Monday, November 29, 2010



Mateo is constantly asking me what time it is as 3pm is when his school friends are free to play. Although he has his own watch and I have explained to him on numerous occasions how linear time works it is still over his head. I can't blame him really, the system seems so arbitrary.  In an effort to make time more tangible, something easier for him to grasp, we made a sundial.
Our sundial was simple, direct and didn't require the use of latitude and longitude for accuracy. We used a stick, river rocks and chalk.


After finding a nice sturdy stick for our gnomon we looked for a spot that would be sunny throughout the day.


We tied a piece of wool on the stick so we could find our way back and placed the first rock in its shadow.


We started our project at 11:00am and returned hourly, on the dot, to place a new rock.


Mateo carried my watch with him throughout the day to keep track of the time. We discussed the size of the Earth and how fast it is turning, we talked about night and day and dawn and dusk. Later we visualized the process using a flashlight and a globe. That all times exist at the same time as we all move forward in time was an exciting thought for him.

Seeing him earnestly applied in the quest of knowledge was welcome validation of my choice to homeschool. As ever, Harper wanted to join in.


In her own special way.


At some point we noticed that the rocks got quite warm from exposure to the sun so we placed a couple on a nearby root.

And on a subsequent visit to the sundial, relaxed in the shade with a bit of Hot Rock Therapy.



This lesson was fascinating, easy to visualize and interactive. And unlike many projects that we do together this one was self regulated, conveniently paced throughout the day by hour-ish long breaks. I think that the relaxed nature of this activity contributed positively to Mateo’s receptiveness to learning. Despite our deviations there was a theme, the day was ‘about’ something, and ultimately I feel that the lesson took root better in one focused day in the field than it would had it come from a text book, cut it into lessons throughout the week, or simply asserted as a brief prequel to the task of dictating an appreciation for the cultural importance of time before a bell rings.

The movement of the sun across the sky is admittedly just a small part of a subject that has enormous depth, but this simple beginning of time, its effect on life on this planet, on us, is fundamental beyond any temporal, human routine. And if understanding and appreciating this is not innate, then I am proud to have introduced this to my son.


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Sunday, November 7, 2010

A fortnight in pictures + Halloween and Guy Fawkes

Mateo in one of many Halloween costumes we made that he decided weren't cool enough.
We've been a bit busy lately making robot costumes so in lieu of last week's update that we missed, here's a special, festive fortnight in pictures. Do you even say fortnight in the US? Incase you don't it's English for two weeks!

On Halloween morning, a large pupae we found in the field across the street hatched into an elegant moth.

Later in the evening the kids underwent some metamorphosis of their own in preparation for our evening bike ride to a nearby affluent neighborhood.

One of many OTT spook fests on view.

Harper waiting impatiently to be ridden home after trick or treating wore thin.

Triamphunt, and carrying a glut of candy the kids will never see, we rode home as recklessly as Sam would allow.

The next morning I caught my first mouse. Having sold things out of our landlady's house to make our rent, we now have to do random chores. Gruesome pest control is sadly a high priority.

Decomposing pumpkins on the edge of the compost pile.

November 5th is Guy Fawkes night. Traditionally a night of toffee apples, fireworks and associated physical disfigurements of reckless minors. Sam decided to attempt homemade marshmellows. Mateo here is upset because we wont let him eat boiling maple syrup.

The process was involved, tiring, and ultimately a complete failure.

But at least Mateo got to lick the whisk.

As the Sun went down I ceremoniously lit the fire using the waste product from my centrifuge.

Thankfully Mateo was dilligently on standby.

As we hadn't had time to make an effergy we decided instead to draw and burn pictures of people we knew. First on the fire, Rick Scott!

We woke up the next morning to find that a peacock from our old neighborhood had decided to paid us a visit. 
posted by Tom
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Friday, October 29, 2010

Paper-making and Autumn Leaves

I recently found Mateo playing in the sand pit next to our bus pretending to make paper with an experimental mix of sand and water. This lead to a discussion about paper, its history, different things in our lives made of paper, and the natural ability of wasps to make their nests from paper. Later that week we created our own paper making project. This is our recipe"ish":
Making the sieve and mold:
My original plan was to make a very simple sieve with pantyhose and a wire hanger, however, I could not find what I needed at hand so in keeping with my vow to keep this project purchase free I ended up finding and using scrap wood, screen, wood screws and staple gun.
To make things easy we cut the four sides of our frame the same size.
Mateo enjoyed measuring to make sure that all pieces were exactly the same.
We then screwed the pieces together and stapled the screen mesh to the frame.
Mateo hammered the staples that poked up for a stronger hold then carefully trimmed the excess mesh from the sides.
The slurry or pulp:
Our ingredients consisted of newspaper, lint, sawdust, leaves and flowers and we later threw in some glitter. Next time I would like experiment with more color variations and sculptural forms, but for our first attempt we kept it simple.
First we shredded the newspaper and mixed the rest of the ingredients together in water.
Then we blended everything together to make the pulp. I recommend small batches at a time.
The pulp should have the consistency of porridge.
Now we are ready to make paper!
Any additional flowers or decorative elements should be added to your sieve first.
Then add the slurry over top. Our frame happened to fit perfectly into our cooler, making it easy to press the water into the underneath container.
We found it easiest to press the water out with our hands.
Once the majority of the water is pressed out, carefully flip the formed paper on to your drying area. We used a combination of felt and newspaper to absorb the excess water in our paper. We covered and then pressed and rolled the paper with rolling pin.
The result will start to resemble thick paper card.
Hang to dry and move on to the next batch.
We dried overnight.
The next day we found leaves we liked around the neighborhood and use them as templates to cut out from our new recycled paper.
Added some watercolor and..
...they ended up gorgeous. We hung them up inside our home. They remind us of the autumn leaves we don't get a chance to see here in Miami. But we'll soon get a chance to admire the changing colors of autumn next week when we take the bus on its first trial run up to North Carolina. Wahoo!

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week in Pictures

1Cassidy Fry loves Transit Antenna.
Another week has whizzed by. As our departure date (Nov 1st) to pick up solar panels in NC becomes increasingly unrealistic, our life continues to expand and contract. Opposing forces of liberation and stress - a sense of freedom twinned ironically with an increasingly confined space - speed us toward the inexorable 'cracking' of our old routines like desert rocks. If we had to we could drive away tonight, but things would fly from our shelves, shake loose in our luggage bays and we only have enough fuel for about 180 miles. None of this would matter of course because our dry rotted tires would probably blow out no further than the end of the road. Nonetheless, the notion is tempting. Erring on the side of caution, however, we'll spending the next week getting things in order - filtering veg and tying things down - and attempting to quell our impatience, but as the weather continues to cool, the threat of economically catalyzed martial law looms, and the ground surrounding the bus becomes increasingly compacted and lifeless, our urge to take off becomes all the more.. well, urgent.

2After last Sunday's post, Muriel hosted a seedling sale at her farm next to our bus.

3On Monday morning we just hung out (gravity boots donated by Kathleen Burko, sarong from Fiji).

4Then the kids helped Muriel harvest peanuts.

5Mateo got savage new hair.

6And Harper discovered the emergency roof hatch - bungee to come.

We were visted by a giant moth.Later in the week we were visted by a giant moth.

And yesterday we finished building out our over-head storge.And yesterday we finished building out our over-head storage.

Harper took exception to this...Harper took exception to this...

...and not even coaxing with sanitary towels could persuade her to come down....and not even coaxing with sanitary towels could persuade her to come down.

As far as we know she might still be up there.As far as we know she might still be up there!
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