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January 2018 Adventures in Homeschooling

Two years ago we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (6), Beatrice (3), and Arlo (1). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.

JAPAN:

We continued our world tour this month with a “trip” to Japan. This was definitely one of our favorite countries/cultures yet! I surprised the girls by setting up a Japanese style low table in the middle of our dining room with zen inspired decorations and gave them each a silk kimono (twelve dollars on amazon!).

We had a Japanese tea party –

We practiced calligraphy and mark making with these lovely Teagas water scrolls –

We played with origami –

And REALLy loved getting to try all these yummy Japanese snacks from our TopMunch box!

  Watched fascinating videos about silkworms and zen gardens –  

We of course went out for sushi at the end of the month!

SNOW:

A reoccuring theme for January for us is “Snow”! Thanks Colorado!

A day at the best sledding hill –

All the snow books –

Building a funny snow man (snow deer?)

Painting snowy scenes

READING:

Lots of letter play for this little one –

The two big girls joined the Secret Society of Letter Writers

And for Harriet this month we worked REALLY hard to read every day. She has been doing so great!

Polymer Clay and Stop Motion:

We had lots of fun making some little stop motion videos with my iphone and also made lots of oven bake figures.

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ART:

So many fun art projects this month. Buzzy helping me do the underpainting on a canvas –

Painting owls inspired by Owl Moon

Painting our to-do list clip boards

Face painting fun

And a really cool art show up at the university

BOOK CLUB:

For book club this month, we read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

We got to experience Chinese Hot Pot

 

Went on a journey to find the Old Man of the Moon

Had a great discussion

And celebrated the Year of the Dog

DINOSAURS:

Our Natural History Museum at a really cool touring exhibit of dinosaur skeletons, so we adventured to Denver to check it out.

Digging for dinosaur fossils

HOMEMAKING:

Some days, when the chaos is winning, it is best to take the morning off from normal homeschool and learn about the lost arts of homemaking. Headphones and fun music help (Annie soundtrack all the way for these girls)

Harriet came up with her own recipe for Orange Cake. Turned out pretty tasty!

A dinner Lucy and Harriet made.

One day Lucy really wanted to build something. So they designed, built, and painted this shelf with a cup holder for next to their bed.

December 2017 Adventures in Homeschooling

Last year we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (6), Beatrice (3), and Arlo (1). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.

Cardboard Fun:

With all the Christmas shipments (and a couple of new tool purchases for art projects), we found ourselves with an awesome stash of large cardboard boxes.

As well as revisiting this favorite book –

We made all sorts of fun structures.

A castle with multiple rooms and a draw bridge –

A gingerbread house –

Handmade Gifts:

We had a lot of fun making homemade gifts this year. For grandparents, the kids designed and made wood cut out paintings. It was neat listening to them decide what image to make for each person. A fish for grandpa ed because he loves painting, a pie for grandmama because she is the queen of pie making, a girl with a dress for grandma DiDi because she loves buying little girl’s dresses, etc.

As part of our science club, we made bath bombs. So easy and fun! Next time I want to try hiding little surprises in the middle!

Bookclub! A Step back in History…

Our homeschool bookclub is turning into this magical much anticipated event. This month we read Benjamin West and his cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry. A historical fiction story about the father of American painting.

We experimented with making our own colors our of clay and charcoal, made quill pens out of turkey feathers, and practice life drawings of cats.

We feasted on homemade porridge at the “Door Latch Inn”

And even tried Peas with Honey (a funny reference from the books)

And learned how to play Blindman’s Bluff

Some Tinkering Engineering Play:

Hydraulics, robotics, and engineering. What a fun world we live in. So many cool topics to explore and neat things to make. And so thankful for grandparents gift subscriptions, uncles sending cool robots, and libraries sharing their resources.

Homemaking & Home Baking:

We have started having one day a month of learning about simple home making skills – how to fold laundry, how to iron, things like that.

We didn’t make huge batches of Christmas cookies for neighbors this year because our kitchen was torn up for most of December (an unexpected dishwasher replacement) and an expected and much anticipated new countertop and backsplash!

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But when it was finally done, we broke the new kitchen in with a glorious sugar cookie explosion of awesomeness with the help of Grandma DiDi.

Snapshots of Christmas Goodness:

I love this time of year so much it makes my heart hurt. Here are a few moments from December that I want to remember.

   

New Years Eve:

Instead of heading to KS this year, we had a little staycation (and played ALOT of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey) and then had a fun night with friends on New Years Eve

Happy New Year Friends! May your 2018 be as fresh and beautiful as these paper whites, but hopefully not nearly as stinky.

A Food Fight Party, Playing Planets, and Video Games Come to Life…. June’s Adventures in Homeschooling

This year we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (5), Beatrice (2), and Arlo (8 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.

Ahhhh. Summertime.  We aren’t doing anything structured for homeschooling over the summer, but it is wonderful to see how unschooling (or chasing the spark) can play out on these long summer days.

Parties and Outdoor Play:

Lucy planned an Epic food fight battle for her 8 year old party.
So fun! We did three rounds – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each round had a specific food and challenge. Thanks to some other mom tips online, it went off with out a hitch.

So silly and fun.

A letter Lucy wrote to her future self, with instructions to mom to give it to her on her 8th B-day.

Trying out her new penny board with some pro tips from friend Calvin.

June backyard pool party vibes…

And garden sketching and reading (also notice the Hidden Valley Ranch because they made themselves a salad from the garden as a snack – ha ha ha)

Rolling down the hills races at the University

Exploring the new city “stained glass” park!

First swing ride for Arlo-man (and the photo that motivated mama to give him his first haircut ha ha!)

Robots Galore:

Lucy got several Robot kits for her birthday. She LOVES robots. Her current obsession is trying to figure out how to get all her robots to do her chores for her. Hmmmm…..

Audio Books/Read Alouds:

We have recently “discovered” audio books (thank you read aloud revival audio deals!). Here are a couple we enjoyed this month – (Tim read Harry Potter book two out loud – so wonderful to get to relive these with our kids – and we have loved these Jim Kay illustrated versions)

 

Lucy dressed up at Mary Poppins

Outer Space:

The only “theme” we played with this month was planets and outer space. We used some Pinay Homeschool handouts and made polymer clay planets.

Lucy drew some stellar rocket ships

We enjoyed lots of space/aeronautic books from the library. I particularly LOVED the Armstrong and Lindbergh mouse adventures. Wonderful illustrations and stories – great sneaky histories for kids.

We also read Magic school bus in space

Did some planet play at the Windsor park

Circus Circus:

For Christmas this last year, Tim got the girls and me tickets to Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia”. The whole show was about Mexico. It was utterly breathtaking. And so neat to be able to share with the girls after our Mexico study last October. I have seen a lot of their shows (and loved all of them) but this was by far my favorite.

I mean, they made it rain on stage – utterly magical.

Some Papel Picado inspired backdrop.

And then some fun circus books from the library

Lone Valley School:

Greeley has a historic park called Centennial Village that is run by the greeley museums. The two older girls participated in a day camp there at the beginning of June called Lone Valley School. They loved it. Lots of old fashioned activities and fun.

They were so into it that the second day they insisted on wearing period specific costumes.

Here is a photo of the old fashioned school house and some of the drills from their primers.

Morning breaks consisted of time playing old fashioned games like stilt walking and ring toss.

Making and Baking:

Fort building around the dining room table.

Marionette dragon making activity at the library

Lucy really wanted to invent a recipe and bake it. So, with a little help/suggestions from mama, here is her recipe she came up with “Lucy’s Mini Cupcaks”. They turned out surprisingly delicious!!

Dino Days:

Tim took the girls to Dinosaur days at the Colorado Model Railroad Museum

Art:

Lucy has really been honing her portrait/drawing from life skills. This is a drawing she did of Tim while he was reading Harry Potter out loud.

And here is Harriet’s wonderful “portrait” of her imaginary friend “Twinklebell”

Clay can get pretty messy, so summer is the perfect time to play with ceramics since we can do it outside.

Dance Recital:

Lucy and Harriet both danced in their studios annual dance recital.

Celebrating with ice cream in the park afterwards.

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild:

Our best friends lent us their Nintendo switch at our house for the month. We are not really a gaming family, but we have loved all of the Zelda games since the very beginning. It has been so fun to play this incredible game as a family. It is breathtakingly beautiful and so fun – rock climbing, cooking, and so so much world to explore. So, we had to have a real life Zelda adventure as well… Everyone will be a little sad to return the switch next month.

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!

 

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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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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Big 33 List

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Every year for my birthday I have this funny little tradition of making a “Big ___ List” (insert number of years old). Each year, I make a bucketlist of goals/activities to try for the following year. There is one list item for each year old I turn.

(By the way, the Garden Arch picture is up there because it was an item on my Big 32 List!)

BIG 33 List:

  1. Get a Hammock
  2. Plant a fruit tree
  3. Read a Classic (I always put this one on the list, but I need a suggestion)
  4. Have a baby boy/4th Child (pretty inevitable this November… 🙂
  5. Make homemade croissants
  6. Go Camping with the whole family
  7. Have a “no spending month”
  8. Get awesomely fit after pregnancy
  9. Go see a musical in Denver
  10. See another cirque du soleil show
  11. Visit a new place
  12. Finish the Bellwether series
  13. Create/design a “sacred space”
  14. Go to the KS State Fair
  15. Finish the dining room redo
  16. Have a great solid first year of homeschooling
  17. Keep moving towards “Clearing” and minimalism in our house
  18. Complete the UNC tree walk and learn some new tree names
  19. Do the Nature Pal Exchange with the kids
  20. Finish my braided rug
  21. Finish my sunshine quilt (I hate to admit but this has been on at least 4 years of lists)
  22. Always make a double batch when cooking
  23. Be a better friend when it comes to birthdays/gifts
  24. Get something published in Uppercase Magazine
  25. Stop texting and looking at my phone while driving
  26. Redo my kitchen countertops
  27. Keep in monthly blog log of our homeschooling adventures
  28. Learn how to wire a light.
  29. Drive the Poudre Canyon road during the peak of fall colors.
  30. Eat at Acorn in Denver (or….. other suggestions?)
  31. Eat more vegetables/Get my kids to eat more vegetables
  32. Apply for an artist in residence program
  33. Don’t cut my hair so I can actually grow it out

April Practice & Process: “Converse”

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

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

APRIL Theme: CONVERSE

March was actually a difficult month (and we weren’t very good at doing our “practice & process”)! A lot is going on that’s going to bring change in the coming year. So Betony and I have chosen the theme of “converse” for April. (I started the week after Easter “conversing” with God with some rhythmic daily prayers, just needing recovery!)

So, Betony and I hope to get away a little bit and find some spaces to talk about everything- life, spirituality, future, etc!

Practice:

This month we are

  1. Getting babysitting once a week and going out to talk about life!
  2. For our Table Alter this month we’re continuing to set up little pots and planting seeds – we’ll water and watch the slow progression of growth, again hitting on the death and resurrection truths we find in the world around us. This is an ongoing conversation we hope to have with our kids.

Process:

Betony has hit some big finish lines last month regarding ongoing art projects. Then Tim is song-writing this month with Charla Bultman, continuing to add some more songs to the Bellwether project.

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

Resources for “April”:

APRIL Dates to Take Note of:

April = National Poetry Month
April 1st – April Fools Day (we love to freeze our girl’s breakfast cereal…)
April 22nd – Earth Day (which if you happen to live near a Ben & Jerry’s is also Free Cone Day)
April 29th – Arbor Day
April 30th – International Jazz Day

Local: Greeley, CO events:

April 10th – Handel’s Water Music UCCC
April 23rd – Arbor Day Celebration at Lincoln Park, 9:00 am
April 27th – Greeley Children’s Chorale Spring Sing (at Northridge H.S.)
April 27th – Ballet West at UCCC, 7:00pm
April 30th – Copelia at Niwot High School

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

RESOURCES/EXPLORATIONS :
(from Betony…)

POETRY:

April is National Poetry Month so this works perfectly with our theme “converse”! We hope to read some poems with the girls and work on writing too!
For kids, we LOVE this book –
Outside Your Window by Nikola Davies. The Illustrations by Mark Herald are just gorgeous.
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Speaking of Mark Herald, I have been drooling over this wallpaper of his. I’m thinking I might need to dive into wallpaper design some time soon.
mark-hearld-wallpaper

For myself for poetry month, I am going to read Felicity by Mary Oliver. I bought it a few months ago at our favorite book shop in Hutchinson, KS and I have been saving it just for this occasion.
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READING LISTS:

How to talk so your kids will listen by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
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What we talk about when we talk about God by Rob Bell
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LANGUAGE:

We felt like with this theme it would also be a great month to explore different languages. Lucy has loved this app that teaches Spanish.
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This Frida ap also looks pretty great –
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 What language learning programs have you used? Any fun games language games for kids that you would recommend?

THE ARTS:

Conversing does not always have to be verbal. I am planning on taking the girls to several ballet productions this month.
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MAKE:

My front door is needing a new spring wreath. I am thinking I will make something simple like this twig flower beauty.
DIY-Spring-Wreath
I also like this Square one from Megan Brooke Handmade
OldSpringWreath-1

MUSIC:

Curate a Tree themed Arbor Day playlist
Apple Tree

 

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?)
Soundscape Art Poster
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.
Chihuly Glass at Denver Botanic Garden5

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

51Mhnd4j91L 61E8Hp+TeUL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_ 51j3FlqSA9L._SX403_BO1,204,203,200_ Kindess8 a-sick-day-for-amos-mcgee-b
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.
edward-tulane

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

The Odd and Random BEST of 2015 List!

We posted a list at the end of the year in 2014 with some of our favorite foods, experiences, stories, etc. from the year. Here’s our new, curated list for 2015. It is odd and random, but it is our “best of’s” for sure!

BEST METAPHORS of 2015:

(from Betony)

Are found in this tremendous book!
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Sometimes I miss the most obvious metaphorical scenes in books and movies. Tim will mention something about how a director was brilliantly foreshadowing or developing a character and I just go “huh?.”  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer was so rich with metaphors and intertwining stories that even I was able to catch the beauty of the connecting threads. The poetic writing in this book is just stunning.

Here is the quick Good Reads description of the book:

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

BEST BREWERY of 2015:

(from Tim)

What an audacious claim! How can I choose just one? Runner up would have to be WeldWerks. Betony and I have loved heading over to that local brewery in Greeley and their beers have been fantastic.

But number one goes to NEW GLARUS, found in Wisconsin. And the great, heart-breaking problem is… they don’t sell outside of Wisconsin!

Anything that comes out of New Glarus Brewing company is pretty amazing. Their flagship is called “Spotted Cow”. It is creamy and rich and tastes like I’ve dreamed of what the best wheat beer in the world should taste like, then I get to drink my dreams.

If it is testament to how good they are, Betony recently had a friend smuggle 2 six packs out of Wisconsin in their suitcase all the way back to Colorado. All for my Christmas present! It’s so good we ask our friends to break the law so we might partake.

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BEST FOODS WE FOUND ONLINE of 2015:

(from Betony)

This is absolutely perfect German mustard – Lowensenf -(we love both the sweet and the spicy. Don’t discriminate).
I ordered it for our Oktoberfest themed cooking club and we can’t get enough of it. I don’t even like mustard usually.
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These little perfect buttery crackers – Effies Oatcakes – I told Tim I thought they were what Elven Lembas bread probably tasted like.
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BEST LOCAL-PRIDE MOMENTS of 2015 (STATE and CITY)!

(from Betony)

Tim had the chance to open for Nathaniel Rateliff a couple of years ago at the MOXI theater. We became kind of smitten with him. The rawness in his performance and songwriting pulls at your gut. He reminds me of a bluesy, rougher Johnny Cash.

Then this local hero out of Denver formed a new band and had a BIG break. Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats were asks to perform on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show. They crushed it and Tim commented on how good this will be for Colorado and its music scene! Way to go Colorado!

The performance can be seen here. They get a standing ovation!

That was best local pride moment for the STATE of Colorado.

For best local pride moment for our CITY we have the breaking of a Guinness world record!

Greeley isn’t always known for being the coolest, most happening town. A lot of the press Greeley gets is negative – “smelly”, “oil-driven”, etc. But, the people of Greeley are pretty wonderful, so when the community can come together and do something like this – it makes my heart all warm and fuzzy. Real proud of you Greeley. Way to be unexpectedly awesome.
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BEST NEW LIQUOR Cabinet Addition of 2015:

(from Betony)

I went searching for this liqueur so that I could make a fun recipe I came across. I was at our favorite liquer store in town and the lady helped me search for it for quite some time. (Apparently most Greeley-ites don’t use it). When we finally got it, I kind of balked at the price ($50) but felt a bit obligated to buy it after she had spent so long helping me locate it. I am so glad I did! First off, the story of how it is made is pretty incredible –

Chartreuse  is a French liqueur made by the Carthusian Monks since 1737 according to the instructions set out in a manuscript given to them by François Annibal d’Estrées in 1605. It is composed of distilled alcohol aged with 130 herbs, plants and flowers. The liqueur is named after the Monks’ Grande Chartreuse monastery, located in the Chartreuse Mountains in the general region of Grenoble in France.
(wikipedia)

And, it tastes like its origins – very complex with floral and herbal flavors.
Our current favorite use of it is in The Last Word – a great classic cocktail.

chartreuse-verte

BEST NEW RECIPE of 2015

(from Tim)

Goes to a pie! a pie that will be made from here on out for my birthdays, Christmas’s, Thanksgivings, bar mitz fas, and whatever special occasion I can convince Betony to make it. (It’s being made tonight for New Year’s Eve. Of course.) It’s called Banoffee Pie.

(She posted the recipe here a few months ago) – She happened upon this one kind of by mistake and when she didn’t have the kind of cookie the original recipe called for in the crust, she improvised using Biscoff cookies (you know, those European airplane cookies?). Everything about it is pretty perfect if I do say so myself.

BEST INSPIRING MAGAZINE of 2015

(from Betony)

Truly I could not give this Canadian magazine, UPPERCASE, a more glowing review. It is immaculately designed, thoughtfully curated, and fascinating to explore. I read each issue cover to cover. Janine Vangool (the editer and mastermind behind it) is pretty incredible at what she does. Her tagline “for the Creative and Curious” is perfect as each issue digs into a theme in all sorts of interesting ways. The second to last issue was called “Perfection” and was a beautifully done exploration of stamps, lace, and other “perforated” artworks. If creativity is “the art of making connections”, UPPERCASE is a great example of that. The connections she makes and the circular way she ties all the pieces together is wonderful.

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BEST OUTDOOR GEAR Addition of 2015

(from Tim)

This was the summer of the bicycle for us. Lucy learned how to ride with out training wheels and I said goodbye to my 1994 electric blue Trek 820 (as I got a new bike)!

We picked up this WeeRide attachment from Craigslist so Harriet could ride with us (exhibiting great bravery for a 4 year old). And we are so pumped about it. With Lucy finally being able to ride her own bike, the addition of a baby bike seat to Betony’s cruiser, and this brilliant contraption that attaches to the back of my sweet new ride, we can FINALLY ride bikes as a family. We have declared 2016 the “Year of the Bicycle” for the Coons family and love how solidly made this little tandem attachment is.

WeeRide-Co-Pilot-Bike-Trailer

BEST AMUSEMENT RIDE of 2015

(from Tim)

We had a whole post about this from the spring but we went on our first family vacation this year. We went to Glenwood Springs by train, stayed at a great family friendly hotel and went up to Glenwood Canyon Adventure Park on the last day. I’ve done alpine slides before, but I’ve never really experienced an ALPINE ROLLER COASTER like what they had there. It was incredible.

You strap into this little car that’s a bit like a go-cart (and your kid is allowed to seat in front of you) then head down the rail at a great speed. Since you’re surrounded by mountain pines on all sides it feels like you could be in the speeder-bike scene from Return of the Jedi. When you’re done a snag-line takes you back up the mountain and you have a great view to enjoy of the forrest. It was better than any roller coaster, ferris wheel, or loopty-loop I’ve ever ridden!

 

BEST EMOTIONALLY WRECKING ALBUM of 2015

(from Tim)

The Collection is a band out of North Carolina and they created an incredible album here. The songs are rich in arrangement, powerful in melody, and lyrically striking (the spiritual honesty gives me chills at least once listening through the album every time).

Ars Moriendi | the Collection
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BEST NEW RESTAURANTS of 2015

(from Betony)

This award goes to a new Greeley restaurant and a new find in Glenwood Springs.

Hands down our new favorite MEAL in greeley is Right Coast Pizza‘s “Sunny Side” pizza – delightful thin crust, with house charred peppers, red sauce, bacon and a fried egg. Sounds a bit weird, I know, but it is A-Maze-ing!!
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Polanka could also win the “best restaurant with the worst atmosphere” award. It’s found in a dingy shopping mall with florescent lighting and ugly tile floors in Glenwood Springs.

But this is the kind of food I would want on my death bed. This place is like “last meal of your life” good. Partly because you can FEEL the love and history put into it. You might cry it is so good. Drop everything and drive there right now. Order everything on the menu. Ignore the fact that it looks like you are eating in a weird florescent lit packing store in a strip mall. Ignore the styrofoam plates. Just close your eyes and stuff your face.
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By the way, honorable mention in Glenwood Springs goes to Slope & Hatch tacos too. Great creativity AND execution.

 

Hope you enjoyed our favorites of the year. With moments and foods and discoveries like this it makes us look forward to 2016!

Blessings and much love,

Giants & Pilgrims
Betony & Tim Coons