Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Unwrapping of Christmas: Where do our traditions come from?

I just watched this video last night, and it gave me a lot to think about! This video is 35 minutes long, but such an eye-opener! Consider taking some time out of your day to ponder the origins of our favorite holiday traditions?

Just like Caryl said near the end of this video, I am not trying to impose these or my beliefs on anyone else. I was simply shocked by how uneducated I am regarding the history of the holiday traditions I hold too. This reminds me to be a Berean and compare everything to the Bible!

"10 The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, [j]and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, [k]for they received the word with [l]great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." Acts 17:10-11

My husband and I had already decided to avoid teaching our children to believe in the fictional character, Santa, because it undermines our word to our kids. We want to give gifts to our children- despite their behavior- because God has offered us a free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ- despite our sinful behavior. Instead of bribing our children to be good to receive gifts (salvation through works), we want to freely bestow loving gifts on our children (salvation as a free gift). This is a great opportunity to model the joy of free salvation through Jesus Christ!

I hope this video is at least thought provoking. If you are interested in more information about Caryl Matrisciana and the ministry she is a part of, check out this website.

"Film Maker and best selling author Caryl Matrisciana is a well-known expert on ancient and modern world religions, contemporary cults, paganism and the occult. Best-selling author, journalist, researcher and commercial artist Caryl has co-produced or contributed research and expertise to more than 75 documentaries for over 30 years." From

Monday, December 3, 2012

Trying to Stay Stress-Free This December

December is upon us! This is going to be a very busy time for my family this year. We have Reese's first birthday, three family Christmas gatherings, a freezer meal swap, and all the usual bustle of the year such as decorating, cooking special treats and meals, buying and wrapping gifts, and trying to do Holiday Memory activities. So how do I get it all done while keeping up with my usual housework and without ripping my hair out- with two children that cannot feed, clothe, bathe, diaper, or pick up after themselves?! I have a few things to help me keep my sanity and enjoy the season...

My first priority to keep on schedule and stress-free, is to make sure I am spending time studying the Bible and praying. The only way this happens for me is if I get up before the kids and have time in the morning. One of my greatest tortures in life is waking up before 10 AM. But, because I have asked God specifically to help me in this, and then chosen to do so, I can [mostly] regularly get up an hour before the kids. For me, this is 7 AM. My days are much more peaceful and joyful when I follow this pattern! May I suggest taking some time to study Luke 10:38-42 in preparation for the holiday rush?

I made the decision to break from homeschooling the entire month of December. Last year, in the first week of December, Reese was born. I spent the next two weeks healing and trying to survive the rigors of having a new baby (with a Dr. mandate to feed every two hours!) Although I did have help, Christmas came and went with little to no celebration or activities. While it was unavoidable, it was sad. This year, I want to focus on the memories and activities of Christmas. So, we will not do any official school until after the New Year. When time permits, however,  I do have dozens of Christmas crafts pinned to my "Christmas Time is Here" board on Pinterest (follow me here) and will pull one of those out.

I also must cling to lists and organization! I use Google calendar and sync it to my phone and tablet so that I always have my tasks at hand. Parties or dinners are clearly marked on the calendar. I make notes about what dish I am bringing; even making a To Do for shopping, baking, or making the dish days in advance if possible. There are many foods that can be made ahead and frozen for storage. Simply defrost and bring your homemade dish to the event. This way, my days are not aimless, and I do not forget any details. My tendency is to procrastinate, thinking: I can certainly wrap 10 gifts a half-hour before we leave for the Christmas party, while my homemade cookies are baking. The reality is that I end up leaving for the event 15 minutes late and have to stop at the store to buy cookies and gift bags, because the baby had a diaper blow out, the toddler had 6 meltdowns, and I didn't have any eggs! This week, I have different tasks scheduled during the kids' afternoon nap time for Reese's birthday this Saturday. I try to be reasonable about these, usually one activity is listed per day. Any more than that and I live in constant defeat by my To Do list because the unexpected always comes up (kids refusing to nap, anyone?)

Less is more. I believe more and more people are realizing the beauty in this statement. Say "no" to as many invitations as possible. Don't offer to bring more food than you can make/afford. Only agree to exchange as many homemade gifts as you realistically have time to make (On my side this year we were going to exchange all homemade gifts. I ended up asking if we could choose if we wanted to buy or make homemade gifts instead. Honestly, I do not have the time to make them; I had to say no to a good thing). Less is more applies to giving gifts to our kids too. I love to walk the isles and grab anything that I think my kids would enjoy. But this is not realistic for our budget or storage. We limit our gifts, trying to get 1 toy, 1 clothing item, 1 movie, and maybe a couple other things. This cuts back on our regular clutter, but also the amount of time I spend between now and December 24 wrapping gifts (I hate wrapping gifts after the first five). Some families require their kids to sort out x-number of toys to give away before Christmas. Other's stick to the four gift rule: 1 want, 1 book, 1 item of clothing, and 1 need. I'm sure there are many more ideas to be found!

Make a gift closet. This past summer, I made three different gift items in bulk that I could store until Christmas. These types of gifts are perfect for Sunday School teachers, school teachers, neighbors, host and hostess gifts, and more. Add to this stash all year! Buy little things off clearance shelves, or when the crafting mood strikes make several small things. Simply having this stash has taken a weight off my To Do list.

Justin and I really want to have memories with our kids. Christmas is a great time to do things together. Here is a short list of things to do with young children (I think I'll dedicate a longer post to this topic later this month):
-drive around to see Christmas Lights (listening to Christmas music, naturally)
-play with your Nativity Set
-make/decorate Christmas cookies
-read Christmas themed books
-watch Christmas movies (Charlie Brown, the Grinch, and Rudolph are classic children's movies)
-dance around to Christmas music
-play in the snow

In summary, my goal this December is to say no as much as possible, make memories when I can, and steadily press on through the tasks with one goal in mind: To worship the King Who was born this season, Jesus Christ.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

T is For Thankfulness! (Day 6)

Last week the kids and I made a short trip to visit my folks. I love it when Evan gets to play with his cousin! Oh, and a few days before that, we got Evan's stitches removed, only to have him fall and bump his head later that same night and split open his forehead again! This time, they glued him back together (I was told that mother's of boys would make a lot of trips to the ER, I just didn't think they would happen all in one night). Then Tuesday, Evan was down with the flu, so I was down to only one more day-Wednesday- to wrap up T is for Thankfulness! (What with  Thanksgiving being Thursday and all). So I submit one final day for the Thankfulness Tree:

Daily Thankfulness Theme: Thank you God, for the Bible, your words"
Scriptures: 2 Timothy 3:15-16 & Psalms 119:11
Memory: "In everything, give thanks"
Prayer: "Dear God, thank you for your words of love and instruction, the Bible"
Song: "The B-I-B-L-E" and "Give Thanks"
Craft: Mini Book "Bible"
Thankfulness Activity: "Bible" leaf for Thankfulness Tree

We prayed and read aloud our verses. I expounded a lot more than I usually do, trying to explain to Evan how amazing, comforting, instructive, and relevant the Bible is to us. Sadly, many things go over a 2 years-old's head, but it was important that I spoke the words to him (for his sake and my own practice/reminding).

One of the highlights of the looooooong car trip to see my folks, was hearing Evan spontaneously repeat his memory verse for 10 minutes! What a joy! So I did not belabor the exercise, I just had him repeat the verse once. Our singing did not last long either because Evan was too excited for "craft".

Supplies: Since the Bible was our theme, I wanted to make a mini book to represent the Bible. First, I took one sheet of white computer paper and cut it in half, then I folded both of those pieces in half again to make book pages. You can use any color for the paper leaf and Bible cover, I happened to grab brown. You'll want to cut the construction paper in half, and take one of them for the cover. I had alphabet stamps and a blue stamp pad for filling in the pages, glue for the binding, and tape for the leaf.

This project leaves a lot of room for variation, so feel free to tailor it to your needs or supplies. I spent 10 minutes searching for our stapler and couldn't find it, so our book had to be glued together. I do not recommend this, haha. Another binding idea is to take a single hole puncher and punch two holes in the binding of the cover and pages. You can then use yarn or a pipe cleaner to fasten the pages together. An older child could even sew the pages together with a needle and thread. But, if you have none of the above supplies, then using a glue stick will work.

Glue down the center line and add one page, then glue down the center line of that page and add the second set of pages. You can continue and add as many pages as you would like, we only did two.

Here again, is a place open for variation. I gave Evan the entire stamp alphabet and let him go. I helped him stamp "Bible" on the front cover, but otherwise let him play. You could write down the verses previously learned on the pages. Or you could print them out beforehand. Because this is only symbolic of a Bible, I was not concerned that letting Evan stamp in this "bible" would teach him disregard for the real Bible. But if you think your (probably older) child might make that kind of connection, go for the verse option. Or, do you remember the Wordless Books? Click here for a link that describes how they work and make one of these instead.

Meanwhile, I stamped the leaf.

Here is the finished Thankfulness Tree. We made it through 6 themes in the last several weeks, but for a 2 year old, I think these more general themes actually worked well. As my kids grow older and understand the concept more, it will be fun to do this theme again and ask them what they are thankful for. Then I can add those specific things to the list of broader themes.

I would love to see a picture of your Thankfulness Tree or hear about how yours worked out? Please link me to your blog, or detail your thoughts in the comments.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's A Mom Life

I'm thinking of doing a regular post about Mom things. Ya know, tips, tricks, ways to keep our sanity! So I'd love to hear of anything you would like to see in upcoming posts. How can I make your life easier?

In the smart phone age, there are so many apps that can make our lives easier. Here are my top choices:

1. This app has the whole Bible dramatized. This is great to play on car trips, while I'm doing dishes, whenever!

2. Kindle- This and other book apps allow whole libraries at your fingertips. This means you don't have to shelve so many books or worry about them getting ruined.

3. Artkive- Instead of keeping all of your children's pictures and artwork, use this app to take a photo and organize the photos. Then you can keep only the latest artwork and save clutter!

4. Around Me- Allow this app to use your location and you can find anything you need nearest you: restaurants, gas stations, pharmacy's, etc.

5. Baby Tracker (from What To Expect)- This app keeps track of your nursing schedule, amount of wet and dirty diapers, medications, sleep, anything you need during those first sleepless months with baby.

Every parent has tips or thoughts about how to raise their kids. Here are some of my most valuable tips that I have gleaned from other parents, or discovered in the trenches of parenting.

1. Have 7-10 outfits per child- less clothing means less laundry
2. Have 1-2 sheets per bed- if you need to launder, strip beds when you wake your kids then wash and dry before nap time.
3. Have less toys- we have one storage tub of toys, anytime the tub is to full to close we give away toys our kids don't play with.
4. Only keep toys that allow for multiple purpose playing (like blocks, dolls, cars, etc.)
5. Teach them age appropriate chores- my 2 1/2 year old puts his own dishes in the dish washer, throws away his and baby sister's diapers, puts clothes in the hamper, and picks up his own toys. Some of these he does without being prompted!
6. Find the balance between letting them help you with chores, and entertaining themselves while you do chores- For example, my kitchen is too small to cook with children under foot, so this is a chore I choose to do alone; I find other toys/activities to keep the kids busy. But I do let the toddler help me sweep, unload the dishwasher, dust, clean up, do laundry, and others.
7. Use baby gates!- I have two gates, one blocks the stairs going upstairs, the other blocks the kitchen. This way, I know where my kids are at all times and I am not finding messes I did not expect.
8. Teach your kids to entertain themselves- This is a good skill for your child to learn, and to teach them from infancy. Find opportunities to surround your baby with toys and leave them alone for a while (supervised of course!), or tell your toddler to play in the play room while you sit nearby doing something else.
9. Rather than buy, rent books and movies from the library- this does two things, 1) you have fewer things to store around the house, and 2) you don't have to watch the same movie or read the same book over and over and over- you have to take them back and expose your kids to new ones.
10. Don't buy bath toys- they never stay in those little baskets, they always mold, and your child will want to take their favorite car in the tub anyways.
11. Just let Dad wrestle, throw them in the air, and rough-house with your kids- they'll be OK.
12. Don't save anything that comes off their bodies- this is only my opinion, but we don't save the first hair-cut clippings, or anything like that (they are hard to store). In fact, just yesterday, when getting Evan's stitches out, the nurse asked if we wanted to keep them. Apparently, this is a normal occurrence, I was grossed out.
13. Don't ask your toddler open ended questions like "What do you want for snack", instead, ask like this, "Would you like raisins or crackers?"- or they will always come from left field with an answer you never thought they'd have.
14. Always use "please", "thank-you", "I'm sorry" and "you're welcome" in conversation with your child- My 2 year old has these so ingrained now that he corrects us when we fail to respond with the appropriate phrase!
15. Kids repeat the words they hear the most, so don't be stressed if they say "no" all the time- you should be able to tell if they are openly defying you or if they simply are answering with the only response they hear from us. Politely correct the response by repeating the statement or question and telling them to say "yes".
16. Make sure to get their attention before speaking to them- so many times I catch myself about to get Evan in trouble for not doing what I said, when really I never had his attention to begin with.
17. Have your kids respond by saying "yes mom" or "yes dad"- this may seem old-fashioned or militant, but affirms that they heard you. So they know, that you know, that they know (get it?).
18. Give lots and lots of kisses- we have kiss attacks!
19. Teach your kids to hug back- it will melt your heart when they figure it out.
20. Teach your kids to pray- it's so darling!
21. When running errands with your kids, enjoy it!- don't see it as hard work (which it can be), but ask them about the colors they see, or identify each item as you place it in your shopping basket. Include them, and enjoy getting out of the house.
22. Have a flexible schedule- know what your kids need (3 meals a day, a nap in the afternoon, etc) but don't worry if lunch is twenty minutes late.
23. Have several "reset" options planned for those days where nothing seems to go right and mommy needs to regain control of herself and the situation- our two favorites are, 1) books in bed with everyone to their own bed for an half hour, and 2) kids into the bath while mom has a book on the floor in the bathroom.
24. Don't take meltdowns personally! Identify the issue, and execute an appropriate solution/
25. Read aloud from an [adult] Bible, often.
26. Include them in what you are doing, they love to copy us- i.e. have a paper and pen for them if you are making your grocery list, or allow them to "fold" clothes with your while you do laundry.
27. Do the goofy things with them like dancing, making animal noises, or pretending their toast is a phone.
28. NEVER compare your parenting/kids/family with another family! This only leads to discouragement.
29. Find ways to be a woman throughout the day- we did not trade in our womanhood when we became mothers. Put on makeup, curl your hair, wear heals to the grocery store, call a girl-friend, etc.
30. Have an afternoon cup of coffee (or tea, or cocoa) and don't share with your kids.

These are all things that have been invaluable in our parenting. I know that each family has their own style so please feel free to try what seems helpful and leave the rest.

I would love to hear your best tips/tricks! Please leave them in the comment section or link me to your blog.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

T is For Thanksgiving! (Day 5)

Today, we are on Day 5. This lesson, we actually did today (unlike Day 4 which were completed and posted about two days apart). So many things can upset a schedule, can't they? So far in the last 10 days we have had an ER visit with stitches, gone down to one vehicle (temporarily), had a broken down refrigerator (sorta fixed), a loss of food (spoiled in the fridge), no food in the house (yay for dinner out!), and the normal things like toddler meltdowns. But, again, here is the beauty of homeschooling- we set our own schedule! (And when you are schooling a 2 year old, there is no need for regular work, thankfully). But on to today's lesson:

Daily Thankful Theme: Thank you, God, for friends
Scripture: Proverbs 17 (especially verse 17)
Memory: "In everything, give thanks"
Prayer: "Thank you God, for friends"
Song: "Give Thanks" 
Craft: Cards for Friends
Thankfulness Activity: add "Friends" leaf to Thankfulness Tree

There are many scriptures that speak to friendship in the Bible. Instead of skipping around, though, (and there is nothing wrong with that, by the way) I decided to pick one verse and that was Proverbs 17:17. But, I did not want to read only a single verse, because context is so important, so we read the entire chapter. I admit, I was surprised that Evan listened to the entire chapter. We must be making progress with sitting still!

We spent some time in prayer (I've really loved praying with my son), singing, and practicing the memory verse. Evan is retaining scripture so well, we can ask him at any time of the day to repeat his memory verse and he usually rattles it right off! Now if that doesn't warm a parents heart, I don't know what will!

Right now, Evan has two friends near his age that he plays with regularly. I wanted him to color a card to each of them, which we can give to them.

Supplies: To prepare, I wrote a short note on each card (as if written by Evan) saying "I am learning about thankfulness in homeschool and wanted to tell you I'm thankful we are friends. Thank you for being my buddy" (or something along those lines). As you can guess from the colors of the cards, both friends are girls (when I showed Justin, he lamented Evan's lack of boy pals). One friend lives down the street, so we will hand deliver her card after the kids wake up from their nap. The other friend is going to receive her card in the mail- thus the addressed envelope. Crayons for decorating, "Friend" leaf for the thankfulness tree, and tape were today's supplies.

This is an easy project to vary. You can select any number of friends, make the cards as elaborate as you desire, include any message you wish, mail them all, etc. Just have fun!

By the way, a piece of construction paper can be folded into thirds and fit in a standard business envelope.

As I mentioned, one of the cards is for Evan's friend down the street. Right now, my kids are napping, but when they awake, we will walk down and hand deliver his card. The other is in the mail, since I would probably forget to take it with us to church tomorrow.

Evan gets really excited to "push, green" as he puts it. What he means is, place another leaf on the tree. I always tell him to "push" it onto the door, and the last one we did was green, thus "push, green" (isn't it fun interpreting toddler-speak? I think it's darling)

So if you're Penelope's or Sophie's mom reading this, please act surprised when your child receives their card, thanks!

What cute "toddler-speak" phrases or words have your kids said?

T is For Thanksgiving! (Day 4)

(We actually did this lesson on Thursday, but I was unable to post it until today.)

Daily Thankful Theme: Thank you, God, for meeting our needs
Scripture: Matthew 6:25-34
Memory: "In everything, give thanks"
Prayer: "Thank you, God, for giving us food, clothes, and a home"
Song: "If You're Happy and You Know It" and "Do Not Worry About Tomorrow"
Craft: Colored Shapes House & "T" Tracing Page
Thankfulness Activity: add "Food, Clothes, Home" leaf to Thankfulness Tree

Usually Evan and I sit on the sofa while we read the Bible, but today I moved us onto the play room floor. 

Evan loves to use his finger to follow along. After singing and memory verse practice, we went on with the two activities I had planned.

Supplies: For the craft we made a house out of colored construction-paper shapes. I have a large square as the house, two small squares as windows, a red rectangle door, small black circle doorknob, and yellow triangle roof. The blank sheet of paper could be any color and is to glue on the house. The other sheet has several "T"s drawn on, with a highlighter for tracing. The thankfulness leaf and stick glue complete the list.

First, we assembled the Shape House. This was perfect for practicing our colors and shapes! And it fit the theme of thankfulness for God meeting our material needs- one of which is a home.

I guided Evan by telling describing which piece to do, "Glue the yellow triangle". And so on. I did help him arrange the pieces in the correct spot (he had no skills to make the house look like a house otherwise).

There it is- and there he is, sporting a Lightning McQueen band-aide over his stitches (poor little guy).

Next, we went on to tracing/letter practice.

We spent the first three letters with my hand guiding his so that Evan could catch on to the purpose of this activity. The last three were on his own. (We have a lot of tracing practice ahead of us!)

Lastly, we added our new leaf to the Thankfulness Tree.

Our tree is looking more full every day! Which is a handy symbol of the fullness we have in Christ with all the things God blesses us with! Wouldn't you agree?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

T is for Thankfulness! (Day 3)

Last Friday, I did homeschool with Evan (which is unusual because that is Justin's day off). But I'm glad I did, because an unexpected cold knocked me out most of Saturday! The kids and I have been sporting runny noses for about a week, so things are still lingering.

Plus, I got to experience Evan's first real injury on Saturday night. Justin was with Evan at the grandparents, and I was home with Reese (because I was sick and Reese was already in bed at 7 PM). At about 9:30 I got a phone call from Justin that he was with Evan in the ER because Evan needed stitches! Apparently, Evan had been running around and smacked right into a drawer in the kitchen. He hurt himself directly in the middle of his forehead and got 3 stitches, poor baby!

But this election day, Tuesday, we are back into the swing of "normal" life.

Daily Thankful Theme: Thank you, God, for the Church
Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-8
Memory: "In everything, give thanks"
Prayer: "Thank you, God, for giving us your church body, and the freedom to worship"
Song: "If You're Happy and You Know It"
Craft: Scrap Paper Stained- Glass Church Window
Thankfulness Activity: add "church" leaf to Thankfulness Tree

I felt it important to cover two points today about the church: 1) that we are thankful for the people of God- the church, and 2) that we are thankful for the freedom to worship freely.

We prayed, and read the passage in Ephesians that tells us about how to behave as the church, and the blessed unity we can have!

Then we prayed through our above prayer and the items on Day 6 for the kids and daddy. (If you wonder what I am referring to see these links: Praying for Kids & Praying for Husband)

Evan really gets into the stomping in "If You're Happy and You Know It"- so we sang that through a few times. (He's so cute!)

The idea for the Stained-Glass Church Window craft was a lot cooler in my head than in results, but the toddler had fun so I guess it works.

Supplies: The white paper is folded in two, and one side only is cut to look like the shape of a window. Using this cut-out as a stencil I traced around the opening with a pen onto the paper behind it, leaving marks to show the area to cover with scraps. Then all you need is a glue stick, the leaf for today, and tape to secure it to the Thankfulness Tree.

I have realized the value in saving all the scraps from other projects if they are the size of a quarter or bigger. These I store together for scrap crafts like this one. Then nothing goes to waste! We used fall toned colors, and I guided Evan by saying "Now do a red one" and so on to give him practice with his colors.

Here you can see the area filled, and the open window portion on the right. Now here is the finished look:

When folded over the border lines are straight as if in a window.

There are so many better ways to do this craft! If you have wax paper or plastic wrap or even a ziploc baggy you could make a window pane. But I have never owned wax paper, and I admit, I threw together the supplies this morning instead of planning ahead a bit more (remember to feel sorry for me because I had a cold on Saturday).

Lastly, we added the "church" leaf to our Thankfulness Tree.

I reviewed the two previous leaves: "Son" and "Family". Evan wanted to copy my review so he pointed and jabbered away as he "told" me what the three leaves meant. I love that even at 2 1/2 years, Evan still speaks enough gibberish to be adorable!

If you've done any Thankfulness lessons of your own, I would love to hear about them! Please leave a detailed comment, or link to your post. And don't forget to vote!

Friday, November 2, 2012

T is for Thanksgiving! (Day 2)

We don't usually do homeschool on Friday's when Justin is off. But today was about "family" and since all the family was together, we went ahead with the lesson.

Daily Thankful Theme: Thank you, God, for my family
Scripture: Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Memory: "In everything, give thanks" (1 Thess. 5:18)
Prayer: "Thank you, God, for giving me Daddy, Mommy, and Sister"
Song: "If You're Thankful and You Know It" and "Give Thanks, with a Grateful Heart"
Craft: Stamping "T's"
Thankful Activity: add "Family" leaf to Thankfulness Tree

Evan prayed, "Open our eyes that we may see the truth in your word" to get us started. I then read aloud the passage in Deuteronomy.  The reason I chose this passage was to show why God gave us families. We as parents have a high calling to raise our children in awareness and knowledge of God and His word. And that is the truth I wanted Evan to walk away with; we (his Daddy and Mama) are God's gift to Evan to teach him Truth.

Since Daddy was here, Evan showed off his "singing" abilities with a rousing rendition of "If You're Thankful and You Know It" and "The B-I-B-L-E". I don't think he has a future as a singer...yet.

Then, we transitioned into more prayer time. We prayed aloud for each member of the family, as well as gave thanks for our family.

Supplies: Our supplies today were a piece of construction paper, a stamp pad in a color that could be seen on the paper, the letter "T" stamp, a leaf out of construction paper, and tape to attach it to our Thankfulness Tree.

I showed Evan how to use the stamp and let him decorate his paper as he desired. Because the stamping did not take too much concentration, I used this time to review the lesson from today. 

I also asked him repeatedly what letter he was stamping, and what did it stand for? (T is for Thanksgiving). Then we did the verse a few times, complete with motions (which I explain on Day 1). 

While Evan stamped away, I thought it would be cute if I spelled out "family" with stamps on today's leaf.

Isn't that cute? Make a note, however, that if your two-year-old sees you using other stamps, he thinks he should also be allowed to use other stamps. Clearly, I learned the hard way (a small meltdown ensued).

As the last part of our day, we taped our leaf to our Thankfulness Tree.

I pointed to yesterday's leaf and reminded Evan that we are thankful that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ. Then we reviewed today's theme one last time. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition! Sometimes I drive myself crazy, but it works!

What songs/phrases/books do you repeat (and repeat, and repeat) with your kids?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

T is for Thanksgiving! (Day 1)

November 1st dawns with cool air, sunshine, and runny noses. But no fear!  I don't have to take the kids out of school- just another perk of teaching at home (although we did have to cancel a play date with our neighbors down the street, bummer).

During this month we all tend to turn our hearts towards thanksgiving. One of the Character Traits we want to instill in our children is a heart of thankfulness. We teach them to share so they do not become stingy (a generous heart is a sign of thankfulness), as well as saying "thank you" whenever given help or a gift. Manners matter. So we try to model them and instruct our kids in them.

So I turn to our new theme: T is for Thanksgiving.

Daily Thankful Theme: Thank you, God, for your Son (Jesus Christ)
Scripture: John 3:16; Proverbs 1:1-7
Memory: "In everything, give thanks" (1 Thess. 5:18)
Prayer: "Thank you, God, for giving us your Son, Jesus Christ"
Song: "If You're Thankful and You Know It" and "Give Thanks, with a Grateful Heart"
Craft: Pom-Pom "T"
Thankful Activity: add leaf to Thankfulness tree

 Each day, I want to focus on one particular thing for which we can be thankful. Today is the most important one: that God sent us His Son, Jesus Christ. We read John 3:16 aloud and I explained briefly (very briefly) about God sending His Son. We then bowed in prayer and thanked God for His Gift to us.

I want to read more than just one Bible verse, so on days that have few or one verse I will read a section of Proverbs as well. We only made it to verse 7 today before the wiggles overtook us.

Next, we sang "If You're Thankful and You Know it". Evan loves the stomping part so we sang that verse a couple times. Reese was with us today and she loves music and dancing. So I held her and swirled around (until I was dizzy) and she squealed along with our song. I don't suppose Evan will memorize "Give Thanks, with a Grateful Heart" anytime soon. But I want to expose him to some of the great songs we have as Christians.

Our craft today, focused on the letter "T". Which I was surprised to find out Evan already knew by sight! That was easy.

Supplies: I had a bag of colored rainbow poms (or pom-poms as we refer to them in our house) already, so I grabbed those. The red paper has a capitol letter "T" drawn on it, and I had glue for sticking on the pom-poms. The yellow leaf, tape, and pen were for the Thankfulness Leaf.

Evan traced the "T" with the glue stick (badly, I might add) and pressed on colored pom-poms. I tried to tell him which color to glue on next for color recognition practice, but he got ahead of me in his excitement, so I finally just gave up and let him go to town.

We practiced saying "T is for Thankfulness" over and over. This theme will continue for the month of November. Also, I practiced his new verse at this time. For this verse, I added motions: "in everything" arms stretched out wide, "give thanks" make prayer hands.

Lastly, I reviewed that we are thankful for God sending His Son; this I wrote on the yellow leaf.

Earlier, I created a tree from brown construction paper. I wanted to display this in my home, so I stuck it on the closet door in the play room/office. The branches are bare because we will be adding a different leaf every day.

(Evan must use a chair to reach the tree because I wanted it high enough not to be played with during the rest of the day.)

I am thankful for this chance to teach my son at home. What other things are you thankful for?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Creation, Day 7

As I was researching and preparing for Day 7 of creation, I noticed that so many combine days 6 & 7. Now I understand why. Day 7: God Rested, is not an easy concept for young kids. Many of you suggested pretending to take a nap, putting stuffed toys and dolls to bed/rest, cutting out magazine pictures of resting/sleeping people, etc. These are all great ideas! However, I did not want to confuse Evan by saying God sleeps when we really mean rested. See the dilemma for a 2 year old? Instead of creating confusion, I decided to wait to emphasize "rested" until Evan's older and I explain it to him in more detail. Today, I focused more on the completed work of creation and that it was "very good".

Scripture: Genesis 2:1-3
Memory: "In the beginning, God created" & "God made the World"
Prayer: "Thank you God for making ___________" we inserted many things here from each day of creation
Song: see "activity" below
Craft: coloring page
Activity: Watched YouTube videos about creation
Number: 7

We counted the days on our fingers as we reviewed what God made on each day. Then I read aloud today's passage (can you believe that our young children have already "read" and studied an entire chapter of the Bible?!) I was so stumped about what to do for a craft or activity for Day 7, so Evan and I watched a few music videos on YouTube- thanks to my new [to me] tablet. Our favorite was the Go Fish one below:

I was intentional with YouTube and the songs we selected. They had to be a song praising God for His work in creation, describe His work in creation, or show pictures of His creation ("God of Wonders" is another excellent one). Evan was enthralled, and as the pictures of mountains, fields, oceans, animals, etc. went by I asked him to identify them. And this mama loved cuddling with my too-active-and-too-old-to-cuddle toddler while we watched the music videos.

Supplies: We've been given a few color books throughout the year and one of them had a picture of Adam and Eve in the garden and the words "On the seventh day, God rested". Perfect. I tore it out and gave Evan markers (he loves markers).

You could easily do a Google search for other coloring pages free to print if you do not already have one on hand. I did a quick search just now and the first one I clicked to is here, as an example.

And Evan colored away.

Tomorrow, we will begin our new theme! Can you guess what it might be?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Creation, Day 6

Day 6 of Creation has to be the easiest day to teach. There are too many good options and ideas for crafts, activities, songs, and creative play. But, as is my style, I chose a fairly simple route.

Scripture: Genesis 1:24-31
Memory: "In the beginning, God created"
Prayer: "Thank you God, for making man and animals. And thank you for your word".
Song: "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes"
Craft: Lion's Head
Activity: Animal Names & Sounds
Number: 6 (Day 6 of creation)

Yesterday, I was surprised and delighted when on his own, Evan burst out with "God made the stars". He is retaining what we are learning! Fueled with this encouragement, I spent time reviewing Days 1-5 before we plunged into today's passage of scripture. 

We prayed for a moment, with Evan repeating phrases after me. This is a great way to improve your child's speech. Begin with a prayer that is as long as the normal words/phrases your child speaks. Slowly add more words each day to stretch their memory and ability to repeat more after you. I am seeing this carry over into Evan's regular speech. He now uses longer sentences when talking to us. When we first started Day 1, I had to say the verse to Evan in two sections (as separated by the comma). Now, with prompting, Evan can say all five words together! 

Have you seen either of these lists: 31 Ways To Pray For Your Children & Husband? I have a printed copy of both of these lists folded in my Bible to pray each morning. I decided to add these requests to Evan's daily prayer. Each day, according to the date, I pray that number's request (i.e. today is the 30th so I prayed #30 on both lists).

I was able to sing another song today thanks to God making man; we did "Head, Shoulder, Knees, and Toes" with the motions. Reese even participated today (since she refused her nap). Then we did animal names and sounds for a few minutes. Some of Evan's favorites are: kitty, bear, bird, and ... lion.

Supplies: I've seen this craft done with a paper plate (how do I not have paper plates in the house?) but I used construction paper instead. I traced a large orange circle,  medium yellow circle, two small white circles, and two black dots which are for the mane, face, eyes, and pupils. Oh, and a little black triangle for the nose. 

Step 1: Glue the yellow face and stick it to the mane:

Step 2: Glue eyes

Step 3: Add nose

Step 4: Use scissors to make the mane look like hair (make sure you do this by holding your toddlers hands over the scissors so there are no accidents)

We just snipped all the way around the made and lastly I bent the ends up a little to made it look better.

And there is the finished product! Complete with drawn on mouth and whiskers. As I mentioned at the beginning, there are so many crafts and activities to make for this day- I recommend choosing one featuring your child's favorite animal as I did. 

Tomorrow we finish the days of Creation and I unveil our next theme study. But first, any ideas for a craft or activity related to Day 7 of creation?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Creation, Day 5

I was looking forward to today's part of the creation story because Evan loves fish! Can you tell who he gets this from?

This picture is from a few weeks ago- I think the fish was longer than Evan is tall.

Scripture: Genesis 1:20-23
Memory: "In the beginning, God created"
Prayer: "Thank you God for making the birds and fish"
Song: "The B-I-B-L-E" 
Craft: drawing fish and birds
Activity: Fishing Pole Puzzle
Number: 5

Before I read today's passage, I reviewed what was created on the previous 4 days. Evan practiced counting and holding up the correct number of fingers while we reviewed. Then, I read through today's three verses and emphasized the words "birds" and "fish". I think I asked him what sound birds and fish make while reading the Bible as well (we do fish lips for the "sound" fish make). This is a great opportunity to teach animal sounds if your child is not already familiar with them- on Day 6 too.

I still have not settled on our next main song, so we stuck with "The B-I-B-L-E". I only went through it once today, because we spent a few minutes pretending to be birds and fish. To pretend to be a bird, we flapped our arms like wings, and flew around the house saying "chirp, chirp". Then we put our hands together to be the fish, and wiggled them in an "S" shape like a fish swimming and ran around the house. I love it when homeschool = workout for the day. Really, get that heart rate up!

One of Evan's Sunday School teachers drew a fish for him (like 6 months ago) and since then, any time we draw, color, or craft Evan always asks for me to draw a fish. So I knew that all I needed to do for a craft today was draw a fish and my little guy would be thrilled!

Supplies: I used a light blue piece of construction paper because water and sky are both blue already. Then I grabbed his favorite coloring tools: markers. I drew a brown line (land) across the middle of the page to separate the water and sky, and added a couple trees. What Evan means when he asks for a "fish" is the ichthus symbol. And who remembers that a "V" is perfectly acceptable as a drawing of a bird? I do.

You can see how I drew a few birds and fish and then let Evan "draw". I held his hand for a few so he could feel how they were made. I also tried to have him trace over my drawings, but he wasn't grasping what I meant. This is a skill I need to work on with him for future: tracing.

This past summer, one of our neighbors gave us several puzzles and books that her only grandson outgrew. One of the puzzles is a Fishing Pole Puzzle.

I cannot rave about this puzzle enough, both my 2 year old and 10 month old play with this (you can buy a similar version here). The puzzle has fish as the pieces and they have small magnets in the center of their bodies. The pole has a magnet on the end for your kid to "hook" a fish and move it on or off the puzzle board. Reese will play with one fish and the pole and can connect the ends sometimes (she also just likes to suck on it, but that's another matter). Evan is coordinated enough now that he can fish all of the pieces off the puzzle and then put them back on the puzzle. Granted, you have to use your hand to fit them in sometimes because they spin around too much. Here's a list of why I love this puzzle for my kids:

-teaches colors (have them name the color fish they hook, or tell them which fish to hook next)
-teaches counting (keep a running total of the fish caught)
-teaches critical thinking (finding the right place for each puzzle piece)
-teaches hand-eye coordination (they have to get the magnet on just the right spot on the fish)
-educational entertainment (my kids fight over this toy)
-is a game for kids too young for other board games (most board games are for 3 or 4 and up)

*Amazon did not pay me to link to them. I just wanted to help you get a resource my kids have really loved. After all, Christmas is coming up. 

Have you found success with other educational toys or games for the 2 and younger crowd?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Creation, Day 4

Despite my husband being on vacation this week, I really wanted to have a couple school days with Evan. Today we continued with our creation series.

Scripture: Review of themes of Days 1-3 and Genesis 1: 14-19
Memory: "In the beginning, God created"
Song: "The B-I-B-L-E"
Prayer: "Open our eyes, that we may see the truth in your word"

Craft: Sun, Moon, and Star Mobile. Stamped sun, moon, and stars.
Activity: Special Time with Dad
Number: 4 (creation day 4)

Oh the joys of "Plan B". I'm beginning to think I should skip "Plan A" and always just go to "Plan B" since it seems to end up that way. I was hunting around for toddler friendly crafts for Day 4 of Creation when I got sucked into Pinterest (again) and I saw this star mobile:

*I want to give credit to the original link:

Of course I had a toddler-friendly version planned: I was going to use yarn, a hanger, and cut-out stars with bits of foil glued on. That plan had to go when I realized that without a proper stencil, there was no way I could make a star. See what I mean:

This was not my first attempt at a star, but it was the "best" I had. Goodbye mobile plan. While standing in the toy heap in the play room with my 10 month old, an idea came to me. I saw the above star and moon shapes (they come with those cubes where you find the correct shaped hole and insert the block) and I thought they would make the perfect stamps.

Supplies: I grabbed an old t-shirt for a cover to protect Evan from the paint. I had the moon and star blocks and grabbed that blue cup to use for the sun (you can do this with any project, grab anything paint-proof to use as a stamp). I figure the yellow paint would show up best on black paper, so I used that and had an old magazine to dip the paint from.

Evan had a lot of fun stamping! Know that your toddler will not perfectly press down and pull up on a stamp. So be prepared for the finished work to look like their crayon drawings (confusing). This is a good motor skill regardless of how it looks, and they love to dip and press.

Evan enjoyed stamping so much, that when the first page was full, I got another piece of paper and let him stamp that one as well.

Just before we read the Bible and stamped, Justin and Evan had some guy time at the beach (yes I know it is October). They traipsed around and had a grand ole time! I realize this has nothing to do with the theme of Day 4 specifically, but I was out of ideas. Keeping my 2 year old up late enough to see the stars may not be the best option? 

As usual, Evan and I read the verses about Day 4 straight from the Bible. I summarized the first three days as a review, since it has been a week since we did Day 1. On the second rendition of "The B-I-B-L-E", I realized I'm a little tired of this song and I should choose a new one (repetition might be good for a child to learn, but it is not good for a mama's sanity).

I would love to hear your suggestions! Please comment with the name (and artist, if applicable) of your kid's favorite Bible songs.