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!

 

Cathedrals Lyrics and Chords Booklet

We release a new album- the first movement of Bellwether, called “Cathedrals”. (Movements II & III releasing in June & Oct.)

Have you ever walked into a cathedral and had your breath taken away? Or maybe witnessed a natural phenomenon like the Grand Canyon and had your line of importance wonderfully interrupted? In their feel and arrangement this 5 song collection pursues this sense of wonder, with the narrative often opening towards God.

Along with this movement of songs Betony has designed a really beautiful song booklet, filled with chords and lyrics. They are available here for download in color and in a more printable B&W.

 

 

 

To get you excited about the album here is a printable booklet of the song lyrics and chords with beautifully designed pages by Betony.

Click here to download the full color version:

Cathedrals_colorful

 

Click here to download a BW more printer friendly version:

Cathedrals_Printable

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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NEW Bellwether Art Series: Thoughts & Stories Behind the Paintings

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

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


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

Bellwether

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tree with Ladder

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


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

Lidice Rising

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


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

Cathedrals

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


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

table

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


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

sacrifice bird

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


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

it keeps going

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


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

Dark Fields

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


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

house with many rooms

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


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

lost and found

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


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

pilgrimage

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


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

Baptism          
Size:9×12 
      $150


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

babel

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


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

Loaves and Fish

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


The Woods

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


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

Onward

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


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

Much love,

Betony

Our New Kickstarter Goal!

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

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

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

Our Next Kickstarter Goal

When we reach 175 Backers total we will:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace,

Tim Coons

January’s Adventures in Homeschooling

This year we began homeschooling Lucy (7), Hattie (5), and Beatrice (2). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.

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

Snow Week:

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

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

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

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

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CHINA Week:

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

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

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

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

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

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And did our best to wear authentic Chinese dress –

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

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

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

The Odd & Random BEST of 2016 List!

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

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

BEST IN-DEPTH CONVERSATION TO HAVE of 2016

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

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

BEST NEW GREELEY RESTAURANT of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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THE FULLY LISTENED-TO ALBUMS of 2016

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

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

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

BEST READING of 2016

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

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

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

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

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The Bravest Adventure Book Release!!

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

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

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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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