Giving Your Children the Gift of Reading {And a Giveaway}

My children are typical kids—they do not love to pick up their things or do chores, and it is an area in which I am constantly working to train them. But a curious thing happened recently. They became completely captivated in a way I have never seen, while I read aloud a little story from Eloise Wilkin Stories , called We Help Mommy. It is a sweet story about a brother and sister who cheerfully help their mother with chores around the house. When we were finished reading my kids asked—begged actually—to do some of those same chores in our home. Because of this book, my oldest has developed a newfound enthusiasm for doing laundry! It got me thinking about the gift and power of good books… and this post. :-)

Loving God With Our Minds… Jesus calls us in the gospels to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. One way to encourage our kids to love God with their minds is through reading. Reading engages the mind. As my kids get older I will encourage them to read diverse authors and books because it offers opportunities to exercise critical thinking as we examine a book’s message from a Biblical worldview. Paul modeled this practice more than once— as he quoted the poets of his day and interpreted them to his audience in light of Gospel truth. (This type of critical thinking also equips us to do what 2 Co 10:5 talks about.)

Literature and books cause us to think, they expand our imaginations, they captivate, instruct, mentor, and inspire. They enlarge our understanding of and capacity to reflect Him in whose image we were made. Therefore, one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a love for reading. And when we give this gift to them when they are young, we lay a foundation for reading to become a lifelong habit.

Read the rest and enter the giveaway at Mom Heart.

A Child’s Letter Writing Center

(This was my February post over at Mom Heart but I forgot to post it here, so I am doing it now.)

Because we are made in the image of God who is a great communicator and a relational being, we also have a great capacity (and are designed) to be communicators and relational beings.

Of all the ways God—who calls himself the Word—could have chosen to create, he decided to speak the universe into existence. He has passed down history and truth through relationship with His people and through His written word, the Bible, where His story and rescue plan are revealed through His love letter to us.

We pass on Biblical worldviews to our children when we teach, nurture, and encourage these image-bearing realities in their lives.

A fun way to do this— to encourage our children to develop a great capacity to communicate and relate—  is to set up a letter writing center for them.

Follow me over to Mom Heart to read the rest and see our letter writing center.

Not just for the Birds!

We have been schooling around our dining room table for about three years now. It has been an incredible gift and blessing. It’s also very challenging, as I find my children are always a great mirror, revealing my inadequacies, hard and broken places, but it has been a good opportunity of God’s refining as I am so acutely aware of my need for him on a moment to moment basis.

Let’s just say that if patience were a prerequisite to home schooling we wouldn’t be around the table!… God may lead us down paths and through doorways that He purposes, we don’t necessarily need to be equipped before hand. In fact, it seems he likes it that way

This year of schooling for us has been interesting as we are learning to navigate our days with and around a two-year old. Some days it feels like we school all day but the way we school is very much integrated into our life. We have our set rhythms and goals to accomplish but I don’t look at school and life as two separate things, they are intertwined, mixed together (more these days with Si!) so that the lines of learning and life are blurred and all is woven together in our attempt at a one piece life.

One thing that has become a favorite is to combine nature study and drawing.

Because we live on a  farm with bush and ponds in abundance we have the privilege to engage with nature intimately, daily. I have realized that this is a great gift and not one that we want to squander. But alas we live in the Great White North, AKA Canada where the winters can feel like they go on and on and on and… oh anyway you get the point! Even though we aren’t outside as much, we still like to learn about nature so we have taken to learning about birds in the winter, which may sound funny since we don’t see very many out and about during these short, cold days but hey it works for us and it’s so fun to start spotting many of them come spring! Side note: Its super cool when your kids are way smarter than you are!

This past summer I found the book, The Cuckoo’s Haiku, which I think I have mentioned here before as its soooo beautiful!

It set the gears moving for a little make shift unit study that we can throw in every few weeks to give our lives some beauty, imagination and creativity. I thought I would share with you how we are using this book in the hope that it might inspire you whether your schooling at home or not.

It’s a great hour around the table for any sort of quiet morning or afternoon. (AKA when baby Si is sleeping!)

The book is laid out by season which, wallah, gives you major direction right there! So since we are now in winter we just turn to the winter birds, pick one and go for it. Each bird has a haiku that goes along with it, revealing many qualities and habits of the bird. It has been really fun to see how the girls pick up on the haiku to learn about the bird and how it helps them to remember things about each bird. Gotta love poetry! :)

Each bird has a two page spread with beautiful water-color renderings of the bird and some of its habitat. It also has some smaller notes and information about the bird to further learning and understanding.

Once we read and dissect the Haiku and talk about what we have learned, they take out their nature notebooks and do their own drawing of the bird. Many times they want to copy what is in the book, which is fine by me as this helps them to produce a great finished product that they are happy with.

While they are drawing I find a correlating story in the Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton W. Burgess. This is a sweet living book that gives notable information on each bird while telling an engaging story. We also like to look up some information and pictures online as well as listen to the birds call or song. As we talk about the bird they will write down in a corner of their drawing some things they want to remember or find interesting so they have a resource to come back to.

We usually do tea right before with a little muffin or cheese etc… I find I love this as it sets a tone for the table of gathering, peace, and focus.

If this all sounds very well and good, out of an Anne of Green Gables story line well… you might be right!

It’s one of my favorite times; seeing their drawing skills get better and being inspired by a beautiful book! I love that they have their nature notebooks as a record of our life, and progress and interesting information!

I have found that some of our favorite learning times together have been when we are inspired by things that we already own and just put them together to form interesting, engaging ways to learn. If you school at home or even if you don’t I am sure that you have many resources that are hanging out on your shelves to create moments of learning to fill a low-key, (it’s a blowing, freezing, cold stay inside) day!

If you have been inspired by nature or books I would love to hear about it!

Happy learning,

DIY Advent Calendar {With Printables}

Follow me over to Mom Heart today— where I’m sharing my instructions and printables for a DIY Advent calendar. There are daily activities and scripture readings (with optional discussion questions) to enjoy with your kids.

 

Kids and Nature, Psalm 19, How to Identify Evergreen Trees {with a printable} and More

 

Getting our kids and ourselves outside— in nature— is important. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Nature reveals to us that a Creator exists. When you look at the intricacy of nature is hard to believe it is all here by chance; the complex beauty and the way that all works together to create this perfect place to live… points to a Master Designer, which helps to shape a Biblical worldview. In the words of CS Lewis, when you look at the wonder of creation “it takes more faith to be an atheist” than to believe in a Creator.

God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures each evening. Their words aren’t heard, their voices aren’t recorded, But their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere. (Psalm 19:1-4 The Message) See also Psalm 8:3-4, Jeremiah 8:7, Matthew 2:2, Acts 2:19-20, Revelation 8:12, Romans 1:19-20.

2. Nature reveals the nature of the Creator. Have you ever been to a museum to see a famous sculptor or painting? Have you ever taken in a masterpiece of art? When you listen to musical geniuses like Handel or Bach, or read great works by Tolkien, are you not amazed by their creativity and skill? The thing about taking in such a work is that you wonder more at the brilliance of the artist than the art itself. And so it is in creation. In nature so much is revealed about God’s nature— His power, sovereignty, goodness, vastness, care, majesty, creativity, wisdom, intentionality and more.

3. Nature— creation— is one of God’s greatest gifts to us, yet we are often so busy that we hardly make time to “open” the gift. It’s like receiving a million dollar gift and choosing never to open it. When God created the world He made provisions— not just for humankind’s needs— but also for their wants. He hid all sorts of gifts in the earth for us to uncover and discover. Sweet fruit to eat, wildflowers to make the earth beautiful, the songs of birds to fill the air.  In all that He made— He provided wonderful things to see, taste, smell, hear, touch, discover, and use. It all is a gift and He made it to be a blessing and balm to our souls.

4. Spending time in nature connects us to our Creator. All of this— the intricacy, artistry and goodness of God’s creation—  evokes a response of worship. There is so much to take in and to cause us to marvel at His brilliance. There is an excellent book that talks about connecting with God through nature (among other venues) called Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas.

5. Nature arouses the imagination (as numbers 1-4 above imply) and 6. is beneficial to the health.

Kids today are being entertained to death. Seriously. Their health— physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual is at stake as they are either rushed around from one organized activity to the next, or stuck in front of TVs and video games for hours on end. How dull. Where is real life— real living—  in that? I’m not saying that we don’t participate in some organized activities or that we don’t ever watch TV— we do!— but the statistics are mind-blowing (I’ve read reports that say kids spend 30-53 hours per week on electronic media). Kids today seem to be bored if they are not being entertained. Is imagination becoming a lost art?

I think about how Jesus (and many great story tellers) often used inspiration from nature to teach and tell stories and parables. They had great imaginations (and though Jesus was God he was fully human— with human limitations)! If we want to redeem our children’s minds and health and reverse the course of the current literacy crisis and obesity trends— perhaps we (parents) ought to encourage our kids to get outside, do something active, explore nature, to engage their minds and imaginations.

•••

Here are some of our favorite nature resources, games, crafts and ideas:

Books:

Crafts, Play and Games:
Websites and Other Resources:
Apps (do a search under these names on your device):
  • Peak.ar  This app tells you names of surrounding mountains as you hold up your device.
  • iNaturalist  This app allows you to take photos, and ask other users questions to help you identify plants, etc.
  • iBird  This app allows you to search for and helps you identify birds.

Here is a {printable— just click here or on the image below for the PDF} handout that I made for my kids and our Classical Conversations group. Use this to teach your kids how to identify common evergreen trees… print a few and paste them into your nature journals! Then go on a hike and try to find these types of trees!

I hope you are encouraged to do some nature exploration (structured or unstructured) with your kids this weekend! I would love to hear what you are doing during these beautiful fall days to get your kids out in nature.

Liking up here today:

All About Learning Press Giveaway

This year I am using All About Learning for our reading and spelling curriculums. I chose AAL because I wanted an affordable program that taught the phonograms in a way that was fun and multi-sensory, especially for my middle child who likes to be on the move and who is more of a spatial and kinesthetic learner. All About Learning seemed like a perfect fit, and it has definitely lived up to my expectations!

We are loving the All About Reading Pre-Reading Program (for preschool or kindergarten) which introduces children to the alphabet through games, simple crafts, and short read-alouds. Each lesson covers one letter and consists of an activity sheet, a short story, and an interactive game— like a rhyming game. We are using this program with Annika, my preschooler (although my kindergartener thinks it is so fun that she likes to participate too). It is very easy to use — I can open and go and the lessons are short enough to keep a preschooler engaged. In fact, she begs me each day to do her “school work” with her… she loves it and the games make her giggle. And, it is effective!  Lately— everywhere we go—  Annika has been pointing out letters she recognizes on different signs.

Adalie (my kindergartener) is using All About Spelling Level 1. I debated on whether to buy her a reading or spelling program. She is reading but has some gaps I decided to go with the spelling program since it will fill in the gaps by thoroughly teaching her the phonograms. It is also multi-sensory, using phonogram magnets, tactile tokens, and a CD-ROM. This one takes a few minutes to prep each day; lessons should be read over before teaching— and since I was never taught all of the phonograms I want to make sure I am pronouncing them correctly as I teach her. 

By the way, if you are wondering “what the heck are phonograms and why are they important?!”… AAL has a great little article here.

All About Learning Press is generously offering one reader a $50 gift card to use in their store.

I hope you win!!


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Back to {Home} School: Kindergarten and Classical Conversations

We have begun our school year (which is why I’ve been MIA around here) and so far we are really enjoying ourselves!

Adalie is a kindergartener this year and Annika is starting preschool.

Sorry in advance for the long post. Here are our kindergarten curriculum picks:

CC: We are going into our second year of Classical Conversations. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into last year when we signed up. At first I had some hesitations because I wanted to combine the Charlotte Mason and Classical approaches and I didn’t want to feel restricted by one curriculum… but Classical Conversations is very flexible in terms of how your time at home is actually spent. You can spend as much or as little time reviewing memory work as you choose, and can create lessons around your families preferences.

Every option and curriculum seems to have its pros and cons but overall I love what CC offers. Some of the biggest pros, in my opinion:

  • The community— we’ve met and are getting to know some awesome families.
  • The art, science, and music units are fantastic. The kids get to do some really amazing things. For example, this year Adalie will get to dissect all sorts of different creatures and objects. Stuff I didn’t get to do until high school biology— but that all young kids should have the opportunity to do!
  • History is taught chronologically and the kids memorize a timeline from creation to modern day. It’s so amazing to learn history in order because you learn and understand each event as it relates to the bigger picture of world history.
  • Weekly presentations. The kids have to practice their public speaking skills each week as they are required to give a short presentation to their class.
  • The schedule. We take off about a month and a half over the holiday season, which enables us to really focus on the season and enjoy time together as a family. Learning takes on new forms as we spend more time playing, baking, feasting, and fellowshipping. And our CC year ends in April which gives us the ability to take full advantage of the warm weather and get outside to play and do nature studies, gardening projects and the like.

The grammar stage of CC (and of classical education in general) focuses on memory work. While CC is in session, we try to (briefly) review the memory work each day.

Phonics: For phonics we are using All About Spelling Level 1. I love All About Learning Press because they teach all of the phonograms and in a way that is fun and multi-sensory. (If you have one that is not yet reading I recommend Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons … it worked great for us.)

Bible: We love  The Children’s Story Bible. Sometime during the day I read a chapter aloud to the girls while they quietly color  Bible coloring sheets. We also have the Jesus Storybook Bible DVDs that I thought would be nice to mix it up.
And last year I ordered this memory verse pack from Children Desiring God so we will work on memorizing some of these verses. Adalie is also attending BSF with me once a week and she’ll be studying through the book of Genesis. (BSF is an international organization that offers free Bible studies. The kids program is what sold me— as they study through the same content as the adults! Adalie LOVES attending and looks forward to it each week.)

Math: For math we are using Math-U-See, the Primer level.

Poetry and manners/afternoon tea time: I’m trying to do this once a week. What young girl doesn’t love a tea party?! I let each of my girls pick a special mug and we are using this time to read Robert Lois Stevenson’s poetry and to learn about manners. Over the summer I came across these manners cards.  They are fun and cover some really great topics so we read and discuss one over tea.

Copywork: For handwriting practice we are using this book.

Good Reads: We chose literature— story books, read-alouds and science and history books from the  Simply Charlotte MasonFive In a RowAmbleside Online and Tanglewood Education (years 0 and 1) book lists. Many books on these lists overlapped with our Classical Conversations suggested reads, so those were the ones I opted for first. I spent a chunk of time this summer combing through all of these lists to see which ones were overlapping, age appropriate, and what I was looking for in books— I wanted living books. I highly value the time we spend reading together so I wanted some good reads. I love our selections! One of our favorite finds has been the Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka books. Both of my girls LOVE them.

Geography: We are tracing maps (CC style) for geography, and I’m hoping to resurrect something called World Wednesday that my husband’s cousin and his wife started years ago. World Wednesday consists of gathering (on Wednesdays, of course!) with friends to learn about, pray for, and share a meal in the style of the country of the week.  The Operation World book gives prayer points for every country.

Science: For science we are reading Outdoor Secrets with the Outdoor Secrets Companion, and On the Farm With Josh and Hanna, which all work beautifully with our nature/biology science focus in CC this year. This is Adalie’s favorite subject so we might spend more time here than is typical for kindergarten. We plan on reading the Burgess Bird Book and Adalie is also keeping a nature journal. For nature journal ideas and prompts, I am using these books but mostly I will let her use her journal as she pleases.

Music: Adalie is taking violin lessons and her teacher has given her material to practice daily at home.

History: Our history revolves around what we are studying in CC for the year— and mostly consists of reading story books about historical events and people.

Art: We are using the Home Art Studio kindergarten DVD.

For random/fun days we will be enjoying: our Kiwi Crates, lots of baking and creating, trips to the library and parks, play-dates with friends, an Eric Carle unit (we did this last year and want to do it again, especially after seeing this post), lots of good books, time outdoors, Playful Learning inspired activities and more.

I know this sounds like a lot but at this age the lessons are short— like 15 minutes each/at a time and not all of these subjects are covered daily. If you have questions about what kindergarten looks like in Classical Conversations, feel free to contact me. I love to talk homeschooling.

In between lessons is much time for fun. See exhibit A, or our week in Instagrams:

Adalie caught a bee:

 We played at the park.

 Adalie built a grave— inspired by Andy Goldsworthy—  for a deceased cricket.

We sipped honeysuckle.

The girls did leaf rubbings in their twig books.

 We made clover crowns (while pretending to be garden fairies, of course!)

We also pretended to be archaeologists (this was for our history lesson).

 We went to the library (… forgot to take a photo there). It’s been a great week! I hope to share some of our favorite preschool resources soon!

Finding My Way Out of a Funk and Into Silence {and a Challenge}

Without silence the Word of God cannot bear fruit. One of the most depressing aspects of contemporary life is the almost complete absence of silence. I wonder if the Word of God can really be received in the center of our hearts if our constant chatter and noise and electronic interactions keep blocking the way of the heart.” (From Henri Nouwen’s Spiritual Formation).

Whew. It’s been a long week. I’ve been in a funk and I desperately need to hear the Word of God, and I need it to bear fruit in my heart. I am married to a truly great man,  yet, as things go, as life becomes full and hard, I start to feel like I no longer feel or see his love for me.

It hurts.

It makes my heart yearn and long— kind of a homesick sort of feeling deep in my heart. I am homesick. I want to live in the world to come— where my heart’s needs and longings will be ever fulfilled. I am homesick for my Savior. Because in Him the only real and consistent source of  love exists for me. He is the only one whose love will never disappoint— will never let me down. His love is realperfecttrue.

But my life as a mom of three is so busy, so full. There is so much activity and noise. Where does a hard at work wife and mom find time for silence?! Something has got to give.

If His still small voice is in the calm, I must find the calm. I must make room for it in my life. I am desperate to believe His words, that they would take deep root in my heart… bearing fruit. Those words telling me I am His beloved. His words— the only remedy for this deep ache, the ache coming from the desire to be thought of, remembered, loved. And passionately.

(We mamas, we need to hear his voice calling us His chosen, His beloved!)

Because the only way to silence the lie that whispers “you are forgotten” is to receive His truth in my heart. And this truth comes with time in silence and solitude, time spent with the one who gave His life for mine, who has my name engraved on His hand, the one who knows intimately every ounce of me, whose thoughts for me outnumber the grains of sand.

We need silence because we need time to discern the many competing voices in our minds.

Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint, but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.” Proverbs 29:18 (NIV)

Or said another way, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.” (From The Message)

I don’t know about you— but I need God’s revelation. Because when I start believing the lies that are being whispered in my ear, I live to feed those lies. If I believe that I have been forgotten — I start to look for ways to feel or be remembered and I set my hope on things that can only promise to disappoint, things that will always fall short and come up empty. I build idols— seeking things to fill this hole— the ache. I start stumbling all over myself. 

But when I hear truth, and let it rest and take root in the deepest part of my soul, I see what God is doing and then it comes… I find true fulfillment in Him.

I need to see through His eyes. I need to see what He is doing. So, I am making room for silence and meditation this week. Join me?

What lies are you believing?

What in your life do you feel anxious or fearful about?

What is a source of hurt or pain for you?

In what areas are Guilt and Shame pestering you?

As you spend time in prayer, try to identify what is at the root of these feelings. Chances are, some lies are being whispered in your ear too. (Ever since The Garden it’s been the enemy’s way.) Spend some time in the Word, in silence— meditating on the truth, letting His words speak to those things.

***

For further reflection I highly recommend listening to this sermon called The Wounded Spirit. It was such an encouragement to me this week and was one of the things that finally snapped me out of my “funk”… the other was exercise. I went on a long run Friday night and listened to the sermon while I ran. It’s amazing how exercise will help clear your mind! And it’s been something I’ve felt like God has been saying to me (for months really) — that I need to be taking care of myself, eating well, and getting some regular exercise. Especially for us homeschooling moms, we have so much on our plates and since we tend to be more tied up at home (which can feel isolating) we need to try to find some balance and take care of ourselves so that we don’t burn out or get into a mental funk. To make this happen I’m joining a little movement. My neighbor’s niece has started something called 100x. It is a challenge—  for anyone who wants to participate— to set some personal goals in a specific area of your life and to spend the next 100 days (starting on August 24th) accomplishing your goals. It can be anything from spiritual goals, to health goals, financial goals, goals related to a hobby you want to grow in, or anything else. I love this idea and since I feel like God has been speaking to me about exercising, I am setting a goal to spend at least 10 minutes each day exercising for the next 100 days. I am setting my goal low because I know if I get going, chances are I will go for longer than 10 minutes… but also because with three kids and our school year starting, I may only get in 10 minutes some days. If you wish to join in, visit the website here or the Facebook page here, and leave a comment so I know who is doing this with me!

 

Home Art Studio Giveaway

This week,  Home Art Studio is {generously} giving away an art curriculum DVD to one of our readers.

We will be using the Kindergarten DVD with Adalie this coming school year, and Alli will be using the videos with her girls. I am so grateful for these videos because art is not my strongest subject! This is a great K-5 homeschool art program but it can also be used for “schooling” families who want to provide opportunities to nurture the little artists in their homes.

You can try out some free lessons here.

Last week Adalie and Annika did the first lesson on the Kindergarten DVD. They LOVE art projects and really enjoyed learning about primary and secondary colors through the Color Mixing Hands lesson.

From the DVD: “The Home Art Studio program is designed to increase students’ love and appreciation of the visual arts. Art education enhances a child’s ability to problem solve, think creatively, and truly see the world around them. The 18 projects students will complete are designed to illustrate the elements and principles of art in an age appropriate way.”

I hope you win… your little artists will love it!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We are linking up here today:

Playful Learning Ecademy Summer Sale

Congratulations to Lori Adams of Via Food (a wellness blog I love) who won the Playful Learning Giveaway.  Since many of you were interested in the Playful Learning Online Courses,  I wanted to share this with you:

This is such a great value— I hope many of you can take advantage of the sale!