Be with the people that bring out the best in you.
February was a month of celebration. We celebrated new milestones, explored new places, and enjoyed adventures with the people who bring out the best in us.
(And for optimal growth, I believe there needs to be a balance of work and activity with play and rest. Our homeschooling in January was reflective of these things )
This week we are learning about Romania and I wanted to find a craft to tie into our studies. I searched online for Romanian crafts ideas and pictures of leaf print eggs caught my attention. The eggs are dyed in natural dyes (which also tied in nicely with our medieval studies) and finding the little flowers, ferns, and tiny leaves to imprint on our eggs added to this week’s nature studies. Multi-subject lessons are the best! I’m not sure how Romanian these eggs are but they were fun to make and they are absolutely beautiful.
Just a few words to keep things real, this project was time consuming. From boiling the eggs, preparing the natural dyes, patience with the egg designs and waiting for the colors to come through, and the mess (oh, the mess!! see end of post) this is not your average-throw-a-color-tablet-in-a-cup-of-vinegar-and-add-an-egg type of thing. BUT if you are adventurous and like a good creative-challenge, this project is for you!!! (And my four year old stayed with us and enjoyed the project the whole time, so if he can do it…..)
1.) Boil the eggs and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2.) Search outside for small flowers, interesting leaves, ferns, and clovers. Cilantro and celery leaves would also work.
2.) Make the natural dyes. I followed Martha Stewart’s directions for dying eggs naturally.
3.) Decorate the eggs. We noticed the condensation on the eggs (from being in the refrigerator) helped the leaves and petals stick better. If the eggshells were dry, we added a little moisture to the leaves to help keep things in place. This cut down on frustration levels for those with little hands. 🙂
4.) Cover decorated egg with nylon. The foot of a knee high works great but since we only had two per package, we had to create our own “foot” with an extra small elastic. Pull nylon tightly around the egg to hold things in place.
5.) Give the eggs a natural dye bath. The longer the eggs soak, the more vibrant the color. We left the eggs in the dye for a minimum of an hour. See Martha Stewart’s directions for time and color suggestions.
6.) Cut off the nylon and peel off leaves and flowers. (We patted the egg dry with a paper towel before we cut the nylon. I am not sure if this make a difference in color but it made the eggs less slippery to work with.)
7.) Observe and enjoy!!!
And the promised TRUTH…(BUT it was worth it!!!)
We start our fifth year of homeschooling on Labor Day. It’s hard to believe I’ve been homeschooling for this many years (half the number of years of my public school teaching experience.) It’s amazing to see how quickly my children are changing, growing in beautiful ways, and learning to embrace the unique person God made them to be.
It feels like yesterday when each hour, each season of babyhood and toddlerhood seemed to have no end. I walked around in a constant state of exhaustion. I was barely able to think beyond the diapers and bottles. Some dreams were put on hold, some dreams exchanged with dreams of a good night’s sleep. Survival mode seemed to be the most common mode of my life but this was also a time of great thriving. There was joy, growth, excitement, and a lot of love in between the surviving and thriving. Love so powerful it was the fuel that kept me going. As time kept going, things got “easier.” I still hoped for more sleep but my foggy mind started to clear just enough to think in complete sentences again (not in paragraphs, just sentences…) In this time, new opportunities presented themselves to be explored, embraced and be experienced. New dreams were born.
Right around the time my daughter turned three, I started to think more seriously about what education would be like for my children and what my future place in education would be. I remember walking through our church with two homeschool moms and declaring something to the point of “I will never homeschool my kids.” One of the ladies laughed and looked to the other and said, “She will. Just wait and see.” At the time, I was irritated that someone would dare think they knew me better than I knew myself but I also knew there was truth (and love) in her statement. The next few years proved her right! After much prayer, MANY discussions, and more prayer, we decided to homeschool and I found not only what education would mean for my children but also what it would mean for me. A new teaching position in a new setting. My kids, my home. A position I feel I was being prepared for long before the thought of homeschooling ever crossed my mind.
Fast forward five years, homeschooling is without a doubt one of the best decisions we’ve made for our family. It is also one of the more challenging things I’ve taken on. It is a full-time commitment, often requiring much sacrifice and patience. LOTS of patience. Patience and grace with my children and patience and grace with myself as we all are challenged to learn, grow, and try new things. Education is a whole person, whole family, all-areas-of-life experience in our home.
At the beginning of each school year, I pray about a verse to focus on, memorize, and pray God will use in mighty ways in our lives. This year, our homeschooling theme verse is:
ISAIAH 43:19 (ESV)
It’s a new season, a new school year, new ideas are flooding my head, new dreams are being placed on my heart. In school, we have a newly organized school room, a new “schedule,” new books, new crayons (LOVE the those new crayons,) new skills to master, new challenges to accept, new ways to learn. I feel like this is a start of all things new and I’m praying we would be able to perceive the new things God is doing in our lives in very new, tangible ways. Here’s to a great new year and all it holds!!
(PS. And just so I do not mislead people, I still wish I got more sleep and there are still days of survival mode living. BUT when those days come around, we are learning to close the books and eat some ice cream. Ice cream is the magical cure for many things. 🙂 )
The most wonderful time of the year is here. A time of anticipation, expectant waiting, and preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. One of my family’s favorite ways to be reminded of the treasures and gifts of this season is reading along with Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping The Greatest Gift.
Last year, my girls and I crafted an ornament each day to correspond with the daily advent readings from the book. This post is the last in a series of ornament/craft ideas which I have created and collected. You can find the complete collection for Day 1-2, Day 3-4-5-6, Days 7-10, and Days 11-15 by clicking on the blue links.
There many ideas on the internet for Bible story crafts. Below are some of my original ideas, borrowed ideas, and ideas inspired by talented artists and bloggers. Credit for any borrowed idea is noted below the picture. If you decide to make and share one of my craft ideas, I would to love to see it. Tag me on Instagram or send me a link to your blog post.
Materials: card stock, markers, scissors, glue (hot glue), clothespin
I loved this craft idea from His Wondrous Work and thought “Why not turn it into an ornament?” I printed the templates on two pieces of colored card stock (one piece skin- tone and the other gray) and then carefully cut them out. The whale needs to be sticking out beyond the clothespin so Jonah can pop out without getting stuck. Make sure you line up the whale and Jonah on the clothespin before gluing the pieces down. I had to move the whale further up the clothespin in order to make the pieces fit properly.
Materials: can, black card stock, twine for wrapping around the can, sand, paper-piercing tool , glue
Wash and dry a small can (I used an Old El Paso Chilies can.) Wrap and glue twine around the outside. Create a cityscape with black card stock. It took me several trials to get the right size city to fit into the can. Once I had the correct size, I used a paper-piercing tool to created the windows and doors. Using sand and glue, I made desert at the bottom of the can. Then, I folded the bottom of the city so it would stand upright and glued the city to the sand.
For added effect, hang the ornament near a small tree light to add background light.
Materials: pipe cleaners, gems, hot glue
To make the crown, I followed the directions listed at the link below. After the crown had its basic shape, we “blinged-out” our crowns with faux pearls and gems.
Materials: toilet paper roll, silver paint, sharpie marker, gray card stock, Stampin’ Up Dimensionals.
Paint the toilet paper roll silver. While waiting for the paint to dry, cut out the top of watchtower from gray card stock paper. Once dry, draw bricks and a door on the tower with a Sharpie or black paint pen. Put Dimensionals around the top and wrap the tower paper over the Dimensionals and around to a close. This will give the paper a small lift and make the shapes have more depth. Hole punch and string to hang.
Materials: Chalkboard paper, silver glitter gel pens or paint markers.
At back-to-school time, I had bought a chalkboard banner from Target’s dollar spot. For this ornament, I cut apart the banner and used one of the circles to write on and decorate. Super easy and cute.
Here are other craft ideas for Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story.
Materials: sandal template printed on colored card stock (see link below); something to lace with (twine, small ribbon); hole punch.
For today’s reading and craft. I decided to focus on “Prepare the Way” rather than “Thunder in the Desert.” This adorable sandal craft template has easy directions to follow which are found at the link website below. The sandal is a bit large (it might fit a toddler) for what you might think of as a traditional sized ornament but in our house the bigger the better. 🙂 It is really cute and great for lacing and shoe tying practice.
Materials: 1 rounded clothespin, 3 regular size popsicle sticks, 2 half-popsicle sticks, half of a pipe cleaner for halo, 1 white feather for wings, paint, glitter
Paint the top of the rounded clothespin as a head with hair. (I made the angel one-sided so the side not seen does not have to be painted perfect.) Paint the bottom half of the clothespin white. Paint all the popsicle sticks white and sprinkle glitter over them while the paint is wet. Once the paint is dry, hot glue the two longer popsicle sticks on the back of the rounded clothespin. Glue them close together but slightly angled away from each other. Glue the third popsicle stick on top of the other two, directly in the middle. Glue one “wing” (half-sized popsicle stick) on at a time. Then take the feather and hot glue into place over both of the wings. Make a small ring for a halo. Glue in place.
Materials: card stock (glittery silver, gray for the saw; brown or wood colored for handle); handsaw template (see link below), scissors and glue
I saved the image of the saw pattern found from the website below and made it smaller in a word document. I made it so two templates could fit on my page. Then I traced each part of the saw, glued it together, and punched a hole for the string. The hardest part of this craft was tracing and cutting out the teeth on the saw blade.
Materials: white card stock, paper punches (circle and ovals), straw or raffia, brown paint
Cut the card stock into a circle. Paint hand with brown washable paint and stamp off toward the side of the circle. Add “hay” and make baby Jesus with the punched shapes. Add a cute, little face. 🙂
Materials: glittery gold scrapbook paper, fabric scrap
It’s Christmas! In consideration of Christmas day and all that comes with it, today’s craft is a very simple one. Cut a star out of the gold scrapbook paper and a red cross out of the fabric. Glue the cross on the star and hole punch.
I wonder how many “firsts” or beginnings there are in life. First breath, first step, first love. Beginning of the month, beginning of a new school year, beginning of hopes and dreams. If every day brings a fresh beginning and every end a start of something new, the number of changes and adjustments we make through our lifetime must equal an infinite number.
The beginning of our homeschool year started on a high note. The first days were excellent. Our schedule flowed smoothly and we were excited to dive into new books and curriculum. But as things often go, the novelty soon wore of and by Thursday reality hit. Summer was over and the idea that a good part of our day would be consumed with schooling started to sink in. We were exhausted from reigniting parts of our brains that seemed content to linger in vacation mode.
Grumpiness and discontent started to weasel their way into our Thursday morning activities. Short answers and ungracious responses added to the rocky start of the day. With determination, I pushed through my planned activities and the lessons. The activities and lessons I was so sure we “needed” to cover. My kids tried to keep up but the whole day felt forced. This was not why we homeschool or how I like to teach or how I wanted my children to learn. We managed to get through the day but I decided to call a time out and push the reset button. Friday was going to be different.
My Friday lesson plans looked like any other day of the week but it was my expectation of what “needed” to be completed that was different. The pace was led by my kids. If one subject was dragging on or frustration levels with a new skills were rising high, we stopped and moved to something else, returning to the subjects and tasks later. We spent more time on science and read alouds, which we all enjoy, and we focused on our attitudes. I was convicted of my role in modeling a good attitude and gracious responses and my children soon followed suite. I am not saying that it was a perfect day. Curriculum still needed to be covered and some difficult skills still needed to be mastered but there were other things needed to be addressed first. The foundation of an ideal learning environment needed to be rebuilt, one that included a whole lot of grace and a lot of love.
With every new beginning, I think it is important to remember these things:
1.) Make space for grace. Give grace to yourself, to your co-workers, family members, strangers, whoever else may be joining you in a new start. Beginnings and starts require change and adjustment. Adjustment takes time. There may be new things to learn and new ways of doing things. Shifts in mindset may be required too. Allow grace and patience in the process.
2.) Take time to breathe. Deep breaths. It sounds simple but few people take more than a few deep breaths a day. Deep breathing helps your muscles to relax and delivers oxygen to all cells in your body. It also helps attention and concentration. For an even better and more impactful result, pray while you are breathing!
3.) Stop and reflect. Contrary to popular belief, we need to pause, stop, and rest. Allow time for reflection and think what can be done differently. Ask yourself, what is my role? How can I use my gifts, talents, and personality to help improve this situation or make this adjustment easier? Can I be a good role model for others even as I make mistakes and am learning through the process? Focus on the good things. There are always good things to find.
Now in our second week of school, skills are getting more difficult and the amount of curriculum to cover is increasing but there is a sense of peace. I am trying to keep a gentle pace to our day. We are still adjusting, slightly mourning the loss of summer, but we know there are some new exciting things are to come.
Thirty days have September,
April, June, and November;
Thirty-one the others date,
Except in February, twenty-eight;
But in leap year we assign
February, twenty-nine. -unknown
Happy Leap Day! Every four years, a day is added to our calendar making the year 366 days instead of 365. But why does this need to happen?
In simplest terms, the calendar is supposed to match the solar year- the length of time it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun. The Earth’s orbit takes 365 days and about 6 hours. Those extra 6 hours gradually add up so that after four years the calendar is out of step by about one day. Adding an extra day every four years allows the calendar to match up to the solar year again.1
We started the leap day by talking about the calendar, months, and the seasons. This gave me a great opportunity to read one of my favorite books to the kids, The Year at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen. This book tells the story of the happenings on a farm over a one year time period. Month by month, the book walks the reader through the changing seasons and how those changes are experienced by the farm animals and the people living at Maple Hill Farm. The words and the illustrations are beautiful.
You can watch a video of the book being read here: http://www.watchknowlearn.org/Video.aspx?VideoID=35246&CategoryID=9477
After the book, I brought my children’s attention back to the date by using a wonderful freebie from Just Reed. You can find the Leap Year FREEBIE in her TPT Store. It includes a few great calendar/math activities and an easy to understand explanation of a leap year. My children found it fun to think about how old and what grade they will be in when future leap years come bounding by.
To wrap up our morning, I made up a game called “Hide and Go Leap.” A few years ago, I had purchased die-cut frogs from the dollar store and actually put them in a place where I could find them for future use. (Yeah, me!) I labeled 29 frogs with the numbers 1-29, hid the frogs throughout the house and then asked the kids to find them.
Once all the frogs were found, the kids had to “leap” them into ascending numerical order. This was a little too easy for my second grader, so I had her practice skip counting by 4’s while the younger two “leaped” the frogs into place. You do not have to wait every four years to pull out this game. It could be used any time of the year with any number of frogs.
A good lesson plan always includes reflection and evaluation. Before moving on to our other work, I had my girls tell their Daddy two things they had learned. I was impressed with what they could recall and I was glad that to have had a fun start to our day.
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