Bugs, Berries, and Binoculars…. May’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.

May had lots of ups and downs for us. We wrapped up our homeschooling season with tons of fun adventures and explorations including taking a long trip to Kansas mid-month to rest and reset. Enjoy these tidbits and snapshots of our days. Life is pretty great.

Science Explorations:

A trip to Grandmama and Grandpapa’s farm is never complete with out learning some new birds and doing a little birdwatching.

We are now official members of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (when you have a big family, memberships are cheaper!). So we had a blast playing in their new children’s discovery area. LOTS of cool science-y things to play with.

Water tornados!

Aren’t these giant light boxes cool?

Getting Outside in the Sunshine:

As part of our outdoor adventures, we downloaded a geocaching app and while we were in Kansas had a great time “treasure hunting” for geocaches.

Here is one we successfully found inside a hollow tree.

And this is an abandoned schoolhouse from the turn of the century where there was supposed to be a geo-cache which we could not find.
But still pretty neat to explore – especially since the whole building was surround by wild blooming prairie roses.

As the weather got hot, we playing in the water a whole lot (Kansas has a monopoly on really cool free waterparks)

And while we were in Kansas, we relived some of my childhood memories of summer nights playing softball as a family. I love Lucy’s determination in these pictures.

Mulberry picking for days.

Not sure what is happening here, but Buzzy and her cousin Clarkson are working hard.

The girls’ first canoe rides out at the farm.

Strawberry picking at Great grandmother’s house

And these girls are ready for summer!!

Music:

Lucy has discovered a new instrument love in her little red Ukelele. Thanks to a pretty patient dad and some YouTube videos, she is picking it up fast!

 

Math + Reasoning:

Grandmama found a real winner of a game called “Outfoxed“. Similar to Clue but good for slightly younger kids, it is a great game of mystery and deductive reasoning. The girls LOVED it. We probably played at least 10 games while we were visiting.

Which by the way, I also have a new favorite game – Qbitz is soooooo fun! I cannot wait to own it.

I hit the garage sale jackpot this month and got all sorts of cool Montessori math manipulatives – including these amazing tangrams.

Can’t wait to play more with these beautifully made tools.

I also discovered that Sudoku is SOOO much more fun when played with beautifully colored marbles (Colorku)

Insects:

One of the main themes we played with this month was insects. And, inspired by Pinay Homeschool’s blog (she has so many great ideas), I started trying leaving out some trays for Beatrice to explore. At 2.5 she is right on the line of wanting to engage a bit more with what her sisters are doing. So for several mornings of the month, I prepped a tray the night before for her to explore during our homeschool time.

Here are some of the different trays I tried…

They were surprisingly fast and easy to put together and she loved them.

Beatrice investigating the world….

Sensory trays and plastic insects

A sticky mosaic craft from

Bugs pressed into kinetic sand

For the Very Hungry Caterpillar day we made a caterpillar themed snack to go with our tea time…

Those are grapes on skewers

Here are some of the Insect themed books we enjoyed. The Dianna Hutts Aston/Sylvia Long books are amazing.

Learning about bug classifications

And nomenclature

Illustrating butterfly life cycles

Harriet’s:

Lucy’s:

It was a bit of a splurge, but this beautiful puppet from Folk Manis was too wonderful to pass up.

Our visit to the Denver museum of Science and Nature fit right in.

 

Searching for worms and bugs under rocks in the garden.

We also got one of these cool butterfly hatching kits. It was amazing to watch the miraculous transformation of our caterpillars over the course of the month.

We released our five beautiful Painted Ladies in Hyde Park in Hutchinson, KS

 

History and VIKINGS!

As a fun tie back to our History studies from the very beginning of the Homeschool year when we learned about Leif the Lucky, we made a special trip to Denver to check out the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s Vikings exhibit.

Here is Lucy with a Viking learning how to spin wool.

The best part of the exhibit, in my opinion, was this beautifully handmade to scale viking ship.

Here are are girls standing next to the boat and also a reconstructed guess at how the vikings would have made sails – can you imagine how much work would go into shearing, spinning, and weaving to just get a small bit of fabric?!

Some stunning gold Viking jewelry

Geology:

Another one of our themes for May was rocks and minerals. Thanks to all of the mining history in our state, Denver has a pretty incredible collection of Gems & Minerals.

This is a reconstructed crystal cave at the museum

and some pretty incredible crystals formations

And a pot of gold found at the end of the rainbow. 🙂

We got this kit off of Amazon to start learning on our own some of the different types of rocks and minerals. It was so fun!

Art & Making:

Lucy and Harriet began writing a play and creating their own masks and props for it. Probably one of those whim projects that will never get finished, but fun nevertheless to see their wonderful creative spirits.

We saw some really wonderful monumental sculptures in Denver.

we sorted all the crayons by color…:)

And finally, as a kick off to summer and a celebration of the official end of our homeschool year, we had a lovely outdoor tie dye session. Now we have all sorts of red white and blue gear for July 4th!

 

April 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.

I was worried about putting together this post from April because April had moments of being a bit of a homeschooling slump month. We took a week off for “spring break” (which was really so we could fully enjoy family being in town). I had trouble hitting my stride with planning and inspiration. But of course, as these things go, once I start to compile the images, all my worries about “did we do enough?” are put aside because I feel full. Filling our days with these littles by our sides and digging into learning together just feels right. So Onward we go…
Here are some of our April Adventures in Homeschooling…

Art & Art History:

Harriet has discovered a new little love for coloring. Currently she is working her way through the Secret Garden coloring book while listening to the Audio book of the Secret Garden. Just like me, the girls have an easier time sitting and engaging with a story if they have something to keep their hands busy.

I am pretty sure my entire knowledge of Art History as a kid came from this game – Masterpiece. I am not even sure if they still make it, but it’s pretty great – involves lots of math/money understanding as well as great exposure to famous paintings, and has quirky clue-like characters. Still a little old for my littles but Lucy (7) picked it up right away. 

Baby Animal Days:

Each spring, our city puts on an event called baby animal days. It takes place at Centennial Village (a beautiful restored historic town where tim and I got married). It’s just a wonderful excuse to play outside in a lovely setting and pet all the babies.

Some good old fashioned stilt and wooded horse play

And speaking of baby animals, we had an important, but very sad life lesson with a little kitten that was dumped on us in a grocery store parking lot. She was obviously a bit too young to be taken from her mama. We took her to the vet and they sent up home with Kitten milk replacer, but from the very first day she did not look healthy or spunky. By her third night she had passed away. I was a very hard first experience with death for the girls.

Spirituality:

Our wonderful friend and neighbor Tammi has this incredible set of felt bible stories. On Mondays we have been walking down to her house where she treats the girls to a retold biblical story.

We have also been enjoying the illustrations and retellings in “Stories from the Bible.”

Easter:

Easter this year was such a treat. My sisters, a nephew, and parents were able to join us, Tim only had to do one service at his church, and the weather was just gorgeous.

We even all got to go to an Easter service together – which rarely happens since Tim works for a church.

Since my sister was in town, we got to do all the Easter fun together! Our best win was choosing to do a little easter egg hunt put on by a local ReMax instead of going to the insane large city one. It was a blast, and just the perfect balance of fun activities (a bouncy house, photo booth, lots of snacks, egg hunts for each age group, and an Easter bunny) and not too many people.

These are some of the lovely new Easter books we enjoyed this month.

   All the kids on Easter morning – baskets this year had new water bottles, rain boots, Kinder chocolate eggs, and bubbles! (Plus a couple of new Max books for the little ones)

My mom brought up with her a Ukrainian egg dying kit for making Pysanky eggs that we used as kids. It is this really beautiful and satisfying process that involves layering beeswax over progressive different dyes (the colors are crazy intense). After the final layer, you carefully remove the beeswax to reveal a multifaceted design.

My mom also put together a stellar egg hunt/treasure hunt in our back yard where the kids each found a giant treasure filled egg with their name on it!

Engineering/Making

Lucy capacity for “making things” is off the charts. She always has some wonderfully elaborate creation brewing. We found a pretty cool graphic novel on Amazon called HowToons. The story is about two inventor kids and as they go through the story they make inventions to solve challenges. In the novel it shows them how to build them themselves. Here is Lucy making a marshmallow shooter.

 

And now time for a battle…

Netherlands:

Inspired by the beautiful tulips popping up near our driveway and also the Holland stories in one of the history books we just finished. We decided to have our country we “visited” this month be the Netherlands.

The girls created a beautiful new mural above our bed with lots and lots of dutch tulips, a windmill, and stars.

For one tea time we sample a Dutch delicacy – Hagelslag – which is basically buttered bread with an unreasonable amount of sprinkles on top. It was surprisingly awesome.

Letter Writing:

We have continued our weekly Monday letter writing practice. And you know what? When you write lots of letters, you receive lots of letters. Seems like a good metaphor for life…

Math:

This next month (May) I am excited to really play with math a lot thanks to an incredible garage sell set of stuff I got (Montessori anyone?) but, in the meantime, for April, we had a nice time playing with our Brain quest books.

And discovering that Math is way more fun worked on while listening to favorite tunes on headphones.

Reading:

Our classics read aloud for April was Wind in the Willows (we still have about 1 chapter left). I found this beautifully illustrated version on Abe Books. The pictures by Inga Moore are so lovely and the editing is better than some other versions I have seen.

The day we started it was one of those perfect moments of all the stars aligning. We brought a picnic to eat under our favorite willow tree at our favorite park while I read aloud. The story starts with two new friends, Mole and Rat, packing up a picnic and heading down the river to a favorite willow tree. In the story their picnic is cold fried chicken – the very thing I pack us.

Our fun read-aloud (and also audiobook version) book was Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes. Although maybe best for ages 8 and up, I couldn’t recommend this book more highly. Such a fun quirky adventure story. We all loved it.

Letter Play:

Harriet has been doing really great with her Letter and letter sounds. Thanks to Pinay Homeschooler’s free printables we have been enjoying playing some phonics matching games. She is getting really got at it!


On April Fools day, the girls were sadly disappointed that the pan of Brownies turned out to be a pan of Brown E’s

Another new favorite book for letter play is Oliver Jeffers “Once Upon an Alphabet” book. Quirky and delightful with lots of hidden connections you don’t catch until the 2nd or third time through. 

Sensory Play:

Sunny days call for “car washes (bikes)” and play with rainbow sensory foam (so so easy – just a 2 Tbs dish soap +1/4 C. water  whisked with the kitchen aid and then colored with a few drops of food coloring).

We also played this fun memory game that Lucy found in a magazine. One person lays out 20 items covered with a towel. And then you uncover it for 30 seconds to look at them. And then try to recall as many items as possible.

Plastic melted bead crafts

  Button play with Grandmama at the CO antique button show.

 

Spring Nature Study:

A bunch of fun Spring themed books from our local library.

These are my new favorite…

Nest studies

Flower dissecting and learning about the different parts. 

Outdoor Play:

Scaling poles

Climbing trees

Swinging in hammocks

Exploring treehouses

Jumping on trampolines

And eating outside as often as possible.

Thanks for following along. See you in May!

Much much love, Betony

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…
pick a poem sign

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.

peter pan show

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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.
paper eiffel tower

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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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.

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

Making all the Christmas cookies – Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

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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How to Enjoy the Season: The Practice of Immersion

I love the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. I love the music, the lo-fi lilt and pace of the kid’s speaking voices, and the melancholy. The show starts out with Charlie Brown musing on something we’ve all felt as adults, at sometime or another. He confesses to Linus that he’s just not feeling it this year. He wonders if there’s something wrong with him. He has these ideals of how Christmas should feel and they’re getting overshadowed by commercialism and business.

I know I’ve felt that too. There was a few years ago that I went to a Christmas Eve service and it was really beautiful. We lit the candles, we sang “Silent Night”, we were with family… and after 45 minutes I left thinking, “Man, did Christmas just happen and I missed it?” It went too fast. It’s hard to pack in “all the feels” in under an hour.

I’m sure you’ve felt that too. As a kid, maybe you loved Halloween or Christmas or your family did something special for 4th of July, but now life is too fast and complicated. The days run into each other with no real variation and a quick meal or church service just doesn’t do things justice.

As a family, Betony and I actually love intentionally celebrating the holidays. It’s one of our favorite things- there’s such special activities that come with fall, winter, summer, and spring. It’s a priority for our family to have traditions and things we come back to. For us, it keeps us rooted in the season and helps us mark the passing of time.

So we came up with a way to enjoy the holidays; to set aside time for doing the things we enjoy with each month. I jokingly began to call it:
The Practice of Immersion.

It’s really simple actually. Instead of the holiday being just a day (or a meal or a party or a church service), we make sure and do several things we love and enjoy in the season leading up to the observed hoopla. For example, when October hits we don’t just get dressed and go trick or treating on Halloween… we listen to spooky music, we rake leaf piles to jump in, we make pumpkin bread, we read Poe’s The Raven out loud (I’ve gotten scarier and creepier with it each year)… It becomes a bunch of little things we love to do that slowly happen over the month. When Halloween arrives, we don’t feel rushed or pressured to do just one more house. We’re full. We’ve immersed ourselves in the season and it’s been great already.

(A side note on Christmas, I think this is why the early church leaders made sure Christmas wasn’t just a single event, but a whole season leading up to the celebration called Advent. We just need more than a day for the deepness of those wonderful themes to sink in.)

Below we’re offering some categories of ways a season can be observed. For each of the larger headings I’ll provide a Christmas example and some other holidays as well. The idea would be to pick a few of these you want to do for yourself or your family. Then when the day of celebration comes, it won’t feel like a one-off. It’ll feel like you’ve been swimming in the holiday themes for sometime. And in the immersion you’ll feel like you’ve truly lived in the season!

DISHES / DESSERTS / CANDIES

Around Christmas Betony likes to make a variety cookie plate. Who am I to stop her? In the fall we make sure and make chili and cinnamon rolls . In the summer we cook out on the high, holy days of grilling: Memorial Day, Labor Day, 4th of July…

Here’s a cookie recipe we’re trying this year.

MUSIC

We have a set of Christmas playlists we come back to each year. As well as Halloween, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, 4th of July playlists… and so on. As a musician it’s one of my favorite hobbies! Here’s a link to our Spotify. If you follow us you can see all of our seasonal playlists.

 

ACTIVITIES

This is a pretty big catch-all category.

But our trip to buy a tree and then decorate it is always a Christmas must. Before Halloween we find an enjoyable pumpkin patch then later carve the pumpkins we picked up. (We try not to just go to King Soopers for pumpkins, you know?) On St. Patrick’s Day we have people over for a meal and sing drinking songs and tell jokes.

RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE

This Christmas we’re doing “Slow & Sacred Advent”. We’ve been enjoying how it’s written in a way we can do it as a family. For Thanksgiving we have a “tree” and we add cut out leaves written with things we’re thankful for on them. That becomes our prayer. Also, I know families who have an advent wreath and light candles with scripture verses each week this time of year.

SCENTS

This one is strange category, but Betony and I go to Bath & Body Works every change of the season for candles. With Christmas we buy the Balsam Tree or Winter ones. For summer Cut Grass or Pomegranate are wonderful. Smell is so closely tied with memory and nostalgia that we LOVE to do this at the beginning of each change of season. It preps everything else in our minds.

CLOTHING

I don’t get into this one but my girls love finding matching outfits and go all out pretty much every holiday. I say I don’t do this but I do dress in all black on Good Friday. And I’ve been eye-ing an ugly Christmas sweater that is The Legend of Zelda themed. haha

DOCUMENTING

I don’t know if this would count as a category in and of itself, but Betony loves taking photos of all these different moments we’re experiences and then when New Years rolls around, we have markers for our memories!

In fact, a big thing I’ve heard people talk about lately is FOMO. Have you heard this term? It stands for “Fear of Missing Out”. When we do the Practice of Immersion and document what we’ve done, we can look back on the activities we’ve done. We can be comfy saying no to loads of other things to do.

 

Thanks for letting us share with you our method of enjoying the holidays! Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and catch a good sense of the holiday magic!

 

 

 

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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It Seems Like Some Thanksgiving Goodness is Needed Today

Last night is still sitting heavy in my heart this morning, so we are taking pause to just be quiet and thankful for the goodness and beauty that is around us. As I am writing this, my three girls are sitting in the sunshine making a strand of beads for our Thanksgiving tree. I am listening to one of our old Thanksgiving mixes and watching the flurry of activity out on my window bird feeder. I’m feeling like we need to be a little extra gentle with each other today. Here are some little bits of re-centering Thanksgiving goodness that are bringing me joy today.

A New Thanksgiving Playlist we put together for 2016 –


These really wonderful Chocolate Chip Zucchini muffins. Warmed up with a little butter, they make everything feel like its going to be OK.
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A lovely stack of Thanksgiving books from our local library inspired by this reading list.

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Write a note to someone today to tell them you are thankful for them. Here is a thank-you-note-printable I designed to get you started. Print as many as you like 🙂
(Click the link to open a printable pdf that is already sized and ready to print. I think it works best on cardstock paper, but whatever you have on hand will work.)

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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!!!