Creating Time Together

    By Nicole Wenger

My life would be incomplete if I weren’t creating on a daily basis. Most of all, I love creating with my boys. We enjoy sewing, painting, cooking, gardening, woodworking, stamping, felting, blowing things up and more; and truth be told, we are more creative during different seasons of our lives. While the “things” we create are fun and satisfying, what is most important is the time I spend with my children.

As a child, some of my fondest memories are centered around experiences with my grandparents. My grandmother was the first person to teach me how to thread a needle on a sewing machine. I learned how to sing Polish songs stuffing pillows with duck feathers, and I love Kapusta because I cooked it with my great-grandmother. Those memories are some of the most cherished I have from my childhood. In the same way, I want my boys to experience a rich, creative life filled with fond memories of our times spent together laughing, talking, and singing.

In my search for fun activities I stumbled across this ingenious creation. With tweaks of our own, we built a great Light Box while spending time together building, laughing-and, as always-singing. What kinds of things are you creating with your family this week?

pic 1

I used two shallow, plastic clear containers. The shallower, the better, so the light can reflect closer to the lid. I sprayed the inside of both bins with metallic silver spray paint (Lowe’s). After they dried, I lined the sides with black paper. This helped keep the light from reflecting.


I used one 18″ fluorescent light – removed the top plastic lid from the light, and duct taped the light to the bottom of the plastic bin. I cut a hole at one end of the bin and pulled the cord through. This allowed the bin to be plugged in an outlet. I read a few other posts about using battery operated lights so it becomes more portable, however, the expense of the batteries was too much and the light was inefficient.


I used frosted spray paint on the underside of the top lid to help diffuse the light. If you can find a white or frosted lid top for the bin you can skip this step.

Wallah…the Light Box!


Below are some of the activities we did today…more to come!

Tracing with stencils…


Finger painting and mixing colors…


Practice writing the alphabet and numbers:


Using store-bought materials I spent about $35.00 for one light table, saving over $110.00 on a small 12×9 light table as seen on 

What do you think?!
Try these links for other ideas:


    Nicole WengerNicole Wenger is the mother of two spunky boys and the wife of her best friend, Chris. She is the founder and director of Science Quest: a science education company which introduces students, parents, and teachers to interactive and affordable science learning. Nicole is the Preschool Director and the Director of Development at The Garden School. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Bridgewater State University and a Master of Science in Environmental Studies/Conservation Biology with an emphasis in Ornithology from Antioch University. You can keep up with Nicole, her family, and their adventures in home education, crafting, birding and loving the outdoors at The Cuckoo’s Nest:


Finding the Music in Math

    By Dawn Lamping

      “Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.” -Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

      Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

      Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

      Something very sad has happened to numeracy in our culture. Most of us were educated in a school system that isolates mathematics, teaching one single path to math: memorization of abstract facts and algorithms. Cut off from its context, its separation renders it dead, lost, decidedly “other”- easy to dismiss or feel antagonistic towards. Consequently, many of us have divorced ourselves from math.

      But as Galileo told us, math is important, a vital and fundamental part of this beautiful Creation we are gifted to live within. Creation is its context. Math is a blueprint from which we cannot separate ourselves: it is in music, in our bodies, in the structure of elements, in color and in dance. In some deep way, to separate ourselves from math separates us from God. Or alternately, when God is alive in our hearts, math comes alive in our minds.

      To give our children the gift of a Classical Christian math education is to open a door for them they will journey through all their lives. With the right viewpoint, drilling and memorizing numbers can be fun; it feeds confidence and builds a foundation for success. Even better, when beauty is found in numbers, it feeds the hungers of the soul and sets a foundation for truth in the heart.

      For the very young, finding numbers they know in nature and life is like a treasure hunt. Flowers exhibit petals in multiples of three and six (monocots), or multiples of four or five (dicots). There is one sun, one moon, seven continents, one mother, one father, two parents. Families come in many number combinations, and drawing a family tree will reveal patterns of the powers of two (aptly named!). It can be fun and revealing to keep a number journal with photos and drawings representing the numbers.

      For older students, the history of numbers is fascinating. A math timeline illustrates the relationship of man to number in a graphic way. The writing of numbers predates writing of literature! The earliest examples of writing we have show tallies of moon cycles and the trading of goods. The ancients saw numbers as having color and personality. Musical scales were an essential element of the study of geometry, and instruments were based on mathematical models of tone and form. The ratios of the lengths of strings were the basis for the discovery of harmonies in math, while the golden ratio ( of 1: 1.618 was the basis for beauty in art and architecture. Even the dimensions of Solomon’s Temple and the Ark of the Covenant follow this pattern.

      A project the “tweens and teens” enjoy is one I call “Meet the Numbers.” We divvy up the list and research each number from 0 – 12 to “introduce” the number to the group as one would a new friend. Each number has its own configuration of factors, multiples, and shape. Sometimes amazing stories of the “lives” of numbers pop up, such as the strange battle over the number zero in the Middle Ages. Zero was a new number in Arabic culture (called the “sifr”), and the rulers of Western Europe actually outlawed its use until it was finally accepted in the 1500’s.

      One sequence of numbers-which adds each new term to the previous one-looks like this: 0 + 1 = 1; 1 + 1 = 2; 1 + 2 = 3; 2 + 3 = 5; 3 + 5 = 8. It was discussed by Leonardo Fibonacci of Pisa, c. 1130. The “Fibonacci Sequence” can be found in the measurements of the human body (all ages love measuring themselves), in musical scales, in church architecture, in natural spirals of leaf growth in plants and sunflower seeds, in the cycles of the solar system, and many more.

      We are quite lucky, we who get to explore this pattern with our children, because it also teaches us the things we never had the opportunity to learn about math. When children are young, they can find the numbers in nature. As they get older, they can draw things such as the golden spiral (see the “Nature by Numbers” video, below), or compare proportions through algebra.

      To step forth on this path as mothers and teachers asks us to let go of our assumptions about what math looks like and add another dimension to our work. This can seem strange at first until we form a new conception of what math means. Without shorting on memorization, adding space for math discovery will enrich and motivate both us and our kids.

      It’s time for us to relax and discover numbers afresh; resting in the truth that when numbers have meaning and depth, facts are just plain easier to memorize anyway!

      Let’s chat: How do you view math? Is it a blessing or a curse?

      (Readers: as an extra bonus, check out the “Freebies” tab at the top of this page for one last piece of advice from Dawn!)

      A few good resources:

      Living Math (
      Math From a Biblical Worldview
      Nature by Numbers (
      The Golden Ratio (
      Donald in Mathemagic Land (Disney, 1959)


    Dawn Lamping didn’t see much of fifth grade recess because she was held in to try to “catch up” in fractions. That experience cooled any interest she had in mathematics until she started her family in 1994. Through the journey of homeschooling two children, Dawn discovered the “blueprints of Creation” within mathematics. She feels blessed to share the joy of math and enjoys exploring and mastering numeracy in the classroom through hands-on experiments, fun drill games, geometry, and art. She holds an Honors Degree in Psychology from the University of Missouri and completed teacher training at Arizona State University.

Multiple Intelligences

    By J.M. Marvin

My son is brilliant. Like both his mother and grandfather before him, he could read both print and music at the age of three. At five he grew impatient with my reading out loud to him one chapter a day of The Hobbit, and finished it himself within a few days. At six, he was reading and discussing Sherlock Holmes mysteries. After a public school teacher of limited vision rebuked him for plagiarizing an original story that he composed, I began homeschooling him. He now has a Master’s Degree.

My husband is also brilliant. A highschool dropout, he can barely spell everyday words well enough to create a shopping list for the grocery store. He had to repeat two elementary school grades, starting with kindergarten (and this was before they created state standards for kindergarten!) But he can do something that neither my son nor I, for all our high I.Q.’s, can fathom: One rainy night, as he drove me to work on an unlit, two-lane country road, we passed a dark empty lot several yards back from the road doing 70 mph when he exclaimed, “Wow! Did you see that 1957 Plymouth Plaza?” I had barely discerned there was even a car there. In the morning on the return trip we stopped to examine the vehicle in the clear light of day, and sure enough, it was a 1957 Plymouth Plaza, in excellent shape for a 40-year-old car.

8-MI-Diagram[1]Verbal-linguistic intelligence such as my son shows is rewarded by our educational system, and is the keystone of the Stanford-Binet IQ test, first developed in the early 1900’s. But in 1983 a paradigm shifter named Howard Gardner published Frames of Mind, describing his theory that “word smart” is only one way of being smart. Naturalistic intelligence, such as my husband demonstrates, distinguishes the similar and contrasting features that characterize one species of plant, animal, or rock from another. In another culture, people strong in this intelligence become botanists or taxonomists. In an urban landscape, they can become skilled at discerning one vehicle from another.

Traditional schools also value logical/mathematical intelligence, while everybody recognizes the visual/graphic/spatial intelligence of the artist, the kinesthetic “body smart” of the athlete or dancer, and the use of pitch, tone, rhythm, combined with talent for performance, composition or appreciation of musical patterns, that is distinctive of musical intelligence. Less obvious are interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence, having to do with how people relate with others or with a more introspective self-awareness. Recently, Gardner has been considering whether spiritual or moral proclivity, a fascination with deep questions, constitutes a ninth “existential” intelligence.

While this theory is controversial among psychologists, it has found acceptance among educators, who even in public school pedagogy preparation see the value in appealing to different learning styles and problem-solving gifts. (Although, just for the record, the “No Child Left Behind” legislated exams do not incorporate any recognition or application of this theory.)

Howard Gardner argues that the big challenge “is how to best take advantage of the uniqueness conferred on us as a species exhibiting several intelligences.” How can you identify and appeal to the varied intelligences of your homeschooled learners?

    With a degree in Modern Languages and Bilingual Education, Jennifer has taught Spanish, Russian, Latin, and Bible, coordinated weekly chapel, and tutored Hebrew at The Garden School. She homeschooled her son before sending him to Sarasota Christian School, and is an avid advocate of home cooking, home remedies, home birth, and home death as well.

You’re Cordially Invited

For those of you in the area, you are hereby cordially invited to attend the Garden School’s production of “Guys and Dolls” this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Glenwood Springs Highschool! Tickets can be purchased at the door, so please join us for a night of pure entertainment and fun!

We look forward to seeing you!

Guys & Dolls

Recognizing (and Surviving) the Beginning of the Logic Stage: “Whaaat?”

    By Monica Cappelli

question-marks[1]Well, it had to happen sometime. My sweet, compliant, easy little girl is growing up, and I am no longer the epitome of reason in her eyes. As she approaches her first double digit birthday, the Logic Stage* of learning is quickly gaining upon us.

Below are two of the many, daily, and sometimes hilarious examples of what the beginning of the Logic Stage looks like at my house. Needless to say, not all “opportunities” will end in giggles, but these recent moments did!

1. While deciding what to watch during a Mommy/Daughter Mani/Pedi:

DD: Let’s watch SpongeBob. It helps me think. (Scary…she was serious and straight-faced when she said that!)
Me: No, no, no, no, no. NO! Please, I can’t stand that show!
DD: But it’s FUNNY!
Me: I think it’s disgusting, and repetitive. Not funny at all. No way can I enjoy my pedicure with SpongeBob on TV.
DD: But please Mom!
Me: Uh uh. How about Ella Enchanted?
DD: No, thanks, Mom.
Me: Or Nanny MacPherson?
DD: Mom, now you’re just being difficult.
Me: But you like Nanny! We both do!
DD: But I don’t want to watch it! You know. . . Jon, and Aaron, and Chrissy like SpongeBob. Only you don’t like it…
Me: Ahhhh, but they’re not here. So you can watch it when they come home…When all three are here together. (Even though I secretly know that will probably be next June!)
DD: But Dad likes it. And he’s here. So who’s more important: you- or DAAAD?
Me: Well, when it comes to pedicures – I am!
DD: Uhn uh. Dad is. ‘Cause he married you, and then you got the babies!
Me (choking): Whaaaat?

Your child will probably offer many such mind-boggling “arguments” as they transition from the grammar stage to the logic stage. They will enlist all kinds of faulty reasoning in an attempt to understand their world, and to bend it to their liking.

These are good times to model well a reasoned argument – if you can manage to contain your laughter. (I admit, her appeals to popularity [siblings], authority [DAAAD], and the great big straw-man [babies. Really?!] left me laughing too hard to marshal my thoughts). Eventually their arguments will mature, as they practice under your cheerful tutelage.

2. Picking up my rather dramatic little daughter one day after school:

DD: Where WERE you, Mom? I didn’t see you ANYWHERE! I looked all over the place!
Me: Well actually I was parked right across the street from school. (Okay, so I wasn’t standing patiently outside in the cold, like some of the native Colorado moms, but she knows my car – right?)
DD: But I didn’t SEE you!
Me: Ah, but I saw you. You followed that little puppy all the way down to the other end of the block. You didn’t even look for me! I had to go get you!
DD: But I couldn’t help it! He liked me, and he was sooooo cute! And did you see his cute little ears? They were soooo floppy!
Me: Yes, he was cute, wasn’t he? (You see, I, too, am easily distracted by puppies!)
But I need you to come straight to the car from now on, okay? I shouldn’t have to go looking for you.
DD: Okay. Sorry. Well, I’m hungry and I think you owe me an ice cream.
Me: Whaaaat? What are you talking about?
DD: Well you’re the responsible adult. And you weren’t being very responsible, were you? I was a block away and A STRANGER could’ve grabbed me! So you owe me an ice cream. (A very self-satisfied smile followed this little zinger!)
Me (cracking up): Sorry, kiddo. . . Nice try though! That might have worked if it was true and if I wasn’t on a diet! (She laughed and settled for the two-day old Wheat Thins which happened to be in the back of the car!)

Ahhhhh, parents! Let’s enjoy this rocky transition from compliant Grammar to challenging Logic. Here are a few strategies:

1) Enjoy the mental gymnastics.
2) Choose your battles wisely.
3) Keep it positive whenever possible – the goal is to train, not to conquer.
4) Help your child analyze the quality of questions, reasoning, and arguments witnessed at school, in the community, in books, as well as on TV and other media by asking questions like:

a. “What did you think about that?”
b. “Did they really prove their point?”
c. “How would you have approached that question?”
d. “Did his/her decision make sense, in your opinion?”

5) Be willing to be convinced when their arguments are well-reasoned.
6) Your counter-arguments should model the same reasoning and respectful tone you expect your child to employ.
7) And just for fun: Give in sometimes with a mutual giggle – acknowledge the ridiculous and tip your hat to their valiant ingenuity!

Please share a story about your child’s Logical Journey. How are you coping with your budding logistician?

*To learn more about the three stages in a classical education-Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric-read Dave Miller’s post here:


    Monica CappelliMonica Cappelli is a wife and the mother of four wonderful children. Over the years her family has been blessed to experience home, public, private, and parochial schooling. This has given Monica an appreciation for the strengths and challenges of the educational choices available to families. A successful experience is possible in any of these situations with the support of community and prayerful, encouraging parents. Monica strongly believes that parental academic expectations and “leadership by example” in the areas of competence, autonomy, and service set the stage for a young person’s entrance into a successful, joyful, and productive adulthood.

Is Literacy the Key to Happiness?

    By Marquelle Miller

(Elizabeth-or Lizzie-here. Today’s special guest post comes from Marquelle Miller. The following is a paper I received from Kellie when I assigned Persuasive Essays at The Garden School, and just happens to be the only paper of hers somehow saved on my computer. Kellie was one of those people who always brought a smile to your face with her joy, her own personal creativity, and all-encompassing hugs. She was a leader in all she said and did, and her sweet spirit continues to ripple into the hearts of many. Today it’s my privilege to share just a glimpse of that beautiful spirit with you.)

KellieCreativity is just as important as literacy. Have you ever noticed that there is a hierarchy in school of what subjects are taught? Kids have an infinite possibility of creativeness, why should it all be directed solely on math and science? The people who are good in those subjects are usually considered more intelligent than those who study drama and dance.

A hierarchical system is set up with math and science at the top, then Humanities, followed by the arts, music, drama, and finally, dance. I think that a balance of each of these subjects is necessary for people not to feel isolated. The expression on people’s faces is quite amusing when I tell them I do not take a math class and am required to be in a play. I’ve even had someone tell me flat out my education is stupid and that I need math and science to go to college. I have heard, time and time again, that character is more important than knowledge. But in order to grow in character, you need to be creative. Although there is a time and place for math and science, when a student is gifted in other things, having to sit at a desk solving math problems can and does suppress character.

Many would agree that people are gifted in different areas. For some it is being logical; for others, it’s dancing. Creativity is having original ideas that have value. There are endless possibilities of creativity, but schools tend to suppress it. Children will often have a go at anything, even if they’re unsure about it. School’s number one job often seems to be to stigmatize mistakes so the student feels downcast and stupid.

With this method it seems as though we are educating kids out of creativity. Being creative is very dynamic and interactive. Sticking kids in a classroom for hours upon end does not enhance artistic abilities. Everything kids do in school is preparing them for college, and if they don’t go to college they are, in the world’s view, a failure. While I’m not trying to elevate theatre and dance above everything else, I am saying those in the educational establishment could use a little stretching of their imagination, even if it’s not their calling or passion.

A hierarchy that values those who are more gifted in math and science is a rather crude way to measure people’s intelligence. Happiness is much more important than that anyway. If being creative is what makes you happy, why are the schools taking that away and forcing students to do other things? There is no reason not to follow one’s heart: if that means being a poor artist or musician so be it. Being creative should be a part of everything one does.


Kellie MillerSept. 22, 1994 – Feb. 15, 2013. Beautiful and talented, Kellie’s exuberant nature was a delight to all who knew her. Her legacy at the Garden School community as a student and her roles in school plays will live on. Kellie attended New Hope Church and had a strong faith that her friends couldn’t help but catch. She was active in the Glenwood Center for the Arts, and last November sang and danced in Aspen Community Theatre’s production, “Crazy for You.” We only got to be with her a short time, but her dancing spirit will be felt in our valley and beyond forever.