reasons to homeschool

Free Holy Week Study: Walking With Jesus His Final Days

As Easter approaches, I am starting to get ready to celebrate the most significant holdiay on the Christian calendar with my children. The final days of Jesus leading from the triumphal entry to the crucifixion tell us so much about the God we serve and how it is we come to salvation. I think it is too important to just slip somewhere in between the other activities of the season. I like to slow it down a little and focus on what each step of what that week looked like. My favorite way to do this is with a little “walk” alongside Jesus his final days. We set up a small garden on the table and add the elements each day as we talk about Jesus’ last days. The hands on activities draw even my youngest children in and the ability to continue to play with the pieces throughout the week help reinforce what we have talked about.

Free unit for holy week

Unfortunately, the planter we have used in the past broke. We are going to set another one up, but we are a hopelessly last minute family. The first time I shared this study, I shared it the day after Palm Sunday which doesn’t give anyone any time to prepare. The number of people arriving here looking for that post, however, tells me that there are some people in the world that prepare things like this BEFORE the holiday starts.

In case that describes you, as well, I thought I better share this now rather than waiting until we have our garden put together! If you want to see how ours progresses, you can peek over at my facebook page. It’s all about lambing at the moment, but I suppose that is rather relevant to the coming Passover season as well. I’ll share pictures of our planter as the children build it and I’d love to see yours if you decide to do this along with us!

I hope you enjoy Walking With Jesus His Final Days. If you find it helpful, please share this link! The more successful these kinds of projects are, the more often I will put them together! This one does not require subscribing to my newsletter, but if you would like to make sure you don’t miss any other offers, you can subscribe to my newsletter or to just be notified of offers when they are available.

I hope you enjoy this little walk through Jesus’ final days!

reasons to homeschool

Setting Goals for the New Year

2016 was pretty good to me.

New Year's Resolution

Nothing particularly spectacular happened. The railroad is slowing down so money is tighter. Watching the furloughs (basically lay offs) leaves a little anxiety as we wonder just how deep they will go and just how much seniority will be necessary to survive them. Demands on my time are greater. As my children get older, I stress more over their weak areas (and worry more about how much losing their brother will affect them academically rather than just . . . well . . . “just” the way losing loved ones affects everyone). I still battle feelings of failure and inadequacy. I still struggle with becoming suddenly and inexplicably overwhelmed by seemingly mundane tasks.

Except that it isn’t the task at hand. It’s the loss of a child.

So why would I say 2016 has been good to me?

Because this is the first year that I’ve been able to consistently do things like appreciate the small pleasures in life. Find the humor in everyday mishaps. In fact, while is seems to come out more on facebook, I’ve seen my sense of humor more and more over the last year. Little hiccups don’t regularly bring the day to a crashing halt. I have been able to plan things out, make goals and carry them through. I forget important things less. I can remember Mattias and smile. The feelings associated are bittersweet, but they no longer overwhelm me with grief. We’ve homeschooled every single day. And while we’re behind, it’s a normal behind, not an I-just-can’t-cope behind.

Life is moving forward.

And I’m looking forward more, too.

I like the idea of a New Year’s resolution. A time to reflect on the things we don’t like about ourselves and resolve to improve. A time to acknowledge our dreams and resolve to take steps toward achieving them. It’s a time to sweep away the failure and give ourselves a fresh start. Even if that start sputters and dies for all the reasons that brought us to this point to begin with.

But this year, I just have goals.

This year, I want to write.

I want to write more here. I want to get a few more articles published in magazines. I want to finish the e-books I started over the past two years. I want to start the novel that has been slowly developing in my thoughts over the last three years.

And I might be ready to pick up a project that was almost finished before Mattias died.

I purchased myself a nice big planner with room for plans and ideas and deadlines. I wrote my first query and have my first deadline.

My biggest challenge will simply be time. But my children are getting older and I am going to try to go to the library at least once a week to work. Alone. And during the day.

It takes discipline, which is where I’ve fallen short in the past.

So perhaps I have a resolution after all. Simply to be more disciplined.

What are your plans, goals, resolutions or words for the New Year? And maybe even a better question: Is there anything we can do to help you achieve them?

And a little more from around the homeschool web:

Heather from Wellermomma blog shares Ten Ways to Be a Happy {More} Relaxed Momma. (Pretty sure taking time to work on your own lifelong dreams counts, right?)

Becky from Homeschool ‘N Stuff is improving her relationship with God, reading more and getting to know her boys better. (And such a good thought. As homeschoolers, at home with our children ALL day, it seems like we know them. And of course we do. But learning to ask more questions and listen more deepens those relationships.)

Jody of Kitchen Table Classroom is sharing some super cute (and free!) New Year’s printables to help get your children started thinking about the new year and making their own resolutions.

Misty of Year Round Homeschooling is sharing how she prepares for a new year.

Crystal of Serving Joyfully shares the one resolution all of us (as Christians) should make.

And fellow homeschool mom Sarah Coller of Classical Homemaking even wrote a book: Purposeful Steps Toward a More Abundant Life. I have not read it, but we homeschoolers gotta stick together and help each other out, right? (Also, that link is an affiliate link.)


reasons to homeschool

Capturing the wonder of Christmas

This year, I bought myself a present.


I took pretty much all of the money I had left from my blogging account and purchased myself one of my favorite Christmas traditions from my time in Germany: a Kerzenpyramide.

Each eveving when I light the candles, the children sit, waiting in anticipation for the blades to begin to turn. The shadows dance on the ceiling and the figures of the nativity begin to make their trek around and around. Asa’s eyes fill with wonder and I begin to tell him the Christmas story.

He hears it in snippets. One night, it is about the little lambs, under the care of their faithful shepherds while they graze. Another night, it is the angels singing. They are his favorite because he is still young enough to love listening to his mother sing. Each night we add on or repeat small pieces of the story as his eyes fill with wonder and his heart with joy.

I am a story teller at heart. I love how simple objects and favorite stories can capture the imagination of a child and carry them with you on a little adventure. The Christmas season is filled with object lessons and traditions passed down from generation to generation. There are so many opportunities to share the stories of my childhood, tell them about family members they hardly know and to draw in lessons from our faith.

It gives continuity between past and present . . . and each year it challenges me. Because this is more how I want parenting to look all year, not just at Christmas. “Here a little, there a little,” stories shared by the wayside, teaching about life while simply living it.

Because this is where connections are made.

Merry Christmas!

reasons to homeschool

A Gift Guide for the Thinking Child with Linky

holiday gift guide

It’s easy to find out what the hottest gifts this Christmas are. Just walk into any toy department and see what displays are largest. This is, at least, what the market predicts will be our children’s favorite gifts for 2016. And they may be right. Then again, maybe they aren’t. Or maybe the children on your list already have the hottest toys of the season.

So I thought I’d put together my own little list of gift ideas for children who like to think. All of these are things I purchased for our homeschool. For school. For their educational value. And yet my children pull them out over and over because they are some of their favorite activities. And if you don’t find something here you like, check back as others add their gift guides to the linky at the bottom of this post. Or even add your own!

First, a classic I loved as a child: The Spirograph.

I spent hours playing with my spirograph as a kid. I bought this kind of on a whim because part of our math practice involves inscribing shapes in circles. This seemed like a fun extension. Most people aren’t all that interested in the math behind the cool little designs, but children are natural scientists and they will eventually learn the relationship between the number of teeth in a design and the placement of the pen to the end design. And they will be walking in the footsteps of the creator of what was originally a mathematical tool. Back in the day, finding a way to predict the position of a point on a rotating circle as it traveled in a straight line was kind of a bid deal. See, they had to figure out a way to turn the vertical motion of a piston into the circular motion of a wheel to create the horizontal motion of a train.

Then there’s Shut the Box.

It doesn’t look like much all on its own and if you haven’t been to Colonial Williamsburg, you might not have ever heard of it. Shut the Box is an old sailors’ game. The rules are simple. Roll two dice, and knock down one or two tiles that add up to that number. Doubles allow you to knock down any one tile. Once you run out of turns (your dice gives you a number you can’t make), you add up what is left and that’s your score. Play to beat a friend or yourself. If you get them all down, then you shut the box! My children have played this so often the felt is starting to wear in spots. And the best part for this homeschooling mom? They have spent as many hours practicing basic addition. Part history, part math and all fun. What could be better than that?

For the child who likes puzzles, there’s Color Cubes.

Best, Color Cubes is like multiple activities in one. The cards start out simple as you just get the idea of recreating the images in three dimensions. But they get more complicated quickly, asking you to complete patterns and guess the hidden blocks to finish the build. It even has little games to play with a partner. Most of the cards can be completed alone or with a friend. And of course, you are working on developing spatial reasoning the whole time you are playing! My only complaint is that there is no “extension pack.” They do go back to some of the games and challenge each other with their own designs, but I would so totally buy another set of cards now that they’ve been through them all (more than once, even!).

We also love Animal Logic.

Animal Logic is a game for all ages. My kids love it. I love it. My dad worked through every puzzle while he was farm sitting for us. It’s basically you against the board as you try to get all the animals across the river. Again, the rules are simple. There are four kinds of animals in each of four colors. If you move a yellow lion, your next move has to either be yellow or a lion. The puzzles start out simple, but it doesn’t take long and you have to think through the next move (or three!) in order to get all the animals across.

Tangoes are a great little stocking stuffer.

This is the travel version of Tangoes with magnets and a small attached book of animal shapes to replicate with the tangrams. Best, there’s no reason you’re limited to creating the animals in the book. Once you’ve worked through them all, you can create your own shapes. It is a wonderful activity to keep in the seat pocket of your car for some mind growing activity on long drives.

If tangoes look interesting, check out pattern blocks. And this wonderful book of pattern block puzzles.

I had Pattern Animals as a teacher and we wore it out. I finally replaced it this year for my children. There are all kinds of boards and books for pattern blocks out there, but animals seem to have a special draw for children.

And last but not least, anything origami.

My daughters spend hours folding paper and learning new designs. They are limited only by the amount of paper I am willing to buy them. A special bonus for homeschool families: There are books at the library to teach you how to fold just about anything. It fits very well into almost any study on any subject.

And now it’s your turn!

Have you posted a holiday gift guide? Drop your link to your post here and come back to peruse the offerings. I’m not requiring link backs at this time, but links, likes, tweets and shares are always appreciated!

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Largely as a service to you so you know exactly what I’m talking about, but if you were to buy something through any of these links, I would get a little money back. 

reasons to homeschool

Last minute card/gift idea to make with your little ones

Do you need a last minute Christmas craft or card idea? I happen to think these are the cutest little cards ever, probably mostly because they’re my two year old’s hand prints, but it was still a lot of fun and totally worth the mess.

So have yourself a “monkey” little Christmas . . .

and a Happy Narwahl!

Ok, so the narwahl looks a bit more like a bird, but you have to be a bit flexible with handprint art.

This actually came from an alphabet book we’re working on.

An idea we “borrowed” from the Red Ted Art blog which is like the best blog to follow if you have preschoolers. She does everything I wish I did. And I blame her for all the half finished projects we’ve started because I get all inspired, but my follow through isn’t all that great.

So anyway, “M” was for monkey and “N” was for narwahl. And that was all we needed to decide little handprint Christmas cards would be The. Cutest. Thing. Ever.

And then you can wish everyone A very monkey Christmas . . . and a Happy Narwahl!

And have this song stuck in your head for the rest of the season:

We wish you a monkey Christmas
We wish you a monkey Christmas
We wish you a monkey Christmas and a Happy Narwahl!

Good tidings we bring
To you and your zoo
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy Narwahl!

The steps are pretty obvious, but here they are, anyway.

1. Gather supplies. You’ll need brown paint, blue paint, white paint, a paint brush, blank cards or card stock and diaper wipes (the best cleaning supply ever).

2. Write “Have a very monkey Christmas” on the front of the card and “and a Happy Narwahl” on the inside.

3. Turn the card upside down to do the monkey. Older children will try to turn it right side up again so make sure you pay attention. Otherwise you get upside down monkeys. We have a lot of upside down elephants in our alphabet book for this reason.

4. Paint your child’s hand brown, encourage them to splay their fingers, and splat it down on the card, pressing firmly. Then a little paint on the finger should make a wiggly tail. Glue on googlie eyes and you’re done. Or you can get some green paint and let them make fingerprint leaves all over the outside of the card because paint is cool and why stop now?

5. The narwahl is a little more involved. Turn the card on its side. If you’re using the left hand, the bottom of the card should be on the left side.

6. Paint the thumb half of the hand blue (minus the thumb). Paint the other half white.

7. Encourage your child to squeeze their fingers together and press firmly on the page.

8. Paint a little stripe for the narwahl’s tusk and add googlie eyes.

9. You can be done here or let them cover the page with fingerprint water drops, because painting is fun and why stop now?

Also, watch out for the two year olds. After doing these, I held Asa’s little hand while I got a diaper wipe to clean his hands. But he REALLY wanted to see what that paint felt like on his face. So while I was occupied trying to free a wipey, he smooshed his face into his hand and rubbed paint all over his face. He was an adorable mess and I totally would have taken a picture except for the the fact that half my front room would have been painted by the time I got a picture.

And it really doesn’t take that long and makes a super cute last minute craft to occupy excited little ones or make some cute handprint Christmas greetings for someone special on your list!