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September’s Adventures in Homeschooling

Last year we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (6), Beatrice (3), and Arlo (10 months). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.

I am a little behind and trying to get caught up (four kids man…) so this month is mostly just a picture journal. Enjoy the show!

School and ABCs:

One day a week homeschool enrichment program started up for Lucy and Harriet (her first time!)

Baby schooling for Arlo ha ha –

Letter play for Beatrice

Front porch reading/tea time

Beautiful new alphabet tracing board from Treasures from Jennifer

All sorts of alphabet play (An Artist’s Alphabet by Messenger, Animalia by Graeme Base)

Animal name alphabet matching

Such a weird and silly book!

Africa/Geography/History:

Did a little general Africa study this month

Building sand and rock maps as part of our history study.

Architecture:

We read several fun books about famous building and then made our own popsicle stick houses – which turned into troll houses and led to endless play with their tiny troll dolls (“Branch” and “Lily”)

 

The girls also built some epic block structures

Art:

Buzzy created her first paintings.

Lucy had a great time drawing fairies

They also visited me at the Children’s museum and had a great time exploring all the cool things there. Here is Lucy trying out my stage art piece

A little “Greeley Gothic”

I sorted all my old jewelry making supplies which led to several days of jewelry making for the girls.

And lastly, we found a really cool velvet embossing kit at the thrift store. Such a fun and easy process!

Kansas and the State Fair:

We took a mid month trip back to Kansas and spent the week having a blast at the State Fair there.

Riding all the rides –

The beautiful quilts on display in the Domestic Arts Building –

Experiencing what it is like to milk a cow –

Sunflowers!

Fun on the giant slide

Arlo meeting Daisy the sheep

Math:

Our very favorite math books – Beast Academy. So So fun.

In Beast Academy we are learning all about shapes, so we played with Tangrams

and some Teddy Bear math –

Music:

Piano lessons started up – although practicing is made a little more difficult by younger siblings.

So that is when we have to get out the tiny piano

Listening to a marching band parade in KS

We listened to Classical Kids “Vivaldi: Ring of Mystery” and learned about different instruments in the orchestra and also learned about the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura – so neat!!

PE:

Playing mini golf in Hutchinson, KS!

Dance classes kicked off and somebody is finally old enough to have her own class!

Autumn Fun Outside:

Learning how to fish with Grandpa Ed

Picking apples

Enjoying the animals at a petting zoo in downtown Greeley during Ag Fest

Poudre river trail races

We read My Side of the Mountain which led to all kinds of nature collecting, learning about eating in the wild, and tree walks to find edible nature finds.

Lucy also picked up whittling

Seed Study:

I love this series of books by Aston/Long – This month we focused on A Seed is Sleepy and had a lovely afternoon collecting all different kinds of seeds.

Garden Gathering:

We enjoyed the last fruits and veggies of the garden.

Birthdays:

We have two important birthdays in September. Buzzy turned 3 and Harriet turned 6!

 

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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Song Story: “Ghosts for Tinder”

Betony and I are both from Kansas. When I tell people this they often comment with something Wizard of Oz related. I usually joke with them back and say, “Have you ever driven through Kansas? It’s like driving through Purgatory. There is NOTHING on I-70. Its a sea of blue and brown.”

But then I assure them with something I also truly believe. That Kansas does have an incredible beauty; like enormous, open skies that hold vast sunsets or intense changes of season. When Betony and I are in Kansas we feel home, we feel safe, and we visit often (we currently live in Colorado).

Being from the midwest I remember being taught something fascinating about the plains ecology: that it’s actually adapted for wildfires to burn through. It happened so much in the thousands of years in our region that plants and life have evolved to assume it’s likelihood. (The government actually pays money for certain acres of prairie to be burned. The CRP program helps all the ecology to have areas remain native and they do controlled burns to preserve that correctly! It’s amazing to watch!)

Here’s a science-y run down from a museum site of how fire actually helps the grasses of the plains:

“The roots and growing points of prairie plants form thick networks underground, where they are protected from fire. Prairie fires move quickly, so the soil acts as a buffer protecting prairie plants’ underground growing structures.

After prairie fires, the dark surface of the soil is warmed by the sun, and in the spring this helps seeds germinate. Existing plants grow stronger after fires. New seeds carried into the burned soil start new plants. For some plants with hard seed-coats, fire burns some of the seedcoat off the seeds and actually helps the seed germinate faster.”

I think there is something profound here in this story of nature. That fire can actually lead to better growth.

http://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/prairie/htmls/eco_fadapt.html

How many of us know this scene: In order to get over the relationship, in order to move on, the broken-hearted takes all the love-letters and keepsakes and momentos and, in ceremony, collects them in the pile outside. Slowly and deliberately a match is lit, maybe a prayer is said, and the fire begins- a fire that will hopefully clear things for new growth. In the pain of letting go there is the hope of new life.

How many of us know this scene? but a bigger question is How many of us have lived it?

Betony and I’s album and art project Becoming looked at this metaphor and saw truth in it worth creating from. She created a stunning piece of a prairie fire after I wrote the song “Ghosts for Tinder”.

It begs the questions,
Have you let things go that hurt like a fire, but now with distance you see great life came from it?
Are you in the process and pain of letting some of that go now?

Here’s the lyrics to “Ghosts for Tinder”. And you can listen to it here as well.

GHOSTS FOR THE TINDER lyrics by Tim Coons

Come and keep by my lovely fire
I’ve got pieces I’m scheming from the liars with in me
You’ve replayed in my darker mind
You’re re-lived in the days I have assigned without you

Yes, I’ll leave it behind
Yes, I’ll leave it behind
Yes, I’ll leave it behind
Yes, I’ll leave it behind

Burn it down here
burn it down
it will come again
come up, on up from this ground
Up and around
So burn it down

I’ve got ghosts for the tinder glow
I’ve got pages to wash clean as snow to warm me
I’ve got memories for matches now
I will lighten the load so sad and loud for
When I see you

Heaven knows it will light
Heaven knows it will light

“Ghosts for Tinder” Painting Story and Process Photos

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A photo of a wildfire that was about a quarter of a mile from my parents’ house.IMG_5177IMG_5175

My parents’ farm in the Kansas Sandhills is surrounded by hundreds of acres of native prairie. Farmers there are constantly fighting the growth of cedar trees and other invasive species to try to retain the health and beauty of the prairie. One of the reasons why the prairie can be difficult to maintain is because fire is necessary to its life and health. Wildfires burn away dead plants; prevent certain other plants from encroaching; and release nutrients into the ground to encourage new growth. But in our world, we fight against fire.

Where I grew up, prairie fires are a very real concern. My childhood home was destroyed in a prairie fire (thankfully after we had already moved out). I remember many nights where my dad would leave all the sprinklers on in the yard “just in case”  because a nearby wildfire might jump the road and head our way.

Understandably, we don’t have room in our lives for fire. It can be dangerous and destructive. We have belongings and homes that are cherished. But, in our needs for safety and to protect the things we love, we can miss out on some of the restorative benefits. Especially in the sense of fire as a larger metaphor.

So the prairie here is a metaphor. Sometimes the best healing for new growth is a clearing out. This painting is my reminder to myself; that sometimes we need to start anew. Sometimes we need to let pain in and let go and begin again.

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Interesting little side note, this is the one piece in this series that was not started on a new blank canvas. The canvas had a painting on it that I was never happy with, so I painted over it to create this new piece – an act that mirrors the symbolism of the piece. The gray bird in the sky flying towards the past is the one element I kept from the original painting.

The butterflies here represent (as always in my pieces) hope and forward momentum.
The fire has sparkles of the universe within it.
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A 2013 photo of burning cedars in the prairie

 

GHOSTS FOR THE TINDER lyrics by Tim Coons

Come and keep by my lovely fire

I’ve got pieces I’m scheming from the liars with in me

You’ve replayed in my darker mind

You’re re-lived in the days I have assigned without you

Yes, I’ll leave it behind

Yes, I’ll leave it behind

Yes, I’ll leave it behind

Yes, I’ll leave it behind

Burn it down here

burn it down

it will come again

come up, on up from this ground

Up and around

So burn it down

I’ve got ghosts for the tinder glow

I’ve got pages to wash clean as snow to warm me

I’ve got memories for matches now

I will lighten the load so sad and loud for
When I see you

Heaven knows it will light

Heaven knows it will light

 

“Monarch Migration” Painting Story and Process Photos

Over the course of this month, we will be sharing some of the stories behind the paintings and songs in the Becoming series.
You can purchase prints of this piece here.

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“Monarch Migration”
15X30  mixed media on canvas

The farm I grew up on is in the heart of the prairie in Kansas. It is a 30 minute drive on dusty dirt roads to the nearest civilization. My parents apple orchard is surrounded by 180 acres of native prairie and forests. Their driveway is over a mile long – and because the county maintenance trucks won’t maintain driveways, it was usually in pretty rough shape – horribly muddy in the spring, treacherously icy in the winter, and full of sand pits in the summer. Our mailbox was at the end of the driveway and a daily ritual was to walk and get the mail.

On this particular day in September, when I was probably about 8 years old, I remember turning the corner at the mailbox and feeling like something was different. There was a quivering energy to the air. I looked up and noticed hundreds of monarchs in the sky above me. And then, as I looked closer at the trees lining the roadway, I gasped, because what I had first thought were leaves fluttering in the wind were actually wings. Thousands and thousands of wings. I had happened upon the migration of monarchs.

I’m not sure why the butterflies ended up in KS that year. It’s out of their normal migratory path. After I left home, my parents had them come through one other year. But I have never seen them again.

We are losing monarchs. There are less and less every year. Their main source of food, the milkweed plant is being displaced by fields and housing and mowers. The older I get, the more I am becoming aware of how fleeting everything around us is. How delicate the beauty of these tiny wings. How necessary it is to pause and notice the flutters hidden in the branches.

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