Category Archives: Holidays

Handprint/Footprint Nativity Scene Tree Skirt

Every Christmas growing up I looked forward to seeing the handprint with a poem my preschool teachers helped me make as a Christmas gift for my parents back when I was two.  I really wanted to do something to capture my own children’s sweet little hands and feet, and while I was searching for ideas for our Father’s Day gifts last spring, I found several ideas for making pictures from a Nativity scene.  I decided to combine them to decorate a skirt to go around our Christmas tree.

I bought a burlap tree skirt (I chose this one because it was a little nicer quality and was lined, but there are cheaper ones out there) and used acrylic paint I already had. The browns were a little lumpy, so those prints didn’t turn out quite as nicely as I’d have liked, but over all I’m pleased with how it turned out.

My three older boys provided the handprint camels and full fingerprint wise men, robed in their favorite colors.  Nathaniel’s hand made a sweet donkey.  Nico and Arianna provided the footprints for Joseph and Mary, while Clara’s little foot made the manger for Baby Jesus.

Then the Ian, Elijah, and Nico used their footprints for shepherds, and Nathaniel’s and Arianna’s hands were the sheep.  (Clara’s seven months and it’s really hard to get a good handprint, so I didn’t dare trying the two colors for a sheep with her.  She made the little brown cow instead.)  I painted both girls’ feet white to make the angels and then just added a few details.

I probably should have ironed the skirt before we started the painting, but I figure it’s going to get covered up with gifts anyway.  I hope the kids will enjoy getting it out every year and marveling over how small their hands and feet were back in 2017.

Merry Christmas!

God Bless the USA!

We’re getting ready to start school on Tuesday, and I’m excited about studying early American History with my children this year.  My prayer is that as they learn more the sacrifices that were made to establish our nation, they will grow to appreciate the freedoms we enjoy, be willing to fight to maintain them, and recognize that the 4th of July is about more than just parties and fireworks (and the start of a new school year for us).

In honor of America’s Independence Day, I wanted to share this beautiful a cappella rendition of Lee Greenwood‘s song “God Bless the USA” by Home Free.  This song always give me goosebumps, and this beautiful cover is just as moving as the original.  The video even features stunning views of Mt. Rushmore in the background, making it a perfect kick-off for 4th of July!

Using Eggs to Point to God at Easter

Easter Egg Devotional
As we approach Easter, our children are bombarded with images of eggs, bunnies, and other cultural associations that have nothing to do with the celebration of Christ’s victory over death.  Our family tries to focus on the true meaning of the HOLYday, but my children really enjoy hunting for eggs, and rather than fight it, I decided to use Easter eggs to point them to God, just as we do with so many symbols at Christmas time.

Yesterday we gathered with some other homeschool families to celebrate Easter.  Before our traditional egg hunt, I shared some of these thoughts with the kids during our devotional time.  I thought I’d share them here on the blog as well.

What Do Eggs Have to Do With Easter?

1. Eggs are a symbol of new life

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Just as a baby bird emerges from its shell to new life, when we choose Christ we experience a rebirth.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17  

It doesn’t get much newer than a chick hatching out of an egg!

2. Eggs can represent the Trinitysoft boiled egg photo: soft boiled egg softboiledegg_zps913a827c.jpg

The eggshell is white, smooth and pure. It holds everything together and so represents God the Father.

Hidden inside is the yolk, the source of life. The yolk represents God’s most important gift, His son Jesus.

The Holy Spirit intercedes for us, like a “go-between” between us and God So the egg white represents the Holy Spirit as it is in the middle.  “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26

(adapted from Lenten devotions: Catholic Holy Week Bible object lessons in Easter egg crafts)

3. Eggs can remind us of the Tomb

Easter EggsThe outside of the egg is hard like a rock. When Jesus died, they put him into a tomb and rolled a big rock in front to seal it up. Just like with an egg, it looked like no one could get in OR out! BUT, did the tomb stay closed up? No. Angels rolled away that stone and the tomb was opened, just like this egg can now be opened up. Everyone thought Jesus was dead, but after 3 days inside the tomb, he came out and was alive!

Now, what’s inside the eggs that you’re going to get today? Candy or maybe some other treat! We put goodies inside the eggs to remind us that when Jesus’s friends looked in the open tomb, they got the best prize of all, that their Lord and Savior was really alive. That must have been very sweet for them. And now you’ll get a sweet surprise when you open your eggs too!

(adapted from Easter Egg Hunt Devotion)

Seek With All Your Heart!

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

Easter egg hunts can remind us of how we should zealously seek God. So go out, SEEK and FIND, and as you enjoy the treats in your eggs, just remember that the sweetest part of Easter isn’t the candy, but knowing that Jesus is alive!

Christ-Centered Books for Easter

Books are big around our house, and holidays are a special excuse to pull out old favorites.  When it comes to the big HOLYdays like Christmas and Easter, I am especially intentional about trying counter the cultural messages that bombard my children and focus on the true reason we celebrate.

To the consternation of some of my friends, we don’t do bunnies and Easter baskets.  I want my children to find wonder and take delight in the miracle of the resurrection, and I think a bunny bringing candy is pretty stiff competition for a young heart’s affections. I also try to keep egg hunts separate from Resurrection Sunday, though because eggs do tie into the celebration as a symbol of new life, we enjoy a few egg-related books and activities in the weeks before Easter.

Easter books
Here are our families favorite books to celebrate the Passion Week, culminating with Christ’s sacrifice and triumph over death (affiliate links):

The Donkey Who Carried a King by R.C. Sproul

 

The Legend of the Easter Robin: An Easter Story of Compassion and Faith by Dandi Daley Mackall
 

The Parable of the Lily by Liz Curtis Higgs
 

The Legend of the Sand Dollar by Chris Auer

 

Benjamin’s Box by Melody Carlson and Jack Stockman
(goes along with “Resurrection Eggs” and is one of our favorites!)
 

For the preschoolers, I use The Story of the Resurrection Eggs in Rhyme and Song: Miss Patty Cake Opens Up the Wonder of the Easter Story by Jean Thomason.  I wasn’t sure about the book on it’s own, but my little ones adore the DVD that goes along with it, which has made the book a treasure as well.
 

Legend Easter Egg

The Legend of the Easter Egg (I like the main point of this story but it seemed like it could have been more thought out.  Still, a good way of redeeming the whole idea of Easter eggs and refocusing on Christ.)

The Very First Easter by Paul L. Maier (This book has beautiful illustrations, which kept Ian intrigued even though the book is better for older children.)

 

The Easter Cave by Carol Wedeven (repeating pattern in the style of “the house that Jack built”)

 

The Easter Story by Brian Wildsmith

The Easter Story illustrated by Gennady Spirin (text from Matthew, Luke, & John in KJV)

 

Journey, Easter Journey! by Dandi Daley Mackall (Rhyming story that tells of Jesus’ entire life through the ascension. Ours came with a read-along CD.)

 

Egglo
The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure (We reviewed the related Egglo glow-in-the-dark eggs a few years ago and this is one of my kids’ favorites.)
 

The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story by Mike Berenstain  (Tells the story of Christ’s death and resurrection truthfully without being graphic.)

 

An Easter Gift for Me by Crystal Bowman (rhyming board book, great for preschoolers)

 

Starting This Year’s Lenten Journey

Although we were on a break from school this past week, we took some time to talk about the tradition of Lent.  Our church doesn’t celebrate it (though many of our friends do so privately), and while we’ve done a few things as a family in years past, I wasn’t sure any of children would remember.  I wanted to keep things uncomplicated this year, so we’re just doing two simple things each day.

Family JourneyFirst, we read from A Family Journey with Jesus Through Lent: Prayers and Activities for Each Day by Angela M. Burrin.  There is a a story each day, told from the perspective of a child witnessing different experiences in Jesus’ life.  Then there is a section called “Jesus, Speak to Me,” which consists of a devotional thought told as though Jesus himself is addressing the reader.  Each day also features a memory verse and a short prayer.  The book is specifically written for Catholic families, and there have been a few minor changes I’ve made as I read aloud, but overall I have found it to be a wonderful fit for our family.  The stories are told in an engaging manner, and my boys are learning about the geography of the area as they look up the different towns from which the children telling the stories come.

Lent 2After we read, we turn down the lights (our dining room has no window), sit around our table and one child moves the candle and Christ figure on our “Cradle-to-Cross” wreath from JoyWares.  That child then lights the candle and prays for our day, focusing on the prompt from the reading.  Finally, they blow it out and we start our day.  I love how all the children are drawn to the solemnity of this morning ceremony.  They all get so quiet as we watch the candle and pray, and I think all of us enjoy having that sacred moment before diving into the rest of the day’s business.

Amon's AdventureIn the evenings, we’re also going through Amon’s Adventure: A Family Story for Easter by Arnold Ytreeide.  It doesn’t have a chapter for each day, so we’re just reading it with Daddy a few evenings a week.  We’ve enjoyed two of Ytreeide’s Advent books, so I knew this would be a special treat for everyone to help us draw our hearts to Jesus during this season.

Wrapping Up Weeks 19 and 20

Weekly Wrap Up 2015-16
Our last two weeks of school before Christmas were mostly about reaching the milestones I had in my yearly lesson plan book.  In addition to finishing our regular math and history lessons, we learned about several holidays and did a lot of memory work (times tables and history time line) as we drove about town, enjoying several “field trips” before the schools let out for the holiday.

Our family has enjoyed learning about Hanakkuh over the last couple years, and the kids always look forward to a night of celebration with friends at church.

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On St. Lucia Day (December 13) we read about the Swedish traditional celebrations (part of my heritage), and Arianna dressed up.

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On one unusually warm day we headed to the beach with Grandma and Grandpa (throwing in some lessons on erosion and gravity while we were there).

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We also spent a few hours at one of our favorite children’s museums.

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The kids had fun putting on their own “Christmas pageant” and acting out the visit of the wise men.

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And after our 100th day of school (woohoo!) we joined some friends and headed “Back to Bethlehem,” enjoying a fun family evening at a church that recreates the setting of Jesus’ birth, complete with animals, a town market, dancing, and of course, Baby Jesus.

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So the last two weeks may not have looked like our typical school schedule, but we’ve had a lot of fun learning opportunities, and I’m thankful once again for the flexibility of homeschooling.  Now we’re looking forward to a week visiting with cousins, celebrating Christ’s birth, and hopefully resting and recharging.

Merry Christmas!

The Anticipation of Advent

Over the last few years, I have grown to love the Advent season.  As a child, I felt like the weeks leading up to Christmas were absolutely magical, and as I grew older I never seemed able to recapture that anticipation.  Of course, what I was really looking forward to back then was Santa’s arrival and present delivery.  It was hard to feel the same once I had outgrown that fantasy.

We don’t play the Santa game at our house, but once we had children I wanted to try to create a similar sense of excitement as we looked forward to the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth.  The great mystery of His arrival is so far beyond any childish dreams about a jolly fat man bringing presents.

We’ve developed many Advent traditions to help make this season a time of wonder and delightful anticipation for our family, and this year as I was decorating our home, I decided to add one more (borrowing from my nominally Catholic roots).  We have Nativity scenes scattered throughout the house, and I set them all up without Baby Jesus (except for a few where that was impossible).  Right away my kids started asking, “Where’s Jesus?”  To which I replied, “He’s not here yet.  We have to wait for Christmas!”

Advent Creche Collage
Every time I pass one of those scenes, I’m struck by how incomplete it feels, which was the whole point, of course.  It’s hard for me to imagine a world without Jesus, where the only thing to cling to was the hope of God’s promise.  Having a concrete reminder of His absence has helped me spend time each day reflecting on how Christ’s arrival brought a sense of completeness (or at least it set things in motion for the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise).  I tried it on a whim this year, but I think this is going to become a tradition.  (I’m still trying to decide how I want to bring out the Jesus figures.  I’ve got lots of great ideas from which to choose!)

“O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.”
 

Wrapping Up Week 18 (2015-16)

Weekly Wrap Up 2015-16
 Don’t you love those weeks when everything actually goes according to your plans?  I have a natural tendency to try to pack too much into our days/weeks, and it’s really hard for me to ease up or take a day off.  Yet I really want to minimize the time we spend on academics over the next few weeks, so I battled with the side of myself this week.  And won.

At the start of the week I sat down with Ian and showed him my lesson plan book for December.  We looked at what needed to be done (basically two weeks worth of lessons in his Veritas Press Self-Paced History Course, and five math lessons with lots of additional facts practice).  I told him once those things were completed, I wouldn’t ask him to do any more official schoolwork until after Christmas.

To be honest, I wanted him to dive in and get through it all this week.  He didn’t.  And so I just bit my tongue, took a deep breath, and let him go at his own pace.  We took a day off for Arianna’s birthday and he still managed to get in a solid week’s worth of work, so I can’t complain.  In addition to his history and math work on the computer, he’s reading through Robin Hood (A Stepping Stone Book), the assigned literature for his history course.  Ian loves being read to, but he’s usually reluctant to read on his own, so I was surprised at how enthusiastically he picked up the book each day.  He even asked if we could get some of the other Stepping Stone books, intrigued by the titles like Man in the Iron Mask and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  I told him I’d rather he wait a couple years and just read the “real” books, but I’d help him look at the library for the Stepping Stone versions.

DSCN0913xAs far as Elijah goes, I didn’t demand much from him this week.  Instead of doing regular lessons, I set him to work systematically going through his Architecto Gameand the Equilibrio book that uses the same blocks.  I like giving him something to do besides flying through grade levels on CTCMath.com, and since he’s fascinated by building things, I figure his time is well spent developing his spatial visualization skills.  After Christmas I’ll have him go back to lessons too, but for these light weeks I think this is a great Kindergarten activity.

Read Alouds

One of my goals over the next few weeks is to read with my children as much as possible , and we got off to a great start.  They spent a lot of time pawing through our collection of Christmas books, sometimes just flipping through them quietly on their own, and sometimes bringing them to me to read.  Here are the ones we read this week(for my most complete list of Christmas picture books, see my post Christmas Book Countdown):

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Best Christmas Pageant

I also had the pleasure of introducing the boys to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, one of my childhood favorites.  From the first page, Ian was hooked, and within a few chapters we had drawn Elijah in as well.  They kept begging for more and we ended reading the book in one sitting (well, with a few interruptions from the little ones).  It was such a hit I went searching for the movie, which I’d never seen.

So all in all we had a delightful week of snuggling up with books and enjoying lots of family time in the glow of the Christmas tree with the iPod serenading us with Christmas carols pretty much all day every day.  Bliss!

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