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:

Sending Them Out – Back to School

A lot of thought and prayer and seeking the Word went into our decision to send our children out of our home to school.  I know that most of you who read this blog made similarly agonized over decisions about how to academically educate your children, some landing on homeschool, others on different types of school outside the home.  Before I say another word, I think it’s important to remind us all that pride has no place as we talk about these personal decisions of Christian freedom.  I hope that we can keep an atmosphere of love, humility, and bodily unity on this blog.  I’m sure that what we can agree on is God’s call to us as parents to model and teach Biblical truth and the power of the Gospel to our children whenever we are with them.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9- “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Each year, when the air gets cooler and a fresh start to a school year is upon us, when the smell of new school supplies intoxicates me (yes, I love that smell!), my heart goes back to the callings and promises of God when it comes to my precious children.  It’s at this time of year that we get ready to send them out each day, which means a huge part of my heart is not in my physical presence each day, a small taste of the launching that will eventually take place when they’re older.  As we’re mapping out the year and making fresh goals for our family, I’m tempted to fear, tempted to doubt God’s ability to give me the wisdom and insight to do this well… but as I pray, the assurance comes, that these are not MY children, they are HIS.  His love for them is far more than I could ever give, His care of them far more complete than any sheltering tactics I could employ.  He has called me to love them, to care for them, to lead them, to teach them, to train them, to steward them well, but ultimately He has called me to trust Him with them.

Proverbs 22:6- “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

I hold to this promise and hold to the promise that God has plans for each of my children according to His sovereign will.  It is my job to be an overflowing cup of HIS love, HIS grace, HIS presence, HIS word, to be craving after Him for the filling up that only He can do so that I can be used by Him and for Him in the lives of my children.  I am so thankful for the blood of Jesus, that His power is made perfect in my weakness, that it is not up to me to attain perfection in my parenting by trying hard enough, but rather to lay flat on my face before a perfect God, begging Him for wisdom, begging Him to do His work in my children through me and through whatever means necessary to give Him the most glory.

Philippians 4:6-9- “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

This Philippians passage is not only a huge encouragement to my own heart, but a passage I read to my kids often, truths I want them to hide in their hearts for the times they’re not with me.  Because the One who is always with them, even when I am not, He is the one I want them to turn to, I want them to know what a personal walk with God looks like, a relationship that is their own.  And hiding these truths of God’s Word in their hearts, I think this is one of the best ways we can send them out prepared to face a world full of lies, because it is God’s Word that has power, not our “superior” parenting.  It is the Holy Spirit who convicts and inspires right choices, not our constant lecturing.  Here are some verses we’re going to hide in our hearts this year:

Romans 12:9-21- “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Proverbs 4:23- Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Colossians 3:23-24- “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17- “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

James 1:19-27- “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

James 5:16- “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

Philippians 4:11-13- “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Psalm 18:2- “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4- “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Isaiah 41:10- “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”

I know God’s Word is full of beautiful truths to hide in our hearts, so please share some of your favorite scripture memory verses for kids with the rest of us.  I think one of the most important ways we can prepare our kids to be sent out is to teach them the very reason we are to go out into the world at all.  We are called to let our lights shine in a world full of darkness, and that call is not just for grown-ups, it is a call to every child of God, every person saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ into the family of God.  In fact, this is one of the foundational scriptures that God used to lead us to our decision to send our children to school.

Matthew 5:13-16- “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

And so we pray for our children, every single day, all throughout the day, that God will protect and lead and comfort and strengthen them, and that most importantly He will use them.  We pray that His light, shining through them, shining through our family, will permeate the classrooms and halls, the hearts of lost children and families, that He might use our family in the mission field of our school, to demonstrate God’s love and mercy and power to give new life.  And when I let this charge ring true in my heart, all fear melts away.  And I take a deep breath and smile as I face this new year.  And this prayer that Paul prays for the Ephesians gives me new courage:

Ephesians 4:14-21- For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Practical Ideas:

- Love notes and scriptures written on their lunch napkins

- Verses on pretty note cards to tape inside their desks

- Praise songs in the car to get hearts in the right place as we start the day

- On the way home, when they’re sharing about their days, take the time to pray for situations and people that come up.

- Surprise them by having lunch with them some days

- Organize some play get togethers with other families in the kid’s classes

- Arrange to trade off childcare of your younger children with another family in the school so you can volunteer in your child’s class regularly

- Have regular date nights with each of your kids so you can get that precious one on one time

- Set regular times each day to pray specifically for each of your children

- Make a special after school snack and spend time sharing it with them while you have a good chat

- Don’t fill their after school schedule up too full, less is more even though our busy culture would tell us otherwise.

Please share your ideas too!

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!

Playful Learning

My very favorite place to find inspiration for beautiful activities to do with my kids is Playful Learning. Mariah (the founder) writes very thoughtful content that has been so helpful to me. Her book, blog, e-courses, and mini-courses, offer parents ideas and resources for creating learning spaces and experiences in their homes. Whether you send your kids to school— or homeschool like we do, you will find inspiration for nurturing in your children a love for leaning as well as great tips for organizing materials— from chore charts to books, school papers to art supplies, and more.

Here are a few of our favorite Playful Learning inspired projects:

Twig Books:

Phases of the Moon Journals (from the Playful Learning book):

Adalie’s DIY ABC Photography Book (inspired by this post):

Andy Goldsworthy Inspired Artwork (see this post):


And the design and materials included in our writing center and atelier

(thanks to the Playful Learning Spaces E-course):

Mariah has been so generous to offer one of our readers her book, Playful Learning, as well as a spot in the Playful Learning Spaces e-Course! I know you will find them both to be very inspiring and helpful. From the Playful Learning Spaces course description:

“Throughout the six classes we will explore and share ideas for creating areas that invite children to engage in reading, writing, science, art, and more. We will also discuss organization, storage, and selecting materials for different ages and stages of child development. Each class consists of  a video that contains basic educational principles, simple guidelines, and helpful photos.”

We’ll keep this giveaway open until the end of the week since it is such a big one.

I hope you win!

 

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Linking up here today:

Nature Sensory Game

You will need:

  • Tin can with plastic lid (coffee/formula/hot chocolate tins will work well)
  • A tall sock that you don’t mind cutting
  • Duct tape
  • Can opener
  • Scissors

Use scissors to cut the sock right above the heel (so that you are cutting off the heel). Use the can opener to cut off the bottom of the can (mine wasn’t sharp at all after cutting; if yours is, you may want to tape around the edge so little hands won’t get hurt). Stretch the cut end of the sock over the bottom of the tin can. Use duct tape to tape the sock in place and to cover your tin can. Put the plastic lid on the bottom (so what was the top is now on bottom).

To play the game (great for preschoolers and kindergarteners): You may want one sensory can for each child, or they can take turns using one. Have the kids collect a few items each to put in their cans. (Go on a nature walk, take a walk as a family around your block, or have the kids hunt for items in your backyard.) Then have them take turns reaching their arms through the sock, into the other’s can to feel (without removing) one of the items. Encourage them to describe the item— ask questions if they need help: is it hard or soft, smooth or prickly, large or small?  After the child briefly describes the item, they are to guess what the object might be. Then they can pull it out and see if they were right! If needed— you can remove the bottom plastic lid to clean out can before starting again. My girls really enjoy this game and love hunting for unique finds to add to their cans. One of our recent favorites was a milkweed pod.

Some  other fun items to collect:  flowers, leaves, tree bark, rocks, a plastic toy found on the ground, clothespins, cattails, acorns, pinecones, nuts, or seeds.

If you decide to take a nature walk, you may also enjoy printing off this nature scavenger hunt activity to take along.

Have fun as you cultivate in your children a love and appreciation for God’s creation!

 

m4s0n501