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March 2018 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.

Easter Goodness:

I don’t love it when Easter falls so early in the year, because I feel like I haven’t gotten fully into the swing of Spring yet, but it is a great kick off for the season.

Easter morning photos (Tim is missing because he had services to lead at his work)

Dying Ukrainian Easter eggs as part of our “Good Master” Book club. It is such a beautiful layered process – you use very intense dyes paired with layers of beeswax to create really beautiful eggs.

 

We read “The Good Master” for our book club. It is a story about two Hungarian children on a farm – a perfect portrait of spring. Our book club is never complete without lots of literature inspired feasting!

Sneaky little bugger…

Making seed bombs

Lots of fun hunting easter eggs –

 

 

And of course a visit from the Easter Bunny

Art:

We spent a morning studying birds nest and eggs

And wrote bird postcards

Harriet rediscovered her love of hedgehogs

Matisse inspired “backwards color” portraits

Life:

We delivered this art piece to Houston

And we maneuvered a family crisis with a lot of love and help from our friends

Rainbow Science:

We spent a day in rainbow land (including color themed outfits)

Rainbow snack time

Light table fun with magnatiles

Preschool Fun:

Learning about cavities the importance of teeth brushing

Buzzy showtime on our table top theater we made last year!

Engineering Fun:

Fun with ropes and pulleys as part of our Simple Machines exploration

And we made an official inventors kits!

and finally, we built little circuit lanterns with Tinker Crate

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

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

March Practice and Process: “Ground”

In creating our new project, Bellwether (an art series and album due winter 2016) we’ve decided to share what we’re doing each month before it’s released.
We’re calling these posts “practice and process“.

They will detail the spiritual/life practice we’re doing,
give a look at our in-process art that we’re creating in response,
and then include a whole host of resources and activities! (like the new desktop wallpaper, book/music/movie lists, recipes, explorations for kids, etc. This is so as an entire family we can engage in this year’s exploration of “belief” we’re calling Bellwether. 

MARCH Theme: GROUND

We are approaching this March theme in lots of ways: asking “what grounds you?”, actually digging in the dirt AND metaphorically digging in the dirt, finding foundations, and setting ground work.

Practice:

This month we are

  1. Reading then gardening! We’ll be setting aside a specific time for reading spiritual writings right before heading out to work in the garden. As a whole family we’ll be reading from the psalms, from poetry, children’s books, or any host of passages we find resonate with us. We’ll pair this with gardening in hopes to dig our hands into the Spring season.
  2. For our Table Alter this month we’ll be setting up little pots and planting seeds – we’ll water and watch the slow progression of growth, again hitting on the death and resurrection truths we find in the world around us.

Process:

Betony hopes to hit some finish lines on art projects she’s been working on so she can set the “ground” work for this new series. Tim has a tour in the Chicago area he’ll be recovering from in the beginning of March.

The other process is going to be exploring this big idea: there seems to be spiritual archetypes that happen all over our favorite stories. In movies, books, all sorts of art, you’ll find baptism scenes, out-to-the-desert scenarios, resurrection pictures… Betony and I are looking in to these universals to better inform our own belief.

Resources for “GROUND”:

MARCH Dates to Take Note of:

March 13th – Daylight Savings
March 14th – Pi Day – You can’t go wrong with this recipe.
March 17th – Saint Patrick’s Day – Irish mix to listen to, yummy pub food to make, and a touch of poetry
March 21st – World Poetry Day – Here’s one to get you started
March 25th – Good Friday
March 27th – Easter

Local: Greeley, CO events:

March 19th – Poudre River Friends of the Library Spring Used Book Sale
March 21st – Seed Swap and Garden Talk – Riverside Library – 6:00 pm
March 22nd – Perilous Plants – 12pm at the Farr Library – Botanist Dr. Kathy Keeler

Let me know if you have other fun Greeley events I should add to this calendar!

RESOURCES/EXPLORATIONS:

We are planning on getting Chickens next week!
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The girls and Betony have been hard at work building them an enclosure and a chicken coop.
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(A painting of Bet’s from a few years back that seems appropriate, obviously she has been dreaming about them for a while)
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We discovered a parcel of land adjacent to our yard that we thought belonged to the city actually belongs to us. We are going to turn it into a secret garden of sorts – after we dig up all the sumac and poison ivy and weeds – the labor of clearing this neglected land will be part of our spiritual practice for the month.

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Betony is finally ready to start the groundwork on my new series of paintings. She has been playing around with monochromatic under paintings (as explored through the Book of Job)

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MAKE:

Bet might just have to start making some of these hanging chairs for our back porch to lounge in.

Start the seeds we ordered from rareseeds.com (it is also time to plant peas out in the garden already!)
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READING LISTS:

The Little Gardener and Wild by Emily Hughes (LOVE her illustrations)
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The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (haven’t read it yet, but have had it recommended by several people we trust)
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The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes
by Du Base Hayward (really loved this one as a kid)
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ART:

Play drawing with Opaque markers on brown eggs

Bet is also enjoying these rubber cement resist died eggs and rubber band wrapped ones. Definitely on her list to try this year.
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ADVENTURE:

Go on lots of bike rides and explorations along the Poudre river trail

We are not going to tell you quite yet what we have planned for this giant box of keys, but we’ll give you a hint that it is something in the category of this epic city-wide adventure we facilitated a few years ago…

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Find some greenhouses to visits

TECHNOLOGY:

A friend recommended this online reading ap, we thought it would make a fun Easter-month game, especially for Harriet (4) – Reading Eggs Game
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LISTEN:

On the first spring rain, listen to this mix.
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My Two Very Favorite Biscuit Recipes

 


There are two kinds of biscuits – ones that you put toppings on and ones that you don’t. As much as my husband would like to argue there is a third kind that comes in a can, he is wrong. This first recipe acts as a perfect vehicle for toppings – sausage gravy, salted butter and strawberry jam, maple cream (if you are so lucky), homemade apple butter, etc. In this case, I want a thick simple biscuit, served right out of the oven, split in half and slathered with whichever toppings I have on hand. In this case, the biscuit I want is my mother’s (which is adapted from Better Homes & Gardens).

Preheat oven to 450°. In a bowl stir together flour, baking powder, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (you can do this in the food processor if you want). Make a well in the center; add milk all at once. Stir just till dough clings together. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough gently for 10-12 strokes. Roll or pat dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter (a drinking glass works great), dipping cutter into flour between cuts (my kiddos like shaped cookie cutters). Transfer biscuits to a baking sheet. Bake in a 450° oven for 9-11 minutes or until golden on the edges. Serve warm with butter and toppings. Makes 10.


This second biscuit recipe is the kind of thing I would want to have with a cup of tea in the afternoon. If you were coming over to my house for an afternoon chat, or in need of a little extra love, I would make you these. They are buttery, salty, and crispy on the outside, and sweet and tender on the inside. They need absolutely no adornments – just eat them the way they are. They are little pillows of magic. We made two pans of these for Easter dinner this year. There wasn’t a single one left. You must eat these while still warm out of the oven. Fortunately, the prepped pan of biscuits freezes great. You can make them ahead of time and then bake when ready.

Note: This recipe is Rosa’s almost exactly except that I cut down the sugar a bit.

Ingredients

SERVINGS: MAKES 24

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces; plus 6 Tbsp. (¾ stick), melted
  • ¾ cup chilled buttermilk

 Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and 1½ tsp. salt in a large bowl. Add chilled butter and toss to coat. Work butter into flour mixture with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal with several pea-size pieces of butter remaining.
  • Using a fork, gently mix in buttermilk, then gently knead just until dough comes together (do not overmix).
  • Pinch off pieces of dough and gently roll into 1” balls; place on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2” apart (you should have about 24). If butter softens too much while you are working, chill dough until firm before baking, 15–20 minutes.
  • Bake biscuits until golden brown, 25–30 minutes. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with more salt (I use flaky sea salt). Serve warm.

    Recipe adapted from Rosa Pacheco, Del Posto, NYC, Photograph by Dustin Aksland – published in Bon Appetit, 2014