Color Theory


Color Diagram by Charles Hayter

For the last couple of weeks, color theory has dominated discussions between the children and myself. Little Fox is working with crayons more, where only months ago he found no pleasure in coloring or drawing. Now he can’t wait to ask about the colors to use for various projects or pictures.

Meanwhile, Dragon spends hours on their art every day, starting with a sketch, then digital line art, color, and shading. Their art is becoming ever-more detailed, rich, and vivid. They’ve been learning tricks and developing skills from tutorials online, and they recently participated in the first two weeks of #MerMay on Twitter.


“Adorabilis” by Anya Starling

Several times a day now, I’m asked what colors to choose. Whether for my son’s coloring projects, or my teen’s color palettes for their art, it seemed such a big enough deal that I started a Pinterest board dedicated to color palettes and color theory.

When Little Fox recently worked on his wheel of months and seasons, and his wheel of the week, we talked about how colors make us feel, what colors we see or experience during different times of the day, or even the year. Some of his choices were based on what I said about a particular time of the year, but others were entirely his own.

One of Dragon’s online challenges a few months ago was to use a limited palette on a piece–usually three to six–found on a Twitter thread about coloring comics for major labels. There’s a wealth of wisdom about coloring pieces with a limited palette, planned ahead of time, and it challenges artists to make choices in how they use their colors. 0ccba752dd473aea637985174849e3a9Using this concept, I challenged Little Fox to use only five colors on a coloring page, and he loved it. He hadn’t been too keen on coloring before, but being challenged excited him. Now, he doesn’t mind using the whole box of crayons if he so decides, but occasionally, I hand him a range of colors, and he goes to town using the selection.

If you want to give the same challenge to your kids (or for yourself), you can read up a bit on color theory, and either let them choose, or choose a few for them. Consider a range of five complementary colors, see how much they can do with only three, or ask them to make it monochromatic, using shades of all the same color.


Tracking Time

wheelofyear2018Two weeks ago, I hand-drew a pagan wheel of the year. It included four seasons, eight sabbats, and the twelve months of the Gregorian calendar. I labeled everything in ink, and gave it to my son to color in as he saw fit. It took over two hours to work on, because he had a number of questions about each season, sabbat, and month, which allowed us to really delve into how we track an annual cycle.

He was especially concerned that the colors be accurate, and being unsure of much of it, turned my questions about how he felt during certain seasons or holidays around, asking me what colors they conjured for me. Some of my answers affected the colors he chose, but others were entirely of his own choosing–especially December. When I mentioned that Yule, the longest night, was in December, instead of coloring it pine green or holly berry red, he chose black for the darkness of a long winter’s night.

WheelofDays.jpgThe project was so successful, he wanted to “turn” the wheel every day, and was frustrated that he’d have to wait for May to end before turning it to June. So, I found a circle divided into sevenths, printed it out, and labeled it. Gods help me, I momentarily forgot how to spell “Wednesday” and had to print out a second copy to correct it, but once labeled, he set about coloring it with the same seriousness he had the annual wheel.

It took almost as long, because our discussion turned toward the history of the names. Now he only refers to Thursday as “Thor’s Day,” but he refuses to call Friday “Frigga’s Day,” because he thinks it should be “Fries Day” (hence the red ketchup and yellow mustard colors on the wheel). Between discussing mythology (Norse, Greek, and Roman), how days “feel,” and the importance of getting it “right,” he spent over an hour on it.

Now he looks forward to announcing turning the day wheel and having me check it. Sometimes more than once a day. 😉

My next goal is to have him make a moon phase calendar he can adjust daily, but haven’t come up with a decent project that will work as a daily calendar, though I did like the cleverness of this moon phase cup project, but want to make something with him that can be stuck to the fridge with a magnet like the other two, because anything made with a cup will get shuffled, damaged, and eventually tossed out from neglect. After that? The solar system!

EDIT: Apologies, I meant to upload a blank copy of each, but it appears I never scanned (or failed to save the scan) for the hand drawn wheel of the year. Here, at least is the template I used for the wheel of days.


I’m Five!

IMG_6724Little Fox enjoyed his birthday where a dozen kids and their parents met with us under a shelter in our favorite park despite the wet weather. There were games on corner tables and potluck food and boffers that confused the smallest children, but excited the older ones. Star Wars napkins and lightsaber cupcake toppers and a single, round balloon were my limit for purchasing themed decor. Everything else was low budget and divine.


A beautiful mistake of a cupcake.

Lots went wrong, and everyone still managed to enjoy themselves. Though we had quite the adventure leaving, as a moat formed around the shelter during our party.

Sunday was a cleaning day. Monday was a grieving day. Tuesday was birthday proper. We went to gymnastics and the park. We had waffles for breakfast, pizza for lunch, and sushi for dinner. His new disco lights illuminated the living room while he opened presents with disco music accompanying him.

IMG_6755Wednesday was a moms’ day out, and four teenagers played video games and held boffer battles with one demanding five year old. We left our house at 11am, and didn’t return until 6pm, and somewhere in the middle, after returning from lunch, we two moms were sucked into the games with the kids.

Despite all the joy and celebration, I didn’t feel like we’d quite capped the birthday until today, when we walked into the library and requested his first library card.

IMG_6744Little Fox has been picking up letters and playing with phonemes. He’s been reading random words and recognizing some of the ones we spell to each other to keep a surprise from him. He’s been working with numbers and fractions and adding and multiplying without a thought. So it seemed time to take him to a repository of knowledge where he could claim it all for himself.

It took less than a minute to type out the form. It took several for him to decide which card he wanted.

Then came time to pick his first books. I told him he could pick any three to take home. He pulled several from shelves asking me about the titles and what section they were in. Picking books suddenly mattered more than usual. He counted them as he chose. “Two books; only one left.” He struggled to pick the third.

He stopped at the edge of the children’s section and stared at the rows of books before him, three books already in my hands.

“I want all of the books,” he whispered to me.

IMG_6805“I know,” I said, “and now you can have all of them, but it’s best to only take a few at a time. We can come back again in a day or two when you’ve finished these and get more.”

He remained standing, still staring at them all. I caught sight of an exposed book with crows on the cover. “This one is called Six Crows. You love crows, right? How about we get four.”

“Four more?”

“No. Four books. That’s enough to carry today.”

He accepted this compromise, and scanned his card, while I typed in his PIN. Then he scanned each book in turn. He let me take his picture before we left.

Now he’s truly five, and I’m so excited for the adventures awaiting him.


His first four books checked out on his own card are:

Toshi’s Little Treasures by Nadine Robert

Oh no, Astro! by Matt Roeser

Birds by Jump!

Six Crows by Leo Lionni


Four Year Old Fractions

downloadMy partner downloaded the app, Slice Fractions 2, onto his iPad, and Little Fox has been obsessed with it. Though he seems to have been able to figure out most of the problems on his own without being formally taught fractions, some of the levels stumped him.

Rather than do the problems for him so his mammoth could move on, earn hats, and rescue cute pets, I talked to him about the problems as we solved them together. He was especially stumped by a particular level where there are two whole blocks, and he has to come up with five-thirds blocks of ice to snuff the lava and let the mammoth go on its merry way.

Just describing it wasn’t working, as it had for other levels, so we got back to practical basics. I didn’t think we’d be doing fractions this early with him, but so be it. He’s interested, so we’re doing it.

I thought of using cuisenaire rods, but what I really wanted was something whole that could be cut up. We don’t have gf pretzel sticks, and I didn’t want to break a pencil for a point (pun intended), and Dragon suggested a banana, but no way am I eating or wasting a banana right now.

We decided on meat sticks, because even if we didn’t eat them, we could put them back in the bag. Fox plucked the paper towel, Dragon fetched the bag of snacks from the pantry, and I set to work.

First we talked about the stick as a whole, representing a block. There are two blocks: two wholes.


Second, I talked about the “number on the bottom” (the denominator) being how many pieces to cut the whole into. In the case of his problem, five-thirds, he needed to cut each whole into three pieces. Cutting was hard with a table knife–these meat sticks are dry and dense–so I did the work. When we had our three pieces, I showed him that each piece represented a single third.


Finally, we talked about how many pieces he needed to complete the puzzle. The problem showed 5/3. I talked about the “number on top” (the numerator), and how it indicates how many pieces are necessary to solve the problem. I asked him to count out five thirds from the pieces we had. Then he went back to the game, used his narwhals to slice the right number of thirds, and passed the challenge.


If you have access to the game and can afford the price ($4), this is an incredible game that my little one loves, and both my partner and I enjoy playing as well, even though we mastered fractions a long time ago because there’s more to many of these challenges than just knowing what numbers are needed to complete each level. (I am not being sponsored by the company to endorse it, I just really, really like it.)

As for the meat sticks, they never made it back in the bag.


Acknowledging the Past and Present

Before beginning, I want to acknowledge that while I’m certain my audience here is not solely white, there is a disproportionate percentage of white people within the national homeschooling community, so I’m primarily addressing people for whom this subject is often overlooked, or who only give a brief brush of the topic for a single month each year.

black-lives-matter-raglan-tee-graphic-700x649Though I have been active on Twitter, Facebook, and even my writing page regarding Black History Month, I must apologize for forgetting to mention it here. Every day, my kids and I have discussed at least one black leader, hero, or notable individual. From civil rights leaders to artists. From politicians to scientists. People from the past and present. I’ve shown them videos, websites, photos, read their stories to my son. (Visit Satyr’s Garden for a list of my personal black heroes.)

We’re excited to see Black Panther in the theater, but we’re waiting a couple of weeks to save those seats for POC. Daughter understands the significance of the film, son thinks it looks like another exciting superhero film. (A reminder on why representation matters. And specifically Black Panther. And a comment on representation from former FLOTUS, Michelle Obama.)

mv5bmtg1mty2mjyznv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtc4ntmwndi-_v1_uy1200_cr9006301200_al_Being four, he doesn’t grasp yet the import of the movie, the history behind the month, or what other children his age go through. He’s learning, bit by bit. The other day, he walked in on me watching a video of a white police officer brandishing his gun at a handful of black children who were playing ball on the sidewalk with each other outside their homes. One of their mothers had stepped out on the porch and was so terrified she was wailing in the background. He was confused.

We had a discussion about what was going on that led to one about why so many adults he knows distrust police officers. It wasn’t an easy conversation, but it was far easier than the talks POC give their children about how to act around police to avoid being murdered for the color of their skin.

While my son will be raised to see POC as humans, equals, and friends, I know that’s not a shared view by the current U.S. government, many institutions in place within my country, nor many of the supporters therein. My kids have seen me go off to protests, when my daughter was little, I brought her along, because protests didn’t usually involve the risk of violence. Now I leave the kids at home with my partner.

Why am I being political on a homeschooling blog? Because being socially literate is as important to our education as the academics we teach. Because the political is personal. Racism is rampant in our country, Nazis and white supremacists are vocal and taking positions of power, and it’s becoming ever more dangerous in this country to have brown or black skin.

If you’re also white/European American, and these things matter to you as well, please teach your children. Show them that it matters. Work on a local level to dismantle the systems in place that continue to hold down POC. Teach them about black heroes of the past and the ones working hard today to follow their dreams and make the world better, in spite of the extra obstacles they face.

Write or call your legislators at both local and national levels. March with Black Lives Matter and protest against white supremacist rallies. Make it uncool to be racist again. Challenge people in your circles who tell racist jokes, hesitate to hire dark skinned candidates, or make generalized statements that aren’t true. Do this daily, not just for the month of February.

Raise up POC in your community, promote their work on social media, donate to projects. Buy tickets to see Black Panther, and send some extras to a POC who can’t afford movie tickets themselves. Need more ideas? Here are some:

As part of my efforts to support Black Lives Matter, I’m donating 100% of my share of sales for Cress and the Medicine Show earned every February from this year onward, and 50% of my sales every other month.

Also, if you’re an educator working with high school-aged teens (including homeschoolers) or young adults in college and wish to see if this story would support your curriculum, I’ll happily send you a .pdf. You only need send an email to with the subject “Free Copy of Cress.” You’ll be given a teacher-specific copy that includes permission to print for the purposes of education.

If you’d prefer to not purchase the book, but would rather donate directly to Black Lives Matter, you can donate here. Another excellent way to offer individual reparations is through Reparations started by Natasha Marin.

51h2b9m1o8nl-_sx258_bo1204203200_A Few Recommended Picture Books:

8165y22bnllSome Recommended Novels: 

More Book Lists:



Transparency: The books recommended above are linked through my Amazon Associates account. If any books are purchased through those links, I will earn a few pennies per copy. Just as I will donate 100% of my portion of the sales of Cress and the Medicine Show this month, I will also donate any money, if any, earned from those links.

A Magic School Bus Kind of Day

I awoke with the theme song to The Magic School Bus. My son’s working his way through the original episodes little by little. When I logged into Facebook, I received an ad for a Sun and Moon print dress that looked just like Ms. Frizzle’s astronomy dress. Sadly, it only goes up to a size 12, or I’d have bought it on the spot.

Then we watched the pickle episode after brunch, and discovered Ms. Frizz is a Les Mis fan.

MsFrizz-24601Many of you might already be aware of her love of this musical, but I never watched all the episodes when it was on TV. I only saw the random episode now and again. My daughter and I saw this and broke into song, because we can’t avoid singing “Look Down” and “One Day More” with the slightest suggestion.

What’s more, we now know how tall our newest favorite fictional teacher is, and how much height her hair adds.

I’m skeptical of the new reboot of the show with Ms. Frizz’s younger sister at the wheel, but I do love watching the original show with my son. He’s so focused when we watch it, and talks about what he learned endlessly. He finds ways to incorporate each episode into what we’re doing that day.

Perhaps while we’re making popcorn balls and undressing the Yule tree today, he’ll search for microbes. Whatever comes, I’m sure today will be a productive learning experience.

Of course, I still want the dress. Perhaps I could write a letter to the company to upgrade the sizes. 😉

Teaching Music to a 4 Year Old

4yomusic-picWhen I was taking piano lessons last year, I asked my incredible teacher how she dealt with young children, and in what ways her methods differed with them compared to how she taught me.

She told me that until children are 6 years old, it’s best to work with them primarily on rhythm and percussion, rather than other instruments. Some kids certainly might have talent with the piano or violin at an early age, but often their hands haven’t developed enough to allow a proper reach, and most children needed to learn the foundation of rhythm first.

My son took a rhythm class that, unfortunately, stopped running after the quarter he attended. The couple running the music studio couldn’t afford to keep it open. When that happened, he stopped wanting to play music at home … until this fall.

He received a Koala Crate centered around music, and built his own instrument (a box marimba) with it, and even “wrote” some of his own music using colored stamps to indicate which wooden bar to strike. Then he started secretly singing the Alphabet Song when he was in the bathroom, or by himself in another room. I heard him once, and started singing along. It took a few weeks to coax him to sing it with me, but now that he’s got the tune (and the letters) down, he demands I sing it with him in English, and sing it in French for him, as well. Since the tune is the same for Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and Bah-Bah Black Sheep, he can sing those, as well. Thanks, Mozart!

Though he’s always loved dancing to music, I can also engage him in singing music with me, but I don’t want to overwhelm him with my excitement. So, I’m giving him little teasers of what’s to come.

I recently showed him the “Doe a Deer/Do re mi” clip from The Sound of Music, and talked about how they used those single notes in different arrangements to make songs. He wasn’t too focused on it, until I pointed out that Steven Universe did the same thing with “Peace and Love on the Planet Earth.”

I’m re-introducing rhythm practices with percussion instruments, and dance & clap games and games, like follow the leader. I’m also going to play more classic musicals for him to watch with me, and help him learn some of the songs that interest him (both with singing and clapping/stomping to the rhythm).

I can tell he really enjoys singing, as well as the interactive aspects of singing together, even more so with sign language involved. (The “Itsy Bitsy Spider” is still his favorite song, and the first one he ever tried to sing.)

I’m hoping he’ll become even more enamored with music, so that by the time he’s six, he can choose an instrument to play. Music opens up the brain to a variety of complex subjects and makes comprehension in STEAM subjects stronger. But even if it didn’t, it’s just a lot of fun to play with sound, engage with music, and learn to compose music on one’s own.