~5 Days of DIY for the Homeschool Room~
After my previous post outlining my disastrous DIY, I’m very excited to share this Four Seasons Felt Tree! Not only am I absolutely thrilled with it, I am proud to say that I completed it all on my own without having to elicit help from my handy hubby . . . you know, like I did with the vintage framed ABCs and Back-to-School Book Bunting. This project had me in my happy place: a stationary activity that involved a lot of already memorized BBC series and pots of tea to keep me company. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I’m a little sad to be finished with it.
Day 4: The Four Seasons Felt Tree
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” -Genesis 8:22
I have a strong connection to the changing of the seasons. There is an incredible romance to the rhythm that takes us through each year so faithfully. Each season is a feast for the senses, if we can only slow down enough to allow our children to see, hear, touch, and taste it all. When I close my eyes, I can experience every season through deep sensory recall from my childhood. My husband, however, cannot. A difference in environment perhaps? Nope. We were raised in the same moderately temperate California climate, and yet . . . my husband has no foundation for the changing of the seasons or any idea when certain holidays occur during the year. Without a calendar, he has no knowledge of what season Thanksgiving falls in, for example, or what season Easter is rooted to.
It’s something about my husband that baffled me for the longest time. I never suspected it was a lack of intelligence. My husband is the only reason I passed algebra, calculus, or statistics, after all. When I became a middle school teacher, I was shocked . . . and a little relieved, I must admit . . . when I discovered that my husband was far from alone in his disconnect from nature’s calendar. The majority of my 7th graders had no idea what season we were in, or what holidays were coming up, or what much of any of it meant, or why any of it really mattered. And then, of course, there were some students who did. These were kids who attended the same school, many of whom were of similar intelligence. In the end, I came to the conclusion that the difference wasn’t of intelligence or education. The difference was of family heritage.
The wonders of nature cannot be be taught (or at least not fully grasped) from a text book or a lesson in the classroom. The seasons aren’t learned. The seasons aren’t taught. The seasons are experienced. The seasons are lived.
As a Homeschooled child, I spent a lot more time out in nature than I did at a desk. In the springtime, I planted a garden with my dad and dyed eggs for the Easter tree with my sisters. In the summer, I ran barefoot through the sunflowers and husked corn under the lemon tree. In the autumn, I pressed apple cider with my dad and made pumpkin pie with my mom. At Christmastime, I decorated the house, made piles of cookies, sang endless carols, and got into trouble during candlelit Advent ceremonies.
Every event in my life, every milestone, every memory is anchored to the sensorial richness of a particular season or celebration.
But not all of us have rows of sunflowers, cornfields, or apple orchards. Many of our children grow up in a far more artificial environment than the ideal—one rooted in the rich and raw elements of nature. I am no stranger to that sad fact. In fact, I started working on this Four Seasons Felt Tree a year ago when the seasonless city skyline was still our family’s world view. Even though I grew up in the country and believe time spent in nature to be a crucial cornerstone of childhood, I was largely unable to offer much of it to our children these past four years.
But we did what we could. We planted vegetables and herbs in pots on the back porch. We visited faraway farms. We read lots of nature-rich books with beautiful illustrations depicting a more vibrant world. And I made this Four Seasons Felt Tree. Thankfully for us, our children are now getting to see, hear, smell, and feel the changing seasons in their own backyard. But still the only snow they know is of the felt variety. That will soon change.
This fall, for many, is a strange season. It may be full of unknowns and uncertainty, or be adorned with woeful worry. Let’s take a tip from top chefs and not just make sure our children’s environment is “well-seasoned” but even “aggressively seasoned.” Let’s immerse our children in the richness of nature’s yearly waltz, as much as we are able, in order to ensure an upbringing that is full of depth and flavor.
We can become grounded with our children in the certainty of the seasons in this uncertain one. We can find comfort, stability, and solace in the rhythm of the seasons. We can trust that the green will change to gold, the crops will yield a harvest, the days will shorten, and the air will grow crisp. We can ground ourselves in the faithfulness of God’s creation; the promise of spring, summer, autumn, and winter . . . for as long as our earth shall endure.
“See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.” -Song of Solomon 2:11-13
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” Proverbs 6:6-8
“Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” -Matthew 9: 37-38
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God shall stand forever.” -Isaiah 40:8
Making a Four Seasons Felt Tree
1.) Gather your supplies:
- felt in an array of colors
- fabric scissors
- fabric glue (I love USA-made Fabric Fusion)
- cardstock in any color
- paper scissors
- gel pen
- acrylic paints and brushes (Apple Barrel are still my favorite)
- a large poster board or corkboard
- ziplock bags
2.) Make your felt board
Cover poster board or corkboard with light blue felt or flannel. For covering a poster board you may sew a sort of pillowcase shape for the felt or glue a piece of felt to size on top of the board. For covering a corkboard you may glue it permanently to the board, or tack it up along the edges.
3.) Make your tree & ground
- Trace out a large tree trunk and branches onto brown felt
- Trace out your ground onto brown felt
- Cut both out
- Paint by splotching with brown, black, and white acrylic paint
- Let dry
- Use fabric glue to adhere tree and ground to your felt board
4.) Make your stencils
Copy and paste a collection of “clipart” or “stencil” images from google (paying attention to sizing) onto a word document and print the entire collection on cardstock. Simply cut out the images and you have stencils for tracing onto felt.
Alternatively, you may want to use a fabric-cutting craft machine such as a cricut. I have not made this investment yet, so I do not have any recommendations. But I am accepting advice on the topic!
5.) Trace your stencils onto felt
6.) Cut out your pieces (with tea and a movie is my favorite way)
7.) Paint your felt pieces for added character
8.) Store each season’s lovelies in a Ziplock bag
Tips & Tricks for a Fruitful Tree
1.) Opt for two-tone felt versus one-tone/flat felt
When I started this project I used just regular, one-tone/flat felt as you can see on the left. I was unhappy with the result. Felt projects that look handmade for all the wrong reasons are usually made with flat/standard colored felt. I paid a bit more and ordered this two-tone felt that comes in a variety of rich colors and you can see the difference it makes for the leaves on the right!
This felt is made in the USA and is a merino-wool blend. The colors and texture are truly superior to standard felt.
2.) Alternatively or additionally, you can paint one side of standard felt
3.) Vary color and size of same items, even if only slightly
When all the blossoms, or apples or leaves are exactly the same size and same color, your result will look very run-of-the-mill or mass-produced. Print out a few varied sizes of stencils or simply cut some out inside the lines and others on the lines. And don’t cut each out perfectly. Cut a few corners or round more or less for a varied and more realistic look. Use an ombre of felt in at least two shades for exact items such as apples, leaves, or blossoms.
4.) Add definition with pen and paint! It’s worth the extra effort!
5.) Add some magical surprises along the way!
Glue some scrap fabric on top of a piece of felt for a picnic blanket.
Make a nest that is actually two pieces glued on top with a little pocket for eggs and a mama bird.
Fashion a scarecrow and/or snowman with lots of accessories.
Or create an apple barrel that really holds apples.
Ways to use your Four Seasons Felt Tree
1.) Day by day, week by week, or season by season:
- Present the felt board to your child and allow him or her to “update” the landscape at one of the following intervals as would most appeal to your child or meet the needs of your Homeschool schedule:
- DAILY: by adding or taking away one item each day
- WEEKLY: by adding or taking away several items on a specific day of the week
- MONTHLY: by altering the felt tree entirely to match the current season
- SEASONALLY: by creating the entire seasonal landscape on the first day of spring, summer, fall, and winter
- ORGANICALLY: by altering the landscape to match the changing season out the window, if you live in a four seasons climate
2.) As an anchor for Seasonal Memory Work:
- Choose a Bible verse, hymn, or poem for each season of the year to recite/sing/memorize daily or weekly with your child
3.) As a visual inspiration for seasonal projects and activities
4.) As a companion for your Classroom Calendar
- Hang or display next to your child’s calendar as a way to provide a strong visual and tangible material to put meaning to the months and seasons of the year. Discuss and point out often (daily if possible) what month and season it is and refer to what that looks like on the felt tree. September means nothing to a child without a strong connection to the physical world of all things September.
5.) As a tool for learning how to spell the seasons or months of the year
- I ordered these USA-made felt letters for our son to practice spelling “Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer” by putting them up each season:
- I recommend two sets for double letters
5.) As a visual to teach your child about the character of God
- His faithfulness as seen in the certainty of the seasons
- How His children reap what we sow and how we are to bear fruit
- How we can be deeply rooted in the word of God
6.) Make it a Ceremony for the Senses!
- Strengthen your child’s connection to the seasons and his or her love of our yearly dance with nature’s elements by welcoming each new season with a special ceremony. Adorn the felt tree for the new season, then sing/recite the new season’s verse/hymn/poem, enjoy a special seasonal treat together, and read a book/chapter aloud that celebrates the season.
- Fall: sing “For the Beauty of the Earth,” enjoy a cup of hot apple cider together, and read “Pumpkin Pumpkin” by Jean Titherington for very littles, or “Pumpkin Jack” by Will Hubbel for Kindergarten-2nd grade.
Subscribe below to follow the rest of our DIY Homeschool décor projects this week (you know, the ones that didn’t fail) plus end-of-the-week room reveal!
Thanks for reading,
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~