October’s Adventures in Homeschooling

This year we began homeschooling Lucy (7) and Hattie (5). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.


Here were our reading books for the month:

We read Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux (one of Tim and my all time favorites), The Boxcar Children (which Harriet LOVED and has been watching the Netflix movie of over and over again), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (the new beautifully illustrated version), and a really cool pop-up version of The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe (which also led to the Calvin & Hobbs Monster Drooling Poem based on The Raven, and the Simpson’s Halloween episode of The Raven – both SOO funny and good).


We are still loving our morning reading out-loud tea time on the front porch. Although it is starting to get chilly!!


For our History books we read these two – (we are going through Beautiful Feet History’s Early American series in order). We really enjoyed both books.


As part of our history study (and since we finished the Columbus book last month) I thought it would be fun to carve soap boats on Columbus Day. I usually set out our morning activity the night before. On this particular morning, the girls got up without waking me up (like they usually do) , and happily carved through all 8 bars of soap on their own, and this is the scene I woke up to. Soap everywhere, but no one was bleeding and they were thoroughly pleased with themselves. Pretty hilarious.



Geography/Culture: Mexico

One of the things we are doing this year is our Passport idea for Geography/World Cultures. We are “visiting” a different country every month – exploring the food, culture, dress, arts, and music through themed activities. This month, Harriet and Lucy chose Mexico as our country to visit.


I have been using the book “Give Your Child the World” as a reference for books. I think the High Plains librarians are starting to hate me because of how many books I put on hold each month. Oh Well. Sorry guys.


As recommended in Give Your Child the World, here were the Mexico themed picture books we read through from the library.

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Elena’s Serenade and The Legend of the Poinsettia were probably our favorites.

One of the major reasons we picked Mexico was because we wanted to do a Day of the Dead celebration. The girls fully planned, prepped, and decorated for this themselves!

Getting Lucy started on Adobe Photoshop early 🙂



Like the invitation says, we decorated with Papel Picado and marigolds, painted faces, watched Book of Life, Colored skeleton faces, ate Mexican food and authentic Mexican candies from our local Mexican grocery store, and made skull rocks. This will definitely be one for the books and I can see it becoming a yearly tradition :).

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Nature Study

We have been using this ebook as a guide for our Nature Study. And it is SO beautifully done.

It has a simple activity each corresponding with the season, paired with a recommended book list, an art piece to enjoy, a poem, and art ideas.

Nature Outings:

We have designated Monday as our outdoor adventure days. It’s our day off together as a family, and we just love it. This month we visited a local cemetery where we did some grave rubbings.

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Took a family bike ride on the Poudre River Trail to look at the changing leaves –

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Went on a nature outing to our beloved Homestead Park to search out our favorite trees and do a little Pond Study.

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(Harriet studying a sample of pond water we brought home with us)


And of course October wouldn’t be complete without an outing to a pumpkin patch!!

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Along with our weekly nature outings, we finished up our Nature Pal Exchange box (and received one back in the mail from North Carolina!). It was such a fun project. I am already looking forward to the next time we do it.

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Harriet’s “Leaf Lady”

The contents of the box we put together:



All of the kids are really enjoying their music classes through the Union Colony Children’s Music Academy here in Greeley. It uses the musikgarten approach which I am loving more and more all the time – especially as I see how it grows and expands with the kids.



We needed to switch up how we were doing math. No one was enjoying it. So this month we used the book Bedtime Math (which is so fun).


We added some more tactile/playable elements to our routine (counting bears, a shape rubber band board, an abacus, etc…)




We have really enjoyed various Steve Spangler Science videos. We broke out the cornstarch one morning and recreated his cornstarch slime experiments.


We also enjoyed some Magic School Bus “Inside the Human Body” and this really cool Human Body model from Target.
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Which led to drawing white skeletons on black paper of course.



Since we read Hansel & Gretel (candy house and witches…), we made Hansel & Gretel dolls to play with. My friend Lindsay had given me this amazing tea towel that has a beautifully illustrated pattern already printed onto it. The pattern is from Sarah Young’s etsy shop. Now that I have made them, I think we are going to need the little red riding hood one too 🙂



A cotton snow storm –

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We used a fun little kit to make these Halloween luminaries.

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We did some major papier mache magic with tape and cardboard to make Lucy’s “Spooky Tree” halloween costume.


We played with our freshly organized rubber stamps to give our letter writing days a boost.


Since we are reading the Tale of Despereaux, the girls sewed these very simple little felt mice from this pattern.



And of course what would October be without a night of carving all those wonderful pumpkins with hot chocolate and popcorn of course and a spooky playlist.


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And, finally, I will leave you with a very spooky (and hilarious horror film by Lucy)

Happy October friends! Thanks for following along!!!

How Do You Define Success? (I Needed a New System)

How would you describe being successful? What is “success” in your field of work? in your family and relationships? for yourself, personally?

I’ve been asking myself questions like this for years. “What is success?” or “How do I know when I’m successful?” or “What’s the main goal here?”

This question has been in the back of my mind especially when it comes to being a singer-songwriter. Probably because, according to the definition I’ve been using, I’m a failure! Here it is:
I have a hit song or album and have a tipping point of critical mass and make lots of money and am famous with lots of people loving my music and I make a good living from the sales and tours and acclaim. 

I’m being a little facetious. And, to be fair to myself, this definition always seemed like it was lacking something; like it was based on realities only involving economics and importance. Surely my being a singer-songwriter has been about more than that?

To push the point, by that definition I have been unsuccessful. So was all this a great waste of time and energy? What about all the great things that have come from making music? The stories and moments of connection? What do I do with those? If I should I have gone into a different field where I could have been more successful, what would that field have been? Where would that have taken me and how would I define success there?!

And this is just in the small part of my life as a singer-songwriter. Let’s go bigger- What about the other things I do and love?

During a quiet, reflective day a few weeks ago I started asking those questions again. “What is success?”

And I decided to approach things differently. I began to boil things down to a single word for each of the main roles I play in my life. A word that answers the question of “Was I successful here? Did I do all I could to shoot for this as success?”

I’m sharing this because I’ve struggled with definitions of success for years. No doubt, it’s very self-focused but I think there are things that go beyond just me here.

Here’s what I did:

1. I named the roles I play in my life. This is something I’ve heard from business books or self-help material. Understanding your energies in terms of the roles you have in life is helpful. We usually have 4 or 5 roles and if it gets beyond that things get strange. Here are my personal roles:

*Spiritual Being – Being a Christian I view one of my roles in life as being a human who longs for connection with his creator. At my core I am a spiritual being and that part of me needs attention and intentionality.

*Husband – Being a married man one of my roles as husband is that, again, attention and intentionality needs to be given to my marriage.

*Father – Having 3 little girls and a boy on the way means I have the awesome role and responsibility of “dad”.

*Producer – My life’s work can be summed up in this word. Whether I am in charge of a church service and creating that space in which people encounter God, or whether I’m gathering musicians to release an album I’ve written or whether I’m releasing a line of colognes I made in my basement… I view my work as “Production”. It often involves creativity and events and communication, and relationships, but in the end I think producer is the best word for it.

What 4 or 5 roles would you say you play in your life? 


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2. I came up with a word that summarizes my end goal for each of my roles.  This is how I hope to define success for each of my roles in the seasons to come. What words would you come up for the roles you have in your own life?

Here’s mine:

*Spiritual Being – ABIDE
If I abide in God then I have achieved success as a spiritual being (it’s an ongoing process isn’t it?). So I listen to podcasts, I read books, I pray, I take communion, I have quiet days every other month… all so I can approach this idea of abiding. It becomes the healthy foundation, really, for my other roles.

*Husband – TOGETHER
The word I really had here was symbiosis. But together is prettier and cleaner. Betony and I are completely a symbiotic relationship- when she’s thriving I’m thriving, when I’m down she’s down and vice versa. I want to approach my role as husband with this word in mind. If I’m working towards her flourishing and she mine, it’s a solid dynamic in marriage.

*Father – PRESENT
It took a lot of thought for this. I went through a lot of words but, in the end, I’m not primarily a guide or protector or shaper or any of that. I simply want my kids at the end of my life to feel like Dad was always present. Engaged. Listening and completely reliable. When they want to share an anecdote I turn my attention to them. When one of them comes in from a nightmare, I rise and make sure they are comforted.

*Producer – GOOD
That word is too simple isn’t it? The way I’d really put it is “Good & Substantive Work”. For example, if I produce an album I want it to be GOOD. But I don’t take that word lightly. I mean good with a bass note. I mean good as in a dinner at your best friend’s house is good. It’s rich and thick and has layers and depth. Does that make sense? When I get done with a worship service I first ask myself, “Did our work honor God?” But the second question is “Was it GOOD? Did it have great substance to it?”

So I’ll be leaving some of my old definitions behind (like the ones I had for singer-songwriter). This how I’m defining success this next season: As a spiritual being I want to ABIDE in God, as a husband I want to reach for living life truly TOGETHER, as a father I want to be fully PRESENT, and as a producer I will be making GOOD & substantive work.

Again, this is all very self focused. How would you define your roles? What do you find yourself heading towards in those roles that define your success?

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A really exciting Giants & Pilgrims magazine feature in UPPERCASE!

We are pretty darn excited to be featured in our favorite Art & Design publication – Uppercase magazine.

Here is a link to the current issue. We are in issue 31 on page 10!


NEW ALBUM! Haystacks: A Collection of Favorite Songs (2008-2016)


Today I turn 38. When reflecting on life this I realized something:

Over the past 8 years I’ve released 8 albums!
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Before that, when I had turned 30 I had crisis of profession. I wasn’t sure if being a musician/singer-songwriter was going to be good for my family. Our first baby was on the way and I had always treated this part of my life as a hobby. I wrote songs and shared them locally but I never went beyond our pocket of friends with any intention. Yet I had this strong pull that I needed to be giving more room for this in my life.

Then I had a transformative conversation with a friend.

He let me know, “Tim, this is the year of the baby. You’re going to have your first child. And then you’re going to let this other child known as your ‘creative career’ out of the closet you’ve locked it up in.”

Really, someone’s respected opinion that I could DO IT was all I needed.

I created a website.

I shared my music online.

I played shows and gathered emails.

I went on my first tour (to Kansas! because it was home!)

It was a turning point for me where I stopped talking about what I wanted to do as singer/songwriter and started actually doing it.

So collected here are songs that are favorites of mine and the people who have listened in over the last 8 years. In the fields of everything I’ve released these are songs that rise a little bit higher in their season.

Hence the name, Haystacks.

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October Free Calendar Desktop and iPhone Wallpaper

Happy October! Here is an October reflection  and some great October activities around the theme Lore. And, enjoy this new artwork for your screens!

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the iphone images. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen.

High Resolution Desktop Wallpaper:


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