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December’s Adventures in Homeschooling

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

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

ADVENT Activities:

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

 

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

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

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

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

Cosmic Kids Yoga (always a hit around here) –

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Tim took the girls ice skating –

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and sledding!

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

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

One of the things we are doing this year is our Passport idea for Geography/World Cultures. We are “visiting” a different country every month – exploring the food, culture, dress, arts, and music through themed activities. This month, because the girls were part of the Nutcracker, we chose Russia. img_7139

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

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

History:

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

STEM:

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

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

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

Art and Handicrafts:

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

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

Making handmade Christmas presents – img_7529

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

And making a stocking for this handsome little man –

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MUSIC:

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

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NATURE STUDY:

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

WRITING:

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

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

READING:

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

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

Merry Christmas everyone! Thanks for following along!

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How to Enjoy the Season: The Practice of Immersion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DISHES / DESSERTS / CANDIES

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

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

MUSIC

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

 

ACTIVITIES

This is a pretty big catch-all category.

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

RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCE

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

SCENTS

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

CLOTHING

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

DOCUMENTING

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

Sending a Little Love Your Way…

We always like to get a little creative with our Valentine making around here. This year we played with sorting old stamps (duplicates from my childhood stamp collection) by color. We used vintage stamps, but you could just as easily do this by collecting them from your mail. I love how these turned out. Pretty simple to put together too.
For more Valentine making inspiration, here are last years stitched valentines.

Here’s a great Valentine mix to listen to while you work 🙂

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To make these, we first sorted stamps by color –IMG_0841

Then traced a simple heart shape in pencil on some white cardstock paper and filled in with stamps (we just used a gluestick)IMG_0839

Ta da!

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December Ideas and Activities around the Theme “Advent”

For this entire year (I can’t believe it is the last month of the year already!) I’ve been doing an at home curriculum with the family (Lucy 6, Hattie 4, Beatrice 1). Tim and I call the project “Abacus” and we’re sharing it each month for the fun, challenge, and community of it. Each month we choose a theme and then come up with a bunch of activities around that theme. Read all about how to use this list and our heart behind this project here.
Explore past months themes here.

Our theme this month is “Advent.” To me December is a month of anticipation. Our family is OBSESSED with advent calendars. We literally have 5 that we will do every day this month. For me it is a way of slowing down and fully enjoying these favorite of days. I am going to share some of my favorite advent traditions here, as well as our own little “activity” advent of 25 perfect December activities – one for each day until Christmas.

DECEMBER Dates to Take Note of:

December 6-12 – Hanukkah
December 13th – The Feast of Santa Lucia – we are hoping to take a trip up to Georgetown to partake in their annual European Christmas Market –
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December 22nd – Winter Solstice – I love the tradition of making a small bonfire outside on this day.
December 24th – Christmas Eve (Also my grandmother’s Birthday!) (for us, it is Christmas eve services, followed by takeout, leaving cookies for Santa, and opening a package that is always pajamas)
December 25th – Christmas Day – (for us it looks like – photos on the stairs before coming down, sausage souffle and cinnamon rolls, opening stockings and presents as slowly as possible, playing all day, a family walk in the cold, and grilling outside)
December 26th – Boxing Day

Local: Greeley, CO events:

December 5th – Teddy Bear Bash at the Festival of Trees – 9-11am
December 5th – Handmade for the Holidays 10-3 at the Kress Cinema
December 11-13th – The Nutcracker at UCCC
December 11-13th – Twas the Night before Christmas performed by the Stampede Theater Troupe

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

 

The Coon’s Family 2015 ADVENT CALENDARS:

You might laugh at this one. But our family LOVES Jacquie Lawson’s advent calendar she releases each year. It shows up as a Snow Globe on your desktop and each day another little animated short or activity is released. It borders on overly “thomas-kinkade” sappy, but at the same time it is SO great. We all unabashedly love it. This year the theme is Victorian Christmas.
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If you haven’t yet discovered Sparkle Stories, I am so happy to get to be the one to introduce you.  The stories are very simple but sweet original audio stories for kids. They have a specific Advent calendar as part of their Martin & Sylvia Series. Each day showcases a very simple holiday activity. They released the advent calendar in 2014, but it is still great. We listened to it last year and are excited to relive it again this year.
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Partly thanks to having a brother who manages a Lego store, we can’t miss out on the Lego Advent calendars. This year we opted for their Star Wars edition (in anticipation of the new movie). Each day you get a tiny set of legos to build.
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Tim loves playing the Angry Birds seasons (which unlocks one new level each day)
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We are participateing in our church community Atlas’s Random Acts of Christmas Kindness list12314495_10153078112937470_3401969149545698084_o

25 ADVENT Activities:

These don’t have to be done in any particular order, but this is our list of 25 “Christmasy” activities that don’t require much extra money or time, but are what this month is all about for us.

  1. Make Gingerbread Cookies/houses (my sister just recommended this recipe)
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  2. Cut Paper Snowflakessnowflakes 4
  3. Visit a Christmas Tree Farm to pick our tree

  4. Take our time decorating the Christmas tree and tell stories and memories
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  5. String popcorn and cranberries
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  6. Bake Christmas cookies for the neighbors – Here are some recipes to get you started.
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  7. Drive around and look at Christmas lights (especially the Greeley Grizwalds)
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  8. Go caroling
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  9. Eat dinner by candlelight

  10. Go Ice Skating (The Greeley Ice Haus or the Ice skating rink at Centerra are good choices if you are local)
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  11. Go on an icy walk and then have hot chocolate with marshmallows
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  12. Make snow angels
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  13. In Hutchinson, where Tim and I grew up, they have an INCREDIBLE night of illuminaries in the Hyde Park neighborhood the Saturday before Christmas. Blocks and blocks are illuminated. They don’t allow traffic through and instead have hay rides of carolers and horse drawn carriages. I would love to have our own tiny version one night.
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  14. Write and send Christmas cards (just wait until you see the adorable family photo I have…)
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  15. Go sledding – just need a little more snow first!!
  16. Get matching pajamas for our whole family. Shhh… don’t tell Tim…and have a family game nightmatching-family-pajamas
  17. Eat a candy cane – I have heard that the Hammond Candy factory tour in Denver is pretty cool
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  18. Make a wreath (isn’t this gold feather and leaf one pretty?)
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  19. Read all the Christmas stories out loud – We love: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Max’s Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Polar Express, and so many more…
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  20. Go to the Nutcracker (or at least listen to it)
  21. Write letters to Santa and deliver to the Currier Inn Reindeer Route mailbox.
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  22. Lucy really wants to have a Christmas scavenger hunt. I am not sure what that means, but I’m working on it.
  23. Keep the bird feeders filled and chart the visitors
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  24. Have a Christmas movie watching and present wrapping party
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  25. Watch Charlie Brown Christmas and Ice Skating – the two shows we would always watch on Christmas day at my grandparent’s house.
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