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Bugs, Berries, and Binoculars…. May’s Adventures in Homeschooling

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

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

Science Explorations:

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

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

Water tornados!

Aren’t these giant light boxes cool?

Getting Outside in the Sunshine:

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

Here is one we successfully found inside a hollow tree.

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

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

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

Mulberry picking for days.

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

The girls’ first canoe rides out at the farm.

Strawberry picking at Great grandmother’s house

And these girls are ready for summer!!

Music:

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

 

Math + Reasoning:

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

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

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

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

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

Insects:

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

Here are some of the different trays I tried…

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

Beatrice investigating the world….

Sensory trays and plastic insects

A sticky mosaic craft from

Bugs pressed into kinetic sand

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

Those are grapes on skewers

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

Learning about bug classifications

And nomenclature

Illustrating butterfly life cycles

Harriet’s:

Lucy’s:

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

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

 

Searching for worms and bugs under rocks in the garden.

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

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

 

History and VIKINGS!

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

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

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

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

Some stunning gold Viking jewelry

Geology:

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

This is a reconstructed crystal cave at the museum

and some pretty incredible crystals formations

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

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

Art & Making:

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

We saw some really wonderful monumental sculptures in Denver.

we sorted all the crayons by color…:)

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

 

April Adventures in Homeschooling

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

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

Art & Art History:

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

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

Baby Animal Days:

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

Some good old fashioned stilt and wooded horse play

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

Spirituality:

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

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

Easter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engineering/Making

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

 

And now time for a battle…

Netherlands:

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

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

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

Letter Writing:

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

Math:

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

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

Reading:

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

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

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

Letter Play:

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


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

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

Sensory Play:

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

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

Plastic melted bead crafts

  Button play with Grandmama at the CO antique button show.

 

Spring Nature Study:

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

These are my new favorite…

Nest studies

Flower dissecting and learning about the different parts. 

Outdoor Play:

Scaling poles

Climbing trees

Swinging in hammocks

Exploring treehouses

Jumping on trampolines

And eating outside as often as possible.

Thanks for following along. See you in May!

Much much love, Betony

March’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.

March has been a journey of “chasing the spark.” Lots of wonderful explorations lead by curiosity. March was about humor, and Egypt, and computer coding, and St. Patricks day, and musicals, and so much more. I am loving these simple full days with the people I love most. I love being able to share in the education of my children. I love that the world we live in is so rich and fascinating to explore. I love that in both the most mundane moments and the most extravagant they are still learning and growing. Tim and I have looked at each other so often in this last month and said “Man, I love our kids”. What a gift it is to be living out this story as a family.
Thanks for following along with us.

Coding & Quilting:

This pictures captures our two oldest daughters perfectly. Lucy working on learning how to program on Scratch (because she wants to make her own robots) and Harriet making a tiny quilt (that she wants to use for babies, picnics, and snuggling). Love seeing them discover new interests and following “the spark”.

Color and Light:

A few years ago our theme for March was Spectrum. In keeping with the tradition and all things rainbow for St. Patrick’s day, we did a little color work this month.

A new awesome one-player game called Colour Code by SmartGames – like a more interesting version of tangrams.

Color mixing, painting color wheels, and learning about hot vs. cool colors.

And discussions about what it would be like to not be able to see colors. We read I am Helen Keller and the Black Book of Colors. (both of which are great).

We also learned how to write our names in braille!

Ancient Egypt:

For our country this month, we took a trip to Ancient Egypt! (which tied in great with our Rich and Rooted Passover study as well!) .

These were a few of our favorite books we dug into.

The girls set up an Egyptian style Bazaar (which Harriet made traditional shaped Egyptian bread for!). My sisters and I used to play this same game – brings back fond memories.

We added a new game to our collection called Imhotep. It is great! You play the role of ancient Egyptian architects and are working to build monuments.

Inspired by the game, we build some block monuments of our own.

This lead the girls to build a whole city of mini block monuments.

We got this little mummy excavation kit on amazon. It was really great (but do it outside!!). It comes with a plaster block carved with hierogylphics. The kids use tools and act as archeologists to unearth the mummy inside.

I happened to have some Egyptian wrapping paper, so we made bracelets.

We talked about the significance of the Rosetta stone and then made our own clay Rosetta stone cartouches. Lucy did her name in English, hieroglyphics, and braille.

Getting Moving:

Lucy and I are taking up a new hobby – Rock Climbing! We went to a ladies night at the Rock. It was a little momma daughter date night. Pretty great.

We haven’t started up our Monday adventures again yet, but we did try to get to as many parks as possible.

Musicals:

From now until forever, I have officially dubbed March Musical Month. We were given (thank you Patti!) tickets to a local production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella and we rented Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat from the library. The girls LOVED both and we have been listening to the soundtracks non-stop (maybe a little too non-stop…go go go joseph you’ll make it some day….go go go joseph….!!!!!)

We went to Cinderella in costume.

Afterwards was a Princess Tea Party where the actors and actresses came out in costume and interacted with the kids! It was great fun.

Reading and Writing:

Our two read-aloud books we finished this month were Finn Family Moomintroll (one of my all time favorites) and The Search for Delicious. Both were perfect for the kids age – funny and light heartened.

Harriet has been working on the first steps of learning to read, so we made some sight word blocks together in fun bright colors.

She also practiced her letters a lot in her sand (cornmeal) box (…that is until little sister got ahold of it…)

The 2nd of March was Dr. Seuss’s birthday, so we celebrated by getting cake pops and reading all the Seuss books.
For writing practice, the girls both wrote out their elaborate plans for their birthday parties (which are in June/September…ha ha).

Character Building:

During the season of lent, we have been going through Jennifer Naraki’s Rich and Rooted Passover guide. I am hoping to make this a yearly tradition as well. There is a lot depth to her guide that we barely scratched the surface.

One Sunday we headed to Fort Collins because their local Islamic mosque was vandalized. We joined with a large crowd of others in solidarity and support of those effected.

Science and Logic:

Grandpapa reading an old family favorite – the Mad Scientist Club to Lucy for the first time.

The girls requested to learn how to play chess. Our local coffee shop has this great “Easy to Learn Chess” game that makes it simple with the little reminder graphics on the pieces.

We finally did some of our Christmas test tube science kits the kids got in their stockings (from the dollar bins at Target).
This is gravity goop –

St. Patrick’s Day:

A selection of St. Patrick’s day books we got from the library –

Grammy Didi reading one of her favorite – Tommie DePaola out loud to the girls.

Getting ready for our annual St. Patty’s day feast and sing along

Aquarium:

All three girls (but mostly Beatrice) have been obsessed with the kid’s show Octonauts. I think they have watched every episode at least 3 times.

In the show, the team of animals are always working to rescue/help undersea creatures. Each episode ends with a “Creature Report” which has cool facts about actual sea critters. The girls have learned all sorts of interesting aquatic facts. So, we thought a trip to the Denver Aquarium was in order.

The girls loved it. We all had a wonderful time – especially petting the sting rays.
The next day when we got back, they did their own “Creature Report”s on their favorite animals they saw. 

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

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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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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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September’s Adventures in Homeschooling – PART TWO

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”!

To read the first half of this post, go here.

READING AND WRITING:

Here were our reading books for the month:

The One and Only Ivan for fun (it was so good), and Columbus as our history story (we are going through this series in order). We really enjoyed both books.

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We have continued with our morning Tea Time and book reading on the front porch. It is so lovely, I’ll be sad when it gets too cold to continue.

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Speaking of books, I am learning that sometimes you have to go with the momentum. One morning I had planned on having the girls do a couple of pages in a math workbook. They had other plans. They were super wrapped up in playing with their calico critters. I never want to interrupt play, so we brought the two together. The girls made tiny math books for their Critters. It was pretty sweet.

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This picture is a another funny example of learning to let things happen organically. I was trying to work on Harriet’s letters with her and she (and I) kept getting frustrated. Finally I gave up and let her go play with Beatrice. Not two minutes later I look over and she is copying the words from these puzzles.

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Tim devised this fun matching game for Harriet’s alphabet work using alphabet pretzels.

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We have been doing a weekly letter writing session – thank you notes, pen pals, love letters, etc. A lovely repercussion has been that the girls are starting to get lots of mail back. Which they LOVE.

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One day when we needed to get out, we did a scavenger hunt at our library. The purpose was to get the girls familiarized with how to find books on their own and use the library computers. It was really fun.

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Birthdays:

We have two girls with September birthdays. We have a tradition around here (see all the past ones here) where the girls and I work together to design them a birthday invitation/postcard. Here is Harriet’s this year –

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And Beatrice’s –

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Some birthday ideas worth stealing/using again –
My mom came up with this awesome little treasure hunt using picture clues. Each clue was only partially drawn and the kids had to figure out what the image was in order to find their next clue.

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As part of Harriet’s party, we drew a giant chalk maze on our outdoor patio. Later (not pictured) the kids drew their own obstacles in it to make it trickier.

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Probably my favorite gift the girls got is this really neat one player game, called Camelot Jr. –
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MAKING PROJECTS:

Lucy’s using an old reading book from Tim’s mom’s second grade class. We have been having fun coming up with projects around each story. This month was tree houses, camping with star gazing (in other post), a planets science kit, and cactuses. Here are some photos of the tree houses. I used to do a similar project for Architecture when I taught middle school. You just find a good “tree” stick and plant it in a can, fill the can with rocks, and then start building!

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SEWING:

These projects were more mama-made and kid-enjoyed, but I had SUCH a fun time making them I couldn’t not share.

Two clothesline baskets for egg collecting –

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And two very colorful capes just for fun. This pattern was so easy and straight forward.

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Well, that’s all for September! Thanks for coming along for the ride!

September’s Adventures in Homeschooling – “Abacus” Round Up PART ONE

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”!

But this month I realized I have to start splitting these posts into multiple parts! Sorry for the length, but there is just so much good stuff to include. Looking back, I can’t believe how much we did in September!

I’ll try my best to categorize images by themes. Please feel free to ask questions about any resources or projects in the comments below and I’ll do my best to clarify!

Autumn Leaves:

One of the themes that has come out this month was “Autumn Leaves.” We have been listening to this playlist a lot. We also had a lovely morning of writing our own poetry (which of course had to be typed out on my vintage Royal typewriter).

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Here is Lucy’s poem –

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Inspired by the gorgeous ones at Mirus Toy’s etsy shop/instagram we decided to have our first homeschooling woodworking project be to make our own flower presses. The girls measured, I cut, they sanded, drilled, and stained all the pieces. It was a perfect first project. Our first batch of flowers and leaves are pressing right now. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

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Here are the finished presses. The girls designed their own tops and then I helped them wood burn the designs (they both drew their inspiration from a fancy spoon we have. Who knows…)

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We also went on a lovely scootering/scavenger hunt following UNC’s beautifully done Guided Tree Walk. It was so much fun.

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Finally, this was a little morning Art exploration table with inspiration art piece from Tom Thomson, music by Vivaldi (Four Seasons: Autumn of course), and tissue paper “leaves” and glue to play with.img_5293

Australia:

One of the things we are doing this year is our Passport idea for Geography/World Cultures. We are “visiting” a different country every month – exploring the food, culture, dress, arts, and music through themed activities. This month, Harriet and Lucy chose Australia as our country to visit.

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This involved lots of Australia stories, maps, stickers, and videos of boomerangs and didgeridoos.

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The girls also enjoyed some Cosmic Kids Yoga (specifically the kangaroo episode). These would probably be too young for some kids, but our girls (2, 5, 7) still love them. And it’s just the ticket when you need a moment to yourself.

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We also checked out a stack of books from our wonderful library and did a little Australia “research”img_4931

Wizard of Oz and Kansas:

Since we had planned a quick but exciting trip to the KS state fair in mid-September, I thought it would be a great time to read Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. Since it is still a little old for Harriet especially, I chose this beautifully illustrated by Charles Santore version. It was just perfect for us. Everyone got SO into it.
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Harriet even broke out the old Dorothy costume and her ruby slippers.

 

We made some Wizard of Oz paper dolls just for fun. I thought someone else might have fun with them too, so I made a wizard-of-oz-paper-dolls printable pdf. Just print out onto cardstock, color, cut out, then hole punch on the dots (I used an extra small hole punch), and attach with mini brads.

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Oh AND Tim took the girls and I to the Candlelight Dinner theater production of the Wizard of Oz! Their expressions and gasps of surprise were worth every penny.
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Once we made the trip to KS, we had some good old Kansas State Fair fun.

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I especially loved these Moon photos taken by the Hutchinson Newspaper. They were inspired by Paper moon photos taken at the fair in the 1900’s.

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….although Beatrice’s face almost broke the camera… (he he. There is always one…)

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Speaking of Moons….

Harvest Moon

We have been using this ebook as a guide for our Nature Study. And it is SO beautifully done.
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It has a simple activity each with corresponding with the seasons, paired with a recommended book list, an art piece to enjoy, a poem, and art ideas. Truly, right now it is my FAVORITE thing. This month the weeks we got to were on the Harvest Moons and the Autumn Equinox. I already shared some of our harvest moon goodies and a playlist here.

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But I thought you might also enjoy seeing these salt watercolor paintings we made.

Nature Outings:

We have designated Monday as our outdoor adventure days. It’s our day off together as a family, and we just love it. This month we were able to play at Windsor Beach:

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We had a backyard camping adventure (inspired by one of the stories in Lucy’s reading book):img_4509  img_4557

And we spent the first day of Autumn exploring the sights, smells, and sounds at Homestead Park. Our favorite. img_4963

I also had a great time playing with our new Mobile Macro Lens (so fun!)

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And finally a drive up the Poudre Canyon to search for fall colors, have a picnic, and search for flowers for our new leaf presses. We are doing something called the Nature Pal Exchange this next month and are busily collecting goodies for our box.

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Harvest Moon Playlist and More

Tonight is the harvest moon so we thought it was high time to make a new autumn “Moon” themed playlist. I love how old-fashioned and mellow this mixtape is. Enjoy!

 


And, just for fun, here is our Harvest Moon themed table/art/reading for the day. Lots of these inspired by the book “Exploring Nature” with Children by Lynn Seddon which I have been loving.

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And finally a Poem for the evening –

The Harvest Moon by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It is the Harvest Moon! On gilded vanes
And roofs of villages, on woodland crests
And their aerial neighbourhoods of nests

Deserted, on the curtained window-panes
Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes

And harvest-fields, its mystic splendour rests!

Gone are the birds that were our summer guests,

With the last sheaves return the labouring wains!

All things are symbols: the external shows

Of Nature have their image in the mind,
As flowers and fruits and falling of the leaves;

The song-birds leave us at the summer’s close,

Only the empty nests are left behind,
And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.

 

Our First Month’s Adventure in Homeschool: August Abacus

For a lot of reasons that I am not going to dig into here yet, we decided to homeschool this year. I am so excited to share our monthly explorations and adventures here with you. I will keep everything under the tab “Abacus”.  I have been nerding out on everything “home education” – reading all sorts of parenting books, learning about all the different approaches, coming up with monthly themes, etc. I have been particularly inspired by Elle Garrels blog The New Domestic, ambleside online, and everything Charlotte Mason. That said, we are starting by exploring a mix of different approaches and mostly just exploring and having fun with it. We have also done a whole space “redo” of our dining room as our homeschooling space, that once it is fully done I promise to share pictures of here as well.

Part of my purpose of sharing our monthly activities and themes here is to keep a record for myself. Especially for those days when it feels extra hard to get anything done – and to be able to look back on for fun.

Here is our photo journal of our August:

The “First Day” photo:

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All our goodies set out on the work table for our first day + a garden bouquet with tansy and chamomile:
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The girls looking very studious:
It’s funny, because we got some math books to just “play around” in. At first Harriet did not want anything to do with it. But now, I can’t get her to stop. Not sure what caused the switch, but I’m not complaining!

One of the things I am excited to do this year is our Passport idea for Geography/World Cultures. I picked up some of these play passports on Amazon . We are going to be “visiting” a different country every month – exploring the food, culture, dress, arts, and music through themed activities. We also got this really great giant map of the world and the plan is to slowly color it in as we visit the different countries.

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Thanks to the Olympics, we chose Brazil as our first country to visit.

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For our Brazil themed activities for the month, we watched The Boy & The World (a beautifully animated Brazilian film), listened to Brazilian music and tried our hand at Samba beats, ate Brazilian food for our monthly cooking club, watched the Brazil olympics opening ceremony, and made our own gold medals out of Clay.
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For our outdoor/P.E. activities, we practiced lots of swimming, learned how to slack line, and went on a glorious family adventure bike ride along the Katy Trail in MO.

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For our nature/science explorations, we are going to be doing a once a week nature day where we mostly just have a lot of time outside to explore and follow our curiosity. But, the plan is also to always bring nature journals and field guides and see what sparks our interest. This last week we spent a peaceful refreshing morning at Homestead Nature park in Greeley.

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No week at the Coons’ house would be complete without art projects and painting.

 

 

 

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For writing, we created our second issue of “The Coons Delivery.” This funny family newspaper is completely conceptualized and written by the girls. All I do is type up there dictation. They even have a hand in the fonts and layout. All the photos and pictures are taken/drawn by them (with the exception of the comic which Lucy insisted I drew but she described everything how she wanted it to be).

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Here were our reading books for this month –

The Blue Fairy Book for Literature (we read Beauty and the Beast), Leif the Lucky for History (we are following Beautiful Feet History’s Early American List), and Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy just for fun.

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For our reading time, we have a new favorite ritual. We bring tea, blankets and a snack on the front porch. We have been trying out the Charlotte Mason idea of living books/narration – really loving it so far.

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February Practice and Process: “Balm”

(image is from a Chinese cloisonné painting factory we visited in China 2008)

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 a entire family we can engage in this year’s exploration of “belief” we’re calling Bellwether. 

FEBRUARY Theme: BALM

February is in the heart of winter, close to the edge of a hope for spring. And with Valentine’s Day sitting in the month we’ve often treated February as a time to put into words the way we feel about the ones we deeply love. It’s a way to warm up the cold. We’ve chosen our theme of “balm” with some of these lines drawn.

Practice:

The very definition of balm is “something that has a comforting, soothing, or restorative effect.”

This month we are

  1. exploring what service looks like for our family. We want to start being restorative in an intentional way. For us that looks like partnering with a local charity called “Turn Around Bikes”. They restore donated bikes and give them to people in need. Honestly, since having children we’ve had a hard time being consistent and feeling effective when it comes to giving of ourselves in this kind of way. We’re open to getting better at service. Furthermore, it’s our hope to instill a great sense of compassion in our children. This is at least a first step.
  2. For our second spiritual/life practice we’re setting up a table altar like we did last month. This time before dinner we’ll be praying for people in need of “balm” or some extra love and care. Then on Mondays we’ll be writing and mailing postcards, sending that love out in words.

Here is a really cool free printable postcard designed by our friend Kyle Steed, if you’re needing a great design:

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Process:

Tim is working on recording a song called “There is a Balm in Gilead” this month while I’m gathering ideas and paper tidbits for the overall series.

Resources for “Balm”:

FEBRUARY Dates to Take Note of:

February 7th – Superbowl 50 (with the *ahem*, Denver Broncos! Bake these, I promise you won’t regret it.)
February 8th – Chinese New Year (year of the monkey!) – We love to celebrate by ordering Chinese takeout and reliving our China trip 🙂
February 9th – Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday – we love to listen to this sweet mix curated by Starbucks
February 10th – Ash Wednesday
February 14th – Valentine’s Day
February 15th – President’s Day
February 17th –  Random Acts of Kindness Day
February 28th – The Oscars

Local: Greeley, CO events:

February 5th (and up through the end of the month) – Soundscape a group art show at the Atlas Theater that pairs music and art (right up our alley don’t you think?)
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February 27th – Tim and Charla are opening for the lead singer of Everclear at the MOXI theater!
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Let me know if you have other fun Greeley events I should add to this calendar!

EXPLORATIONS:

Here in Greeley, CO we have had just buckets and buckets of snow. We haven’t seen the ground since December 1st. I don’t even remember what it looks like. During winters like this, I think the best possible plan of action is to find a warm tropical greenhouse to visit. Usually we make a trip to the Butterfly pavilion. This year, I am thinking we are going to visit the Orchid Showcase (Jan. 8-Feb 22) at the Denver Botanical Gardens.
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Participate in Turnaround bikes workshops this month and other service related activities.

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Make a visit to the Cranford Cove to get a new selection of looseleaf teas to enjoy this month.

Speaking of tea, the girls and I are planning a lovely Valentine’s tea party with lots of tiny delicacies, fancy china, and, of course, hats and dresses.
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ART:

Spend some time digging into Picasso’s works and share with the girls.
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Their are some really fun art activities in this book.
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Make all sorts of homemade valentines

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READING lists:

Here are some of the kid’s books I have on reserve at the library this month. I was looking for books that deal with Compassion. I would love to hear your recommendations if you have any.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, The Invisible Boy by Patrice Barton, The Lion and the Mouse,  and A Sick Day for Amos Mcgee

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I am also reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane out loud to Lucy. It is an absolute favorite of ours. The themes are nested in kindness and compassion and the journey of self-discovery. It’s a good one for adults too.
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Mary Oliver poetry books – these are ABSOLUTELY balm to my soul.
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As a little personal “balm” against the dreariness of February, I love to order my garden seeds. (my favorite is Baker Heirloom Seeds – just reading their catalog is therapeutic)
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LISTEN:

Oxygen by Willy Mason. The video is only ok, but the song is so good.

This Great Valentines Mix curated by Personal Practice