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Abacus: Top Secret Spy Assignment

Lucy woke up yesterday telling me all about a dream she had where she was a spy. She then sat and stared at the cover of “Spy Kids” on netflix for about 20 minutes, talking about how much she wanted to be a real spy. I sent her upstairs to assemble a “spy” kit (what she came up with is pictured above) and told her not to come down until I was ready. While she and Hattie were working on their bags, I set up a spy training course. I saw this idea on pinterest a while back –

laser-obstacle
So I quickly strung yarn “lasers”, set up a row of chairs over “hot lava”, and ended the course with a ride down a roller coaster. We also listened to a mix Tim and I made a while back called “This Album Will Self Destruct.” It was pretty fun (Ironically, I had woken up grouchy and tired and had zero desire to do anything fun or engaging with the kids. What I really wanted to do was to sit and drink my coffee and look at my phone.) I wanted to find a way to tie the whole thing into “Letters”, so in the afternoon, Lucy received this message in the mail:

spy code

 

Code Key

Since this month is all about Letters, we thought it would be fun to pass it on to you as well. Print it out, and, if your kiddos are into it, follow the instructions and they too will get a package from us in the mail with some fun trinkets and “spy” gear.
Signed,

Crocodile, Spider X, and Scary Bear (our spy names the girls came up with)

Abacus: “Letters” – A Creative Curriculum List for February

Giants and Pilgrims Abacus is a creative home curriculum centered on a monthly theme. This month’s theme is “Letters”!
Read all about how to use this list and our heart behind this project here.


A couple of February Dates to keep in mind as you are scheming fun activities-

Groundhog Day = Feb. 2
Valentines Day = feb. 14th
Mardi Gras = Feb. 17th
Ash Wednesday = Feb. 18th
The Chinese New Year = feb. 19th

And if you are in the Greeley area, the Stampede troupe is putting on Treasure Island feb. 27 & 28

 

Letters:

Language/Writing:

Experiment with tracing paper – cool letters, etc.

Learn/practice cursive and calligraphy – I am excited to revisit this myself (later in the month I will post some really cool charts for this)

Penpal exchange for the month (anyone want in on this?)

Keeping Adventure Logs/Diaries

Adventure:

Set up letter writing stations around town

Visit the local Post Office (do they do tours?)

 

Art:

Make Sewn Letter mobiles 

Mod podge a set of Alphabet rocks

Illustrate our own animal alphabet book

Take an alphabet photo walk – #almanacalphabetseverywhere (put them together, spell names, etc.)

 

Building:

Construct valentine mailboxes – this one is particularly adorable

Table mailboxes

 

Reading: 

(Various age appropriateness here)
The Jolly Postman
by Allan Ahlberg
Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse
Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Vocab – “Epistolary”


Movies

Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveller (awesomely bad 90’s movie)

Spellbound – spelling bee documentary

Word Wars – Scrabble documentary 

For the Romantics:
You’ve got Mail
P.S. I Love You

 

Music:

The Postal Service

Abc playlist -We will post ours on Giants & Pilgrims this month

 

History:

Illuminated manuscripts – I used to make these with my art class using parchment paper, that we would burn the edges of and metallic ink or gold leaf to embellish the drop caps with.

Stamp collecting – I am printing out some of these pages – http://stamps.org/userfiles/file/albums/2014-Issues.pdf and any time we get a letter this month with stamps on it, we will save them and add them to our stamp “album”. The pdf has some nice history stories behind each stamp.

 

Technology:

Typing games on the computer (suggestions anyone?)

Play with the typewriter


Kitchen:

Alphabet pasta/soup

 

Math:

Roman numerals

Learn about addresses

 

Games:

Scrabble
Boggle
Spelling Bee
In the Car – the alphabet game (could be a race), letter finding game, etc.

 

What would you add to this list?
Share your projects on our facebook group!

Original Christmas Songs by Tim Coons

Original Christmas Songs
by Tim Coons

Eric Long, director of music at Frontier Academy Elementary in
Greeley, CO, commissioned me to write 4 Christmas songs a few years ago.

The concert was in December so I decided to do a song cycle of the famous poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. The music was received wonderfully from kids and parents so I thought I’d offer them as a download here, just for this Christmas season.

Here’s the link! You can download the songs for FREE here:

https://timcoons.bandcamp.com

Adventure: Capes and Crowns

  IMG_2580 DSC_0111  DSC_0125
Capes & Crowns
 
When Lucy was a baby, one of her outfits had a tiny
hidden talk bubble on it that said
“This is the begining of something beautiful.” 
This adventure is about speaking mantras into childrens’ lives.
 
Items Needed:
Free fabric samples (perhaps thrown out from a furniture or
design businesses) or other scrap fabric/felt
Plastic jewels
Scissors
Hot Glue Gun
Sharpies
Instructions:
For the September theme of “brave” you’ll be making capes and crowns for kids. Keep a couple for your family or children you know, then donate the rest to a play area of a woman’s shelter or a waiting room at a doctor’s office or somewhere you know they’ll be put to great use and play.
First, cut the fabric samples into the shapes of capes and crowns while using the hot glue gun to add bling in different patterns. Add ribbons or elastic strips that make them wearable. These can be as simple or as elaborate as you would like. Have sewing skills? If so, reinforce the designs with stiches for extra durability. There are some great templates online you can use as a pattern for the crowns.
IMG_2555
When you’ve made some working items take the sharpie. Here’s the important part:
Hide messages into the capes and crowns. What do you want spoken over your kids? Your friends’ kids or nieces and nephews? The children at the place of donation? We suggest mantras like You are Strong. You can do this. You are loved. Great wisdom and strength is found in you.
And so on.
They may never read the message but these sentiments, like small prayers, will play over them as they dawn these dress up items; these capes and crowns that encourage feats of bravery in their stories.
DSC_0114
IMG_2554

Gourmet Lemonade Stand

Betony, Lucy, Hattie, and myself did this Gourmet Lemonade Stand as a family last summer. It was so fun as Lucy (then 4) championed herself as the chef).

We used the profits to buy school supplies for a drive that was going on in our city. It was one of those really wonderful days. And it was the first time we’d talked to Lucy about giving money towards charity rather than what you’d want. It made the trip to the store to buy the school supplies just as fun and meaningful as the stand.

Needs:

Cups

Ice

Lemons

Sugar

Flavored Simple Syrups

Club Soda

A twist on the typical lemonade stand that’s pushing powdered,

insta-drink. Instead host a Gourmet Lemonade Stand!

Make some of your own simple syrups and get creative. Add carbonation to the drink, sprigs of mint, and so on. As you sell the beverages plan on making the summer day endeavor a charitable event. (Last summer our 4 year old made the hard sell AND played the part of chef. This was perhaps against child labor laws but effective. The monies collected went to buying school supplies for a drive that was going on that fall.)

Advertise on social media to get more than just neighborhood traffic and make an event of it.

Basic Simple Syrup

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup white sugar

1 cup water

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.

Variations:

Mint/Basil/Lemon Balm

Add a handful of mint leaves to the hot syrup and allow to steep/cool for 15-20 minutes. Strain

Blueberry

Add one cup blueberries to the basic simple syrup recipe. Simmer 15 minutes and then strain.

Lavender

Add 3 Tbs dried or fresh culinary lavender flowers to the basic simple syrup recipe then strain.

Cardamom

Add 1/4 whole cardamom to the basic simple syrup recipe. Simmer 15 minutes and then strain.

Ginger

4 oz fresh ginger – Peel the ginger root with a vegetable peeler, and cut into thin rounds. Simmer with water and sugar and then steep for 30 min.

May Almanac Featured Artist: Kathryn Buncik

Kathryn Buncik stayed in our home for a whole summer a few years ago. She interned at Atlas Church where I worked and for the Coons’ (learning what it means to be an artist in the family context). After those few months she stayed with us we knew Kathryn would always be family, making such a strong connection both Betony and I and our girls.

She graduates from her college in Tennessee this month with an art degree and Betony and I are so proud of her! We wanted to feature her senior art show “Hide and Seek” here with an interview and some pictures. Enjoy Kathryn’s heart, her thirst for wonder, and her lifting art!

The title of the collection (made for your senior show) is “Hide and
Seek”. What brought you to that title? 

The title was actually suggested to me by Betony. And the more I thought about it, the more I liked
it. A lot of my work is made through my reflections of both childhood and adulthood. I think a lot
about my transition from being a child, innocent and curious, to being an adult who knows about a
lot of hard things happening in my life and in the world, yet still wanting to hold on to that curiosity. I
really like the play on words that “Hide and Seek” allows. Taking it in the context of childhood, it’s a
diverting and careless game. But taking it in the context of adulthood and looking at the individual
words of “hiding” and “seeking”, there’s a little bit of peril and fear that plays in to it. So in the
series, I show (mostly) children in the acts of hiding and seeking, yet they are doing so in
mountains and outer space and other vast open areas that, in reality, would be quite dangerous.
But even still, there is no sense of danger when one looks at the pieces. While it can be a hard and
dangerous journey sometimes, I’m enjoying it and find so much beauty in it. And I wanted to make
that much more prevalent than the hardship.

The elements you use for collage feel paired-­down and it seems like I could 
name each quickly:­ cosmos, nostalgic people figures (mainly children), animals, 
searching or play featured… What else am I missing? How did you come to these 
guiding subjects? Why are you drawn to them? 

Definitely. Some I relate to personally. Some I’m attracted to visually. I could talk about each
element and tell you why I used it but I’ll spare you of that.

Where do you find your collage items and why have you chosen to work in this 
series with collage alone? 

I usually find my materials from old books and magazines. I find them in a lot of different
places…old book stores, thrift stores, antique shops, yard sales. Friends have even started giving
me books they think I can use for collage, which I love! For this series I decided to work only with
collage and only with original found materials. They were all handmade (not digital) and I didn’t
scan, resize, or reproduce any of the images. I did that mostly for the challenge. And I love the
history and age that comes with original materials as well.

What are you dreaming of when it comes to future art projects? 

Hmm. More collage for sure. I’ve always enjoyed making art independently, but I think I’d be
interested in some collaboration projects in the future. I don’t know exactly what I imagine that to
look like, but I’m definitely open to the idea of it.

What are the top things you’ve learned in college, since you are now graduating, 
when it comes to your art?

Best art advice I’ve ever been given: “Make what breathes life into you.”
A sweet British man named Nigel Goodwin visited my school a few times over the last few years,
and one of those times I got to sit with him and talk about art for about an hour. I was discouraged
about feeling so drained by various art projects I was working on at the time. After listening to me
for a bit, he told me that at any given time, I should make whatever will breathe life into me. And as
soon as he said that, I completely understood what he meant. I had felt that before. From then on,
I’ve made a point to work on projects that I know I’ll enjoy, whatever medium feels right at the time.
And that has only made me love art making more and more.

Could you give your feelings/stories for 3 specific pieces from your senior show? 

buncik 1

1. This one is probably my favorite of the series. I grew up with 7 siblings and loved every bit of it. It
definitely reminds me of being with them. I also love the matching pajamas so much. The rip in the
side is also something I really love the look of, and I wish I had implied that more throughout the
series. But this was one of the last ones I made so that was more of a timing thing.

buncik 2

2. One thing I’ve been seeing a lot in my work lately is pairs. Two boys or two girls, usually. And
my favorite is when they’re in matching clothes. I’m extremely close with my younger sister (we’re
the youngest of the eight), and I think I just really love the sense of camaraderie and partnership I
get when I use pairs. It’s like they’re in it together, whatever their adventure might be.

buncik 3

3. This is another of my favorites. I just feel so happy every time I look at it. The boy is way too
sweet. And the gentleness of the butterfly makes his experience of being found so joyful. I really
love that idea.

————————————————

Many thanks to Kathryn for sharing her amazing work here!! See the rest of her show at the link below:

www.kathrynbuncik.com

 

For a Laugh

In honor of the pranks of April Fool’s Day and the joy of Easter we put some comedy in our April paper Almanac that was out this month. Enjoy some jokes done in the manor of their famous archetypes below.

If you’d like to share some jokes that you know, post them in the comments.

KNOCK, KNOCK JOKES

Knock, Knock
Who’s there?
To
To who?
It’s to whom.

Knock, Knock
Who’s there?
Control freak. Now YOU say control freak who.

PUNS
Did you hear about the short clairvoyant who escaped from prison?
She’s a small medium at large.

CHICKEN CROSSING ROAD
Why did the chicken cross the road?
Because it doesn’t recognize the roads existence.
Its behavior is instinctual and random.

TWIST
What’s blue and smells like red paint?
Blue paint.

WALKS INTO A BAR
A grasshopper walks into a bar. The barman looks at him and says,
‘Did you know there’s a drink named after you?’
‘Really?’ says the grasshopper. ‘There’s a drink called Jeremy?’