Collage Friday Archives - Eva Varga

October 25, 20133

I can’t believe how quickly this week has passed.  Life has a way of doing that, doesn’t it?  Nothing of great interest has really happened this week – business as usual, I suppose.  We are looking forward to the upcoming holiday season though and love the smell of autumn leaves.  Fall is certainly my favorite season. With that in mind, we expressed our creative sides this week with two projects – moon art and carved pumpkins.

Moon Art

owl silhoutteOn the night of our recital last week, the kids expressed interest in doing an art entry in their moon journals.  Some time ago, I had pinned an image to my Art Projects & Handcrafts board on Pinterest, of a tree silhouette. The pin did not link to a tutorial page, sadly, but the image provided the inspiration we needed to get started.  Rather than use charcoal and tempera paint, however, we opted to use chalk pastels.  We’ve used them in the past with Tricia at Southern HodgePodge and knew from experience they would work well for this project.

We began by cutting out a shape for our moon with scrap paper.  We then adhered it temporarily with a glue stick.  Then the mess began. Using the broad side of the pastels (dark blue, purple, red, etc.), the kids covered the entire surface with chalk; rubbing it with their fingers to blend the colors.

We blew away the dust, carefully removed the paper moon, and then chalked in the tree and owl silhouette with the tip of a black pastel.  Lastly, we used a small paintbrush dipped ever so slightly in water to smooth out the black chalk. They were delighted with the results and look forward to continuing with our moon journals in the months to come. If you are interested in learning more about their journals, check out the World Moon Project – a global citizen science project connecting students around the globe.

Carved Pumpkins

pumpkinsWe didn’t get a chance to visit a pumpkin patch this year – just too busy with other weekend activities.  We can’t let the season pass without carving Jack-O-Lanterns, however, so we purchased our gourds at the local market.

Sweetie and I had been thinking about our designs for some time ~ Pinterest users can attest to that, yes?  Buddy, on the other hand, struggled to come up with a design that was suitable for carving.  He had wanted to carve Indiana Jones’ bullwhip as well as King Arthur’s sword but both were too detailed.  Even his hope of carving a Lego mini-fig were dashed when I explained the holes would be too small to illuminate the face.  It was an emotional night, needless to say.  In the end, however, we all found success.


  • The kiddos both made good strides in the construction of their Halloween costumes. Yes, they are making their costumes themselves – with a little help, of course. I’ll share pictures when they finish.  🙂
  • Sweetie has been actively updating her own blog.  She asked that I share her post, Mother Nature’s Dream.  It includes a poem she wrote recently.
  • We learned a new recipe as part of our China cultural studies – Drunken Noodles.
Homegrown Learners

August 16, 20131

We typically do school year round and we don’t really follow a schedule, other than our regular lessons (Mandarin, music, and swim team).  At home, we are very relaxed and we do formal lessons when it suits us.  This past summer, however, I have been more relaxed than usual.  This is due in part to the fact that our Mandarin teacher was in China.  I was actually surprised to discover just how much I rely on the consistency of our lessons with him to anchor our schedule.

summer 2013 collagePlanning for 2013-14

While so many of my homeschooling friends both in real life and online are preparing for the upcoming school year, we have been preparing for China.  When the local kids are boarding a school bus, we will be boarding an overnight train to Xi’an.  My planning time has been consumed with China – what to pack and necessary arrangements for our pets.

At the same time, the goals I have for the upcoming school year still play in the back in my mind.  I had wanted to begin Latin this fall but I haven’t yet purchased curriculum.  I had wanted to finish Story of the World volume 4 so we could begin the cycle again, but a las, we still have a quarter of the book to go.

My one saving grace is that I have invited the local homeschoolers to join us in an upper elementary science class beginning in October.  We will meet once a week for hands-on science activities and inquiry lessons.  I was able to find a small classroom space through the local fly fishing association.  We’ll be starting with life sciences (upon the request of my kiddos) and in the winter, we will focus on energy.  I am really excited about this opportunity and will likely videotape each lesson to share with all of you.

Personal Reflections

This past summer has also made me realize that my little girl is growing up.  For the first time, she asked the hairstylist to give her a different cut and she finally got up the courage to ask her dad to get her ears pierced (she had first shared her intent in April but wanted to wait for the ‘right time’).  She is just changing so much. This has been hard for me; she is growing up too fast.

My little man has become fascinated with the stories of King Arthur and has spent his free time crafting swords, daggers, and most recently chain mail.  I love his creativity and ingenuity!  However, he is also very determined and gets frustrated easily when his projects don’t look as realistic as in the movies.  He isn’t satisfied with wooden swords and plastic shields.  He wants the real thing.  I know it is important for him to experience failure, to learn from his mistakes in order to grow.  Yet, it saddens me to see him struggle.

It’s so clear that you have to cherish everyone. I think that’s what I get from these older black women, that every soul is to be cherished, that every flower is to bloom.~ Alice Walker 

On a personal note, I have a very heavy heart right now – my dear father-in-law has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma.  This is particularly scary for us because my mother-in-law has had health issues for years and he has always been our rock and her caretaker.  My father also informed me that my great aunt is battling cancer herself.  As I get older, I know that the loss of loved ones is inevitable but it is always difficult.

In addition to the myriad of health issues surrounding us, my brother and his wife recently welcomed their fourth child.  This would normally be something to celebrate.  However, they continue to keep us out of their lives for reasons that have yet to be explained to me.   In addition, a dear friend is going through personal issues and I struggle to find ways to comfort her.

In the past, I have always kept these fears and worries to myself, not wanting to burden anyone with my troubles.  Yet, I don’t want to give my readers a false sense of my life.   We don’t know the number of our days.  It is up to each of us to make each day, each moment, count. Perhaps this is why my burdens weigh so heavily upon me as of late.

I will continue to stay positive.  I am blessed and truly grateful.  I am very thankful to be able to stay at home with my kids and really build a relationship with them on daily basis.  I am thankful for every day my children have to get to know their grandparents and extended family.  I am thankful for friendships and the opportunity to learn and experience life alongside one another.

Homegrown Learners



August 2, 20135

When we first started homeschooling, I used to write a Weekly Wrap-up post summarizing our accomplishments each week. I eventually stopped writing these as they had become a dry list of the number of lessons we’d completed in math, the titles of the chapters we had read in history, etc … bleh! What I enjoyed about these posts though was that it provided a wonderful reflection on our journey and enabled us to really reflect on how much we truly had grown – academically, personally, & spirtually – over the years.

A few months ago, while browsing posts and links posted by those I follow on Twitter, I discovered a new way of sharing .. a more visual and warm reflection of our endeavors each week … Collage Fridays.  The style of these summary posts resonated with me and thus I begin. Thank you for the inspiration, Mary! These past two weeks, amongst the variety of activities in which we took part – we explored mudflats and mudpots.

[Admin note: As we were absent a week ago, I chose to summarize two weeks rather than one.]

collage friday


Mudflats, also known as tidal flats, are coastal wetlands that form when mud is deposited by tides or rivers. They are found in sheltered areas such as bays, bayous, lagoons, and estuaries. Mudflats may be viewed geologically as exposed layers of bay mud, resulting from deposition of estuarine silts, clays and marine animal detritus.

While visiting family in Oregon, we stayed with my dad who lives along the shore of the Coquille River estuary. Here, we can observe the mudflats across the street which we have explored intimately in the past (see my earlier post, Coastal Ecology).  We also enjoyed a hike to South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve with my mom, taking note of how the natural communities have changed over time by both natural and human forces.  The mudflats here are marked with dikes and pilings, reminiscent of early pioneers and logging efforts.


mudpot — or mud pool — is a sort of acidic hot spring, or fumarole, with limited water. It usually takes the form of a pool of bubbling mud. The acid and microorganisms decompose surrounding rock into clay and mud.

Upon our return home to Northern California, we wanted to stretch our legs and enjoy a family outing so we opted to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park.  A striking contrast to the cool Pacific coast, we hiked the Bumpass’ Hell trail, the most spectacular geothermal area in the park. The area spans 16 acres of hot springs, fumaroles, and mudpots.


Bits & Pieces

While mudflats and mudpots were a prominent memory of these past couple of weeks, we’ll also remember the special time we spent with our family and of course, our first Junior Olympics swim meet (long course meters).  Both of the kids did well – particularly Buddy who seems to have found his niche in a sport that he used to complain about, but that is a topic for another post.

While staying with Papa, the kids did a little wood carving or whittling (Sweetie carved a little bird and Buddy a wizard’s staff).  We also began to record the memories and stories that Papa shares.  It is always a treat to listen to him as he recalls the adventures he and his brothers shared growing up.  I know the recordings will be a cherished heirloom in the future.

Our usual Mandarin lessons resumed as Shawn has returned home from China, though one lesson was via Skype when we were in Oregon.  It was a delight to sample a few of the treats he brought back for us – our favorite was the mango flavored Oreo cookies, now on our shopping list for our trip this fall.

Sweetie also wanted to return to Washed Ashore and she volunteered another two hours helping to create the elaborate art sculptures with the trash that has been collected from our beaches.  Buddy, not as inclined to sit for hours engaged in an activity that does not involve Legos, chose to go fishing with Papa instead.

Lastly, while spending long hours in the car we always enjoy listening to audio books.  These past couple weeks the kids have been engrossed in a series by M.L. Forman entitled, Adventurers Wanted.  Buddy has been smitten by the characters in this book – hence his inspiration for carving a wizard’s staff.  Presently, they’ve been happily exploring the website as I write this post.

Homegrown Learners