January’s Adventures in Homeschooling

This year we began homeschooling Lucy (7), Hattie (5), and Beatrice (2). 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.

This month for our homeschooling adventures, we focused on three main themes – SNOW, CHINA, and BIRDS (as well as lots of other side projects and studies). I love how January can feel a bit slower after the craziness of the holidays. January also feels like a nice long month which affords the time to really dig in. Being able to learn alongside my children has been such a joy this month. I have loved being exposed to new poetry, learning the stories behind the Chinese New Year celebrations, understanding better why we use salt to melt ice, and so much more. Spending days in and out with these sparkly little souls is such a gift. Here is a photo journal of our January days. Enjoy! (and if you have any questions about any of the supplies/books/projects etc, please let me know! )

Snow Week:

Our first exploration for the month of January was everything SNOW. Read Aloud Revival posted a great booklist where we pulled a lot of our inspiration for this week. We particularly loved “Snowflake Bentley”, “The Story of Snow”, and the Robert Frost poem so beautifully illustrated by Susan Jeffres (one of my all time favorite illustrators) –
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We started off our snow study with a series of science experiments – what happens to the temperature/mass/volume of snow/water/ice after time and the addition of salt?

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Once we had a better understanding of the WHY behind how salt effects snow temperatures, we had to of course try making our own ice cream using snow and salt. We basically followed these directions. It was pretty delicious.
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After reading all about Snowflake Bentley, we tried our hand at taking some snow crystal photographs using my little macro lens for the iPhone. Here is one of Lucy’s photos.

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Following along with the scientific mindset, we have been charting the winter sky with paint (and the intention of making these into tiny quilts)

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And charting the winter temperatures… (reading thermometers, bar graphs, F vs. C, etc!)

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CHINA Week:

As we continued our passport and coloring map tour around the world, we took a week this month to head to China! Here are the girls coloring on our giant world map.

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The kids particularly enjoyed looking at all of Tim and my old photos and souvenirs  from our 2008 trip we took to China.

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We celebrated the Chinese New Year in style with lots of unusual candies and treats that we picked out from our local Asian market –

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Lucy helped orchestrate the making of a Chinese dragon and a lantern parade –

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We painted Chinese calligraphy signs for good luck and made Chinese lantern decorations –

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And did our best to wear authentic Chinese dress –

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Harriet: “Mom? Where do pandas sleep?”
Me: “I think in trees”
…And then I find this after the kids have gone to bed –

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We mailed Chinese postcards to friends
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And enjoyed so many fun books about China – our favorites were the “Moonbeams, Dumplings, and Dragon Boats” book, and the Tintin graphic novel “The Blue Lotus”
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BIRD Week:

This last week of January has been all about birds.
Learning the names of the birds that come to our bird feeder, sketching birds, listening to birdsongs, etc.

The Odd & Random BEST of 2016 List!

We’ve posted lists at the end of the year for both 2014 & 2015 and they’ve included some of our favorite foods, experiences, stories, etc. from the year. Here’s our new, curated list for 2016.

It is odd and random, but it is our “best of’s” for sure!

BEST IN-DEPTH CONVERSATION TO HAVE of 2016

I’ve gotten together with many different friends over this last year and asked the question, “Have you heard of the enneagram?” And it is a GREAT and rich conversation to have.

The enneagram is a very old model for understanding human personality. There are 9 different types and it is surprising how dead on these 9 descriptors can be! Here’s a lengthy podcast by the Liturgists that will give you all the info for a great conversation piece with friends and family.
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BEST NEW GREELEY RESTAURANT of 2016

Royal Nepal is an Indian Restaurant in Greeley that opened this year. I went in for lunch once… then went back 3 more times that month. It is an incredibly affordable buffet with wonderfully prepared food. If you are local try it out!

Here’s the Facebook info.
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BEST NEW WAY TO LISTEN TO MUSIC of 2016

My brothers and I don’t really exchange gifts for Christmas or birthdays. But this year my oldest brother, Scott, let me know he sent Brad and I a gift that he discovered this year.

They are noise-cancelation, cordless headphones and they have changed how I can listen to music in our home. Can you imagine that it gets loud around our 6 member household? These headphones allow me to hear the music with intense balance of bass and treble. I’m even wearing them right now as the kids are playing with their cousins in great cacophony.
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BEST LIFE-CHANGING PRACTICE of 2016

“The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. Last January Betony and I read this book together after so many friends suggested it. It takes you through a process of clearing you home of all the stuff that’s built up. We wrote about it here earlier this year.

After doing this practice in January we’ve still had clearing days each month and taken things into Good Will. I would say it added 30% more space to our small home. That’s my favorite thing about it.

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THE FULLY LISTENED-TO ALBUMS of 2016

Anymore I rarely listen through an entire album. I listen to singles and bits of albums here and there. But there were 3 albums I actually listened to all the way through this year!

Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book
Bon Iver, 22 a Million
Moana, Movie Soundtrack
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BEST PODCAST MOMENT of 2016

The Robcast from Rob Bell has been one of my favorite places for spiritual conversation the last couple years. This time he has with Father Richard Rohr is just unreal. As Rohr talks I realized so many of my favorite speakers from churches have been stealing his stuff for years!

BEST READING of 2016

Of the books we read this year these are the ones that stayed with Betony and I:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
I had low expectations for this play inspired by JK Rowling but written by others. But as I read it I just loved it. Great characters, great additions to the Harry Potter world, and great themes to play on that stay true to the series.
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Finding God in the Waves
A Christian who turned atheist then turned Christian again (nicknamed “Science Mike”) wrote this non-fiction book. His story is filled with raw honesty and really enriching science. The piece impacted my faith this year, for sure.
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Illustrated “Wizard of Oz”
Betony read this book aloud to the kids. She would read during “tea times” out on the porch this fall every 10 AM of their homeschooling days. She fondly remembers it as a magical time.
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BEST APPS of 2016

From online suggestions Betony found the DragonBox apps. Our girls are able to do pre-cursors to basic algebra now! They approach it in a crazy, visual way, but it works. The company has about 5 different math apps each for different ages and they are all fantastic.
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Betony saved downloading Samorost 3 until after Arlo was born as something for her and the girls to explore together. It didn’t disappoint. The graphics are stunning. It is such a weird and fun world to explore. I would recommend playing it on an ipad rather than a phone if possible.
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BEST NETFLIX AND CHILL of 1985 (kidding, 2016)

Obviously, Stranger Things had to make it onto this list. Betony and I would put the kids to bed and tell each other “We’ll only watch one episode!” Two and a half hours later we’d head up to bed. Slightly creeped out but thoroughly entertained. Great throw backs to the 80’s, great story, and fantastic characters.

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January Free Calendar Desktop and iPhone Wallpaper

Happy 2017!

Last night after midnight I was laying awake thinking about what word encapsulated this next year. What immediately came into my head was the word “Light” – being light-hearted, being light in the dark, holding things lightly, etc. Still playing it out, but here is a sunrise piece for your new year.

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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