February 2018 Adventures in Homeschooling

Two years ago we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (6), Beatrice (3), and Arlo (1). 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.

Ancient Greece:

Because of the olympics, we thought this would be a great month to learn about ancient Greece.

We read D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths and I made these peg doll representations of each of the main greek gods with help from the girls.

We also read Lightning Thief for the first time.

And enjoyed tasting Mediterranean food courtesy of our TopMunch subscription

Coloring Greek god and goddess trading cards

Drawing mythical monsters

A selection of the Greek books we enjoyed exploring

Book Arts:

For our making this month, we explored the Book Arts – Marbled paper and Book Binding!

Making marbled paper for the end papers of our books –

Working on the covers for Asian stab-bound sketchbooks we made –

Harriet made an “un-tearable” tiny baby book for Arlo out of packing tape and her own illustrations

Constellations:

For science/nature this month, we learned about constellations (which tied in beautifully to our Greek Myth studies)

Magnets, Math, and Money:

In our little impromptu science club, we tried our hand at making Magnetic Slime

Played with fractions

Learning about money – “Count It and Keep It!” was a big hit with the kids.

Olympics:

The Olympics are my favorite! So fun to get to share this with the kids. We made tiny flags and olympic ring shirts for the opening ceremony.

Lots of USA spirit over here!

Watched Cool Runnings too just for fun

Preschool:

Learning about color mixing using air dry clay and “Do You Know Colors”

Lots of help from Buzzy getting this art piece ready to deliver to Houston

Stamping Letters

Valentines Day:

The table for valentines morning –

We participated in a Homeschool Valentine Exchange. So much fun!

Lots of love notes were written to each other

 

A very chilly Valentine tea party out in the tree house

Some of our homemade Valentines we made –

 

Valentine party in Kansas with Grandparents!

Wood Carving:

While in Kansas, we got to learn about wood carving from my Grandpa Fritz. So beautiful to watch.

 

Moving to a New House and a Song About Home

The blessings came in waves
and could be felt for days
O, how my bones still shake at your names
In sweat we set the stones
in blood we brick the roads
a holy breaking comes for every home

Give me your hand, we’ll climb up the balcony
Ditch the front row and sway with the symphony
Make as much noise and be as we want to be
Your voice in my voice and hands are the canopy
Feel the old rhythm play what’s inside of me

The fields are glories now, the fields are glories now
So guide your wild eyes down
The promise in the pain, the code that’s in the grain
We’ll move beneath the weight ‘til you raise


When I was a child, around this time of year on the orchard my dad would prune all the apples trees. I would help look for branches that were crossed, or growing in at strange angles. We would then clip off the offending branches and sometimes prop them with these little red supports to help them grow straight so that they could get the best light possible and eventually grow the best fruit.

Tim and I are moving to a new house in 10 days. We bought a “fixer upper” in the middle of town near a big park. It’s a MUCH bigger house in a nice quiet neighborhood. We weren’t really planning on moving yet, but then suddenly everything fell into line at the same time, like it does.

This whole moving thing is crazy… crazy exhausting, crazy nerve wracking, crazy exciting, and crazy scary.
Ten Years.
Ten years we have lived in this house I am sitting in right now.

I know where every light switch is and where to step over the crooked floor boards.
I know the name of every plant in the garden,
why there is a funny hole in the kitchen screen,
how to walk in the middle of the night so the squeaking floor doesn’t wake the children,
the funny trick to the bathroom door downstairs,
and the story behind most of the nail holes on the walls.

It’s where I found out I was pregnant for the first time and where I brought each of my four babies home to. It’s the place where we’ve had so many wonderful Christmases, Thanksgiving feasts, and simple, every day meals.
It’s where my children took their first steps, laughed their first laughs, and tried their first foods.

It’s also where Harriet broke her leg,
where the basement flooded too many times,
where I had my anxiety breakdown,
where Tim and I had our most difficult fights,
where we had belongings stolen off our front porch,
and had to call the cops on the neighbors so many times.

This house is old. It’s been around more than 100 years.
It really has seen its fair share of marital fights and make ups.
It’s flooded but it’s dried back out.
It’s been cold and drafty and also cozy and safe.

I hope it will be around for at least 100 more years. I hope it will be the same gift to the next residents as it has been to us. (Please take care of my planty’s!)

I am sure for this home, 10 years is just a blink. But it feels so significant to me. 

Somehow leaving this house feels much more substantial then leaving high school or leaving college. I suppose if you look at it that way, those were only four year institutions. This home has been ten of mine.
Ten years of themed birthday parties and late night hard conversations with friends sitting on the kitchen floor (the best place for those kinds of talks),
nights pacing back and forth with wakeful babies,
ten years of pinching pennies to patch the wear and tear of everyday life,
of having tea on the front porch,
hosting cooking clubs and wedding showers,
play dates,
years with miscarriages, mistakes, and misadventures.
All the rhythms of our days and what I know have been centered in this place for ten years.

You can hear it in my lists… It is breaking me to leave. It feels like a close friend.

Like family.

And I am scared.

Scared this new home won’t be me.
Scared I’ll hate it.
Scared something will happen to the kids and I’ll somehow blame this decision.
I am scared it will change me. Change us.

And yet it’s time.

Time to move on, time to adventure out, time to try something new, try our hand at starting with a blank canvas, try this new place out. It’s time to move.

Time passes so damn fast, doesn’t it?

My babies are getting bigger. It comes to the end of the day and I wonder. Wonder if I did it right, wonder if I could have played it out differently, wonder if this is it, wonder are we centering our lives on the right things? Wonder if we are making the right choice.

10 days. We are moving in 10 days.

So I’ve been obsessing over this new place. This new house.

It’s not the one I would have picked. I did not like it at first.
I love old and history and craftsmanship.
This is black shag carpet and popcorn ceilings. And florescent lights. And 80s. On a cul-de-sac.

So I have created every pinterest board, design mood board, photoshopped room, shopping budget, detailed plan I can possibly do with out actually living there.

And I am starting to see it.

See the lovely that could be revealed there.

I know I can make it beautiful.
I know WE will make it beautiful.
I think about how it’s only about a block from a huge green space,
and a pool,
and how I found rhubarb sprouting up near the fence,
and how this one room feels like the barn I grew up in,
and how the layout is perfect for us,
and how we will have room to spread out,
and be able to have people over more easily,
and host house concerts,
and how I want to give every room its own theme,
and how we are going to start off by pitching tents and camping in the great room,
and so many other new things.

It will be a challenge to start from a blank slate.
But we can’t wait. We are so excited.

And still, the packing and processing all the memories and moments sucks. It is such an emotionally wrecking experience. 

Is this pruning?

Pruning is painful but good. It helps us grow straight and true so we can bear more fruit.
The truth is that I am scared about not being able to find the light switches,
and whether I can hear the playroom from the kitchen,
and having to use a 1980’s electric stove for the next ten years,
and life on a cul-de-sac,
and even more that feeling of being exhausted and wanting to go home and not being able to.

But then I take that step back.
I am reminded of my white privilege and how we are going to be living in a mansion compared to the rest of the world, and how millions of refugees can’t ever go home again, and I feel stupid. Stupid white suburban mom. Ha.

You make it work and you make it beautiful and you invite people into the mess,
because it is NOT about it being beautiful.
And it is NOT about it being ugly.
And whether it is HERE or THERE doesn’t matter.

It is about WE. And US. And TOGETHER. And HOME. And LOVE in the best way we can.

And so, let’s adventure on family.

The Fire at the Orchard and a Song About Hope

A couple weeks ago an arson’s fire tore through central Kansas burning 800 acres. My wife’s mom and dad, who live on an apple orchard, lost almost everything. About 180 acres of their trees, farm buildings, equipment etc. burned. Their home miraculously survived as my father-in-law placed several sprinklers around the perimeter before making the final exit.

Betony and I were on tour in Houston and when we got back helped out with cleanup and rebuilding. While there, I had a chance to be with Mike and Elaine as they processed the great loss. In the turmoil of emotions and the various stages of grief I was very inspired by pictures we all were receiving of resilience and hope.

As we prepped and leveled the foundation to rebuild the well, my father-in-law, Mike, recounted just how incredible it was that people came out of the woodwork to help. Neighbors rushed in on four-wheeler‘s, people called and wrote with thoughts and prayers, and a go-fund-me reached its mark within the week.

Then, as we were throwing away hundreds of dollars worth of burnt hoses, the same hoses that saved the house, Mike told me to look over at the swing-set he’d built for the grandkids. It had fully lost one of its legs in the fire but was still standing, swaying slightly in the breeze.

“Do you think I’ll rebuild that Tim? Hell yes I will.“

Lastly, we received a FedEx delivery of 10 new cherry trees. Mike talked to their FedEx delivery woman who freely cried at the sight of devastation and offered condolences. As we were digging the holes for the new cherry trees, Mike excitedly ran over to to something he saw in the dirt. There was a large patch of new buds coming up only days after the fire had ripped through. He told me these were a specific type of flower that will now bloom brightly. It actually took a fire to enact their seeds.

With these pictures of hope and resilience: people rushing to help, the steadfast spirit of rebuilding in the face of destruction, an orchard on the edge of blooming wildflowers after devastation, I’m so taken by the paradox of death to rebirth. It’s stirring how hardship, tragedy, darkness, and death is answered by such resilience and hope and new life.

This week is Easter. It’s a great time to reflect on the darkness and tragedy found on Good Friday, and the new life and new hope that bursts forth on Easter Sunday.

Here’s a song I wrote specifically about hope called “There is a Balm in Gilead”. The title is taken from an old spiritual of the same name. The writers of that African-American spiritual encountered an old testament scripture that speaks of there being NO balm in Gilead to aid in suffering. And these writers, in there hardship and turmoil, answered with such hope and resilience. They stated no, there IS a balm in Gilead. God is our hope, our freedom, and our new life.

In the face tragedy, new life will burst forth. This is our great hope.

Here are the lyrics and the song for you to listen to.

There is a balm in Gilead
it comes like a  wisdom but speaks like children
it’s a sight to the blind and a strength to my weakness
it’s something for soul, body, mind

There is a balm in Gilead
it’s a rest for the weary, a song to the sore
its like a dew to my dryness
that fills me with joy when I had none

There is a balm in Gilead
its a spring in the desert
for the withered of soul
it’s a strength and a power
that keeps making you whole
its the question your asking
and the answers you need
it’s the face you’ve been seeking
the one, the one you’ve been begging to see

There is a balm in Gilead
it’s the trash and the remnants
of all my train wrecks
coming together
and still heading out west
like a blank paycheck paying off the back rent
taking me further to
whatever’s supposed happen next

There is a balm in Gilead
it’s the light of the dawn
the scales without measure
it’s the bread of a baker
the blood of a maker
The water I long for
and the story on fire
its the breath and the magic
Its something to die for
it’s the laying down of the shepherd at night

There is a balm in Gilead
There is a balm in Gilead
There is a balm in Gilead

A Song About Anxiety

I don’t want to sensationalize the story, but I want to be truthful in how it felt. 

Last year in May, Betony was admitted to the emergency room for the second time that week. We were at a loss as to what was going on and we were really damn scared.

It started earlier in the month, where she would feel a sensation that was hard for her to subscribe. Often this would come on at night as we were going to bed. It was like a quickening of the heart or like she was falling. At least that’s how she tried to describe it to me. Then she’d shake violently for 20 or 40 minutes after the rushing feeling left her. This was also accompanied by really dark thoughts, uncharacteristic for her.

She didn’t think it was anxiety, because her mindset really wasn’t in a place of feeling overwhelmed or mad or anxious. So was it her heart? Or some strange sickness we hadn’t placed?

Like I said, we were damn scared and symptoms were getting worse rather than better.

And during that second visit, the emergency room doctor, an eccentric personality mix of kindness and blunt force, sat down with us. He told us all the tests had come back clean again for this second time- heart, blood work, thyroid, etc. It all looked fine. So we have to consider anxiety. He said it several times. We HAVE to consider anxiety.

Betony was upset at this. Anxiety felt like a non-answer or catch all. In that old show “House”, the brilliant doctor would figure out what strange disease the patient actually had… the colleagues he outsmarted always thought it was lupus. A designation of anxiety felt like a sloppy, semi-educated guess of “lupus”.

In the same way I don’t want to sensationalize the story, I also don’t want the following to feel prescriptive either. What is working for us might not translate for someone else’s anxiety symptoms. But I want to share our process of the last year.

My wife approached the diagnosis as scientifically as possible. She gave the different medicines they prescribed trials and tests. She settled on a beta-blocker and half a sleep aid at night and took both of those for about 3 months. 

She also read everything she could about anxiety; what is known and what is being discovered and followed the threads she trusted. Ideas she found helpful, though may in the end NOT be proven scientifically, she held loosely to see if results followed.

One of these ideas is that perhaps her anxiety was attached to a fight or flight scenario. In this season of life she’s raising four kids and one is a baby who sleeps lightly at night and she also is a part time artist and is also homeschooling…

That’s a full life and there are moments of intensity that can happen. These moments can trigger the brain in ways we don’t fully understand yet. For example, driving all the kids home from Denver by herself and two of the kids are screaming for an hour and it’s past everyone’s bedtime, including her own. If the brain goes into crisis mode and sends adrenaline and other chemicals to her muscles and systems… there has to be some negative effects on body and brain in these scenarios. 

So alongside her medication she’s also been working out a little more, getting her heart rate up in case there is extra adrenaline or other things happening in her body she needs to move through. And perhaps this helps with the shaking as well.

With medication and working out we also added counseling. For Betony’s personality this was difficult but good. (That could probably be counseling’s tagline- Difficult but good.)

Since August of last year she went off of medication and has not been symptomatic. She’s had some rough days, but for the most part things have been better thus far. And at the very least we’re out of that place of deep fear.

Now, Betony is an immensely private person. We haven’t really shared this story publicly on social medias, though we’ve talked about it with friends and family and church communities.

We offer the story now alongside a song. While working through this season together, Betony and I were surprised at just how many stories of other people suffering from anxiety came to light. It remains fairly mysterious and scary and unexplored. It can come across like a catch all or a diminishing of something that is truly happening in our brains and bodies.

As I processed all of this I wrote this song called “Settled Down”. So we offer this story alongside this art for a since of solidarity. We hope you find the conversation we’ve offered helpful and open and caring.

Pre-Order Bellwether now and receive the single “Settled Down”

Lyrics for “Settled Down”

I’ll keep my hand here on your back
I won’t move it while you sleep
The shaking hours have settled down
Take all the help that you need

I put it on just like an evening dress
Parade to the right, sway to the left
In the morning everything is spent
And I make my way back home

What the wires couldn’t catch
Fails to give a certainty
And the world stirs around
On the edge of all you see

We can put blankets under the leaves
We can fill pages and keep on the dream
I set a good table, take all that you need
I can set more if you come back to me

We can keep sleeping, be late on the rise
We can stay novel with every surprise
I set a good table, take all that you need
They all remain open, you see what I mean

We will blur edges and rid every cage
We will push candles and feel every blaze
We set a good table, take all that you need
We set a good table, take all that you need

We will see colors that wonder and burst
We will raise glasses that rid every thirst
We set a good table, take all that you need
We set a good table, take all that you need

You put it on just like a hiding place
With three separate acts, that ends in disgrace
In the morning everything is safe
and you make your way back home

I put it on just like an evening dress
Parade to the right, sway to the left
In the morning everything is spent
And I make my way back home

January 2018 Free Desktop and iPhone Wallpaper

 

Happy New Year friends! It’s a new day. A whole new year. Everything is waiting for you.

I am going to try something a little different this year for my desktop wallpapers. The theme of “MIGRATION” keeps coming back to me, so I am going to try out having a connecting thread for the wallpaper artwork.  I love this idea of movement from one place to another, of traveling great distances, of coming back home. Each desktop this year will be exploring that theme.

Secondly, I want to include a poem/writing that inspires the artwork – a centering writing to reflect on for the month. We heard this piece by David Whyte on the On Being podcast. It is a beautiful piece for a new year.  “Or the window latch grants you freedom” is the line that inspired my artwork.


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


“Everything Is Waiting for You”

 Your great mistake is to act the drama
 as if you were alone. As if life
 were a progressive and cunning crime
 with no witness to the tiny hidden
 transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
 the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
 even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
 the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
 out your solo voice. You must note
 the way the soap dish enables you,
 or the window latch grants you freedom.
 Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
 The stairs are your mentor of things
 to come, the doors have always been there
 to frighten you and invite you,
 and the tiny speaker in the phone
 is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
 conversation. The kettle is singing
 even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
 have left their arrogant aloofness and
 seen the good in you at last. All the birds
 and creatures of the world are unutterably
 themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

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

iphone wallpapers:

November 2017 Adventures in Homeschooling

Last year we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (6), Beatrice (3), and Arlo (1). 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.

Writing and Letter Forms:

As part of our history reading, we learned about Cuneiforms which then led to making our own fonts and lettering.

Harriet had her first show and tell at her Homeschool Access kindergarten class. She worked very hard filling out her “Read All About Me” Poster.

Arlo’s 1st Birthday:

On November 18th, this handsome, ornery, little dude turned One!! I can’t even believe it. He has discovered the joy of food.

He always seems to have a mischievous little twinkle in his eyes.

His tiny makeshift snowman birthday cake made out of cake pops.

Enjoying his cake pop under his new name banner (a one year old tradition for all the kids)

And another birthday celebration with grandparents in Kansas.

Playing with a birthday gift from his Aunt and Uncle. 

Around the World:

To learn the continents, we made our own fun version of pin it maps, really enjoyed this Hopscotch song about the continents, and played map games.

We kept adding to our museum of world monuments by making a great wall of China, a Statue of Liberty, and a Sphinx.

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We took the Statue of Liberty downtown to visit our own tiny Statue of Liberty (right after reading Her Right Foot – which was so great).

We enjoyed another Top Munch box – this time from Germany!

Science Club:

We started an impromptu science club. Our first experiment was to remove the chlorophyll from leaves, then we did some experiments with old Halloween candy, and finally we made lungs out of old plastic bottles and balloons! So fun!

Art and Crafting:

Lucy immediately decided our house was not festive enough and added tiny hats, trees, reindeer antlers, and presents to all the photos/artwork.

 

We made handprint turkeys

Someone got over her fear of the hot glue gun.

I made a ridiculous thing. Peg dolls for days….

Lots of late night sketching

Decorating paper christmas trees

 

Gaming:

I like for November to be our family game night. So I usually add a few new games to our collections. This year I found these beautiful spectrum cards.

This silly but awesome game called “There’s a Moose in my House”

And my current favorite, Qwirkle

In the Kitchen:

Would it even be November without lots of wonderful goodies to bake?

Two books really dominated our kitchen decision making this November. Baking Class for the kids, and Bravetart for me. Both are great.

   

Homemade graham crackers from Bravetart.

Practicing knife skills

Lucy baking braided bread

And Lucy making her first original contribution to the Thanksgiving feast

And Music:

Music always together. Usually with a little brother crowding in on the fun.

In the Prairie and Great Outdoors:

We got to go home to Kansas for Thanksgiving this year which meant lots of beautiful walks on the farm/prairie.

 

 

A couple of woodworking projects –

we built a teeter toter just for fun out of random scrap boards.

 

And I worked on cutting pieces for an upcoming project in Houston

Thanksgiving:

We feasted and celebrated. It was beautiful. We are full.

Matching Thanksgiving outfits from Grandma DiDi and Grandpa Ed

 

Discovering and Rediscovering the magic of Calvin and Hobbs together.

Our thankful tree

And an adorable pilgrim girl

 

Much love from us,

All the World’s a Stage – Reposted article

Reposting a really nice article from my time at the Children’s Museum in Denver….

———————————-

At artist-in-residence Betony Coons’ closing reception, the crowd stood around the interactive theater she created in collaboration with Museum guests, while Art Programs Coordinator, Salim Khoury, offered remarks.

“Betony, your art is like a storybook come to life.” And looking at the piece, Paper Moon, it’s easy to see what he means.

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Paper Moon
Betony Coons, fall 2017 artist-in-residence

From afar, the stage is elegant and resplendent with detail, the shades of black and white punctuated with flashes of gold leaf and finite pops of color. But look closer and you will be delighted by the whimsical treasures hidden throughout. A tiny raccoon perched along the right side, curiously peeking out; “That’s me,” she says laughing, “Because I’m a Coons.” There are little drawings, messages and quotes from Museum guests, collected throughout her residency and incorporated with care. She points to each one and shares the story about the child (or grown-up!) who contributed the memento.

But perhaps the most remarkable elements are actual newspaper articles from the Loveland Reporter-Herald covering the moon landing in 1969. They were found in the attic of Betony’s home, forgotten by the former owner, and are now memorialized on the moon that serves as the focal point of Betony’s stage.

To pull off the three-dimensional, 16′ x 8′ piece, it took a true collaboration between Betony and the Museum’s exhibits team. “Betony gave me a drawing and we took it from there. We used our CNC router to build the stars and moon for her, then she painted them. Working together, all the way through, it was really just a beautiful project,” said Chris Van Dyken, Director of Exhibits.

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Artist-in-residence, Betony Coons and Director of Exhibits, Chris Van Dyken

 

Betony’s has been another Children’s Museum residency filled with that wonderful give and take, where local artists share their wisdom with Museum guests, who in turn offer their expertise in the awe of childhood.

During her final open studio hours, Betony and kids sprawled on the ground to “build a house” together. There is the usual; a front door, dining room table, a bed and plenty of pets. But there is also a teleport for time travel and, at the insistence of one child, it is both day and night – at the same time.

“It’s so fun to see kids who are not concrete in the way they think. As an artist, it can give you a lot of freedom and creativity to let things go in unexpected and surprisingly fun ways. Things you wouldn’t do as an adult because you just think, This is how it is.”

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The collaborative house from Betony’s final open studio hours.

And with her final piece, Betony made sure to hit that point home. Paper Moon inspires the desire to create, be whimsical, to jump on the moon (it’s ok, we promise) and burst into song, no matter your age. So go on, make-believe with us.

Say, it’s only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea
But it wouldn’t be make-believe
If you believed in me
Yes, it’s only a canvas sky
Hanging over a muslin tree
But it wouldn’t be make-believe
If you believed in me…

From It’s Only a Paper Moon
by Yip Harburg and Billy Rose

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Pools, Parades, and Picnics – July’s Adventures in Homeschooling

This year we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (5), Beatrice (2), and Arlo (8 months). 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.

During July, we don’t do any structured homeschooling, but we did still have some wonderful adventures as a family. Here is a little photo journal of our month.

4th of July:

We kicked off July with a bang – enjoying backyard BBQing, fireworks with friends, a fantastic parade, and some adorable vintage outfits on Arlo (that were Tim and his brothers when they were babes).

Artsy Fun:

Inspired by Dogman, Lucy started drawing her own series of comics (it’s called Robot Rambush and Robot Hoverton)

A dress sewn by Lucy for Beatrice (with zero help from mama)

A pretty cool art invention discovered by Lucy –

And I started up my residency at the Denver Children’s Museum!

We also sewed this sweet little quiet book page all together in anticipation of our big camping trip.

Camping

This month we took our first family camping trip. We went up the Poudre Canyon to Roosevelt National Forest and camped at a beautiful lake there. I wouldn’t say it was as idyllic as these pictures make it look ha ha (kid throwing up from the winding roads, miserable heat in the afternoon, whining children, and bugs all put a damper on the idyllic). But we did it, and it had some really beautiful moments.

Skipping rocks.

Arlo was a camping champion.

Reading Harry Potter out loud around the breakfast morning campfire.

 

Enjoying the Outdoors:

A picnic at our favorite Homestead Park

Enjoying their favorite Willow tree in the evening

A not-done-in-time-dinner from mama lead to a lovely restaurant put together by Lucy and Harriet at the “Flower Cafe” outside on the patio.

And a favorite summer tradition around here – UNC’s Concerts Under the Stars series – with the Greeley Philharmonic. Umbrellas are open here, but it only sprinkled for a few minutes and then cleared up for a lovely evening.

Reading:

This month we read –

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (how have I never read these before!?) and the new illustrated Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

The girls also worked super hard to complete their entire Summer Reading Program at our local library.

Poolside:

Summertime at its best.

And a session of swim lessons for all three girls.

Theater Camp:

Thanks to a little help from Great Grandma Goose, Harriet and Lucy got to take part in a local theater camp. In one week they put on an entire production of Snow White! The girls each had real parts and even had to memorize lines! Lucy was one of the narrators (Red), and Harriet was one of the seven dwarves (Wallflower).

Bike Fundraiser:

As a family we all helped put on a really cool fundraiser event called the Greeley Wheelie for Turn Around Bikes – a local non-profit that takes donated bikes, refurbishes them, and donates them to kids in need.

 

 

A Food Fight Party, Playing Planets, and Video Games Come to Life…. June’s Adventures in Homeschooling

This year we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (5), Beatrice (2), and Arlo (8 months). 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.

Ahhhh. Summertime.  We aren’t doing anything structured for homeschooling over the summer, but it is wonderful to see how unschooling (or chasing the spark) can play out on these long summer days.

Parties and Outdoor Play:

Lucy planned an Epic food fight battle for her 8 year old party.
So fun! We did three rounds – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each round had a specific food and challenge. Thanks to some other mom tips online, it went off with out a hitch.

So silly and fun.

A letter Lucy wrote to her future self, with instructions to mom to give it to her on her 8th B-day.

Trying out her new penny board with some pro tips from friend Calvin.

June backyard pool party vibes…

And garden sketching and reading (also notice the Hidden Valley Ranch because they made themselves a salad from the garden as a snack – ha ha ha)

Rolling down the hills races at the University

Exploring the new city “stained glass” park!

First swing ride for Arlo-man (and the photo that motivated mama to give him his first haircut ha ha!)

Robots Galore:

Lucy got several Robot kits for her birthday. She LOVES robots. Her current obsession is trying to figure out how to get all her robots to do her chores for her. Hmmmm…..

Audio Books/Read Alouds:

We have recently “discovered” audio books (thank you read aloud revival audio deals!). Here are a couple we enjoyed this month – (Tim read Harry Potter book two out loud – so wonderful to get to relive these with our kids – and we have loved these Jim Kay illustrated versions)

 

Lucy dressed up at Mary Poppins

Outer Space:

The only “theme” we played with this month was planets and outer space. We used some Pinay Homeschool handouts and made polymer clay planets.

Lucy drew some stellar rocket ships

We enjoyed lots of space/aeronautic books from the library. I particularly LOVED the Armstrong and Lindbergh mouse adventures. Wonderful illustrations and stories – great sneaky histories for kids.

We also read Magic school bus in space

Did some planet play at the Windsor park

Circus Circus:

For Christmas this last year, Tim got the girls and me tickets to Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia”. The whole show was about Mexico. It was utterly breathtaking. And so neat to be able to share with the girls after our Mexico study last October. I have seen a lot of their shows (and loved all of them) but this was by far my favorite.

I mean, they made it rain on stage – utterly magical.

Some Papel Picado inspired backdrop.

And then some fun circus books from the library

Lone Valley School:

Greeley has a historic park called Centennial Village that is run by the greeley museums. The two older girls participated in a day camp there at the beginning of June called Lone Valley School. They loved it. Lots of old fashioned activities and fun.

They were so into it that the second day they insisted on wearing period specific costumes.

Here is a photo of the old fashioned school house and some of the drills from their primers.

Morning breaks consisted of time playing old fashioned games like stilt walking and ring toss.

Making and Baking:

Fort building around the dining room table.

Marionette dragon making activity at the library

Lucy really wanted to invent a recipe and bake it. So, with a little help/suggestions from mama, here is her recipe she came up with “Lucy’s Mini Cupcaks”. They turned out surprisingly delicious!!

Dino Days:

Tim took the girls to Dinosaur days at the Colorado Model Railroad Museum

Art:

Lucy has really been honing her portrait/drawing from life skills. This is a drawing she did of Tim while he was reading Harry Potter out loud.

And here is Harriet’s wonderful “portrait” of her imaginary friend “Twinklebell”

Clay can get pretty messy, so summer is the perfect time to play with ceramics since we can do it outside.

Dance Recital:

Lucy and Harriet both danced in their studios annual dance recital.

Celebrating with ice cream in the park afterwards.

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild:

Our best friends lent us their Nintendo switch at our house for the month. We are not really a gaming family, but we have loved all of the Zelda games since the very beginning. It has been so fun to play this incredible game as a family. It is breathtakingly beautiful and so fun – rock climbing, cooking, and so so much world to explore. So, we had to have a real life Zelda adventure as well… Everyone will be a little sad to return the switch next month.

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!