Finding Joy in Your Homeschool Journey

The holidays are done, and the new year stretches before us. It’s time to begin a new semester of school…and I’m guessing that some of you may not be feeling very excited about getting back into a school schedule again.

Maybe you feel a bit overwhelmed with the idea of a whole new semester ahead of you. Or there was a difficult subject that you’re not looking forward to teaching again.  Maybe it’s just that the daily school routine has become boring and you need some changes to happen.

Sometimes homeschooling can feel like a lot of work, right? I remember only too well. Other families are sending their kids off on the bus and you’re teaching your kids again AT HOME. And YOU are responsible for what they learn. It can feel like a heavy burden at times, even though it’s what we’ve chosen, right?

So how do you find joy and motivation when you really just want to go back to bed, or go read a good book, or go hang out with a friend instead of doing the “school thing”?

If this is you, let me give you some ideas for how to find JOY IN YOUR HOMESCHOOL JOURNEY AGAIN!

  1. PRAY AND SEEK THE LORD each day! Rest in Him…

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this homeschool thing! God is with you and wants to help you and give you wisdom for every day and every situation as you teach your children. As you begin each day, spend time with God, seeking His strength and asking Him to give you a thankful and joyful attitude.  Many times, when I’m feeling discouraged or unmotivated, I really just need the Lord to help me change my attitude so it’s in line with His will in my life. He can help you get motivated and find joy in each day. He can help you look for things to be thankful for as you go through each day. I remember one year when I was feeling down and discouraged, not really looking forward to each homeschool day. I sought the Lord’s help and He reminded me of the many blessings I had and helped me to look for things to be thankful for each day. He also helped me see that I needed to take better care of myself…more on that shortly.

Remember that your attitude will rub off on your children! If you’re excited about a new day, looking forward to all God is going to teach you, your children will be too! A joyful attitude is infectious!

Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

 

 

  1. REMEMBER IT’S REALLY ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS!

 

We often get so focused on academics and making sure we’re getting everything accomplished that we forget that one of the most important things about homeschooling is that we’re building relationships:

  • Our children’s relationship with God
  • Our relationship with our children
  • Our children’s relationships with each other
  • Outside relationships with others

Ask the Lord to help you make relationships a priority this semester.

  • Focus on helping your children grow in their faith and in godly character. Check out my blog post on ideas for building your child’s faith: Resources and Ideas for Building Your Child’s Faith. I also have several posts on godly character – just put that phrase in the search box and you’ll find them!
  • Focus on spending quality time enjoying being with your children, playing a game, reading to them, or just snuggling.
  • Focus on helping your children love one another, helping them to develop a deep friendship with their siblings.

You’ll be surprised at what this change of focus will do for your family and your homeschool days!

 

  1. TAKE A LITTLE TIME TO RE-EVALUATE

 

  • Are you possibly struggling with burnout? Do you give so much of yourself that you’re not taking time for yourself and your needs? Homeschool burnout is very real! You need to take care of yourself, get proper rest and exercise and eat well plus allow yourself to enjoy the things you like to do sometimes in order to avoid burning out. That same year when I was so down and discouraged, I realized that I needed to get more regular exercise and so we joined a gym as a family and I found that getting regular exercise was good for me and also for our children! Check out this blog post: “Encouragement for the Burned-out Homeschool Mom” 

 

  • Do you need to consider a change of curriculum? Are you finding you dread a certain subject? Or have you noticed your children seem to complain about doing some subjects? Maybe it’s time for a change of curriculum. Check out cathyduffyreviews.com for new ideas on curriculum and read this post on Choosing Curriculum.
  • Focus on developing a love for learning using delight-directed studies and adding some fun ideas and games into your school day. One year I was just so tired of the “same old, same old” everyday, and so I purchased the book “Ignite the Fire” by Terri Camp. It was so helpful to get me out of the rut we were in! One idea she had was to have the kids each make their own mailbox (decorated shoe box!) and then write letters to each other (creative writing).  The kids loved it!  She has many wonderful ideas to help your children love to learn!

Also check out these blog posts on delight-directed learning, teaching tips and using games to help make learning more fun:

 

 

  • Download my free “Homeschool Evaluation and Goal Setting PDF” available on the sidebar to help you assess any changes you may wish to make for this second semester.

 

 

  1. BRAINSTORM with your spouse or other homeschool friends on ideas to make this semester better for you and your children…

    so school is something you DO look forward to! I also do homeschool consulting and would love to meet with you to help you think through how you can bring more joy into your homeschool days if this is a struggle for you. For the month of January 2019, I’m offering a 15% discount for consultations as well!

 

  1. RELAX AND ENJOY LEARNING WITH YOUR CHILDREN!

So much learning can happen without textbooks. Allow yourself to relax a bit, to allow some learning to happen naturally as your children ask questions about life and things that happen in their world. That’s called Discovery Learning – and because it’s something they’re interested in, they will be much more attentive as you research together about the topic of interest. Discovery learning provides some of the best learning and often the information you learn through these types of teaching times will be retained better than when you use some fancy lesson plan!

 

  1. EXTEND GRACE…

    to yourself and your children as you get back into the routine of school after a holiday break. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes you a week or more to get back into a regular routine with school and life.  REST in the LORD on a daily, moment by moment basis as you teach and have a blessed school year!

Please comment below if you have other ideas that have helped you find joy in your homeschool journey… I’d love to hear your ideas!

*Photo credit  Kelli Tungay on Unsplash

12 Ways to Help Your Family Focus on Jesus This Christmas

12-ways-to-help-your-family-focus-on-jesus-this-christmasChristmas is a great time to talk with your children about how much Jesus loves them.  He loves us so much that He came down to this earth as a little baby to live among us! His birth is the beginning of the wonderful story of all He did while He was living here and how He died to pay for our sins.

Sadly, the commercialism of this holiday can so easily distract us from the real reason for the season. We need to be intentional about helping our children (and ourselves) to keep the focus on Jesus, the real reason for the season!

Here are some suggestions on how to do that:

12 ways to keep the focus on JESUS this Christmas:

  • Have a nativity scene in a central place in your home and talk about the Christmas story whenever the opportunity arises. (when the children are little, it’s best to have a non-breakable one so they can touch and enjoy!) We usually had two set up, one was specifically for the children to play with. plastic-nativity
  • It’s not too late to use an Advent calendar this year. Here’s a great free Advent calendar that uses Bible verses for each day.
  • Watch “The Story of Christmas”  together (for young children) or “The Nativity Story”  for a little older children. the-nativity-story
  • Have a Christmas stocking for Jesus and let your children fill it with notes for Him.
  • Get the interactive nativity story book “What God Wants for Christmas” by Barbara Rainey.what-god-wants-for-christmas
  • Put a gift under the Christmas tree for Jesus every year – you can give to a worthy cause and put a picture of it in a gift box under the tree. Or write out what you plan to do as a family to serve the Lord that year, and put that in a gift box under the tree. It’s a great way to help children understand how we can show Jesus our love for Him in tangible ways. And it also reminds us that it’s really Jesus’ birthday that we’re celebrating!
  • Do something to bless someone else this Christmas: maybe a needy family, or the homeless, or someone overseas. Check out the Angel Tree ministry, or Union Gospel Mission, World Vision or Compassion ministries.  Discuss as a family where you’d like to give or serve.  If your children are older, go and serve a meal at the homeless shelter.  Or go to Feed My Starving Children and put together bags of food for starving children in other countries. Talk about being the hands and feet of Jesus, and how He’s working through you to bless others.
  • Make a birthday cake for Jesus as part of your Christmas celebration. I let the children help me decorate it too.
  • Memorize the Christmas story together from Luke 2:1-20 (for younger children, only memorize a small portion of this).  If memorizing is too much, just read the Christmas story on Christmas morning.
  • Have family devotions each day in the few weeks before Christmas, discussing the Names of Jesus and who HE is! Go to the side bar on the right and request the Names of Jesus devotional for free!
  • Attend church on Christmas Eve or Christmas day (or both if it works out like this year!).
  • On Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day, have family devotions specifically focused on the Christmas story and how much Jesus loves us and how we can show our love for Him.

 

A few years ago, our oldest two kids put together a cute video on YouTube that I’d like to share with you, hopefully it will make you chuckle like it does us! It’ll show you what NOT to do in your family devotions on Christmas day!

 

Here’s the link for the YouTube video: Merry Christmas from Jordan and Bethany! 

 

I hope your Christmas devotions go better than ours did in this video!   One tip: don’t’ hand your children a gift to hold while you talk with them… what was I thinking??

May the Lord bless your family and your Christmas together this year! Merry CHRISTmas!

12-ways-to-help-your-family-focus-on-jesus-this-christmas

(this post has some affiliate links)

Great Educational Gifts: BOOKS!

great-educational-gifts-books-4(This post contains affiliate links)

Last week I shared some fun, educational games that you could get your children for Christmas.  Check out the post “Great Educational Gifts: GAMES!” if you missed it.

This week I want to give you some suggestions for books that would be wonderful Christmas gifts!

Of course, we all know it’s important to encourage our children to read every day to help build their reading skills.

For some children, this is no problem, they LOVE to read! Our daughter was such an avid reader that she would use a lot of her free time to read, sometimes reading late into the night, much to our consternation! Her passion for reading helped develop her love for writing and motivated her to get her college degree in English.   She’s currently working on her first novel with the hope of publishing it sometime in 2017!

Other children aren’t so excited about reading; it’s hard to get them to read regularly.  They’d rather do anything else!  One of our boys was like this, so we had to be creative to get him to read more.

Maybe you also have a child who isn’t so excited about reading.

Here are some things that worked for us to encourage our children to read more:

  1. We read aloud to them every day from good literature – this provides some great family bonding by the way!
  2. We found a variety of good fictional book series that were interesting to them and drew them in so they wanted to read them all.
  3. We participated in our library’s book reading challenge in the summers
  4. We participated in Pizza Hut’s Book-It reading challenge.
  5. We participated in Book clubs through our homeschool co-op

To be honest, I think a love for reading is more easily caught than taught!  If you show your children that you have a love for reading, they will likely follow in your footsteps.

You might be saying now, “But Kris, I DON’T really love reading!”   I understand, I know it’s not everyone’s passion!  But reading is such an important skill; it has such a big effect on how your children will do in all their other subjects.  I’d encourage you to give it your best to try to at least read aloud to your children on a regular basis… this will usually be enough to help develop their love for reading. Many of the books I’m recommending here are also available in an audio version on CD, so you can just enjoy listening right along with your child rather than having to read!

Okay, enough on that, I said I’d share some great books you could get for your children for Christmas, so here it goes (this list is NOT exhaustive, I just don’t have room to list all the good books available out there!):

Note: I’ve put them in order according to age appropriate levels:

Pre-readers (for you to read to them):

The Story About Ping: (Marjorie Flack)  The story of a little duck named Ping who explores the world around his home on the Yantze River.  the-story-of-ping

Mike Mulligan & His Steam Shovel (Virginia Lee Burton)  : A story about a hard-working steam shovel and how Mike Mulligan tries to save it.  A classic!mike-mulligan

Curious George books (Hans A Rey)  :  Hilarious stories about a little monkey with lots of curiosity!  Kids love these books!

curious-george

The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter) :  A classic story about a little rabbit and his family, a must read!

tale-of-peter-rabbit

Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak):  A fun story that children love – lots of great pictures.

where-the-wild-things-are

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein A great story about the gift of giving that will inspire your children to be more generous.

the-giving-tree

The Story of Ferdinand  by Munroe Leaf :  A story about a bull who didn’t want to fight in the bullpen in Madrid. A favorite children’s classic.

ferdinand

Love you Forever by Robert Munsch:  A cute story about how much a mother loves her child no matter what.

love-you-forever

Are You My Mother? (Eastman)  A story about a little bird looking for his mother.

are-you-my-mother

Early Readers: (these are also great read alouds!)

Level 1:

 

Big Dog, Little Dog (Eastman): An early reader teaches that total opposites can be the best of friends.

big-dog-little-dog

 

Go Dog Go  (Eastman) A cute story about dogs that gives kids great reading practice and makes them laugh too!

go-dog-go

The Best Nest   (Eastman)  Mr. & Mrs. Bird have some fun adventures as they look for the perfect nest.

the-best-nest

 

Level 2:

Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff:  Entertaining stories about Danny and his pet dinosaur.

danny-and-the-dinosaur

Little Bear Series by Else H. Minarik: Fun stories about the antics of a little bear.

little-bear

 

Frog & Toad Series by Arnold Lobel cute stories about the antics of two friends, the from and the toad.  Children love these books!

frog-and-toad

Young Cam Jensen (Adler)  Intriguing mysteries solved by the one and only Cam Jensen.

young-cam-jensen

Level 3:

The Golly Sisters Go West  by Betsy Byars: Hilarious stories about the crazy things the golly sisters do as they go west. (there are other Golly Sister books as well as this one)

golly-sisters

Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne: Jack and his sister Annie discover a magic tree house full of books that makes them travel through time and space to amazing adventures!

magic-tree-house

Amelia Bedelia series

amelia-bedelia

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Ages 9-12:  (also great read alouds!)

Sugar Creek Gang series by Paul HutchinsA faith-based series of stories based on the adventures Paul and his six brothers had growing up.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater: A humorous story about a painter who has a house full of penguins!

poppers-penguins

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett: The story of a pampered, little, rich girl who finds herself a poor orphan.

a-little-princess

Black Beauty by Anne SewellA favorite for all animal lovers, told from the perspective of the horse.

black-beauty

Heidi by Johanna Spyri: The story of a five year old girl who is taken to live with her grandfather in the Alps.  Heartwarming.

heidi

 

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder: A very popular story about a family who lived in Wisconsin in the late 1870’s that teaches children about life in that time period. There’s also a great unit study for this series called “The Prairie Primer” that I highly recommend.

Call of the Wild by Jack London: An exciting story about sled dogs during the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890’s.

call-of-the-wild

Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks: A series of four books about a boy whose toys come alive and the many adventures that follow. The kids enjoyed having me read these aloud to them.

indian-in-the-cupboard

The Borrowers by Mary Norton:  An unexpected story about a tiny family that lives beneath the kitchen floor in an old English manor and the many antics that follow as they “borrow” things from the owners of the manor. These were favorites at our house.

borrowers

Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis: A classic story of children who stumble upon a world with many adventures and an amazing lion named Aslan. There are many parallels to the story of Christ. These books were some of our children’s favorites.

Heroes Then & Now Series books 1-5 by Janet and Geoff Benge: Amazing stories of various missionaries and how God worked in and through them around the world.  We LOVED this series and even now my adult children will occasionally come home and ask to borrow one! Both boys and girls will enjoy these books. There are 15 books in this series, with three different sets.  (Set 2: books 6-10) (Set 3: books 11-15)

heroes-then-and-now

The Trailblazer Books by Dave and Neta Jackson:  exciting fictional stories that include true stories about various missionaries who have lived over the years.

trailblazzers

Brill of Exitorn & The Lost Prince by Peggy Downing: fun, fantasy fiction that will have your child glued to the book for hours! Brill of Exitorn is the first book and The Lost Prince is the sequel.
brill-of-exitorn

 

Ages 13-17:

A Legacy of Faith by Amanda Hage: the story of a young girl living in the time of the Civil War, written by a homeschooler! The sequels “A Legacy of Hope” and “A Legacy of Love” are also available. Great book for a young girl.

lily

The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry: this is said to be one of the most influential novels of our time, the story of a 12 year old boy and a world that is suppose to be ideal, but lacks color and emotions. the-giver

A Boy After God’s Own Heart: Your Awesome Adventure with Jesus by Jim George: Jim George helps young guys to understand why God is important in everything they do. And he teaches that the Bible has the answers for all the questions and issues they face as they grow older.

A Teen’s Guide to the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman: it helps teens understand their own love language and how to show love to others.

A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlunda twist on the story of Robin Hood, where a maiden stands up for the rights of the poor.

Left Behind Series by Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins: the adult fictional version of the possible unfolding of the end times.  There is a youth version as well called the Left Behind Series Young Trib Force. 

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini: adventure and fantasy about dragons and battles written by a homeschooler!

inheritance-cycle

The Seeker’s Trilogy by Cassandra Boysen: a fantasy fiction series about a kingdom on the planet Kaern, is a forested land of kings, castles, and dragon-slayers.

Heroes Then & Now Series books 1-5 by Janet and Geoff Benge: Amazing stories of various missionaries and how God worked in and through them around the world.  We LOVED this series and even now my adult children will occasionally come home and ask to borrow one! Both boys and girls will enjoy these books. There are 15 books in this series, with three different sets.  (Set 2: books 6-10) (Set 3: books 11-15)

heroes-then-and-now

Know What You Believe by Paul Little: A great book to help solidify your teen’s faith in God.

Know Why You Believe by Paul Little: Another great book by Paul Little to help your teen develop a firm faith in God.

A Young Woman After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George:  A great way to encourage your daughter to grow in her walk with God.

A Young Man After God’s Own Heart by Jim George: A book that helps young men see pursuing God as an adventure that is worth pursuing.

Valiant Heart Series by Dina Sleiman“Sleiman launches an action-packed, historical series of adventure and romance, starring a strong, intelligent female Robin Hood who lives up to the famous outlaw’s reputation. This fun read makes a great adult-YA crossover for Robin Hood fans who enjoy a twist to a classic tale.” –Library Journal, starred review

valiant-heart

 

 

Because I can’t list all the good books, I want to suggest some great books available that list a larger number of good literature. These books are wonderful resources for your library and will give you guidance on what books to purchase or get from the library.

“All Through the Ages” The ultimate books list, listing books according to time in history as well as age level appropriateness. Available at Heppner Legacy Homeschool Store in Elk River, MN

all-through-ages-08

“Books Children Love”by Elizabeth Laraway Wilson: a comprehensive guide to the very best literature.

books-children-love

“Honey For a Child’s Heart” by Gladys Hunt:

honey-for-a-childs-heart

I’d love to have you write in the comments and share other suggestions for good books for children!  What books have your kids loved?

Kris

great-educational-gifts-books-4

Great Educational Gifts: GAMES!

great-educational-gifts-games(This post contains some affiliate links)

 

Christmas is just around the corner, and the scramble to find the perfect gift for each of your loved ones has begun.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always felt that a gift that benefits a child’s education is a better gift than one that is just for fun and gives momentary pleasure (and often breaks and is tossed away!).

The cool thing is that toy manufacturers are catching on to this idea too and making toys that are educational as well as fun!  We can give a gift that makes our children happy and they’ll be learning something while they play without even realizing it!!

Games are great educational gifts for children of all ages. We often played educational games to learn concepts in the various subjects during our homeschool years. We also regularly had  “Learning Station Day” where all we did was play games and do fun things at the different educational stations I spread around the house.  (to learn more about having your own “Station Day” see this blog post “Beating the Winter Doldrums”)

Preschoolers up through elementary aged children can learn much of what they need to learn in school through playing educational games!  Middle school and High Schoolers will  learn and have skills reinforced while playing educational games.   It’s such a fun way to learn and children will want to play some games over and over, helping them memorize facts and information in a fun and exciting way!

Another benefit of playing games together is the family bonding that happens.  Of course, there might be some conflicts too, but that just provides an opportunity to teach conflict resolution skills, right?

Playing games teaches good sportsmanship where you can help your children learn to be good losers as well. Our children need to learn to be happy for someone else’s success, and games are a great way to teach that.

Games help children to learn to take turns, to have healthy competition, and they can also learn to make tough choices and plan ahead.

Today I want to share with you some games that you can use in your homeschool to make learning more fun!

This isn’t just for homeschoolers though, because all children will benefit from having these educational games in their home.  Some of these were favorites of ours (and we even still play them!) and others come highly recommended.

For Preschoolers:

At this age, the educational focus should be on building gross and fine motor skills and teaching them the basics with their letters and numbers.  Here are a few great resources to do that:

Learning Resources ABC & 123 Picnic Activity Set:
for ages 3+, a picnic board with numbers on one side and letters on the other and lots of fun games and activities to play while learning numbers and letters.  A fun way to teach the letters and numbers. 51prkl7z1l-_sl500_aa130_

Learning Resources Alphabet Island A Letter & Sounds Game: ages 4+, A fun island adventure game where players compete to see who can match the lower and upper case letters first while avoiding the hungry sharks!  A fun challenge!

Smart Snacks Sorting Shapes Cupcakes Game: ages 3+, teaches shape recognition, matching and following directions.  Great fun!

Learning Resources Gears! Gears! Gears! Super Set: ages 3+, great for the creative child who likes to build things. Teaches sorting, grouping, design, counting, and construction and builds fine motor skills.gears-gears-gears

Learning Resources Beads and Patterns: ages 3+, great for fine motor skills, matching patterns and building pre-reading and math skills.beads-and-patterns

Math games:

Math is a subject that has a lot of memorization, and playing games is a great way to do memory work painlessly!

Learning Resources POP for Addition and Subtraction Game: ages 6+, a fun game where children practice basic math facts, two levels of play and three game variations (2-4 players).51phalxbpel-_sl500_aa130_

Hi-Ho Cherry-O Game: ages 3-6, great fun picking fruit and filling baskets while learning math facts.91lgiuxepkl-_ac_ul160_sr160160_

Learning Wrap-Ups Math Intro Kit:  ages 6+, a fun way to memorize math facts for engaging drill work in addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, and pre-algebra.  There are learning wrap-ups for almost every subject – check them out as well!

Sum Swamp Addition & Subtraction Game:  Grades K+, Kids go on an adventure through a swamp while practicing their math facts by adding and subtracting numbers on the dice.

Tenzi Dice Game: ages 7+, An amazing dice game that can be played in 77 different ways to teach many of the math skills your children need.51r4neftz3l-_sl500_ss125_

40 Fabulous Math Mysteries Kids Can’t Resist:  Grades 4-8,  math mystery stories that give your children a chance to practice math problem solving skills.61c9mtvkwl-_sl500_pisitb-sticker-arrow-bigtopright35-73_ou01_ss125_

Snap It Up Multiplication Games:  ages 6-9, fast-paced card game that helps children learn their multiplication facts.   (available for learning addition and subtraction- Snap It Up Sub/Add Games  51gtifbiqal-_sl500_ss125_

Language Arts Games:

Language arts concepts need a lot of reinforcement, and games are a wonderful way to help build those skills while having fun!

Learning Resources Snap It Up! Phonics: Word Families: ages 6+, a face-paced card game that gives children practice with reading skills. 417w2q42n7l-_sl500_ss125_

Learning Resources Go To Press! A Grammar Game: ages 7+, children will complete a newspaper by moving from department to department, practicing their spelling, word usage, capitalization, and punctuation!

Super Silly Mad Libs Junior: ages 7+, these are a great way to reinforce parts of sentences in a fun and silly way!

Learning Resources Get the Picture Reading Comprehension Game: ages 7+, helps students learn to find the main idea in short paragraphs while unscrambling a mystery picture. Also uses multiple choice questions that help your student will see on standardized tests.  61okopmk6l-_sl500_ss125_

Code Names: ages 14+, an exciting game to build vocabulary and word association skills, even adults love this game!  51aaen5zgml-_sl500_ss125_

Apples to Apples Junior: ages 9+, a fun word game that will have everyone laughing!  Builds reading skills and word association.  51lrtpcylol-_sl500_ss125_

Pop for Sight Words Game: ages 5+, a great way to help students become more fluent in reading sight words. There are two levels and other reading type games in the Pop Game Series.

Huggermugger: an mystery word game that has players testing their spelling, word unscrambling, and vocabulary skills.   There’s also a junior addition for ages 8 and up. 61souh9nbl-_sl500_ss125_

Bananagrams: ages 7+, similar to scrabble without the board, a fun spelling challenge.

Geography Games:

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?   Ages 10+, Children learn their geography facts while having fun trying to locate Carmen on the world board. great-educational-gifts-games

Passport to Culture Game: ages 10+, Exciting travel game where players circle the globe while testing their knowledge of world cultures.

Jax Sequence States and Capitals: ages 8+, similar to the regular game of Sequence only players are traveling the USA instead! 51jag2ouaol-_sl500_ss125_

Ticket to Ride: ages 9+, travel the globe to complete train tracks to destinations unknown! Although the geographical locations are a little inaccurate at times, this is a great game for teaching strategy and thinking skills and will give opportunity to discuss where places are located in the USA.  61ddqufhuvl-_sl500_ss125_

 

Thinking Skills Games:

Settlers of CatanAges 10+, teaches risk management and resource management skills as well as negotiation and trading skills. A challenging strategy game that is loved by  many! 51ox1wytfl-_sl500_aa130_

Splendor: Ages 10+, a fun economic game with colorful coins and point cards that you have to acquire with the goal of being  the first to reach 15 points. 51l4yweaevl-_sl500_ss125_

Catch Phrase: ages 10+, an exciting game that teaches you to think fast as you try to guess words and phrases through clues. 51kmzoai3pl-_sl500_ss125_

Seven Wonders: ages 10+, a fun strategy game that helps players build budgeting skills and learn to plan ahead.

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This list just barely scratches the surface of all the educational games that are out there!

Give a game… or two… or three to your children this year and watch how much fun they’ll have while learning at the same time!! Games will provide fresh enthusiasm for learning going into the second semester!

 

I’d love to hear what games your family loves to play – please leave a comment if you have some favorite educational games! 

Kris

Next post:  Great Educational Gifts: BOOKS!

 

 

 

 

 

How to Keep Jesus as the Reason for the Season!

jesus is the reason for the season photo: Jesus is the Reason for the Season jesusisthereason.jpg

What comes to mind when you think of Christmas?

Christmas songs, family gatherings, gift giving, Jesus birth, lots of sweets, snow, Christmas cards, parties… the list goes on and on. It’s just a busy time of year! Children especially love Christmas – they love receiving gifts and the fun activities associated with Christmas. For most of my life, I’ve looked forward to the Christmas season. It’s only been the last several years that I’ve found that I’m not as excited as I used to be.  I think as a mom there is always so much to do during the Christmas season: baking cookies, writing Christmas cards/letters, decorating, shopping and buying gifts, planning activities and the food for the family gatherings, etc.  It’s hard not to get stressed out by the Christmas holiday!  And it’s especially hard to keep the focus on Jesus as the reason for the season!

No one really knows the true date of Jesus’ birth. There were several celebrations that centered around the winter solstice during Roman times.  So once Christianity became Rome’s official religion in the 4th century, leader’s chose to absorb pagan traditions rather than ignore them.  They decided to pick a date to celebrate Jesus’ birth, and they chose a date that was near the pagan celebrations surrounding the winter solstice: Dec. 25th, and they called it Christmas.  Initially, Christmas was a Christian holiday to honor the birth of Jesus.  It has since evolved into a combination of religious and secular traditions and festivities, celebrated around the world.

Because it’s gotten to be a more commercialized holiday, with a lot of secular traditions, believers need to work extra hard to keep the focus on Jesus in their family traditions.  As we raised our children, we tried hard to make Jesus the emphasis as we celebrated Christmas. I want to share with you some of the ways we did that, as well as some other ideas as to how you can keep Jesus first in your Christmas preparations and celebrations.

  1. Read through the story of Jesus birth in the book of Matthew or Luke; and then read through one of these books as a family throughout the month of December.
  2. Study the names of Jesus as a family using my devotional: “The Names of Jesus” (request the FREE PDF “The Names of Jesus” using the request form on my website) 
  3. Tell your children that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. Celebrate by making Jesus a birthday cake and singing happy birthday to Jesus!  Ask them what they might want to give Jesus for His birthday (Ideas: do something nice for someone else, write him a note, sing a praise song to him, or check out this cute video of our children as I asked them this question….  watch   And just a suggestion, don’t hand them each a gift to hold while you talk with them about this… as you can see it was a distraction when I did that! I don’t know what I was thinking!)  Our oldest two kids put this video together a few years back and also added some of the recordings we had of them singing… it’s hilarious!
  4. Sing songs about Jesus each day and talk about his great love for us, that He would come to this earth and live among us and then actually die to pay for our sins.
  5. Watch the Jesus movie, or the Nativity story as a family.
  6. Memorize Matthew 1:18-25 as a family; recite it to your extended family when you get together for Christmas.
  7. When you hang your Christmas stockings, hang one for Jesus and suggest that you all fill it with notes to Him.
  8. I’m getting on a soap box here, but I would suggest that you DON’T teach your children about Santa Clause as the one that brings them their gifts. Santa Claus has evolved into almost a god-like being, and is really a distraction from the focus on Jesus.  Only God truly knows whether we’ve been naughty or nice!     Santa Claus originated from a real man, named Saint Nicholas and his story would be a much better one to share with your children.  It helps to explain why Santa Claus has become part of so many Christmas celebrations. (http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/fatherchristmas.shtml)  One tip though, if you teach your children that there isn’t really a Santa Claus that brings gifts, make sure they know not to share that bit of news with their friends without permission first… our neighbors weren’t very happy with us when our daughter informed their daughter that Santa Claus wasn’t real!
  9. Limit your gift giving ~ not only does this distract from the focus on Jesus on the actual day you celebrate Christmas, but it is a distraction throughout the month of December as you shop and prepare. Children don’t need a lot of gifts, it’s overwhelming for them!  IKEA put out a youtube video in which they asked kids to write letters to their parents as to what they wanted for Christmas. Amazingly, most of the children said what they really wanted was more time with their parents!!
  10. Consider simplifying what you do for traditions at Christmas… talk with your spouse about what traditions are really important to continue and what you might be able to cut out so you can spend more time together as a family.  Maybe you can cut back on how many Christmas cards you send, or make less cookies, or whatever it is that might be causing stress or taking the emphasis off of Jesus.
  11. Find out if there is a live nativity scene somewhere near where you live and go as a family. This makes the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth come alive!
  12. Find a way to help others as a family: adopt a needy family and get them gifts for Christmas; give a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child; help serve food at a homeless shelter; the list is endless as to opportunities available to serve others this holiday season.
  13. On Christmas morning, spend time praying together and thanking God for the gift of Jesus. Re-read the Christmas story, or let your kids recite the story from memory if they memorized it.
  14. For homeschoolers, there are so many opportunities to incorporate Christmas preparations into your homeschool day !
    1. Do a unit study on Christmas (https://www.rainbowresource.com/proddtl.php?id=037593&subject=Curriculum/2&category=Unit+Study+Adventures+by+Amanda+Bennett/481)
    2. Do a study of how Christmas is celebrated around the world. (http://www.confessionsofahomeschooler.com/blog/2013/11/christmas-around-the-world-unit-study.html)
    3. Have your children draw pictures and write letters to each of their grandparents as a gift for them for Christmas
    4. Bake cookies together and give them to others
    5. Get together with other homeschool families and go caroling ( to a nursing home, or in a neighborhood)
    6. For your art or home economics, make gifts for others such as gifts in a jar (hot chocolate mix, cookie mix, etc.) or salt dough ornaments, scripture verses written nicely with a picture, etc.  Go to Pinterest for more ideas!
    7. Help the children prepare a play depicting the story of Jesus birth that they can present to family members on Christmas day.
    8. Encourage your children to do random acts of kindness each day as a gift to Jesus, and then have them each share what you did each day while you are eating dinner.
    9. Find manger scene crafts on pinterest to do together.
    10. For history, study the time of Jesus birth more in depth. What was happening in the world at that time? How did Jesus birth and life impact the world?
    11. For music, do a study on Christmas songs written throughout the years. Who wrote them and why?
    12. Read some good books related to Christmas:
      1. The First Nightby B.G. Hennessy
      2. The Story of Christmasby Patricia A. Pingry
      3. Christmas Angels: Read and Shareby Gwen Ellis
      4. Room for a Little One: A Christmas Taleby Martin Waddell

Pray and seek the LORD on how you can make Jesus the center of your Christmas celebrations this year!  I’d love to share my free devotional “The Names of Jesus” with you! You can even do a unit study on the names of Jesus using this devotional.  Just send me your e-mail and I’ll send it your way.  Have a blessed Christmas!

 

 

7 Tips for Homeschooling Through the Holidays

shutterstock_332451764-69635897Oh dear! Here it comes again…every year I’m surprised how Thanksgiving and Christmas sneak up on me! I’m just going about my daily routine, and suddenly life seems to go on hyper speed for a couple of months! I don’t mean to have a bad attitude, but I’ve started to dread the months of November and December, not because I dislike the holidays, but because my stress level goes way up during those months.

Yes, the holidays are a great time to enjoy time with extended family, and to share your appreciation for the people in your life that you care about. But they also add about 5-6 new things to my “to do” list each day! It was especially difficult to keep up during the holidays in the years we were homeschooling. So I came up with some ways to help stay sane through these wonderful holidays that our children love so much and I want to share them with you with the hope they will help you also stay sane and enjoy the holidays more this year!

Tip #1: Don’t try to do everything you normally do for school every day :

You’re working hard throughout the year, diligently doing all the subjects each week and trying to fit in as much as you can in each day, right? (well most days anyway!) You want your children to know everything they need to know so you don’t dare let up? Well, during the holiday season, give yourself permission to step back a little bit and do some things differently. Make school days shorter during the weeks before Christmas. Cut back on what subjects you’re teaching each day, your kids can take a break on some of the subjects without getting far behind. Or just let them do a little less of each subject so they finish their work earlier each day.

Or let your children choose a subject that they want to study during the holidays. Maybe they’ve wanted to learn about horses, or the planets or some other random thing they’re interested in. Let them take the month of Dec. to really focus on studying that, and set aside the other studies (maybe not math and language arts, as these are subjects you need to keep building on or they lose ground). All you need to do is help them get the resources (trip to the library, etc.). Then let them share with each other, providing a great opportunity for public speaking and learning to share what they’re learning.

Or find some great educational activities related to Christmas. I found a bunch of educational Christmas ideas on Pinterest! Science experiments, learning games, ways to bring Christ into your Christmas, the choices are amazing! Don’t overwhelm yourself with these kinds of things though or you’re just adding more to your “to do” list, and then you’re going backwards on your goal of staying sane!

Tip #2: Purpose to have a “Jesus-focused” holiday season:

Thanksgiving is a great time to focus on what God has given us and develop an “attitude of gratitude”! Put a “Thankfulness” jar in the middle of the table and have everyone in the family write two things they are thankful for each day on slips of paper and put in the jar. Read them each night at dinnertime.  Write a note to each of your children telling them why you are so thankful for them and give it to them at Thanksgiving.

For Christmas, make time to reflect on why we as Christians actually celebrate Christmas. Take time to think about Jesus and who He is, and what He did for us by coming to this earth and dying for our sins. Read through one of the Gospels as a family, together memorize some of the scripture that talks about Jesus birth and life on earth. Find a way to help someone in need during the holidays and talk with your children about striving to do what Jesus would do at all times.

I’ve written a Christmas devotional called “Names of Jesus Devotional” that goes through the different names of Jesus and what they mean. As I thought about who Jesus is, and what He has done, it helped increase my appreciation for Him and gave me a whole different perspective of the celebration of Christmas.

If you’re interested, sign-up on the sidebar for the “Names of Jesus Devotional”.

Tip #3: Include some of the festivities of the season in your schedule:

There are so many fun activities to participate in during the holidays. If you cut back a little bit on what you usually do with your school work, you can include some of these types of things. Don’t feel guilty, some of them are actually educational! What about going to a Christmas musical? Or how about serving at a local homeless shelter (this will be a memory and learning experience your child will never forget!), or a food shelf? Check out if a local church has a live nativity scene, or participate in putting one on at your church!

Tip #4: Incorporate some of your holiday traditions into your school work:

Use the holiday traditions to direct some of your studies:

Instead of that handwriting or writing assignment, let your kids write notes to their grandparents telling them how much they appreciate and love them (what grandparent wouldn’t love to receive that as a gift at Christmas?) They can decorate the note, add pictures (there’s art for the day!), whatever they feel led to do. Or write thank you notes after Christmas to teach your children to be grateful and also work on their handwriting.

Instead of studying your usual history lesson, take time to watch the Jesus movie and talk about the time when Jesus lived and why He came. Encourage your children to put together a short drama enacting the story of Jesus’ birth to perform for extended family when you are together (this is a great fine arts lesson!). Our children had a great time doing this when they were younger and it was a blessing to our family as well.

Enlist your children in helping you do the Christmas baking and cooking (see tip #5 on this one as well).

Think of some things that your children can make as gifts for each other and for extended family. This can take the place of art, and possibly some other subjects depending on what they create for their gifts.

Hospitality is a wonderful gift to develop in your children. Have people over, and teach your children how to be great hosts and hostesses. Teach them to care for those who are visiting your home and be to be a blessing.

Tip #5: Reduce stress wherever you can! Simplify…

Frankly, I think that the holiday traditions that have developed over the years have gotten a little out of hand! I think we need to go through our list of what we usually do for traditions and ask ourselves and our spouse which ones we enjoy and which ones we could live without. Some of the things we are doing are really NOT necessary, and we would be much happier mamas if we didn’t do them! Give yourself the freedom to simplify your holiday season by cutting out some of the unnecessary traditions or activities.

Tip #6: Delegate some of the tasks you have as a mom:

          I can’t emphasize this enough! I think we moms think we’re superwomen, although I’ve seen some pretty amazing women, I don’t think any of us can really do “it all” without getting worn out and exhausted. I know I tried to be for many years, and it really affected my health.  We can’t do it all! The first step to avoiding burnout, health problems, or emotional breakdown is admitting that. We need to let our family know we can’t do it all.   Why make yourself and everyone else miserable when you don’t have to? Take time to sit down and have a family discussion about what has to happen during the holidays and how the load can be divided between everyone. Make a list of the things that your family can help you with and be willing to let them do it. You might find that they do it even better than you do!!

Tip #7: Realize that your children care more about spending time with you than they do about getting more gifts.

The emphasis on getting lots of gifts for each of your loved ones has really gotten out of hand too (so I’m on a soapbox again!)  It’s true though, our children don’t NEED all that stuff!  Cut back on some of the shopping that we tend to do for gifts.  IKEA put out a commercial that was eye-opening. It shows what children value most during the holidays, and almost all the children actually said if they could choose, they would prefer to have some special time with mom or dad instead of getting more gifts. Here’s the link if you’re interested: IKEA Christmas video

I pray this holiday season will be one that will be filled with joy and family moments that will be remembered for a lifetime! Seek Jesus, He’s the real reason for the season!

I’d love to hear how you lessen your stress during this busy season – please leave a comment with what works for you!