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February’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.

February has been a month filled with lots of preparations and travel. We went to KS to wrap up some projects and visit family. As for our homeschool activities, they all had this wonderful literary bent to them. Colorado (and KS) are mostly very unpleasant in February – not much snow, just wind and cold. So it has been a perfect month to get lost in stories. Here is our homeschool photo journal for February.

Valentines Celebrations:

We had a wonderful Valentines tea party in Kansas with grandmas and cousins. Pretty wonderful. Lots of Valentines makings…

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Lucy’s valentines – little origami boxes, with Washi tape ribbons, filled with heart garlands she made.
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Harriet’s wonderful gigantic heart.

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Woodworking:

Early in the month, we all drove out to Kansas to spend some time with family and for me to do a book signing for the Bravest Adventure and to build frames for my new series of paintings with my dad. We started Arlo out young on his woodworking skills.

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Since we had access to my dad’s wonderful workshop and tools, we slipped another tiny project into the mix – making a toy tabletop theater! Here is Lucy helping with the construction (learning from the best!).

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Fables & Theater:

Thanks to the inspiration from Read Aloud Revival, one of our themes for February was Fables. Here are some of the books we enjoyed. I hadn’t realized what an illustrative force Paul Galdone was until now!
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The girls picked “The Teeny Tiny Woman” as our first fable to perform. Here we are working on the backdrops.

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And here is a photo of our debut show in our newly dubbed “Fable Theater”.

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My little theater painter helper…
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And the ever dramatic Lucy presenting the newly painted facade! Pretty cool, right!?

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Later in the month, we also put on a show of Peter Pan! More on that in a moment….

Story Telling:

Alongside exploring the wonderful worlds of fables and poetry this month, I wanted to jump into crafting more of our own stories. So we invested in a few fun new story telling games. Story cubes – (which I will be honest, I was a little skeptical about, but the girls LOVE. So simple, with endless creative possibilities.)

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And this really charming fairytale story telling puzzle I found on Amazon. The pieces can be rearranged in any order to tell different stories. The illustrations are lovely and the story possibilities surprisingly diverse.IMG_8869

Nature Study:

We really haven’t done much Nature study this month (February… blech). But, I couldn’t not mention how much we are LOVING the new Planet Earth II series. Takes my breath away every time.

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Robotics:

The fun little surprise exploration this month was into robotics. Lucy desperately wants to build a real robot, so we are digging into the worlds of electronics and computer programming. Giving this artsy mama a run for her money….

Deconstructing an old VCR for parts…
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Building “Brush Bots” (like hexbugs) thanks to YouTube… (we also made straw light sabers, but forgot to photograph)

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Poetry:

February being the cold blustery month it is, and as an ode to love poems everywhere 🙂 we did a little focus on Poetry this month. I put together this basket near our breakfast table of all of our favorite poetry books and a few new ones from the library (we fell in love with this one in particular). Each morning we took turns picking poems to read out loud as a family.

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Here is the little basket graphic I made. Feel free to use it if you want to make your own poetry basket…
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We also enjoyed this kids illustrated biography of the poet e.e.cummings. Look how beautiful that sky poem is…

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Tried our hand at writing some typewriter poems…

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As well as rhyming poems, shape poems, and acrostic poems!

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Physical Eduction:

Along with our normal dance classes and as many park trips as we could manage,
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we practiced a little circus arts… 🙂
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Gymnastics at Grandmama and Grandpapa’s house…

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Ice skating…

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and Arlo and Dad watching the superbowl… Does this really count as Physical Education?

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Literature:

Our classic we read this month was J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (beautifully illustrated/interactive version by Minalima). The girls LOVED it. Lucy bawled at the end and Harriet right away wanted to read the entire book again (we did not, ha).

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As a finale to finishing the book, the girls and I put together our own production of Peter Pan performed on our tiny theater.

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Paris:

Attempting to build Eiffel towers out of toothpicks and marshmallows while learning about all sorts of 3D structures.

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Coloring France on our world map

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Eiffel tower drawings
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Homemade crepes and french pastries for French food sampling…so….yummy….
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So many fun Paris books. We really loved all of these.
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But especially Paris Up Up and Away. It is filled with intricate silhouette papercuts!
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Speaking of papercuts, we also made one more of these FREE printable paper structures to add to our growing collection of famous monuments.
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Art:

One of the Paris books we read – Painting Pepette – is about a little girl who takes her stuffed bunny to several different famous artists to have his portrait painted (Picasso, Dali, Matisse, and Chagall). Each artist paints Pepette in his unique style. We took inspiration from the book and did our own series of bunny portraits inspired by the greats.

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painting peppette

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Speaking of bunnies… Lucy also (probably inspired by the Butter sculptures at the Kansas State Fair) made her own butter, and sculpted it into this fierce bunny.

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That’s all for now folks! March is going to be all about Egypt, Passover, St. Patricks Day, Colors, and Coding… I am excited already….

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NEW Bellwether Art Series: Thoughts & Stories Behind the Paintings

 If you are interested in purchasing an original or reserving a print from this series, go to the live Facebook album here.

These paintings will all be on display together for the month of March at the Atlas Theater in greeley, CO.


It is always the stories of hardships where people learn most. Pruning moments are the ones that force growth. This morning I read a really lovely reflection on the season of Lent and how it is a parallel soul process to clearing out our gardens in the spring – removing dead brush and plants, and prepping the soil for new growth. I feel like that with this art series. A year ago Tim and I decided to collaborate and do a series of music and art exploring belief. We knew we wanted to call the series Bellwether – after the sheep who is a little more curious and leads the flock.

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Bellwether        
 Size:18×24         Price: $325
       Print Size: 8.5X11

What’s funny is that belief is an area I have a hard time with. I constantly shy away from the conversation; even in my own introspection. It’s an area I’ve had this unhealthy apathy towards for a long time. I’m not really interested in digging for deeper understandings of what I believe. Needless to say, this series has been a good push for me.

Even now, on the other side of creating this art, I am not sure that I could answer those questions of what do I believe any better. But I do know that I have at least found new understandings. The more I create, the more I realize that my own process is one of excavation. When I am creating a new painting, I often don’t know what exactly I will uncover until I’ve brushed away the dirt, cleaned it off, and revealed what was hiding the beneath the surface. It is as much a process of surprise for me as for anyone. I often find I’m exploring an issue or an idea that I didn’t even realize it until I’m 3/4’s of the way through the piece. It’s a very unconscious, spiritual process just in itself. At the best of moments, there is this letting go of control and letting the work happen. And whether it’s a connection to the divine, some primal understanding, or life force, I don’t know. But I know that in that moment of letting go and discovery are found my most profound moments of connection with something bigger than myself.

Each painting in this series explores a faith archetype– a story that we find repeated again and again in literature and mythology. Like the hero’s journey, these are stories that our larger collective conscience as human beings resonate with again and again.

These are stories of sacrifice, baptism, rising from the dead, deserts, and being lost and found. They are stories that make their way into the religious texts of most faiths. Stories that have been around as long as humans have looked up to the clouds and prayed to the gods.

For me each of these pieces has a very personal narrative. They represent little moments in my own story and life that have spoken to those larger archetypes.


The Invitation/Call is a ladder up to a children’s play treehouse amongst golden leaves.

Tree with Ladder

Wonders & Ladders            Size:18×24          $375                Print Size: 8.5X11


Rebirth/Rising from the dead is seen in the prairie that’s been burned to the ground but then grows back richer and more full of blooms then ever before.

Lidice Rising

Lidice Rising              Size: 30 x 48              $770
          Print Size: 11X17


The Cathedral is a garden and a barn speaking of home.

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Cathedrals
        
Size:20×24 
         $410      
Print Size: 12X16


Breaking Bread/Communion is a table set with dishes that have history and story, eating food made by loving hands, of recipes steeped in story.

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Tables          
 Size:16×40 
         $380 
            Print Size: 8X17


Sacrifice is the tiny bird found along the Poudre river trail that we happened upon while walking one summer evening; so heartbreaking and it’s stilled perfection.

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Sparrow 
       Size:12×16
          $210
        Print Size: 8.5X11


The Desert is a feeling of apathy paired with an inability to stop time. A quote I pair with this piece is: In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. – Albert Camus

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“It has to keep going“
 
 Size: 24×36                $620
                 Print Size: 11X17


Dark Fields are those moments when you look across the prairie and the air and sky are weighted down with the ominous presence of an oncoming storm and the air feels thick around you there is an anticipation and waiting and surrender to what might happen.

Dark Fields

Dark Fields          Size: 16×20          $210 
           Print Size:8.5X11


Heaven is found in a reoccurring dream of a house with many rooms where there is this overwhelming joy of discovery and exploration of new realms.

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I have a reoccurring dream about: A House with Many Rooms
       Size:24×30         $580
           Print Size: 12X16


The Prodigal Son story of being lost and then found and getting lost and found again is this cyclical journey we are all on where we leave home to try to find something we were missing. Yet we come back to see the light and warmth of the place we left. It is the leaving to seek adventure and then the coming back home again with a new understanding and appreciation for the beauty of home.

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Lost and Found         
 Size: 48 x36            $1100
             Print Size: 12X16


The Pilgrimage is unplugging from technology, getting in the car before dawn, and heading somewhere serene.

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Pilgrimage 
         Size:20×20             $290
              Print Size:12X12


Baptisms are the moments of rain when I felt uprooted in my journey and that my life was turning in a new direction. For some reason in my life whenever I have a major life change, it always rains.

Baptism          
Size:9×12 
      $150


Babel is the cacophony and diversity of birds and squirrels squawking at the feeder outside my window. And our sometimes comical inability to understand each other. Placed within this piece are birds both myself and my daughters have illustrated. (Lucy and Harriet, 7 and 5.)

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Babel        
 Size:20×20
          $270
            Print Size: 12X12


Miracles are in the immense complexity and beauty of the every day.

Loaves and Fish

Loaves and Fishes        Size:12×16        $185
             Print Size: 8.5X11


The Woods

The Woods             Size: 24×36
            $580
             Print Size: 11X17


All of these are summed up in a human life. A barreling journey through existence on a track from which we can but move one direction. Lighting our way as best we can.

Onward

Onward           
Size: 48X30
           $1200
          Print Size: 11X17


The art show will be up for the month of March at the Atlas theater, if you are local to our area. I would love if you have a chance to come take a look at the pieces in real life and have a moment to share your thoughts and responses to the work. While you’re there take a moment to listen to these first songs by Tim that go alongside the paintings. Get a coffee from TJ ( my personal favorite this time of year is a lavender latte in a tall glass), sit down and spend a few minutes reflecting on your own story, what you believe, and excavating wonder.

Much love,

Betony

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Our New Kickstarter Goal!

Thank you so much, friends. We released our Kickstarter last Wednesday and it was reached by the end of the day! We were overwhelmed and felt really honored and thought, “We should have set the goal higher”. hahaha

All these pre-sales are going to help cover our FULL expenses in making this project (we’re close to hitting that mark soon)!

As we have 11 days left we wanted to think through a new goal. But we didn’t really want it to be a monitory one… So here it goes…

Our Next Kickstarter Goal

When we reach 175 Backers total we will:

*Produce a PODCAST with Bellwether
*Dedicate to a COMMUNITY PROJECT for 2018

We chose these two things because we felt like our backers would really appreciate and enjoy this! Plus we’d LOVE to do the work as well (while needing some good support-muscle to pull it off…)

I’ve been listening to podcasts for the last couple years fairly non-stop. I’ve found that productions like This American Life, The Liturgists, TedRadio Hour, and others are great vehicles for telling gripping and thoughtful stories. If we made a podcast we’d release shows under the themes of Cathedrals, Tables, and Dark Fields. The episodes would search these sacred spaces…

Then for a community project, we have friends here in Greeley that do incredible work with refugee high school students. Betony and I have begun talks with them as to what it would look like if we ran some song-writing or art-clinics? Our friends are already helping the students tell their stories. What if we did some grass-roots recording of the poems and songs they’re coming up with? feature the art they’re making? (And then share that all with you, our backers, in 2018!)

Again, thanks. Many of you have backed the project!

If you haven’t backed it yet or want to share the link again here it is: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/216450051/giants-and-pilgrims-bellwether?ref=user_menu

Peace,

Tim Coons

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Thank You! Our Kickstarter was Funded in One Day! (with 16 days to go)

Friends,

I hmmd and hawwwed over whether to do a crowd-sourcing campaign with this new project. What if this wasn’t good timing? Would Betony and I come across as needy, desperate or self-important or any of the other dangers of posting work through social media? Is Facebook swimming in too much political-fatigue to post about art & music right now?

It’s a vulnerable thing to offer something you’re creating to the world and ask “Would you purchase this? Is it of value to you?” Bet and I have found great value in the making of the art, for sure. To then offer it to others is still such a risk.

All this to say, we are so honored today. I’m so glad we decided to share Bellwether with you through a Kickstarter! Now, rather than releasing the project (next month) deep in the red with our fingers crossed, we’ll be able to relax and unroll the work without anxiety. Thank you.

We will be continuing to share the campaign over the next 16 days. We’ll be thinking through some “stretch goals” (who would like to see us do a podcast?) and keep letting folks into the art & music we have to offer. We’re confident you all will love it.

If you haven’t had a chance to look at all the pre-sales from Bellwether we’ve released, here’s the LINK.

Thanks again. You’re support has been tremendous,

Tim & Betony Coons
Giants & Pilgrims

 

 

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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.

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December’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.

December has been a full month around here learning how to be a family of six, shuttling kids to Nutcracker rehearsals and performances, doing ALL the advent things, baking cookies, celebrating Christmas, and enjoying time with family. Here are some highlights from this month of homeschooling –

ADVENT Activities:

For years, we have enjoyed the Jacquie Lawson computer advent calendars. This years was a British seaside theme.

 

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We also always love the Lego advent calendars. They have a tiny set to build every day..

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This year we purchased Jennifer Naraki’s Slow + Sacred Advent. It is an ebook that was written to guide families through the four weeks leading up to Christmas.  It includes personal stories, Biblical theology, and four weeks of creative, yet simple thematic plans. We really enjoyed it and look forward to using it again in years to come.img_7291

Advent closed with all of us at a candlelight service together at Tim’s Church – Saint Andrew United Methodist in Highlands Ranch.
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Getting MOVING:

December is always hard because weather in Colorado isn’t the best for playing outside. And, with a new baby, it’s hard to get the girls out and about. Here are a few of the fun activities we fit in –

Cosmic Kids Yoga (always a hit around here) –

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Tim took the girls ice skating –

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and sledding!

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And Lucy and Harriet had their debut in the Nutcracker Ballet as presents! They were stunning.

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Arlo missed most of the show…Grandma was just to cozy.
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RUSSIA:

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, because the girls were part of the Nutcracker, we chose Russia. img_7139

We had a wonderful “Russian” tea time – listening to Tchaikovsky, making these delicious Russian tea scones, and drinking Russian spice tea, and reading the Nutcracker.

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Canon has a whole set of the amazing (FREE!) printable paper models of famous building. So we made St. Basil’s Cathedral! The instructions and cutting were a little too tricky for the girls, so mom and I did most of it. My puzzle loving brain had a blast. I want to make more!
img_7281img_7163 img_7175  Here are the books we read about Russia. Thank you High Plains library!img_7337

History:

Our favorite history activity this month was visiting Centennial Village’s Homesteader’s Holiday.
Centennial Village is a living history museum in Greeley (actually where Tim and I got married!).
Here are the girls making hand dipped candles in the old Carriage House –
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And Beatrice exploring outside the historic church – img_7242

STEM:

Lucy saw an experiment in The Dangerous Book for Boys on how to make a Battery. She has been asking about it for a while so we decided to try it. And it worked!

img_7426 img_7429  Battery making led to playing with our Snap Circuits Jr. kit – a great toy that teaches the basics of Electronics.img_7430

We also picked up a cool new single player puzzle game called Katamino that is quite the brain teaser. Harriet got quite into it.img_7482

Art and Handicrafts:

With the flurry of gift making and house decorating, we spent a lot of time MAKING this month.

Making foil stained glass windows –img_7152 img_7154
Making Foil star garlands and stick stars (for our Nature Pal Exchange friends) img_7324 Making Waldorf window stars –img_7346

Making handmade Christmas presents – img_7529

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And making a stocking for this handsome little man –

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MUSIC:

The girls have continued with their music classes at Union Colony Children’s Music Academy which they love. Tim has been working on tracking for our new album -which means we have amazing musical visitors in and out of the studio. Our friend Sigourney was kind enough to let the girls try out her stunning concert harp.

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NATURE STUDY:

For our nature study we received this super fun box of nature crafts from our nature pen-pals in Florida.img_7479

WRITING:

We did lots of letter writing this month – tons of thank you notes, pen-pal letters, and of course some super sweet correspondence addressed to the North Pole.

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On a different side, Harriet has really enjoyed playing Reading Eggs on the computer.readingeggsmap

READING:

We enjoyed so many wonderful stories this month. (Especially thanks to lots of time sitting nursing!)

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We also really enjoyed Read Aloud Revival’s Christmas Book list recommendations – img_7423

Merry Christmas everyone! Thanks for following along!

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The Bravest Adventure Book Release!!

Exciting news friends! I have a new children’s book out – The Bravest Adventure – published by Archway publishing. My sister-in-law and I made a book together and it’s beautiful! I have been just dying to share it with you, but until yesterday there was no good way to purchase it. But, it is officially available on Amazon now! There are enough photos and sketches here for several posts, but I have so many favorite pages that I had trouble narrowing it down and I wanted to share some of the process behind the illustrations. The story is poetically written and the perfect inspiration for all young adventurers. I can’t wait for you to read it.

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Here are some of the sketches, process pictures, and final pages of the book to spark your interest. Hope you like it!

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November’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.

November was such a beautiful and memorable month around here. Most importantly, we welcomed the newest addition to our family on November 18th – sweet Arthur Thaine. A Boy! Heavens!

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We are still adjusting to what it looks like to have one more around here, but mostly things are going well. Momma needs more sleep, all the girls are in need of a little extra snuggle time, and chaos is reigning just a little bit more in our house, but it is all so good and everything feels right. And we are all relishing the tiny ears, coos, and fluffy hair of  our tiny Arlo.

Here is where we have been during the month of homeschooling –

COOKING and MATH:

Since November is meant to be about all things feasting, we took a break from our normal Math rhythms and learned about fractions, addition, and measuring through the very practical handicraft of cooking. I found this highly reviewed kids cookbook on Amazon. (And these inexpensive but very practical aprons  – the kids each picked their own color). We also got these fraction sticks to help explain how fractions work – very helpful when measuring ingredients.

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The girls – with very little help from me – made ‘grab and go’ granola bars, popcorn balls, homemade orange juice, breakfast sandwiches, yogurt parfaits, perfect grilled cheese,  parmesan chicken bites with dipping sauce, and more. Lucy especially loved the independence of doing everything herself. And all the recipes were tasty! The cookbook also has lots of fun stickers and punch outs in the back.

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Our cooking month’s finale was of course a grand Thanksgiving feast.

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One other little note on Math –

We have LOVED the new BigNumbers Ap from Dragon Box. It sneakily teaches lots of cool long addition and subtraction.

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GAMES GALORE:

Our second theme for the month of November was Games!!

A couple of new favorites that we added to our collection:
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CURRENT EVENTS:

A day was spent on our political system, voting, and elections.

A thank you note written to the president for his service.

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Watching election results come in –

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A visit to our city hall

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And dropping off our ballot.

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READING AND LITERATURE:

Here were our reading books for the month:
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Plus ALL the Thanksgiving books (especially thanks to Read Aloud Revivals beautifully curated list):

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Tea time mostly had to move inside because it is starting to get CHILLY here! Not nearly enough snow yet though…
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Art and Handicrafts:

Especially while passing the time waiting for the newest addition to our family, Lucy, Harriet, and I all worked on our own little illustration projects.
Me on a whole series of Alphabet Letters (the first part of are available here).

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Lucy on a whole series of Christmas Reindeer to sell at Indie Arts Greeley (a wonderful local craft show that has become a family affair)

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And Harriet on a whole series of Christmas Trees that she also sold at Indie Arts Greeley’s Winter Market.

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Here is their practice set up for the market –
Note: I love this tradition. I feel like they are learning so much through the process – talking to customers, making change, money math, etc.
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We made concrete candle holders and poured soy candles (which Tim’s scented in various wonderful Christmas scents)

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The girls rolled beeswax candles

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And we got out our little loom and started work on a colorful scarf (alongside our Native American study)img_6790

History and Culture:

Instead of choosing a country to study this month, because of Thanksgiving, we decide to read about and explore Native American stories and culture.
Here is a sampling of the library books we found –
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Good old fashioned audio tape books are the greatest –

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An unseasonably warm November made for perfect teepee building weather – and the perfect location for tea and stories.img_6780
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Our history study of Jamestown lead us to creating a lego reenactment of Jamestown, John Smith, and Pocahontas.

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Nature Study:

This month’s nature outings weren’t anything grandiose. Just simple quiet times visiting and playing in some of our favorite spots and soaking up the last warm days.

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Swinging on willow branches

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Weaving willow branch baskets

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Colorado sunsets

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And a little moss collecting from beside our house made into a simple terrarium.

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Sketches of what moss looks like through a microscope.

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And leaf jumping of course.

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CHARACTER:

For November, we continued our family tradition of making a Thanksgiving tree table altar.

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And finally, to get into the spirit of Christmas/Advent, we put together a box for Operation Christmas Child together.

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The Things We Do to Remain Inspired

Betony and I and several of our friends had dinner a few weeks ago with Wes Sam-Bruce and his wife, Emi. He had just gotten back from doing a HUGE installation in the San Diego Children’s Museum. It had been half a year of work that had just reached completion. We had a lovely dinner and Wes told us stories of the adventure and shared all about his process, the headaches, and how everything came to be.

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As we were leaving another friend of ours said, “Wes, your attention to the process is just unbelievable.” And that’s what’s special about Wes’s work. Your first encounter is incredible, but then layer after layer you realize just how thoughtful every move and decision and icon is. It comes through subtly as a great depth you can get lost in.

So Bet and I started thinking, how are we doing in our own creative process? Are we giving intentional attention to it? With a large family and other full-time work it’s difficult for that to happen.

So we took some notes and did some fun dreaming as we talked. Listed here are bits and pieces of Betony and my creative process. This is where we find inspiration and also what helps us fine-tune the work. Feel free to add to our list in the comments. Hearing how different people approach making things can only aide us all in our creating.

*Inspiring Media

There’s a website called This is Colossal that continually posts unbelievable projects and finds. As I am writing this today’s post is titled “The Milky Way reflected Onto the Largest Salt Flat in the World.” Right?

It’s sites like this that stoke something in me. Honestly, it’s media that takes a bit of effort for me to digest… like watching a documentary rather than a summer blockbuster (we’ll talk about “twaddle” further down). But after navigating this site for a while you begin to come away from it inspired and full, like from a big, nutritious dinner.

*Journaling

My wife always keeps a sketchbook. It’s where the beginnings of ideas are born and others are completely framed out. It’s the place she keeps inspiring words and ideas and experiences. She’s constantly drawing and writing from the environment, capturing moments with our kids or something someone said. It almost as if she carries an external processor for life!

Another friend of mine keeps this practice of journaling as well. He talks about how if he’s keeping a journal everything has so much more clarity and even his understanding of himself is enriched. When he lags on the practice, things get murky.

Makes me want to keep a journal! I haven’t for years but I’ve found similar experiences in prayer, myself!

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*Quote Keeping

Betony has been doing this for some time. We actually have a list of favorite quotes that are mantras we come back to;  greatest hits if you will (and Betony will sometimes randomly illustrate them!)… My favorite quote of all time is included on this list, one on empathy (probably because I’m not a highly empathetic person so I need the reminder). It’s,

“Always be kind, for everyone you meet is going through a great battle.”

So true of life.

So we remind ourselves of these sayings often, but we also send them to each other too. I just sent Betony this quote from Wendell Berry someone posted on FB: 

No, no, there is no going back.
Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you.
You have become a sort of grave
containing much that was
and is no more in time, beloved
then, now, and always.
And so you have become a sort of tree
standing over the grave.
Now more than ever you can be
generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear
forever, and yet remain
unaging in the mind.
Every day you have less reason
not to give yourself away.

Doesn’t reading that fill you with a sort of quiet, peaceful inspiration?

On a last, funny note. While writing this I’ve realized Betony has inspired me to send quotes all the time. Just this week I sent a friend this quote from Addams Family (the movie). Mortitia Addams is talking to Fester about their family motto:

“Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc!”
We Gladly Feast on Those Who Would Subdue Us”.
Not just pretty words…

I knew I had to send that one off to someone.

*Avoiding Twaddle

Betony just began homeschooling our kids and this term “twaddle” comes from a homeschooling guru named Charlotte Mason. (Mason wrote about children’s education methods in the early 1900’s and has seen a big resurgence lately.) “Twaddle” is kind of hard to describe. But I’m referring to it here as hyper, titallating media that is weak and diluted; it feeds on our lowest intelligences and is generally poor quality.

So avoiding twaddle would be: choosing to watch Mr. Rogers over Power Puff Girls. Or reading a classic over a pulp novel. Or engaging a music documentary rather than New Girl. Not letting hours of your day be sucked up reading facebook comments and twitter feeds.

Honestly, I think some twaddle in life is good. At the end of a good and full day I’m tired! Raising children and doing substantive work takes it out of you, so a brainless sit-com is just what I need sometimes.

But (another food metaphor) just as having a frozen pizza for dinner is easy and habit-forming, so is consuming twaddle. Over the years I’ve realized that when I take the energy to read some poetry over skimming Facebook for example, my art thanks me for it. In the same way that my body thanks me when I partake in a real dinner and not another frozen pizza.

*Community

A strange thing happens when I play a new song live for people. I can immediately tell whether it’s working or not. I can sense the weak parts and where I want to change lyrics… all before anyone gives me any actual feedback.

And so I try to workshop songs with people I love and trust all the time.

Sometimes it’s as simple as a friend coming over and sharing the tune. Sometimes I have seasons where Betony and I will actually have an arts small group. In that space we share our work with each other and give feedback. I’ve found these settings to be terrifying at times! It’s so vulnerable to share work that isn’t completed yet. But it’s also one of the most valuable ways of shaping work.

When we share our art in a trusted community it is an amazing litmus test and a real catalyst for taking the art to new places.

You can actually see in history that great works have been born more because of a good community than genius. Melville, Hawthorne, Emerson, and Thoreau all ran their works by each other. The impressionists all new each other and started the movement together. Stravinsky, Copland, and Phillip Glass all had the same composition teacher in Nadia Boulanger.

We want to attribute greatness to individuality, but that simply is NOT the case! So often these waves in literature, art, and music comes from a great community.

Along those lines, Betony and I are BRUTAL with each other when we critique. We’ve learned over the years how to do it so it doesn’t hurt feelings… Sometimes I’ll walk by a piece she’s working on and she’ll say, “Don’t say anything yet! It’s still coming together. I’ll show it to you soon…”

*Chasing the Spark

This one is written by Betony – I am starting to realize that when an idea hits or a fascination is discovered, it is best to see where it leads. I call it chasing the spark. Tim and I have this funny ongoing argument/joke about the way I work. I will have major deadlines and projects due and instead of doing what I am supposed to, I find myself making concrete candle holders or weaving willow baskets. Asking questions like – what am I going to do with a bunch of concrete candle holders? Or will anyone actually buy a picture of a giant grasshopper? – can get in the way of my creative energy and innovation. One of my favorite definitions of creativity is the “Art of Making Connections”. I am constantly finding that my itch to quilt in November, my love for baking for friends, that sudden need to explore a vast field, or to try my hand at a new craft – are not wasted. I rarely know how those handicrafts and time spent will feed into my work, but they do. The connections made and soul-filling time spent doing what I am most excited about always pay off.

*Live Experiences

Lastly, a great live experience can wonderfully affect process and inspiration!

Betony and I went to see the musical “Once” this year. I came away wanting to try a host of new things: in songwriting, performance, even in how I lead worship experiences… all from a musical.

Often high-quality live experiences can be expensive. From Cirque du Soleil to a family vacation, these are outings that require some budgeting. But we’ve found they can be well worth the money, creatively speaking.

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What would you add to the list? What practices enrich your creative process? Did you resonate with one of the processes listed? Feel free to comment here!

 

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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.

READING AND LITERATURE:

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).

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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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.
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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)

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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”
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The contents of the box we put together:

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Music

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.

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Math

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).

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

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Science

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


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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.

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Art/Handicrafts

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 🙂

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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.

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

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

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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!!!