video: what kids learn through creating


IMG_2776 SO much learning can happens with our kids every day when we simply inspire them.

Yesterday morning we had table time and I brought out art supplies, art paper, and, something new.  


If you saw on Instagram yesterday (find me here), I'm in the process of making over our less functional "art room" for something better.  In the early morning I began filling a box with tattered and unexciting childrens books during the room makeover.  I let the kids use the too-worn-to-donate childrens books for any creative project they could imagine.  You would have thought I just announced free chocolate cupcakes for a lifetime or something by their initial surprise and then total excitement!

And their creations were even more spectacular than I could have imagined.

Skills my 6 year old girls mastered from one morning of creating:

  • tape rolling to create double sided tape
  • making water + powdered tempera paint to get the right consistency paint
  • how to compensate for too much powdered paint to water
  • delicate, detailed cutting
  • multi-medium, collage layout
  • coming up with a system to take turns with the best pair of scissors
  • creating a unique story for their particular project
  • checking in with me on how to spell particular works for their project


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I like to put supplies out, maybe suggest a few ideas and then step back.  They hear me remind them often while I'm in the kitchen or elsewhere to let me know if they need my help.  And then their real work begins.  All of my kids start at the table and sometimes their ideas lead them to gathering supplies from other rooms or merging their creative work on the table with some creative play elsewhere.



Here's a cute little video segment of Annabelle + Ainsleigh's intense work at the table.  My favorite is Ainsleigh's focus as she masters rolling tape--all on her own!


the sleepy time gal

a child learns: using your library to its fullest

WIN A TRIP As unschoolers, our family doesn't follow a set curriculum.  Because of that, we are free to explore and dive into the subjects we are most interested in at any given moment.  That means the library is one of the most important assets of our homeschooling.

We visit one of our local libraries about every two weeks and come away with roughly 30-40 items from books, magazines, documentaries, and DVD series.  The library really expands any homeschooling experience by providing either supplementary material or primary material for learning and exploring and any given topic.

Our approach to our library visit is simple.  Each child chooses:

  • A handful of picture books (younger children) or chapter books of personal interest
  • A handful of interested topic-specific books
While my kids are enjoying the library (reading books, building with Legos, researching book titles) I help kids one-on-one find their interested topic-specific books.  Some weeks it may be Ancient Rome and baking, other weeks it's bugs and minerals.
Once I've helped each of my kids find their own special books, they return to their personal play/reading in the library and I continue my search for the remaining books/materials.

Each library visit I choose:

  1. One interested topic-specific documentary (if available)
  2. 2+ DVDs from a series we enjoy (Bill Nye the Science Guy, Liberty Kids, Signing Times, National Geographic, etc.)
  3. One classic children's literature book in audiobook form for the car
  4. The next book in the series of chapter books I'm reading aloud to the girls ([amazon_link id="0439129087" target="_blank" ]Royal Diaries[/amazon_link], Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Praire, [amazon_link id="0810993228" target="_blank" ]Sisters Grimm[/amazon_link], American Girl series, etc.)
  5. A new magazine to explore: American Girl, Ranger Rick, Thomas the Train, Astronomy, National Geographic Kids, etc.)
Each child has their library tote full (including Rowan) and I carry the remaining books in a large canvas tote.  We checkout and head home with the girls enjoying a new book on the ride home.  Once home, I make lunch and everyone is sprawled out in the living room quietly enjoying their new books.  That afternoon we sit together on the couch to enjoy our first library-book reading session.  (We do our library book reading with the iPad in hand.  More on that in another post.)
The local public library makes the whole wide world open to our family.  History, science, the arts, mathematics, and beyond have been explored in the comforts of our home and on our couch from the hundreds of books we've checked out at the library.

More library + learning tips:

  1. Visit the library with your kids right before a long road trip.  Let your kids checkout a handful of new picture books to be their entertainment on the road.  Grab a new chapter book to read to them during the trip.  And don't forget a few audiobooks for when you're needing quiet time in the car (possibly during a young child's nap time on the road).
  2. Teach your reading kids to use the library's digital card catalog at an early age.  Those children will love the confidence they have to sit and explore the library system anytime about any subject and then seek out the book on their own.
  3. Change things up by rotating local libraries.  Visit a different library each visit or every other visit.  Some libraries have better non fiction sections than others for kids which makes choosing the interested topic-specific book selection much more exciting.
  4. Organize meet-ups with other homeschooling friends at your local library.  It makes the visit a bit more social and fun for kids and moms.  Watch friends introduce your kids to new book series and vice versa.
  5. Keep your library books in the same place in your home for your children (and you) to return to daily.  Ours are always in a basket by our fireplace.

Go out and explore your library.   You'd be amazed by how much learning, growth, and excitement can come from always having loads of interesting books in your home.
Go out + live boldly!

The sleepy time gal

it's spring: explore nature!



 {Annabelle's spring shrine made of front-yard weeds, moss, grass, and unearthed ribbon scraps. } 

Good morning!

I'm so excited it's (technically) spring.  We've recently had cold, wet weather but I know the sun will return and so will my girls' frolicking in the meadow and post-dinner walks.

A few things:

Check out my updated sidebar for spring exploring inspiration!  I've put up some of my favorite projects, exploration activities, and tips for getting out of the door and discovering something new in nature.

If you don't have [amazon_link id="1590305353" target="_blank" ]I Love Dirt[/amazon_link], I recommend it.  It is a simple book of inspiring ideas of how to use each season to explore, ask questions, unearth, and find answers with your kids during each season.

[amazon_image id="1590305353" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]I love dirt  [/amazon_image]


If you want to begin a nature journal, here's an excellent resource for taking that first step: [amazon_link id="1580174930" target="_blank" ]Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You. [/amazon_link]

[amazon_image id="1580174930" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]book [/amazon_image]


So be inspired, grab an umbrella, and get outside!


the sleepy time gal

the weekend + linen baskets






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IMG_1767 Page 2

IMG_1837 Page 3 IMG_1816 Happy belated Easter!

We have had a wonderful week of transitioning from adventures + family in NYC to Easter + family back in Pennsylvania.

I've been excited to finally make some simple linen Easter egg-hunt baskets for my youngest three this year.  The morning before we left for NYC I quickly finished sewing off the last basket.  I left the simple initial embroidery for Sunday morning when the house was still quiet from sleeping-in, worn out travelers.


My kids enjoyed their first Easter egg hunt with their out-of-town cousins in years.   The pictures tell it all.  And the little linen baskets held up well to swinging, twirling, and the load of filled eggs.  We watched our Church's annual worldwide conference, went on sunny walks, and spent the whole day at Grandma + PaPa's.  A wonderful family Easter.

I was inspired by these cute mini linen baskets but they were way too small.  So I made up my own pattern for the bags using linen, heavy-duty iron-on stabilizer interfacing, lace trim, and some vintage fabrics for the handles.  They turned out simple and sweet, just the way I wanted them to be.

I hope you had a special weekend with your loved ones as well.


(Wanna see highlights from our family adventures in NYC?  Check out my Instagram feed @nshiffler.) 


the sleepy time gal







rowan's no-sew felt quiet book


Add a little bit of body text (1) I'm very picky about felt projects.  There are so many felt projects out there that look too crafty or not well thought out.  Not that I'm a felt snob but if I'm going to use felt for something I want the project to maintain high quality and craftsmanship.  This may be why this felt quiet book took so long to finish; I would start a page and a week later totally change it because it looked too cheesy.  (Do you creative people know where I'm coming from??)

I remember putting a lot of time and love into Annabelle and Ainsleigh's special personalized soft books when they were young.  They treasured them.  Rowan somehow missed out on getting one of those, still doesn't have a baby book filled out, nor has a first year photo album like his sister have.

It has been a really satisfying feeling putting the finishing touches on his felt quiet book, though, and having him on my lap this past Sunday playing with it for the first time.

I hope my felt page designs and tips give you the confidence to make your own no-sew felt quiet book.  Come and see...



Why no-sew?

I wanted to put more emphasis into the details of each page of this felt book and not be constrained to the machine.  That is the advantage to working with felt: you can cut felt without needing to finish off edges.  I decided to do absolutely no sewing (except the binding) so the entire book would be consistent in terms of tension/stretch on each page of the book.  

Hot glue is the key for this whole project.

For the quiet book, all you need is different colors of felt (I used both craft + wool felt), sharp fabric scissors, metal snaps (for closure) , and hot glue gun + glue stick refills.

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 {The winter scene activity: 3 snowmen, rainy day gear, sneakers, small pieces for buttons + noses, hats, arms, and cold weather gear.  This activity page has the smallest pieces on it.}


Tip: To make your felt book project even easier, buy a precut package of craft felt sheets at any fabric or craft store.  These felt sheets (usually around 10" x 13" sheets) can be used as your book's pages--no need to cut felt pieces into pages.



 {The summer scene activity: the beach scene!  All of the elements from our beach trips like seagulls, a crab, bucket with sand, shovel, sandcastles, puddle, little boy + his beach ball, and clouds.}


Tip: Glue down the basic backdrop of your felt play scenes onto your felt sheets.  This makes it easy for a child to build onto the scene with the moveable felt pieces and not have to remember what the scene is supposed to be.  In the beach scene, I hot glued the ocean, sand, sun, and birds.  Rowan simple adds to the scene with extra details in his play.

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{The create-a-face activity: there are multiple hair styles, eyes, glasses, noses, lips, a beard + mustache, crown, and bows.}

Tip: Play around with your felt pages in terms of vertical and horizontal layout.  I liked my face activity vertical so there was room enough for the beard, bow tie, and tall hair.



{The favorite foods plate activity: fruits, vegetables, chicken leg, eggs + sausage, BACON, dark chocolate, gingerbread cookie, hot cocoa, ice water, and utensils.}

Tip: When making a narrow felt piece, hot glue a felt detail onto the piece to make it more sturdy and less flimsy, like my utensils.

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{The loadable dump truck activity:  add the truck's wheels and load the truck (which really is a pocket) with either rocks or shapes.}

Tip: Make your felt pages more realistic by adding depth.  You add depth by hot gluing another layer onto the base felt piece, like the outer piece with cut-out squares I added to the dump truck.


{The birthday ice cream shop activity: load your bowl or cone with your favorite scoops of ice cream!  Don't forget the celebration balloons.}

Tip: Add glitter, ric rac, beads, and other decorations to create a 3D effect.  I added hot glue + glitter to some of the ice cream scoops to create the drizzled topping effect on the ice cream.


 Where do I store all of the felt pieces?

After you've created each felt page and its pieces, cut out large felt pockets, one per activity page.  Hot glue the sides and bottom of each pocket onto the back of each activity page (excluding the last activity page--it won't need a pocket on its' back).

Fill each pocket with the coordinating pieces for the activity page that the pocket faces.  That means the first activity page's felt pieces will be stored in a pocket you secure to the inside of the book's cover.


How do I bind + close the book?

You have two options for binding your book.  I chose the easiest which was using my sewing machine.  I know this is a no-sew book but if you can machine sew the binding it will be your quickest, easiest option.

Simple sew the pages together with a seam and then sandwich the pages into the cover and sew one more seam.

Handsewing option:

If you don't have a sewing machine, simply hand sew the binding to create a strong binding.  I do not recommend using hot glue for the binding.


Add a few metal snaps to the cover flap for closing the book.  Follow the no-sew snap instructions which will require a hammer.  A few snaps will do the trick.




I hope you make a no-sew felt quiet book.  Make pages based on activities and themes that your child/grandchild loves.  Rowan's favorite pages are the dump truck and food pages, of course.


Which page was your favorite??


the sleepy time gal



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{Caroline's incredible felt doll + clothes closet board for a friend's birthday party this past weekend.  She imitated my concept of Rowan's felt book and created the coolest gift.  Doll (in underwear) on the front, liftable closet door for two dresses and 3 fillable drawers for tops, bottoms, and shoes.}

Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.  

Salvador Dali 

There has been a lot of imitation happening in our home.  This is a sign to me in my little world of mothering and family life that life/unschooling is good, young minds are creating/problem solving, and my kids' understanding of the world around them is expanding. Page 1

{My on-call hand-mixing girl, Annabelle.  After initially fearing the mixer, she now loves the process, the steady control she has to maintain, and conquering a skill some of her sisters refuse to try.}

When kids imitate something inspiring that they see, they are driven by the thrill of trying something new and the satisfaction of physically understanding their world in an intimate way.  Children are driven by imitation.  It drives so much learning and development.  It is the most natural process of learning for children and adults alike.



And before you get tired of hearing about Rowan's quiet felt book,  I'm pretty excited to show you his book tomorrow.  I'll also include my tips for creating your own no-sew felt quiet book.

Happy Monday!


the sleepy time gal

good luck


IMG_1430 The more I keep up my daily 5 minute journal the more I see "good luck charms" in my life.

I don't actually believe it is "luck" but blessings, inspiration, and positive consequences to action taken.  If I can be confident and disciplined enough to let my desires outweigh my fear (whether in homeschooling, mothering, or personally) then magical things happen.  Like being granted greater desire + discipline to do and be more.  Moments of success.  Overcoming weaknesses quicker.  Power to see positive rather than negative around me.  A happier home life, kids, and self.

IMG_1457 IMG_1452 I know the exact mother I want to be.

And so work daily to remind myself of those traits I want before I'm tested in those situations.  My success rate is actually getting better in those predictable situations!  With daily, written positive affirmations, I can see myself changing from the less patient, sometimes overwhelmed mother of five to the calmer, prepared mother that knows how to enjoy motherhood more and better embrace the challenging parts as well.


I'd say that one of our current "good luck charms" is the power to dream big + then plan.  We catch a vision and then try to capture exactly what it is that we want out of an experience or goal. This truly is one of the greatest lessons I hope to instill in my children at their young ages.

The many tales told this winter while huddled on the couch of [amazon_link id="0531068684" target="_blank" ]The Arabian Nights[/amazon_link] have turned our imaginations towards something bigger and more tangible than just stories...



...something larger than life with costumes, the setting sun out in the backyard, feasting, music, and the tinkling of finger cymbals.

Our "good luck" is actually dreaming + planning mixed together with the right amount of pure excitement.  (This and this were definitely inspired by excitement and the current dose of spring in the air.)


And so with the "good luck" of life existing in the air, we are going full force towards everything that appears attainable and unattainable.


You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world.

But it takes people to make the dream a reality.

Walt Disney

the sleepy time gal

meet little miss, her playable pillow + wardrobe



Meet the happiest pillow on the block.

She's soft and huggable and quite fashionable.  Ainsleigh chose this adorable project for their young friend turning three.  I haven't made any dolls recently since Rowan's birthday doll last fall so was excited about familiar and unfamiliar steps that this project required.

The pattern is from one of my favorite sewing books [amazon_link id="1584798580" target="_blank" ]Wee Wonderfuls: 24 Dolls to Sew + Love.[/amazon_link]  I've made many dolls from this book for my kids, their cousins, and some of their friends over the years and the concept of a felt doll sewn onto a pillow (with a pocket to hold the doll's dress-up clothes) sounded like the cutest gift for a beloved little friend.


It started with sewing a soft fleece pillow with the doll's felt body and hair sewn to the front of the pillow.  (The twins cut out the patterns and felt.)  I spent a quiet, early morning huddled around my space heater in the basement carefully embroidering the doll's face and split embroidering her hair.


The best, most surprising part of the little pillow is the elastic pocket in the back.  I chose a vibrant, colorful fabric that would accentuate all of the colors in the doll's clothing.


Once the pillow was sewn, it was time to meticulously trace and cut out all of the doll's outfits first on felt and then on fabric.  (That was more time consuming than I expected.  Isn't that how special projects always turn out??)

Here is Little Miss' raincoat, rain hat + boots.




Party dresses, bobby socks, a linen top, cords, pajamas and variety of tops were simply edgestitched to the felt and embellished with ribbon, fabric marker, or applique.

My favorites are her pajamas + gathered pink party dress.  I'd like the dress in my size. Page 1

It was no surprise to me that after Little Miss' pillow + clothes were finished my Annabelle and Ainsleigh were not only over-the-top proud that they helped make it but were over-the-top excited giving it to their little friend at her birthday party.  I mean, over-the-top.  Including Rowan.


I've been going back and forth if I should commit to making two Little Miss pillows for A + A's upcoming spring birthday.  I can just see them spending hours up in their bedroom switching out outfits and adding the best dialogue to their pillow dolls.  It sounds so nice right now but I think I'm going to take a break from meticulous cutting/sewing for a bit. ;)


the sleepy time gal

yellow + gray






IMG_1360 I was pretty excited to help throw a baby shower for a friend using her preferred baby colors that were baby Rowan's colors: yellow + gray.

Using up the last scraps of my favorite fabric I used for Rowan's basket liners, I made a simple fleece-lined bib + matching wash cloth for the baby's first mealtime.

I've left the beautiful paper flowers hanging over the weekend.   I'm dying to learn how to make them for my to-be sister-in-law's bridal shower here this summer--think reds + burnt oranges.  (Yes--my little brother is getting married this fall!)  My friend makes these colorful paper flowers for every gathering and they never lose their classy touch.

The subtle yellows seem quite fitting for the first day of spring coming this week.  And boy, are we ready.  


Have a great start to this week.  Go out + live boldly!


the sleepy time gal





{with new bulk velvet ribbon from the amazing PA Fabric Outlet that is devastatingly going out of business}


{poetry and riddles and rhythms inspired by the older girls' homeschooling poetry class}


 {miniature embroidered treasures like fairy houses, snails, and balloons--now to find a way to display them all}


 {a special gift with Annabelle and Ainsleigh's tracing/cutting help for a little friend's birthday this weekend}

"It is better to create than to learn! Creating is the essence of life."

Julius Caesar


Happy weekend, friends!


the sleepy time gal