I Never Saw Another Butterfly

butterfly-cover-largeWhen I was in seventh grade, we began WWII studies, and focused on the Holocaust. Part of our readings was the collection of poetry and art by the children of Terezin concentration camp, where over 150,000 people went in, but only 413 survived (of them, 10,000 children went in, less than 100 survived). The collection is called I Never Saw Another Butterfly, and is one of the readings I feel is integral to a Holocaust curriculum (along with Maus I & II, “The Shawl,” and other historical fiction). Because these are the real accounts of real children who lived and died there, it makes the reality of the Holocaust hit home all the more. Because it’s difficult to find, I purchased a copy when my daughter was learning about WWII.

A play was also written based on their poetry and art, which my middle school (St. Margaret’s Episcopal in San Juan Capistrano, CA) performed that same year. If you’re in the Seattle Eastside / Puget Sound area, and your children are ready to learn about the actions of German Nazis, pay a visit to Studio East Theater and see I Never Saw Another Butterfly in person. You can pair it with the book, as well as a discussion about the history. Depending on the age of your students, consider tying readings and play to documentary film clips of the release of prisoners at the concentration camps. Warning, if you haven’t seen them yourself, they can be emotionally jarring.

Studio East recommends only children 9 years or older attend this play due to its subject matter.

Performance Dates & Times: October 13 – 29, 2017 – Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm. Purchase tickets here.

Student ID Cards and Other Uses for a Print Shop Laminator

A very silly person.

My daughter aided me in choosing our school colors and logo. The bar code is apparently a thing at public schools; makes it look official, though really we’re just silly.

Washington State is blessedly relaxed on the requirements of homeschooling one’s children. Not everyone in my newsletter groups would agree with me, but I think a little regulation is important; we are talking about education, but there are other states that have more of a hand in home education than here, but that’s a different topic all together. What we have here is simple: once a year, we go to our local school district office and turn in a Declaration of Intent form (created by a homeschooler) that includes only the information required by the state (e.g. age, not birthdate, et al), and once a year, we pay a private individual or company to provide some type of testing to gauge how well our students are doing that year. This testing can be anything from a proctored standardized test to a one-on-one home evaluation with a selected individual. The type of test is up to the parents or guardians, not the state, and the records only need to be shown if a child is enrolled into the public school system later.

That Declaration of Intent, while an annual annoyance, has proven useful outside the school system. For the last five years, as soon as we’ve turned in our DoI, my daughter and I have headed to a local print shop to make two reduced copies of the DoI (now stamped by a school district official), trim them down to size, and have them laminated — one card for me, one for my daughter. My best friend and her children do the same. This card then becomes my daughter’s proof that she’s not a truant, and my proof at bookstores and similar places that offer teacher discounts on educational materials. When you’re homeschooling, you tend to be on a tight budget, and every 10% off or teachers’ blow out sales you can grab are a golden blessing.

When we still used workbooks, this came in especially handy, since I could get them at a reduced price (usually just the equivalent of getting them tax free or slightly more), but it’s helped. It helps the stores, too, because then I’m able to justify buying that extra book or tool we might need or want for our educational goals that year.

Now that my daughter’s in her teens and has her own Orca card for the local buses, I thought it high time she start getting some of those student discounts public school kids get that she can’t without a student ID (this even includes special prices for day-of-performance seats at certain operas and theaters). I’d considered making a student ID for her in the past, but just never made the time for it. Last night, I finally did it, and had fun with Photoshop making IDs for the whole family. The one year old certainly doesn’t need discount movie tickets, but once I started making them, I thought how fun it would be for us all to have them … I know, I’m silly. So are my kids. It’s genetic.

That print shop’s laminator also serves us in other ways: handwriting practice is made easier by having a laminated page that can be wiped clean after each day. Consider it for worksheets you want to reuse like scavenger hunts, plant identification, and wildlife sightings. Laminating local maps allows us a chance to write on them for project plans, stories, and explorations as needed — it’s even good for teaching a teen how to use the local bus routes!

Go check out the services at your local print shop. It costs us just a couple of dollars a year to get our DoI’s copied, and for under $10 a year, we can have student and instructor IDs, and a handful of reusable educational tools on hand (keep those worksheets and maps in the car with dry erase markers or wipe-clean crayons).

Oh, and it should be noted that my partner’s instructor badge, under subjects, reads: “Mathematics and Ponies”.  We love our brony.


Pinterest featue in Metro - 27th February 2012

Pinterest featue in Metro – 27th February 2012 (Photo credit: Great British Chefs)

I’ve recently spent moments of free time cleaning up my boards on Pinterest. Besides the Willow and Birch board that might be of interest to readers here, there are now the following:

Baby & Toddler for tips on raising and teaching our wee ones.

Sewing & Fiber Arts, which includes all the tips, tutorials, and projects involving sewing, weaving, knitting, crocheting, embroidery, and fabric dyeing. This board ranges from projects and skills for toddlers to advance costuming tricks.

Clever and Tidied is all about those little tips for cleaning, organizing, and preparing for life, and making the things one needs to implement a tidier, less-cluttered household.

DIY Projects and Ideas contains everything we might want to do that doesn’t involve fabric or fiber arts, party planning, cooking, organizing, or holidays. There are a lot of these.

If you’d like to see what else I’m interested in, just visit my profile, and if you have a homeschooling or unschooling board, or can recommend good secular or pagan education boards*, please comment below.

*Christians, I love you, AND I need more tips that don’t involve Bible verses, divine affirmations, and Biblical gender roles.

Various Homeschooling Resources

This is just a quick list of some recently discovered resources:


8 100-Year-Old Tips for Writing About Controversial Topics is a short list of quotes by G. K. Chesterton with a lesson summary of what to take from his words, as interpreted by the article’s author, Brad Shorr.  The list is simple, but poignant, and still relevant to today’s writers, especially in an age where blogs and social media networks provide the greatest forums for discussing controversial topics.  The tips are (see article for original quotes):

1. Humor

2. Penetrating Insight

3. Reframing the Issue

4. Uplifting Point of View

5. Finding the Center

6. Putting Opponents in a Positive Light

7. Identifying Yourself with Your Opponents

8. Focusing on the Big Picture

BusyTeacher.org’s How to Teach Writing: 7 Steps for Elaboration is a succinct list of methods to help you or your children increase their descriptive narratives in creative writing.


On the Seattle Homeschooling Group Facebook page, a discussion came up about Biology resources online.  Included in the discussion were the two following links:

Biology Corner, which offers worksheets, online labs, and even course materials for various levels of Biology.

ASU School of Life Sciences’ “Ask a Biologist” offers free printable biology coloring pages good for elementary and middle school students (some are more detailed and intricate than others), which can pair well with any of the lower-level course materials from Biology Corner.

I’m still on the hunt for comparable sites to assist my daughter in exploring Chemistry, which is her preferred form of science at present, though she’s already discovered that to go very far in the subject (beyond atoms, molecules, and the table of elements), she needs to improve her understanding of higher levels of math than she’s yet achieved.  My math-obsessed partner has taken over much of that portion of her education to help give her a boost, and we’re moving her into Algebra now.


I stumbled across Storm the Castle a couple of months ago, set it aside, and hadn’t spent much time looking through it precisely because it offered so much!  From tutorials on bee-keeping to sword-making to classic guitar to yes, even writing help, it boasts a wealth of eclectic interests and the means to put one’s creative ideas into practice.

You can find these and other great resources at the Willow & Birch Pinterest page and my Homeschooling tag on Delicious, links to both available always on the right hand sidebar.

Geometry, Design, and Pasta

Fiori-shaped pasta by Barilla. Approximately 0...

Fiori-shaped pasta by Barilla. Approximately 0.5″ in diameter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks to a friend, we came across the CBS short video clip Geometry and Pasta about two authors — one an architect, the other, a chef — each wrote books about pasta from a mathematical perspective.  The former, George Legendre, cataloged over 200 types of pasta in his book, Pasta by Design, showing the mathematics of form behind the function, in part as an inspiration for other designers looking for more unique shapes in their architecture, though another part I believe has more to do with his love of mathematics. Meanwhile, chef Jacob Kennedy’s recipes and historical knowledge of noodles paired with hints of geometry in Caz Hildebrand’s drawings, come together in The Geometry of Pasta.  This book looks both informative and drool-worthy, but focuses more on the food’s function because of its design.

For someone like myself who is equally fascinated by architectural design and historical cooking, these books are tempting.  As a homeschooler, I can see them being the inspiration for my child(ren) to explore culinary arts, history, math, and design all at once in an integrated form.  An exploration that could be hands on and delicious!

OMNI Magazine — Free Online!

Those who remember OMNI Magazine, a science and sci-fi publication that spanned two decades, you’ll be happy to know you can find the full archives online at Archive.org to share with your children as they explore not just science, but recent history and can explore the development of the last decades of innovation, as well as some incredible science-fiction shorts!

Edwin the Super Duper Otter

English: A pair of otters.

English: A pair of otters. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seattle Aquarium just published an ebook available for free either for your ereader or as a .pdf.  As a fan of otters, this is an especially adorable book dealing with self-doubt, and includes both charming illustrations and real life video clips from the animals at the aquarium.

Check out Edwin the Super Duper Otter and download learning materials for free!  ^_^


Mmm . . . now I’m hungry for a cake made of sea urchin, clams, and crab.  Nom!

More Free Online Courses

Educación, más que 9 letras y un acento

“A people without education is a people easy to fool.” (Photo credit: jpazkual)

I’ve been a big fan of Khan Academy‘s free online lessons in mathematics, sciences, and a growing body of liberal arts (including Vi Hart’s “Doodling in Math Class” courses).   My best friend recently sent me links to two more sites:

Udacity is a site providing free courses in math, sciences, and programming, while Code Academy focuses entirely on computer programming languages, getting online students working in the chosen code from the outset.

And while I continue to appreciate (and even use these sites), I’ve been longing to find online liberal arts courses as well, especially history, art, architecture, and music theory/practice.  My boyfriend found a site with a long list of available online courses, some as videos, some as audio files, and others with a multimedia mix.  Open Culture provides a list of 500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.  It includes archaeology, architecture, philosophy, ethics, etc.  A few of the classes I’d seen before (e.g. MIT’s Open Course Ware classes have a greater diversity than one might expect, and includes a Building with the Landscape class my daughter and I want to learn from together to help us build a miniature hobbit house for our garden), but most of them are new to me, and come from schools such as Oxford, Yale, Harvard, MIT, and UC Berkeley.  There’s even a series of free music courses provided by Berklee College of Music.

Considering my daughter’s now becoming interested in, and is showing maturity enough to handle, specialized courses in topics for which I have limited knowledge, this is a great opportunity for us both to learn shared interests together, and to explore individual interests separately.  For example, we might take a language, architecture, or music theory course together, but you can bet she’ll be more interested in biochemistry and cryptography, while I’ll want to dive into mechanical engineering and linguistics.

With these courses, we can explore complex lessons at our own pace, choosing to take one class a season, or three or four at once.  It also lets us discover whether we’re willing to commit to lengthy study in a given field without wasting thousands of dollars on tuition to figure it out.  These are resources that, when combined with books and discussion groups, can give a rewarding educational experience honoring the notion that every individual learns at a different pace, and can be interested and capable of learning any subject at any age.

A Free Resource: Crash Course

I just discovered another great educational resource (free!) on YouTube.  While I don’t want all of our lessons to be based in digital or video, I know supplemental multimedia really help my daughter better understand a concept.  It’s just the way her visual-kinesthetic mind works: if it has pictures or involves touch, we’re good.


Crash Course is a clever, informative, silly, and sometimes a bit naughty* growing collection of educational videos across two series: one is led by Hank Green and presents concepts in Biology, and the other is World History, as explained by John Green.  In case their last names and shared good looks weren’t clue enough, they’re a pair of witty, knowledgeable brothers.  They’re also known for their other vlog works: Brotherhood 2.0 and the VlogBrothers (including Truth or Fail).

I’ve only watched the first video of each series, but I’m already a huge fan.  I can’t wait to start showing these to my daughter tomorrow, and determine how we best want to incorporate them into her current education!  Even better, the first World History video ties in with her on-going ancient civilization work, AND it talks about the start of agriculture, which ties in with our gardening and my farming research.

Let me know if these videos are already part of your experience, and how you use them, or if you’re new to them like we are, what your thoughts are.


*By “naughty”, I’m referring to the slight hint at sexual activity in the first Biology video, titled, “That’s Why Carbon is a Tramp“.  While this is no problem for my family, I know there are some families who aren’t yet ready to share the details about sex and/or human reproduction with their children.