Halloween Craft: Teasel Spiders

I don't know where my mother got this idea, but this has been a craft that my family has been making since I was in 3rd grade--at least. And I'm sure my brothers and sisters made it before me. A friend and I had to create something to sell for my school's economics fair, and my mother presented this idea to us. It was of course the coolest thing we had ever seen! Now that my son has an economics fair coming up (well, an entrepreneurial day fair) he decided he also wanted to create them to sell.

These spiders are both fun and cheap to make, and children love them because they look cool and feel prickly. (These are not for young children.)

Before we get into the directions, let's learn about the plant we'll be using! The more I've researched this plant, the more amazed I have become. Its life is such an interesting one, starting from its first few years as a rosette of leaves, to its years of seeding and flowering. Here are some of the most interesting facts about this plant:

Common Teasel
 Photos from Wikipedia

  • Teasel is an invasive plant that likes areas with a lot of sun, and often grows in open fields or on the side of the road in odd places. I honestly can't give you better hunting tips than those, but they're in almost every state in the US. Just drive down a road that has lots of grasses or brush on the sides of the road and you're likely to find it.
  • The leaves of the teasel grow in such a way that they form cups that collect rainwater.
  • According to a study posted in the National Library of Medicine, this plant species is thought to be slightly carnivorous, since their seed production received a boost during the study when dead insects were placed at the bases of these leaves.
  • Teasel cant take three years or longer to flower. Researchers have been able to predict within an 80% chance when the plant will flower by measuring how long the leaves have grown.
  • Teasel seeds provide great winter food for some birds, especially goldfinches and blackbirds, and are sometimes used in nature preserves to attract such birds.
  • The average teasel plant produces around 3,300 seeds!
  • As Wikipedia tells us, some types of teasel have been used in the past in textile production as a natural comb. (Bonus survival tip!) This is where the plant's common name of teasel comes from, referring to the action of teasing wool. 

If you or your children want to learn more, here is a great Teasel Fact Sheet from the Learning Center of the American Southwest.

Making The Spiders

Teasel seed heads (get a good variety of sizes)
Spray paint (I use black, but any color will do)
Pipe cleaners
Googly eyes of all different sizes
Glue gun with glue sticks
Fishing line (optional)

1. Gather teasel seed heads (see hunting tips above). You'll need thick gloves and heavy duty shears (or a good knife). Every part of the plant is poky, and if you grab it in the wrong way the can go through your gloves. Honestly though, gathering them is half the fun! Get a good variety of sizes. All shapes of stems and spikes are great--they make the spiders look very cool.

2. Shake out the teasel seed heads really well. You will find so many seeds! Make sure these get thrown away or scattered around the highway somewhere, unless you want teasel growing in your own yard. :) If they are green from the season or wet from the rain, let them dry out.

3. Spray paint the heads. You'll have to let them dry then flip them over and spray them again, otherwise the spray paint will just drip off of the bottoms. You might have to do this a few times, as there always seems to be a tiny strip that escapes the spray. We were using spray paint that we had lying around from other projects and ended up running out of black...so we got a little creative with the other colors we had. I've never used other colors before but they ended up looking pretty cool!

4. Cut pipe cleaners to the desired leg length and glue them on. I like to put a glob of glue on the end of the pipe cleaner then slide it deep in-between the pokey parts.

5. Glue on the googly eyes. With these, the former stem becomes the nose and the eyes go above. You can get some very interesting looking spiders if you use your imagination to decide what is what. This is my favorite part!

6. If you want to hang these from the ceiling you can wrap fishing line around their bodies.


What's Good for the Goose.... (Girls, Boys, and Social Media)

I read a post today, where a mother very beautifully asked girls to be careful of the pictures they post on social media. Her family apparently goes through their sons' social media friends regularly, filtering out girls who post provocative ("the red-carpet pose, the extra-arched back, and the sultry pout") or scantily-clad pictures, and discussing why. And while I understand and respect the need for open conversation about such things, I can't help but be saddened by the post...because of this:

"Girls, it’s not too late! If you think you’ve made an on-line mistake (we all do – don’t fret – I’ve made some doozies), RUN to your accounts and take down anything that makes it easy for your male friends to imagine you naked in your bedroom."

And this:
"Some young men are fighting the daily uphill battle to keep their minds pure, and their thoughts praiseworthy."

Along with the fact that included in the post were photos of the poster's own sons (and daughter) in swimsuits, posing to best show off their muscles. How ironic!

Here are three points I'd like to make:

1.) It is not a girl's job alone, to keep the thoughts of boys pure. It's a boy's job to realize that girls are people, regardless of how they are dressed, posed, etc.. Modesty helps, but it only goes so far. Boys need to be taught that THEY are accountable for the way they think of women; that THEY are accountable for the actions that take place because of any impure thoughts they have.

2.) Girls also have daily uphill battles to keep their minds pure! This is not just a boy thing. And pictures of scantily-clad boys don't help...which brings me to the next one:

3.) I firmly believe that what's good for the goose, is good for the gander. Modesty applies to girls AND boys!

There is a huge double-standard in this country, and it's something that is constantly hidden in messages to women. Messages like this. This double-standard contributes to the rampant rape culture, as it refuses to hold men (or boys) accountable for their actions. And before you think this has nothing to do with rape, I argue that it does. It REALLY does. Because so many women are afraid to report rape or misconduct (or are not believed when they do) because messages like these tell them that it's their fault. That by wearing different clothing, or posting different pictures or acting in a different way (or saying no more forcefully), rape could have been prevented. Seriously, folks. That by covering themselves up, the pig of a man who raped them would have magically gained some self control. NOT SO!

Here's the thing: I have a son. I worry about him. I worry that I will fail to teach him to respect women. I worry that somehow he'll come across porn, or some form of it, before I can teach him about the true functions of our bodies, and that by then, it will be too late. I worry that through advertisements, movies, and TV, he will learn to objectify women, and to think of women as 'things,' instead of people. I worry that he may be pressured to have sex before he's married, or even before he's mentally ready to cope with such a thing. But most of all, I worry that I'll fail to teach him to hold himself accountable for the way he thinks about women. 

I worry a lot. And in a way, I get the idea behind the plea of the mother who wrote the post I mentioned. But I can't stand behind it; it places the accountability on girls, and blatantly flaunts the hypocrisy of our sexist society. What's good for the goose, is good for the gander! When my son is older, instead of deleting any girl with a picture that may resemble something sexy, or asking those girls to delete anything that *may* make it easy for him to imagine them "naked in bed", I'll teach him to think of her as the child of God that she is.


Learning Styles Realization

I've been researching learning styles lately, and the many different theories about them. I've been trying to figure out how Mason learns best, because I've been feeling like he doesn't always get what I teach him. For the longest time, I thought he was equal parts an auditory, kinesthetic, and visual learner, because he fits the descriptions for each of them. It wasn't until I did some deeper research, that I saw how wrong I was. I wanted extra assurance, so I even had us both take a few different learning style assessments, which all told me the same thing I had to come to realize:

Mason is an auditory learner. A hugely auditory learner. The other two categories aren't even on the map with him.

...which is hard, because I am not an auditory learner at all. Tell me something, and I'll forget it two seconds later; no exaggeration. SHOW me something? And I'll always remember it. I am a huge visual learner--a little kinesthetic as well, but mostly visual. Posters, pictures, bright colors, demonstrations--these are my educational food. If I see it, I'll remember it. I'll call that visual back into my mind when I need it (which is why I test really well, even when I haven't studied).

So...I've been teaching Mason the wrong way. So far, I've been teaching him in the way that I learn best: using lots of pictures and displays. This made perfect sense to me...until this week, when I learned that that is NOT how Mason learns. He needs to HEAR the information, and looking back, I should have known this.


  • His asking for clarification on instructions that are clearly shown in pictures
  • His need for textbook definitions of everyday words (instead of the definitions in layman's terms that I prefer to give)
  • His need for every family picture to be expanded upon with voiced descriptions of what went on at the time they were taken
  • His constant need to interrupt a lesson or a book to ask for more SPOKEN detail
  • His ability to recall random conversations he's had with people, word for word
  • His ability to recall what happened in books I read to him ages ago
  • His love of music
  • His ability to remember any information put to music (ask him what my number is, and he'll tell you...in song)

I cannot believe I missed all of that.

As a result, I can feel the change in plans coming along. I haven't solidified anything yet, because I want to do some more research on this baffling thing called auditory learning (you auditory learners can really understand information that is just spoken to you???). But I sense Mason's future will be full of tape recorders, chants, and songs à la Safety Kids.


Homeschool Progress Report: Week 4


 We are four weeks into our school year, and things are going great! We've settled into a routine that works for us...as long as it doesn't change. I found that Mason is definitely the opposite of me in many aspects; I learn (and teach) best at night, and he is such a morning learner. Any schooling that takes place after about 4pm usually results zero attention, and lots of frustration. That is, unless it's in the form of a movie, playing, or art. He's open to that kind of learning any time. :)

I've also begun to realize why so many homeschoolers promote child-lead learning. I'm not sold on complete child-lead schooling, but I have realized that Mason learns best when he's interested in the subject. I've always known this, but it never clicked until now. There have been many times when an activity I thought he would love, was received with a less-than happy response (seriously, who isn't interested in astronomy? Mason, I guess). But he has been studying books on trains and horses on his own for months, now, and has so many facts and scientific knowledge memorized because of that studying. He takes his trains apart, and puts different pieces together to see what they look like. And he's been sneaking into the kitchen for years, and creating his own disgusting interesting recipes for food.

As a result, I have changed a lot of my plans for this year. Things I thought were important, are things I don't stress so much anymore. Formal math lessons have been shortened, and I added a weekly cooking lesson, and let him pick a meal for dinner each Friday. We budget and shop for the ingredients beforehand, and then make the meal. Math and life skills, all in one lesson! As for other areas, I finally bought the special paint for model trains he's been wanting, and he has repainted a bunch of his trains. Formal art lessons have been added, since he's so interested in art. And I'm currently planning a unit on horses, because he would love it.

Sadly, my history lessons have changed, since he's not that interested in history right now (I LOVE history, and hoped he would, too). We're going through history chronologically, so right now we're mostly reading the Bible and Book of Mormon, and then reading books on some of the countries or cities the prophets are in as we read. Although I'm really hoping he'll be more interested by the time we learn about Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome...I have such cool ideas for those two, but he may just think they're boring. :D

The biggest and coolest change this year, has been our weekly forest school. A woman in a homeschool group I belong to brought up the idea to start one here, since they're so popular in Washington and Oregon. But hers was too far for us, so I thought I would see if anyone in my area wanted to get together and start our own. It is nowhere near the scale of the forest schools in Washington and Oregon, but it has been so fun! We begin with a short nature-related activity. We've done solar wood burning, flower pressing, bug catching, bark rubbings, treasure hunting, and lots of others.

After the activity, the kids are free to play and explore nature. Our park is so perfect for this, with lots of trees, hiking trails, hills, a huge grass lawn, a small river, and even a bridge. There is so much for the kids to explore, and they always find interesting things; a water snake, mice digging holes, bugs, cool flowers, etc.. There are kids of all ages, and some go off to explore while some stay to play in the water or do the activity again. But everyone plays with everyone (older and younger), which I think is cool. It's the only time I let Mason really do his own thing, and he loves the freedom. He always leaves with wet, muddy clothes. It has been the highlight of our summer.

One thing that is very apparent this year, is that Mason isn't the only one learning. I'm learning, too. There is so much that I either didn't learn in school, or that I forgot.  I've found I have gaps in my knowledge of topics that I thought I knew well. I'm also finding interest in subjects that I thought I hated (like math).  Interesting things that send me on a quest for even more knowledge. I'm teaching myself, as I teach Mason. 

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens over the rest of the year!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...