SuperMom: DIY Barbie Shoes

My kid thinks I can do anything. I’m glad for that. I’m hoping it will translate into her own internalized sense of confidence. Whenever she’s having trouble with something, particularly when I’m driving and really can’t help, I encourage her to keep trying. “You can do anything. You just need to keep trying. Keep practicing.” These words are not my own. My parents raised me to believe I could do anything I put my mind to. I’m fairly certain they never imagined I’d draw on those words at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning when asked to make high-heeled shoes for a Barbie doll. But, how could I say no? Even while I thought the task was hopeless, I had to try, least she stop trying. 45 minutes later, we had these. Watch out Manolo Blahnik.

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Supply List:

Recycled cereal box cardboard

(Gold) duct tape

Pony beads

Hot glue

Needle and thread (when/if hot glue fails)

Picturebooks on the Potty: Vol. 2, No. 9 [Homeschool Preschool Edition]


Depending on your educational worldview, it may seem contradictory to hear a professional educator say she’s not sure she wants to send her kid to school. But I’m not.

I don’t want Cora to waste her time in a classroom being prepped for tests. I don’t want her sitting through classroom management nightmares. And I definitely don’t want her eating in a school cafeteria.

I’m sure I’d feel differently if she were going to attend some fabulous private school where teachers still have intellectual freedom, where parents are paying so much tuition kids wouldn’t dare make a nuisance of themselves, and where all the food is organic and locally-sourced. But that’s not the reality we are living in. We live within the bounds of a large urban school district with its attendant challenges, and a few assets like a nice range of specialized schools.

I’m not sure I’m ready to be a full-time homeschooler either. I have long argued that all parents must think of themselves as homeschoolers to some extent. Children just aren’t in school enough hours of their lives to leave their education completely up to school teachers. But I’m not sure I’m up to the task of teaching Cora everything she’ll need to learn. I could join a homeschooling co-op, but I haven’t been having the greatest luck lately with volunteer-led organizations. And, truth be told, part of me would welcome 5-6 hours of time to myself everyday.

As a kind of experiment, we’re trying out a homeschool preschool curriculum designed for the summer months by the mother-daughter team behind the blog Wee Folk Art. My friend Melissa (who plans to homeschool her daughter Maya, Cora’s best gal pal) recommended the program and upon initial investigation, I find it pretty well-thought out. They authors draw on their backgrounds in education (mother), the arts (daughter) and parenting (both). So far, the summer unit “Puddles and Ponds” seems age-appropriate, open-ended, and engaging.

Regular readers of this blog, and “Picturebooks on the Potty” specifically, will not be surprised to learn that one of the things I like best about the curriculum is the use of picturebooks as a foundation for each lesson. Cora and I are having a bit of trouble sticking to just two books a week, but after just a few days she’s already applying information from them to her observations in the real world.

The first two books we read were about clouds – The Cloud Book (de Paola, 1975) and Little Cloud (Carle, 1996). I don’t remember learning about clouds. I’m sure I did 30+ years ago but I’ve enjoyed this chance to reengage the terms and the science behind them. This afternoon, on a VERY long drive to pick George up from camp and drop him at a friend’s house (my least favorite type drive, the kind that makes me feel most like a taxi driver), Cora looked out the window and commented on the clouds. For the rest of the ride we talked about what we saw – wispy cirrus and fluffy cumulus clouds to the north, altocumulus in the distance to the east, and finally nimbostratus as a storm blew in from the south on our way back home. It almost made the drive seem worthwhile.

Shot at a red light. Earth to sky: Cumulus, Cirrus, and Cirroculumus

Picturebooks on the Potty: Vol. 2, No. 8


Since Cora discovered the fairy tale section of our library it’s been hard not to come home with a least one princess story. We’ve read about Cinderellas from all over the world and seen various artists’ depictions of Rapunzel. But last week’s selections genuinely had us thinking differently about familiar stories. They had us thinking postmodernly as we followed non-linear and self-referntial narratives that highlighted multiple perspectives of shared experiences.

Nobody Asked the Pea (Stewig/Van Wright, 2013), is an alternative version of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Princess and the Pea.” Each page highlights a different character’s voice (in a unique font) including Queen Mildred, Prince Harold, a couple of princesses, Mother Mouse, the Head Housekeeper, The Pea, and others. The story unfolds through their experiences related to the grand narrative, rather than focusing on that storyline itself. The illustrations support the first person narration with some characters breaking the third wall and looking directly at the reader.

The introduction to The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (Scieszka/Smith, 1989) at the top of this post sums up the plot of the book. This story is told from the wolf’s perspective. It is a memoir of sorts, dictated from a prison cell where the wolf is serving time for the murder of two out of three of the pigs. His voice is simultaneously sincere and sarcastic. The illustrations are richly textured and reward dedicated viewers. 

When I was in graduate school postmodernism was all the rage, until some philosophers declared it’s untimely death. Regardless of what you might think on that subject, it’s hard to argue that children can be authentically challenged cognitively by picturebooks that might be categorized as postmodern. Books that don’t merely tell a story starting at point A and ending at point B. Books that confront beliefs about beauty, power, and representation.



NYC 2014: Day 4 Photo Dump (Finale)

Took me all day to post these. Clearly I’m back home. So grateful for this time away. Time to recharge my batteries and gather new ideas. Synthesis coming soon.

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NYC 2014: Day Two Photo Dump


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NYC 2014: First Day Photo Dump


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Traveling for Business (& Pleasure)

Three part harmony:
1. Next week I’m going on a trip.
2. To New York City.
3. Alone.

The primary purpose of the journey is professional. I’ll be meeting with art educators who teach in a range of settings outside K-12 schools. This is a focus of my teaching at UF as well as my writings on this blog. You can be sure I’ll post about my adventures and learnings here.

My interest in this area started in New York while I was a student at Pratt Institute, so it seems a fitting place to return for inspiration. While I recognize that there are amazing things happening all over the country – my students’ have done a great job of expanding my knowledge and appreciation – it’s hard to deny there’s still something really magical about The City. I’m looking forward to staying with my friend and mentor, Amy Brook Snider, and catching up with old friends and family.

So far, the itinerary includes the following sites where I’ll be speaking with educators about their experiences as well as observing workshops and other happenings.

Kara Walker’s (2014) installation @ the Domino Sugar Factory “A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant”

Eckford Street Studios

The Children’s Museum of Arts New York

Scandanavia House

The Artists in Residence @ P.S. 20

Of course, I’ll be in New York so I expect to find inspiration around every corner. If you know of a great space I must add to my itinerary, let me know in a comment. I’ll be sure to let you know what I find.