Bag of Tricks


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I remember one day in sixth grade, sitting at the lunch table with a group of kids, all of them pounding on the table chanting, “Red, red, red.”  I was an insecure, gangly kid with a bad perm and I blushed at the merest bit of attention.  I stared at the table willing my face not to do what they were commanding, but it didn’t obey me.  I’m not sure how the other kids discovered my weak spot to begin with, but once they knew, they didn’t forget.  Middle school was brutal.

Between my introverted nature and my tendency to blush bright red, I learned to hate public speaking.  I spent a few years doing high school theater, but only managed it because I was pretending to be someone else.  In college I was horrified when my advisor told me that I would have to take a speech class to graduate.  I changed my major seven times and somehow that speech credit, or lack thereof, was lost in the shuffle, and I was spared.

So it’s kind of funny that the class I teach at our homeschooling co-op focuses on discussion and public speaking.  I have the usual mix of kids, those who can’t wait to get up and give a presentation, and those that always pretend they didn’t prepare one (when I know they have because their moms told me so), those that blush, and those that don’t (the lucky ones).  Most of them need a little help though, whether it’s with managing to utter a sound at all, or with slowing down and making better eye contact.  So, I started looking around for fun ideas.  When I didn’t come up with a resource that fit my class perfectly, I came up with my own plan.  A bag of tricks.  This week I brought my bag to class for the first time.  We all had loads of fun, even the shyest of the shy!

Here’s what we did:

We started with a tongue twister, saying, “Fresh French Fries,” over and over again together (from this book).  We may chant a different tongue twister every week just to help everyone relax.  Next, I pulled out story cubes.  (I bought the original set and the Enchanted add-on cubes.)  We took turns rolling and telling the next bit of the story based on the picture on the cube.  While the process was fun for everyone, the “stories” were more long chains of unrelated sentences rather than stories.  I think that next time I am going to write out the parts of a story on the board, and help each child as we go around the circle, relate their addition to the next logical part of the story.  So for instance, the first child might include the setting in their portion, the next might introduce characters, then move to plot development and conflict, etc.  My girls pulled out the story dice last night and told stories for about an hour.  I can’t believe I didn’t buy these sooner.

Finally, we played charades.  That was pretty hilarious, and even the shyest child in the class participated willingly and seemed to enjoy herself.  Again, why haven’t we been playing charades?

I also sent everyone home with a joke from this book (the same one with the tongue twisters) to memorize for next week’s class.  The jokes are really silly, many of them ridiculous.  I can’t wait to see how everyone reacts to them.  I tend to laugh hard at dumb jokes, so I am really looking forward to hearing the kids tell theirs.

My hope is that even the shyest kids will look forward to my class, and that eventually, standing up in front of the others to give a presentation won’t feel like walking the plank.

p.s.  I got a few rows beyond dividing for the sleeves on Bea’s sweater, tried it on her, and realized I needed to rip back and cast on more stitches under the arms.  How will I ever finish this thing in time?

p.p.s.  I’ve got a post up at Blessed is She today, in case you want to read it…

The Making that Happens

This weekend was kind of nuts.  We spent Friday working on Larkspur and Beatrix’s room re-do (Last minute crazy pregnant lady project.  So much painting involved.)  Friday night Jonny set the alarm for 4:30 a.m. so he could travel with Keats and Gabe (Silas and Job in tow) to an out of town baseball tournament for the weekend.  We fell into bed close to midnight, and I woke up shortly after with a nasty headache, and that stomach bug feeling.  Thankfully, the bad stomach passed, but the headache remained.  I was still awake when Jonny and the boys left.

Saturday was meant to be spent working on the girls’ room, but I was feeling kind of terrible so instead I did the logical thing and started a new cross-stitch project.  (Alicia Paulson’s Florabella from the first issue of Making Magazine.)  I think this was just my natural reaction to having Lark and Bea’s stuff exploding all over the downstairs and feeling too crappy to deal with it.  Hide from the mess, make something pretty.  (There are so many pretty things to make in that magazine!  I already have yarn for three of the knitting projects.)

Saturday night things went downhill as Beatrix started feeling sick and Weasel felt like he needed to bark non-stop, I assume because Jonny and the boys weren’t here and he was nervous about that.  I emailed Jonny at 2 a.m. with the subject line, “Horrors” after getting Beatrix situated after a puke session.  He replied around 7 a.m. letting me know that Job was now throwing up in the hotel room.  Such good times.  Who needs sleep?

Anyway, despite the fact that my habit is to start cross-stitch projects and then spend ages actually getting around to finishing them, Florabella was completed over the course of the crazy, sick, bedroom re-do, menfolk traveling weekend and it’s hanging on the wall over my desk now.  Such a lovely manageable project and maybe the reason that I didn’t lose my mind over these past couple of days.

I ordered the linen called for in the pattern, in antique white, along with Weeks Dye Works floss in Bluecoat Red and a 4″ wooden hoop from

Oh, and that red yarn!  It’s a skein I dyed for a friend with madder root.  It matches the cross-stitch!  The photos of Bea (in hot pink lipstick–maybe she’s attempting to graduate from markers to real make-up?) and Silas are from last week.  They were painting with these paint sticks that Silas got for his birthday.  They have been very popular with my kids.  And, some of you asked about the colored pencils in Silas’ birthday post.  We’ve used these pencils for years and I recently restocked.

Girls room details soon.  It’s such a tiny little closet of a room that photos are hard, but I will do my best!  I’ve been painting bunk-beds on our disaster of a front porch for two days.  Almost finished.