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October | 2014 | Atomic Bee Ranch

Monthly Archives: October 2014

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For Your Classroom: Sewing & Fashion


I’m changing up the format of this series yet again to align more closely with documenting what we’re doing. I’ll still have a number of the same features, such as featured materials and books, for the topic, but the series will be a little more focused. Over the spring and summer I made Cam a number of dresses, pj sets, pants, and even a tunic top. The first few items I sewed I made while my mom babysat. It was just easier that way. However I ended up picking up a few of the projects on days Cam was home. She was fascinated by the process and as the wheels turned in her head she began to “make something” for her stuffed animals as she played with the leftover fabric scraps. To engage this interest I developed a few provocations that break down the clothes-making process into steps she can at least conceptually understand and can begin to mimic. At this point she just doesn’t have quite the grasp on all the work that goes into making an article of clothing, which not only means she doesn’t know where to start, it also means she can’t simplify the process to make an easy dress or shirt for her animals. She also doesn’t have the sewing and fine motor skills mastered to a point where they can be a tool to help her create things and bring her ideas into the physical world in some way. I don’t expect she’ll come away from these provocations sewing outfits, but if she begins to grasp how a project is broken into stages and a general sense of how clothes are made, I think she’ll be satisfied. I also hope they will help build those fine motor skills more so they do eventually become a tool for her to use instead of a skill she hasn’t quite mastered.


Bruno the Tailor by Lars Klinting

Bruno the beaver needs a new work apron so he sets about making one. This is an awesome book for this kind of interest. It’s instructional without feeling like it’s instructional. You see each step of the process with a page of tools he uses in each step. The drawings are simple and sweet. Bruno has a little upset at the end when he discovers he’s made the apron a bit too long. No worries, though, he cuts it down to the right length and re-hems the bottom. The back matter includes some terminology and Bruno’s pattern with measurements. 

I Had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn

A little girl wears her favorite dress every Monday, her favorite day. As the year goes on, the dress gets too small so her mom makes it into a top, a skirt, a tank top and several other iterations. Finally it’s so small that she puts the final piece into a collage drawing of what her dress used to look like. The day she wears the favorite piece of clothing changes too, going through the week. The last page has her favorite pants looking a little short. I love that this book shows the reuse and repurposing of clothing. It might encourage kids to look at their clothing in a very different light (moms too, maybe). 

Archie by Domenica More Gordon

A wordless picture book about sewing. Archie is a dog with a pet dog (just go with it). His aunt sends him a sewing machine and Archie gets to work, after a bit of thinking, on making an outfit for his dog. This outfit is a hit with the other dog owners in town and Archie is swamped with orders. Then a client asks if he can make an outfit for her. This kicks off another round of orders. A cute book about creative sewing. I love that it seems prior to receiving the sewing machine Archie is not a tailor. He just tinkers around and comes up with a good idea. The wordless aspect makes it accessible even to the youngest reader. 

How Clothes Are Made Provocation

I broke the clothes-making process into four steps:

  1. Draw a picture
  2. Make a pattern
  3. Sew it
  4. Try it on

Overall I’m looking for her to internalize the idea that making something takes time and follows a process. I am sure the actual act of making a shirt or pair of pants, even for her stuffed animals, won’t happen for a long time. And that’s fine. This is about exploring the process and seeing what it’s all about. I made a poster (which I won’t share because I didn’t use copyright free images) which is hung behind the provocations. Then I cut out and laminated the picture for each step and placed that in the basket with each provocation.  I am helping her take a set of clothes for one of her stuffed dogs through the process. I’m involving her in as much of it as I can, but ultimately she’s helping me plan and watching. You might notice that this follows Bruno the Tailor pretty closely which worked out well. I didn’t have the book when I designed the project so I was really pleased to find a book that went along so well. 

Draw a Picture

IMG_2527For this provocation I got Cam one of those sets of fashion rubbing plates. Cam is not to the point yet where she draws much of anything particular so I thought this would allow her to draw an outfit without all the pressure. Using the rubbing plates is also great fine motor work. The tray has the rubbing crayon, some colored pencils, paper cut to size and the rubbing plate holder and plates. It may also inspire Cam to draw her own outfit eventually, although I’m not worried about it if she doesn’t. 

Make a PatternIMG_2532

This is just a large basket with a real sewing pattern for her to take out and look at. She can cut it up or wrinkle it to if she wants. There is a pad of paper for drawing pattern pieces onto, colored pencils, a black pen and marker, a measuring tape, and a few clothes catalogs. The catalogs I’m having her look through for inspiration and I showed her how to draw an outline around the clothes to see about pattern pieces. Again I don’t expect her to make an actual patten, just get a sense of the process and the components of the process. 

IMG_2536Sew It

This is probably the most hands on step. I have some yarn & tapestry needles pre-threaded with thin yarn in a bowl and some small plastic canvases. Cam can practice the actual act of sewing on these canvases. Although the large plastic yarn needles seem safer they are a little too big to fit through the holes on the canvas. The tapestry needles are not really sharp, the tip is blunted, so I’m not overly concerned that she’ll hurt herself. This is also the step Cam has, surprisingly, been the least interested in so far.

Try It OnIMG_2530

This is the most fun step for Cam when I make her some clothes. Since she isn’t actually making something I got her one of those magnetic dress up dolls. She is so in love with this toy and it comes out a lot. I’m pretty happy with it too and tried to pick one that wasn’t so stereotypically feminine. This girl has all kinds of hair to try on as well as pants, shirts, skirts and dresses. She looks like a kid, too. Of course there aren’t any clothes to alter, but I think that might be a little overwhelming for Cam at this point. 

Next Places to Go…

I’m not sure yet. For the time being I’m leaving everything out for her to explore. I think these are concepts she’ll need some time to work with and really internalize. I am thinking about a child-sized sewing machine, but that is still a ways off. We’ll see what else piques her interest her. Or maybe we’ll let this lie.   

Reflection: 2014/21

Crossover: This past week I went to a conference on technology in the classroom. It’s a great conference with a lot of offerings and this year there were a lot of sessions on Makerspaces. I was so struck, when listening to these presenters, how the maker movement is so similar to the Reggio Emilia approach. Everything from student interest driven projects to project based learning to documentation. This is one of the reasons I really love running the makerspace at school. It ties in so well with the educational philosophy I have come to hold as sort of gold standard. 

School: Cam had a fabulous day at school on Wednesday!!! She was engaged in all the activities, was singing and talking and no tears. This isn’t the only no-tears day we’ve had by a long shot, but she was so happy that she didn’t want to leave and didn’t notice when I showed up to pick her up. Now if only every day could be like that. We’ll get there. 

Cool Stuff Vol. 1, Issue 6

Last weekend I attended an awesome blogging conference for people passionate about children’s literature (KidLitCon). I was fortunate that it was here in town this year which made travel costs non-existent. The theme was diversity in children’s literature which is something I have been becoming aware of and have been trying very hard to incorporate here in our home and push for in the library and beyond that into the curriculum.  

After subscribing to a bunch of new blogs and Twitter feeds I also found a few new boards to follow on Pinterest, which led me to this article on building a home library with diversity in it. It’s not terribly long, but features a ton of book recommendations to get you started. Diverse Books in Your Home Library: Parenting Global Kids

Handwork: Play Canopy

Play CanopyAfter rearranging Cam’s room a few months ago there was a particular corner that just needed a little something more. It really needed something to draw the eye up and fill the space. To accomplish this I made a play canopy. It isn’t perfect, but Cam loves it and it was really simple to make. My husband was actually the one who came up with the idea to use an embroidery hoop and pushed us to go out and buy the supplies. It looks like a long process but it won’t take long- a couple hours at most depending on your sewing skills. 


  • sewing machine
  • large embroidery hoop (the bigger the better)
  • panels of tulle (we used four, each one a different color; the number of panels you need will depend on the width of the fabric and the size of the hoop, be sure the number of panels will be able to go all the way around your hoop and overlap each other a bit)
  • ribbon or string (to gather the top)
  • hook to hang it

What to do:

  1. Measure the height of your ceiling. This will determine how long each panel of tulle should be. We have 8 foot ceilings so we bought 3 yard lengths.
  2. Fold the top of the each panel of tulle over. Stitch it down so that it makes a hem at the top. This is where you will thread the ribbon or string through and gather the top. 
  3. Determine where you want your hoop to fall along the panel and in relation to your ceiling. This may depend on how high your ceiling is and how wide your hoop is. Stitch a basting or gathering stitch. I stitched around 30 inches down from the top. 
  4. Measure the circumference of your hoop if you don’t know it already. Divide that number by the number of panels you have. Add in the amount you want each panel to overlap. Add this number in twice (once for each side). This number is the width you need to gather your panels down to. So if your hoop is 45 inches in circumference and you have five panels: 45/5= 9 inches. If you want them to overlap by 3 inches add in 6 inches. Gather the panel to 15 inches wide.
  5. Open the hoop up and start to place the panels around the circumference. Place the hoops where the gathering stitch is. Put the hoops back together and begin to tighten them a little so it holds the panels in place while you adjust them. This part was really tricky for me. Feel free to curse as you do this. Don’t worry if they don’t line up perfectly. Just be sure the gathering stitch is hidden. When the panels are in place tighten the hoop completely.
  6. Run the ribbon through the top hem and gather. I used two pieces of ribbon and gathered two panels onto each. I then tied bows to connect the two ribbons- one bow on either side. I used the bows to hang the hoop, but you could just expose a bit of ribbon or string on either side and use that to hang it. 
  7. Place the hook in the ceiling and hang your canopy.

As a side note, the picture of the canopy doesn’t show it where it was actually hanging. We have since had to move it. 

Reflection: 2014/20

Questioning: Cam has always been a curious person and has always asked questions. I’m not sure if it truly started this week, but I really noticed it this week: we are in the “why” phase. Everything is “why” even the answers she gets. Although, I’m finding the more through the answer she gets the less likely she is to ask “why” again. I don’t know if that means I answered her questions completely or if  I just bored her to the point of no longer caring. I know parents complain about this phase a lot and I can certainly see how it would be grating, but here in the early stages of it isn’t bothering me. Cam listens to the answers I give her and thinks about them. She’ll often bring the information back up in later conversations. I also think it’s teaching her an incredibly valuable research skill, which is to ask an expert and/or tap your resources which include people who might know an answer. Here is to hoping she never loses her curiosity. 

Scribbles: This week Cam has also started scribbling lines down and pointing to them to tell us they say a word. This zigzag says “mama”; this one says “Camille”. Could this be the start of an earnest interest in learning letters and making the connection between symbols and letters? 

Cam in the Kitchen: Apple Chips

A few weeks ago we had some apples lying around that needed to be eaten up. Instead of just cutting them up and eating them that way I thought it might be fun to make them into apple chips. Of course you can buy apple chips at the store, but they’re kind of expensive and it’s really easy to make them at home. It’s also a great recipe to celebrate fall and the prep is quick.

This is a project that definitely has a parent-child component. You’ll need to slice the apples, but your child can sprinkle them with the cinnamon sugar. I recommend using a mandolin if you have one (if you don’t and you want a relatively inexpensive one, this is like what I have) as it will give you thin slices with a uniform thickness. I also recommend taking an old (clean) spice jar with a shaker top and filling that with the cinnamon sugar. Don’t worry if the chips get really unevenly sprinkled, it won’t make much difference in the finished product. 

Apple or Pear Chips
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  1. 2-3 apples or pears
  2. 1 tbsp cinnamon
  3. 2 tbsp sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 225.
  2. Slice the apples or pears and lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together and have your child sprinkle it on the tops of the apple or pear slices.
  4. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for about an hour. Flip the slices over and bake for another hour. Keep your eye on them especially in the second hour. Depending on how thinly you have sliced them they will dry out more or less quickly. They are done when the edges curl a bit but they still have a chewy consistency.
  1. I recently read in a Martha Stewart magazine that you could also brush the slices with a thin layer of maple syrup.
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Reflection: 2014/19

Examining: Cam has been really whiny lately and if there is one thing I can’t stand it’s whining. I’m trying to be very conscious of how I respond when she whines every time she does it. I suspect there are days when I tolerate it better than others and that I am sending mixed messages. Thankfully she is very responsive when I say, “let’s try that again in a big girl voice”. This often elicits a breath, a please and an altered delivery. But, hoo boy, there are days when it just drives me up the wall.



Cool Stuff Vol. 1, Issue 5

A couple links today:

I found are really amazing kindergarten blog called The Curious Kindergarten. It details the Reggio-inspired activities and provocations she has set up for her students. The pictures are good and it’s all very inspiring. She hasn’t posted since May, but I’m hoping she’ll be back. In the meantime you can cruise through the archives. 

I also came across a great list of Halloween books on the blog No Time For Flashcards. I’m familiar with a lot of the books, but not all of them. There are others I would add, but it’s pretty comprehensive. If you want to see some of my suggestions see this post: Eight Great Books for Autumn.



Activity in the Hive: St. Francis of Assisi Celebration

So, St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals (amongst other things) and his saint’s day is October 4th, the day after my birthday (I will be 25 again this year. It’s amazing that I haven’t gotten any older in years). Considering how much Cam loves animals and the proximity to my birthday I thought this year we would start a family tradition of celebrating the saint’s day.

Francis actually embodies a number of qualities that we are trying very hard to impart to Camille. Not only was he a friend to all animals, wild and domestic, he was also (like most saints) a big supporter of not relying on money and material belongings to bring happiness and satisfaction. Francis was actually raised in a wealthy family. As a young man he was generous with those less fortunate than him to the point that he was forced to denounce his own family who did not understand or accept his compassionate nature. 

As I’ve said before, we are not religious, but I think the saints have a lot to offer in character building and offer good examples of behavior, especially for children who are very attuned to injustice. While God has come up in the books we’ve read about Francis (and other saints) we are not focusing on those aspects of the stories.


Of course I got a few titles out of the library to read to Cam in preparation for the day of the celebration. Here a couple I recommend.

Brother Sun, Sister MoonBrother Sun, Sister Moon: St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Creatures by Katherine Paterson

An adaptation of a prayer attributed to Francis from the author of The Bridge to Terebithia. This is a really beautiful meditation that celebrates all aspects of the land and our place in and interconnectedness to the web of life. There is an especially beautiful verse praising death which I think is important for children to learn about. The illustrations in this are absolutely incredible and detailed. They remind me of some traditional Russian art and of German cut paper decorations. Really an incredible work.

St. Francis of Assisi by Nina Bawden

This was a really great book about Francis’s life. It looks like there is a lot of text, but it’s large and very simple. Cam sat through the whole book at bedtime. The story takes you from his early years to his death. There isn’t much about why he is the patron saint of animals, but it touches on his miracles and the way he lived.

Saint Francis by Brian Wildsmith

I was not able to get this one from my library system, however I would recommend any book by Brian Wildsmith for the illustrations alone. He creates the most amazing watercolor and ink illustrations and this is no exception. The story recounts Francis’s life including his interactions with animals. 

The Plan

  • deliver supplies to our local wildlife care association
  • visit the Folsom Zoo which is actually an animal sanctuary
  • set out treats for our pets and be sure we spend time with them
  • eat dinner together, say the Prayer of St. Francis before the meal

How It Went & Thoughts for Next Year

The celebration went really well. We did not make it to the Wildlife Care Association. I think I was expecting too much and we ended up meeting some friends at the zoo. Cam was super excited to give treats to all our pets so I will definitely keep that for next time. We also ended up having family over for dinner and forgot the prayer. Next year I would like for it just to be us and to plan a more special meal with Cam’s help.

Traditions Banner

Reflection: 2014/18

Rhythm: We have fallen into a lovely rhythm now that Cam has been in school for several weeks and my own schedule has gelled. And our new schedule allows for three really calm days at home together that I think Cam and I are really making the most of. 

Rhyme: Normally at night we say a poem before reading a story and saying goodnight. It’s been the same poem since we started our routine which was months and months ago. Cam has it memorized and sometimes asks us to say it or she’ll insist on saying it herself. However, for fall I switched it up to this poem:

Yellow the bracken, golden the sheaves.
Rosy the apple, crimson the leaves.
Mist on the hillside, clouds grey and white,
Autumn good morning, summer good night.

Gearing Up: I have some provocations planned for Cam for the next month and I’m working on pulling all the pieces together, setting them up and thinking about how exactly to go about presenting them to her. There should be more about this later on the blog for anyone curious.