeth. I love that we can decide on and implement a schedule that works for our family; that our adventures and lives don't have to bend to the dictates of someone else's schedule. If I want to take my kids out of town for the both the Summer and Winter Solstice, and neither conflicts with school days. We can just go. And do. Whatever, whenever.

This is what works for us. And isn't that the crux of homeschooling, regardless of your style? We do it our way and make it work for each of us.

Interested in our other reasons we homeschool? It's an ongoing thought process.

Reason One – A Hot Cup of Tea


Good Deeds In Review

We opened all 25 of the doors on our Good Deed Advent Calendar. On the whole I would say it was a success. After a few days of good deed doing, I realized I needed to know what we did and (more importantly) how the kids felt about their deeds.

I started a chart on the school white board where they rated each deed on a 1-5 star scale and told me if hey would do it again next year. I'm not sure they both totally understood the five-star rating system, but at least I have a guideline for next year.


All-in-all they accomplished 23 good deeds. Some were harder than others and some got limited participation from one kid or the other. Brother-Bug hated giving soup out to hungry people but Sister-Bug loved it – running up to anyone she saw and offering soup is just her kind of social adventure. Brother- Bug and I stayed near our soup table, uncomfortable with feeling “on-the-spot”.

One of their favorites was planning and executing a holiday movie party. They made a plan, and invitations. They chose a movie. Their friends were invited to come and bring $5. We served cookies and popcorn and cocoa and watched The Muppets Christmas Carol. They donated all the $5 to feeding hungry families in our community. It was a great way to have a super fun good deed. Likewise, going out for cocoa and paying for the person in line behind us also rated really high…because they got some cocoa out of the deal.


Their least favorite was a litter walk. It was cold and rainy and they hated it, despite the enthusiastic participation of 3 grandparents. But they did it and we had a great talk about how doing something good isn't always fun, convenient, and including cocoa. Sometimes it's hard or uncomfortable and we do it anyway. Papa-Bug and I did some extra good deeds out and about that we would have done anyway. They came at a perfect time to be an object lesson – we do good when it is needed, we rise to help our communities needs.

The project inspired many good conversations about what we have and how blessed we are. My favorite conversation was with Brother-Bug; one good deed was sending holiday cards to soldiers. Brother-Bug hated the idea initially. Papa-Bug and I are vocally critical of most the military actions we know about, debating cause and effect and alternatives. Brother-Bug picked up on that and wondered why we would send cards if we didn't like the military. We got to have a wonderful talk about the difference between a person and an organization/institution.

On the 25th there was a letter from the Fairies, thanking the kids for all their good works and telling them that the Christmas good deed was to enjoy their day and be kind to their family. I don't know if it really made a. Big difference, but we had the most mellow Christmas our family has yet experienced, with a minimum of meltdowns and lots of good play together.

Logistically… There was a really big snow here in the first week of January. I ended up at homework th the kids for a solid week. It was just fine with with me, but many of the good deeds that week had need on us being out and about to spread joy and cheer. Next year I plan on having a better stock of deeds I can change up if life, weather, and circumstance get in the way. I need a good go-to if we can't get to the deed that day, as well as a better stock of deeds easily done from home. I also need a clear list of what is in the calendar on each day, and what extras I have, so I can know what is going on and be better prepared.

The Hershey Kisses worked better than I expected. They didn't fit in the little doors, so I set them out in the morning before the kids were up. Because I am busy and often forgetful, this resulted in a random rewards pattern (which science tells us is the best for brain development) that was very exciting for the kids. Would there be chocolate or not!?

At the end, Brother-Bug gave the Good Deeds 4 stars and he wouldn't do it again if he could choose. Sister-Bug gave it 5 stars and is sad that it is over. For me, it was great. I saw a lot of growing and learning happening in the context of a fun holiday activity. We are already brainstorming more ideas to go into the calendar next year.

From The Graduates: Holiday Edition

It’s the Holidays. I’m so busy making gifts and cookies and magic that I thought I would simplify with a short “warm fuzzy” edition of The Graduates Feature. 

The Engineer and his pet goose, circa 1986.

The Engineer and his pet goose, circa 1986.

Homeschooling gave my siblings and me some wonderful gifts that we continue to unpack throughout our lives. Some of those gifts are:

  • The ability to self-direct. When we come up with a goal we are confident in our ability to chase that goal and dream. Self-confidence in our personal abilities.
  • Getting to create our own education in a very tactile and personal way, without being taught to just accept the commonly accepted structured-work lifestyle.
  • Learning how to learn and not simply how to test well and regurgitate facts.
  • The closeness of our family – being together all day, every day, for our early years gave us a level of closeness that we cherish and thrive within…even when we make each other crazy.
  • An enthusiasm for…everything. Because we learned how to learn, we are always excited about new things to plug into our brains. Sometimes it can get overwhelming – we all would really like to know all there is to know! – and we are all running many different projects at once… But there is no slowing our brains down.

That was what we came up with off the tops of our heads in a recent discussion. We will be all together for several days soon, to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Who knows what else we might come up with?

If you’re new to this feature, check out past posts about what these 4 homeschool graduates think about their homeschool experiences:


Perceptions and Stereotypes

The “S” Word (Socialization)

Structure or Not?

Between us we have more than 45 years of homeschooling experience. What do you want to know about being a homeschooler? Just ask!