{Family at Large} Plimoth Plantation

The last Free Fun Friday of the summer season…  Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  It was our second visit, and the weather was fantastic – sunny and warm.  Well worth the rush around in the morning and the long, long drive.

The Wampanoag Homesite is the kids’ favourite part of the museum.  The native use of nature appeals enormously to kids (and Mama, too).  The kids tried out one of the mashoons (dugout canoe):

{Family at Large} | Plimoth Plantation

And we admired the detail of the head of one of the paddles (so lovingly carved):

{Family at Large} | Plimoth Plantation

And one of the native interpreters explained how mashoons, nets, harpoons, and fishing spears were made and used:

{Family at Large} | Plimoth Plantation

The kids are itching to try building their own models of Wampanoag summer and winter houses.  Their larger winter house was called the “Nash Wetu” which means “Three Fires”.  One of the more clever fire pit ideas I’ve come across, each fire pit represents one of the generations sheltered by the roof.  It could comfortably fit our family with room to spare.  Quite snug.

We ventured along the woodland path and up the 27 steps to the English Settlement. It is easy to imagine Native and English inhabitants fishing here:

{Family at Large} | Plimoth Plantation


The museum was crowded, and there was plenty to see, but I was most captivated by the details.  The moss growing on a thatched roof:{Family at Large} | Plimoth Plantation


A gossamer web hung from the eaves:

{Family at Large} | Plimoth Plantation

But then, of course, there is the view from the top of the hill:

{Family at Large} | Plimoth Plantation


The interpreters in both areas of the museum are fantastic, friendly, and remain in-character.  That presents a wonderful challenge to visitors.  I think that the folks appreciate carrying on a conversation with intrepid visitors. 🙂

Since our first visit, we have discovered that we are descended from two Mayflower passengers – John Howland and Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland.  We were thrilled to “meet” John at one of the homes in the street.  He was round back tending his cow, who was expecting to deliver a calf any day.  We thanked him for hanging on tightly when he fell overboard.  He told us to thank God for His provision.  😉  You know we do.  If he had drowned, we wouldn’t be here right now.  Our existence quite literally hung by a thread (or a rope).

Next time we visit Plymouth, we plan to visit the other Plimoth display, Mayflower II, as well as Pilgrim Hall for some more genealogy research, and the Jabez Howland House to see where Elizabeth lived after John’s passing.

{Made For Learning} A Moveable Alphabet

Moveable Alphabets are one of the most important (and fun-to-use) tools in a Montessori-style schoolroom.  At least, that’s how our family feels about them.  And they are easy and fun to make at home.  Here’s how::

{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

Sort your letters - vowels from consonants. If you wish, put half of your "Y" s in each pile.


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

Gesso, and two different colours of paint. I chose blue and red because they are more traditionally Montessori style (pink in place of red also works). You choose whichever colours you like.


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

Paint each letter with a coat of gesso and allow to dry. The gesso comes right off of the brush with warm, soapy water.


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

Paint two coats of coloured paint on each letter. Blue for vowels...


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

... and red for the consonants. Next, apply two coats of varnish. You will need to wait a minimum of one hour between coats.


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

A purpose-made or purchased box is best for storage, but something like this little box with a clasp will do for a time. You really do want something that will allow you to keep each letter separate... Like with like. I'll show you how to make a proper storage box in an upcoming tutorial.


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


Scrabble™ Tiles also make excellent upper case moveable alphabets – and it’s a great way to recycle!  You can also purchase blank tiles from Etsy – purchase alphabet transfers in the scrapbooking supply section of your craft store.  Simple varnish over the top, or apply a couple of layers of Mod Podge.


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet


{Made for Learning} | Moveable Alphabet

Your kids will be saying this about you, too. (Thanks, Will!)


Cut out wood letters available for just under $12 for each set of upper or lower case letters.  I suggest 1/8″ thick baltic birch letters in Arial, (Garamond and Rockwell are also available) – 2″ tall by 2″ wide. {These are my favourite ones, but more expensive}

Cut wood letters sold in packs of 36 are available at Michael’s crafts (and probably at Hobby Lobby) for about $4/pack.  I bought four packs.

Scrabble letters are available on Etsy, and eBay, and can also be found at neighbourhood yard sales, flea markets, and car boot sales.

A Basket of Memories in the Making

An afternoon of shopping for Papa’s ordination took a brief intermission while we stopped into the bookstore to pick up a basketload of volumes for summertime reading.  There is something for everyone.




Here is what is in our basket::


For the little ones –

Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat – Because I remember Julia Child so fondly. It was she (through her PBS series) and my Nana who first taught me to cook. This looks like a lovely living picture book for my little ones

The Twelve Dancing Princesses (Mulberry books) – Gorgeous illustrations, classic French tale.

A Walk in London – So appropriate with the Olympic Games in London next month. Lots of sweet illustrations and historical/factual tidbits sprinkled throughout.

Puff The Magic Dragon – Book and CD Package – Because the lyrics quite wonderfully tell a fantastic story, and the illustrations are adorable. This volume came with a music CD, which may please parents of a certain age… 🙂

And these for the older set, some for read aloud –

Candide – Because Voltaire’s wit delivered so subtly is precisely what I need for long sunny days in a hammock (if I had one to swing in). A sunny window will also do nicely.

The Heretic’s Daughter: A Novel – Another story from the Salem Witch Hysteria, a topic that interests our family enormously since a branch of my Nana’s tree (Towne) descends from the brother of THREE women accused, tried, and convicted in 1692. Only one, Sarah Cloyes, survived.

Walden and Civil Disobedience Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics – Apropos of these times, I think.

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson – I have been meaning to read this book for ages. We could all awaken more to kindness and the value of life.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals – On the recommendation of farming friends who were surprised that I hadn’t read it yet. Now that diaconate classes are done, I have some time!

To Kill a Mockingbird [Paperback] by Harper Lee – Can you believe that I didn’t own a copy? Time to get one of our own and introduce my older children. Also seems somehow appropriate to current events.

The Poisonwood Bible – Another one that friends have been encouraging me to read over the years. I have picked it up at the books store more than once in the interim. This time it landed inside the basket instead of back on the shelf.

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer – This was chosen primarily for William, by Carrie. He loves history, geography, and factual tidbits. I’m looking forward to hearing him narrate back to me what he reads.

What is it about books read in summer that make for such lasting memories?  Perhaps it is the freedom to linger long over character and plot while the days stretch on.

{Made for Learning} Getting Organised

Over the last 15+ years of home education, I have tried various curricula and approaches.  I have found something to like about each.  None fit perfectly for our family on its own.

Fountains of Grace™ Overview

After several years of designing my own curriculum, I have finally put together a curriculum that is comprehensive enough to satisfy requirements, logical enough for my inner ‘Neat Nick’, and flexible enough for me to feel spontaneously creative.  And best of all, it works perfectly for a large family spanning several ‘grades’.

Fountains of Grace™ Overview

Today, I spent my afternoon escaping from ordination preparations by decorating the file box which will hold the entire curriculum.  The whole thing. Twelve plus years worth.  In ONE pretty box.

Fountains of Grace™ Storage Box

an ordinary file box made pretty with scrapbook papers and glue


I’m so excited!

{Made for Learning} Short Bead Stair

In our decade-and-a-half (plus) of homeschooling, we have discovered that nothing clarifies and solidifies understanding of math concepts like the use of manipulatives for younger children.  There are many types available, and we have bought several of them over the years.  The high quality, natural material ones were costly, and sometimes difficult to replace if pieces were lost.  There are less expensive, plastic options, which we also tried (as replacements), but didn’t like. They are all essentially the same – units and bars of differing colours used to represent numerals and quantities.

Anytime that I can make my own tools and materials – especially when that is a more economical option – I am happy.

Below are instructions for making your own bead stair sets.  We made 11 complete sets.  (I’m planning to post a little something on making bead stair trays, as well as on how we store our materials).

You will need:

  • 10 mm painted wooden beads in the following colours and quantities –
    • red – 11
    • green – 22
    • pink – 33
    • yellow – 44
    • light blue – 55
    • orange – 66 (traditionally, this would be brown, but I prefer the orange!)
    • white – 77
    • violet – 88
    • dark blue – 99
  • Paddle wire (craft wire that comes on a paddle).  Try to get tarnish-free.
  • Wire Cutters
  • Round-nose pliers
  • Felt pad to work on (handy, but optional)
  • Good, sturdy pair of hands. 🙂


Gather up your supplies. With a bustly house, it helps to keep them on a tray, if you have one available.


Sorting the beads makes work much easier than fiddling with plastic bags.


Cut the wire a bit longer than you think you'll need it. A good pair of jewelers wire cutters are essential.


Make a loop around the fattest part of the pliers for this project. It prevents the bead from falling off, certainly, but also gives a little something more for small hands (and big arthritic ones) to grasp.


Thread the bead (or beads) onto the wire. You'll have to eyeball how much you'll need for the closing loop. Trim if you need to and curl that wire around the pliers at the fattest point.


Continue this way with all of the beads, making bars as follows below.


  • Red – units
  • Green – 2-bead bars
  • Pink – 3-bead bars
  • Yellow – 4-bead bars
  • Light Blue – 5-bead bars
  • Orange (or brown) – 6-bead bars
  • White – 7-bead bars
  • Violet – 8-bead bars
  • Dark Blue – 9-bead bars


Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, right?

I got my coloured beads on EBay from two different sellers – Yo-Yo Beads and Hobby Funhouse.  Both were excellent!

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