The year we had Wyatt, Derek's brother, Jeff, and his wife, Rae, sent us this Advent calendar! My sister-in-law is a master potter who is so talented, and she made the jars - and Derek's brother fashioned this cool rotating display for them.
We have one pot for each day of the month up to Christmas. Every year before December 1st, Jeff and Rae send us a box filled with goodies to put in the calendar! It's their Christmas gift to the kids each year, and it makes it so easy for Derek and I to do Advent, because we don't even have to think about putting everything together.
Each jar contains a paper with a verse on it and a chocolate for each of the kids. I usually let the kids eat their chocolates while we read the verse and then talk about it (or sometimes we'll work on memorizing the verses, now that the kids are getting older). And then some of the days also have an extra surprise in the jar.
This year so far the kids have been surprised with coins for their piggy bank, a charitable gift in their names (which is great for talking about giving at Christmas time), and if it's a present day they will get a little card with a present number on it. In the box of stuff, Jeff and Rae send numbered presents for each kid, usually four or five of them! The kids get so excited about doing Advent each night, and when it's a present night everyone cheers!
(The kids got these jammies as one of their presents this year, and they were so excited! I let them wear them exactly one night before I stashed them away for Christmas Eve. You know, so we have fresh, clean jammies for Christmas morning? I didn't buy Christmas jammies this year, and my kids seem to ruin new pajamas after two nights, so I'm saving them.)
I love our Advent calendar, and I am so grateful to Jeff and Rae for putting it together for us every year. It's a great way to focus on Jesus's birth and have some Christmas fun each night with the kids, and I honestly don't think I would be organized enough to do this every year without their help!
What do you all do for Advent, as a family?
Seeing my own kids making friends now has made me think harder about what kinds of things I want to teach them about being a good friend. What makes a good friend? What can you do to help your kids treat their little friends well?
I'd love to hear your answers to these questions. Personally, Proverbs is like a handbook for friendship to me - there are so many principles there for all kinds of relationships, including friendship. I wrote a post that is up over at Tommy Nelson featuring some of my favorite Scriptural principles for friendship - and how to teach those to our children from a young age!
Check it out, and please let me know what you try to teach your kids about friendship in the comments below! I'd love to hear!
For me, fall is naturally a time to count my blessings. Maybe it's because the busyness of summer slows down, and I have more time to think bout what I am thankful for, or maybe it's just because of the beauty of creation in the fall. Whenever I think of fall, I think of thankfulness, and I start thinking too about how I can remind my kids to show gratitude to God for everything we have.
This year there have been a few tools that I've been using to help my kids recognize their blessings.
Choosing something to thank God for when we pray for meals.
This is so simple, but for young kids it is great practice to have to think of something different each day! It is fun for me to hear the different things that make their thankful list - and it makes me slow down because I have to think of one too!
Giving to others.
Our MOPS group tries to find a way to be involved in outreach, and this year they handed out little boxes with a coin slot, so we can gather our spare change to give to an organization called Feed My Starving Children. I've been giving the kids our change when we leave the grocery store so they can put it in our little box, and it has been a great opportunity to talk to them about how some kids don't even have enough to eat. It's a tool to remind them that they have many blessings, much more than some, which is not usually something kids realize by themselves.
Activities And Books.
There are so many great activities and books that can also be opportunities to cultivate thankful hearts in our kids! Tommy Nelson just released an adorable one that is especially good for the toddler age group, called One Big Turkey, and I am looking forward to reading it with my little ones!
This little book is so nature-focused, portraying God's beautiful creation during the fall - lot's of ideas for things to be thankful for, and toddlers can get in their counting practice too! The illustrations are just gorgeous - I think this will be a favorite!
And as far as using activities as a springboard for talking about thankfulness - I have a post on Tommy Nelson with fall craft and book ideas to help you do just that! Go check it out!
What do you do to help your kids develop thankfulness? I'd love more ideas!
Is it just me, or are public schools starting earlier and earlier every year? When I was growing up, I remember starting school the last week of August or the first week of September. I have to admit, I kind of resent how schools start mid-August these days. Even though I don’t have any children in public school, it still feels like it’s cutting the summer short.
In our house we believe summer lasts until the end of August, so we started our homeschool kindergarten this week! And let’s just commiserate for a moment on the fact that my firstborn baby is starting kindergarten…
In honor of our first week of school, I thought I’d share with you all my homeschool teaching philosophy. When I was a homeschool student I never even thought about things like choosing a curriculum and philosophy, but as I’ve been preparing to teach my own kids I have been thinking about it more and researching different educational philosophies. I’d thought I’d share a little summary of what I’ve learned with you, including what I think about each philosophy. If you hang in there until the end of this rather long post, I’ll reveal the method we’ll be utilizing!
(Warning: this post is long, but I’m going with it, because I know those of you that are interested in homeschooling philosophy will eat it up. For those who aren’t already familiar with some of the “flavors” of homeschooling - I recommend watching “The Five Flavors Of Homeschooling” which is a great explanation, or checking out some of the books on my new homeschool mom’s book list!)
The first real philosophy I started reading about was Charlotte Mason, and as I tell you more about it you will probably be able to guess why I like it. Charlotte Mason was a teacher in England in the 1800’s, and she had a lot of things to say about education, but her biggest point was that learning should be done not through textbooks but through “living books” - basically high-quality books that you would read if you were actually interested in a subject. Her philosophy also focused on giving kids a lot of time outside to explore nature and a firm grounding in the arts.
What I Like About It
In case it isn’t already obvious, I LOVE the thought of learning through reading actual books! I think this is how we learn most things as adults - when I want to learn something new, I pick up a few books on the subject, I don’t purchase a textbook. I like the idea of teaching my kids how to find informational books to learn. I especially like this philosophy for learning history and art, and I think it could be done well with some science topics as well.
I also love that this method includes a lot of time reading aloud and having children recount what they remember from the book in either verbal or written form. I want to read aloud to my kids a lot anyway as part of our schooling, and I think reciting back everything they remember is a good way to cement the information for them and practice communication skills.
The Charlotte Mason books I have read talked about creating a “book of centuries”, which is a book the kids create themselves to place different people and historical events in the appropriate pages for each century in their book. I love how this could give kids a big picture of history and help them remember generally when things occurred because they wrote it down themselves in their book.
I also love the time spent outside that is emphasized with Charlotte Mason, though we are a bit limited based on the weather.
What I Don't Love
While I love the idea of teaching through living books, there are also things that would be hard to learn from that type of book. Math is a good example. I still haven’t figured out how learning math can fit into this philosophy, and I think we will have to resort to textbooks for subjects like that.
Another negative is time. Teaching this way would take a lot of time.
Charlotte Mason Philosophy discourages forcing kids to memorize large amounts of information, which is a negative to me because I actually like the idea of having kids memorize important facts, and especially Bible verses.
Classical education is based on the idea of the “trivium”, grammer, logic, and rhetoric. The thought process behind this is to take advantage of the natural development of children - younger children’s talent at memorizing, middle school children who like to argue anyway (so they might as well argue logically), and synthesizing that together for high school students as they learn to communicate their opinions. The bottom line is that a lot of information is memorized in the young years, around middle school students start learning to reason, and in high school they study long hours and learn to synthesize all these skills together to form and argue their own opinions.
What I Like About It
The concept of the trivium does make sense to me, and I particularly like focusing on memorizing important facts for younger children. That is the stage we are in, and I remember how easy it was to memorize things when I was in elementary school, so I like the idea of taking advantage of that during the younger years. I also like the idea of teaching middle and high school students to think logically and debate well.
What I Don't Love
Classical education is really very intimidating to tackle without a program or guide. One of the marks of classical education, especially for older students, is rigorous study. I see the value in that, but I also feel intimidated just thinking about keeping up with it as a teacher, and I would hope it wouldn't take up so much of their time that they couldn't also pursue their interests.
You get a little bonus section here! I know several people who are part of Classical Conversations, which is a group-based organization that forms the basis for a classical education for it’s members. Families meet each week to learn together and provide a chance for children to present or debate.
I have mixed feelings when I think about this program. There are aspects of it that I really like, and if we were to go with a classical model all the way, I think Classical Conversations would be a must. However, I can’t quite make myself join for a couple reasons.
First, I am not thrilled with the format of circling through different periods of history every three years, which is the model classical education uses. In this program kids will learn about ancient history, the middle ages, and modern history over the course of three years, and then they’ll circle back through again. Honestly, when I start teaching my kids history, I want to start with American history and work backward. I like the idea of starting young kids with the history of things that are most familiar to them, and then branching out from there. I personally think it’s most important for my kids to learn the history of their own country first, and once they have a good grasp on that I’ll be ready to introduce other historical periods and countries, so ideally that is how I’d like to handle history education.
Second, I am not thrilled with some of the things that Classical Conversations treats as important to memorize in the younger years. A lot of it is wonderful information, but some of it is not particularly important in my opinion, especially for young children. I would much rather my kids memorize Bible verses than lists of mythical Greek gods. It is more important to me that my child grows into an adult that loves and serves the Lord than an adult that knows how to win an argument. In the younger years especially, I would much rather focus on instilling values and biblical truth than secular facts, and I just am not sure there is a lot of the former in CC. For me, the perspective is a bit lacking with this program, at least from what I’ve heard of it so far. I reserve the right to change my mind.
Unschooling is basically the philosophy that children don’t need a formal learning program. Learning occurs every day, in everyday situations, and if you make the tools and opportunities available, children will teach themselves the things they need to know.
What I Don't Love
I’m switching the order here and am going to tell you what I don’t love first. I don’t love this as a complete learning philosophy. I heard a speaker once quote Proverbs 29:15 in the context of unschooling. This is what it says:
"The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother."
It is clearly not biblical to leave a child completely to himself. Proverbs also speaks in many places about the value of hard work - and I don’t think that is something that a child learns without direction.
Now to be fair, I think that most “unschoolers” are not actually leaving their children with no direction or education, so I wouldn’t say what they are doing is unbiblical unless they are truly neglecting any education of their children. I think that is rare among unschoolers who are serious about preparing their children to be successful.
Overall, this philosophy is somewhat extreme to me, and there is too much variability. It would be so stressful for me not to have some sort of guide to follow as I educate my children. Some people make it work, but I don't think t's for me.
What I Like About It
That said, I think there is definitely something to be said for giving children enough time and space to learn what they actually want to learn. I’ve already seen how much Wyatt can teach himself and how much information he can retain when a subject interests him. The kid knows more about race cars than me. I read the book Free To Learn this summer, which talks about an educational philosophy that I would liken to unschooling, and it opened my eyes to some ideas I had never considered before. I like the idea of letting my kids have some time to pursue their interests and explore outside.
Traditional schooling is basically what you would find at a school, only at home. It uses mostly textbooks to teach, and tests to reinforce learning and measure performance.
What I Like About It
There is a certain comfort in frequent tests, and tests are a good way to evaluate where a student may need to review. Textbooks also have all the information in one place.
What I Don't Love
While there are exceptions, many textbooks are rather dry and don’t exactly inspire love for the subject matter.
The Reveal: Eclectic Homeschooling
After all this research, I’ve come to the conclusion that we will be an eclectic homeschool family - meaning we will be using bits and pieces of several different educational philosophies and ultimately doing the things that work best for our family!
Below is a summary of how we will most likely incorporate parts of each philosophy. I reserve the right to change my mind on any of this - obviously. A perk of homeschooling is getting to experiment until you figure out what works best for your family and each child.
How We’ll Use Charlotte Mason
While we may still use textbooks as a guide, I definitely want to read a lot of living books with the kids, especially for learning history. As they get older I love the idea of having them practice writing through recounting what information they retained from our reading. I love the “book of centuries”, and we will definitely be incorporating that into our school, as well as spending as much time outside as we can get away with.
How We Will Use Classical
We will absolutely be using a lot of memory work in our kindergarten and elementary school homeschool!
How We Will Use Unschooling
I want to make sure to leave space in our day for the kids to learn about the things that interest them. I also agree with the idea that every situation in any given day can be a learning opportunity if you take advantage of it, and I hope to do that as I teach my kids!
How We Will Use Traditional
I like the idea of textbooks and tests most for math, particularly in the higher grades. Math is a subject that is very hard to teach for a lot of people, and while I don’t know how we’ll fare yet, I think when we get to more complicated math we’ll make use of textbooks and tests. We may also do periodic tests with other subjects so I can evaluate where we may need to work a little harder.
These are the philosophy elements that I like right now, but that very likely might change as my kids grow and I figure out more about their learning styles. We will adapt as we need to. When it comes down to it, that is really the beauty of homeschooling - the flexibility. We get to do what works for us - for me as a teacher, for the kids as students. And no one falls through the cracks because I am their only teacher, and I am going to make sure they know what they need to know, no matter what methods we end up using.
What philosophy do you use in your homeschooling? Or do you take bits and pieces like I do?
I am willing to bet that most adults who have the books of the Bible memorized learned them as a kid. Kids are such sponges! It's so much easier to memorize lists of information like that as children.
I think I was probably four or five years old when I learned the books of the Old Testament. I went to VBS at a little mountain church, and there was a teenage girl there with an acoustic guitar and long brown hair who sang the Bible books song every day. I have no idea who she was, but I can still almost see her in my mind. I hope wherever she is, the Lord blesses her for her service at that VBS, because it has served me well to have the books of the Bible memorized, and it all started with that song.
The sky was dark, the night air was warm. Only in the middle of the summer could you get away with no jacket at night in the mountains. I sat with my family in the back of my dad's pickup truck and watched showers of light ranging down while I yanked a bite of Twizzlers with my teeth. My siblings and I were all dressed in varying shades of red, white, and blue. And even though I had never been to one of those shows where the fireworks were coordinated to patriotic music, I silently sang the national anthem in my head, proud and thankful that I was lucky enough to be an American.
Here is a little confession: as much as I love to read, I am not really a re-reader.
I have been listening to some book podcasts lately (most notably "What Should I Read Next?" which was introduced to me by my friend, Felicia), and it is shocking to me - shocking! - how many people re-read books. I have only ever re-read one book in full, Anne of Green Gables. And I actually listened to it through Librivox, so I'm not sure that counts.
Do you play with your kids?
We recently had a speaker at our MOPS group that talked about the power of playing with our children (Cara Jakab, an author of "The Power Of A Playing Parent"*). I don't know what I was expecting from her message, maybe just a "play-with-your-kids-all-the-time-so-you'll-have-a-super-close-relationship" theme. That is great in theory, but not really practical. I don't believe it's even healthy to keep your kids so constantly entertained that they are not able to entertain themselves. So I went in not really sure if I was going to get much out of it, other than a nice dose of guilt that I don't play with my kids more often (I'm being honest here).
I was excited to review The Illustrated Compendium Of Animal Facts because I used to love books like this when I was a kid. I have always been interested in learning about animals and biology, and this book looked like a fun one for my kids when they get a little older.
As a birthday post for Gwen I wanted to share this little story that I wrote out a few weeks ago.
It has been a good reading year.
I remember the year before I had Wyatt, I read 19 books. That is pretty low for me, and I remember thinking that it would only get worse after I had kids. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually the opposite - I actually read more books in the days after I had a baby! For one reason - nursing. There is not much to do while sitting there, feeding your newborn, so reading books just happened without my trying.
Every year that I have had a baby has been a good reading year, and this year was no exception. My original goal for 2015 was to read 52 books, about a book a week - and I'm on track to beat that goal by five books!
For me, these books were the highlights for me in 2015. I'm sharing my favorite five fiction books, and my favorite five non-fiction books! In no particular order...
A few months ago I went to a party of a friend. She used one of those e-invite systems (I'm still not sure what I think about them, because I'm old-school and still send party invites through the mail). With e-invites you can usually see everyone else's comments about their RSVP - and I was in a curious mood, so I read through some of the responses.
One comment in particular caught my eye - someone said they couldn't come to my friend's party because the party was in the evening, and their toddler usually went to bed at 7:00 PM.
The comment struck me, I think in part because I understand even more than most how miserable things can get when your child is cranky and tired. I have four kids under five, three of whom still nap and also go to bed at 7:00 PM. When one of the kids cries, at least a couple more join in.
I had an afternoon with half the kids the other day.
Maybe I should back up a bit. Life has been busy but good. I am slowly figuring out this four kid thing, but I'm not going to lie, our house is rarely peaceful these days! Derek took the boys with him to process his deer last weekend (we really only eat wild game, and it saves us a ton of money in beef costs), and I was left with only Gwen and Clarice.
I forgot how quiet the house is when there are half the kids around. On the one hand, it was nice to have a relatively peaceful afternoon. On the other hand, I almost cried kissing those sweet little boy faces goodbye, even if it was only for a few hours.
It had been a fairly good day, and I was almost to the end of it. The kids were eating their macaroni in the kitchen, and I went into their rooms to find their pajamas. That’s when I saw that at some point during the day the kids had bunched the covers all up on Wyatt’s bed.
I sighed, because it was just one more piece of work to do, and I climbed onto his bed as I tugged and pulled the covers into submission. Before I knew it, a wave of that pregnancy fatigue crashed over me (it has just been intense this time around), and I collapsed onto the half-made bed - literally too exhausted to move.
I just laid there for a few minutes, and without even consciously letting my mind go there, the words “I can’t do this anymore” flitted across my brain.
Sometimes I get to the end of the day, and I feel like absolutely nothing was accomplished, even though I was literally running myself ragged all day.
I am not sure how it is physically possible to be busy all day and still feel like I didn't do anything. I think there is a serious lack of rest in many of our lives, and I am no exception. I just did a Bible study at my church that was all about taking time to rest each day, because often God will work in our lives if we will just take a breather and slow down! I was definitely convicted, and I'm hoping to share more of my thoughts on rest in future posts.
Another problem with not taking time to slow down is that when I get too caught up in the busy, it is easy to let time with the Lord fall by the wayside - and that is not okay with me. I want to make sure I am being a good example to my kids, and I also cannot adequately pour into my kids when I am not taking that time to be filled up with His Word.
As a mom, every now and then (or sometimes more often than I want to admit), I end up having one of those days. Every mom of young children has experienced one of "those days" at some point in their mothering journey (and if you haven't yet - you will). The days when the kids seem to be crying or disobeying constantly, and you find yourself counting down the seconds to nap time.
Usually by the end of that kind of day I am beating myself up for not handling things better - for not being more patient, more loving, through the whole ordeal. Because when it comes down to it, I love these little people so much. I know that no matter what they do, I will never stop loving them. My goal is to show that to them by how I treat them, even in the difficult moments.
It can be hard to take a pause in the middle of a frustrating moment to remember to be loving to our kids, but I think it is something we should be constantly trying to do. There are a few strategies that are great for helping improve my patience when one of "those days" is looming.
It has been a while since I did a Book Babbles Vlog! I know I said I was going to do these more often, but the summer got away from me.
I am naming this vlog "Halfway Through Impressions", because I am notorious for reading a book halfway through, then finding another interesting book and starting that one - and then reading that one halfway through before starting another one. I have had probably up to ten books going at once because of this bad habit. Lucky for you, I am only reading six at the moment, and I'm giving you my initial impressions today!
Honestly, I'm not sure whether the comments make me feel like supermom or make me wonder if we really were a little crazy - but in the end, it wasn't too difficult. We had a great time, and it doesn't take much to make a camping vacation a success with toddlers. Still, I wanted to share a few tips for those of you who might feel a bit intimidated by getting out into the Great Outdoors with your munchkins! These are the things we found made our trip go more smoothly.
I'm on Tommy Nelson and FaithGateway today, talking about how to make your child's first Bible meaningful - and including my own story of how my parents and grandparents made my first Bible meaningful.
"My children are pre-school aged. They can’t even read simple books yet, so it will be a little while before they will be able to read the Bible by themselves. Nevertheless, I have been thinking about the day that they are ready to pick out their first Bibles, and how I want to go about it.
When I think of my first Bible growing up, the one that always comes to mind is a thick, leather-bound book, with my name embossed on the front and childlike letters written inside the front cover. When I was about nine years old, my grandma gave a challenge to all her grandkids – memorize Psalm 91 – and she would buy us our own Bibles with our names on the front, and take us to a fancy Japanese restaurant for dinner…"
Head on over to Tommy Nelson to continue reading!
When did you get your first Bible? Did your parents (if they gave it to you) do anything to make it special?
Hey guys! Well, the last couple weeks have been weird to say the least. Just lots of unexpected things that are totally throwing my blogging schedule. Normally I would have some nice accompanying post, but today I have nothing, so I'm just going to point you over to my post on Tommy Nelson today!
I wrote about separation anxiety, which I feel is ironic, because I would not consider myself an expert at handling it - however, we have found ways to cope. And when I say we, I am not just talking about the kids, I am including myself! I hope I am not the only mom who gets anxious for her kids sometimes.
A verse that my mom taught us in childhood reminds me that I need to point my kids to the One who will always be with them if they put their trust in Him. And sometimes I need that reminder too!
To read all about my separation anxiety story and verse, head on over to Tommy Nelson's blog!