Reading through Matthew in December

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I'm really excited to introduce a series for December.  Through the team at The Homeschool Village, we were encouraged to share a Christmas reading activity or book study.  I felt led to really focus on scripture in the month leading up to Christmas.

This December, our family will be reading through the book of Matthew.  We are doing this with a 5, 6, and 8 year old (for age interest sake!).  I have broken down the book into easy to read sections for every day in December.

If you haven't read the bible before or don't own a bible, I pray you can get one in your hands.  Many churches will give you one for free or you can purchase a simple bible for less than $10 at a local Christian book store.

Otherwise, you can read along or listen to free audio recordings here.

I pray you'll feel His presence as you press into the truth of Christ's story from birth, to life, to death, to Everlasting.  He is the Savior of the world and we celebrate His glory this month and always!


Here is the reading schedule:

Spuds and the Spirit.

Friday, November 22, 2013

It was a bumper crop of potatoes this year.  The field down the lane is still a gold mine of spuds after the farmer gathers the harvest.
After the machines rumble through, neighbors are graciously welcomed to collect what is left behind.  On a warm Autumn afternoon, the kids and I head out to glean what we can from the wide open farmland.  Why waste what is good food?
We want to remember abundance is sacred when so many go hungry.  So, we glean.  We trudge through rows of thick, mucky soil and weeds churned up.  We eagerly dig with shovels and fingers, searching.


I laugh and snap photos, whispering thanks to the One who makes all things grow. 

The wind whips around us as the kids shout out with joy when they uncover each waiting gold-mine of golden veggies.  We toss mud-covered potatoes into bags and baskets.  Piles and piles of potatoes ready for the taking.  Waiting for us to discover, if we just dig a little.  Dig and shove away the dirt.  Dig and see what is waiting just below the surface.
Yes, as we bow and dig, bow and dig.  We uncover an abundance of His glory and gifts - yes, grace is found in a pile of potatoes.  His Spirit waiting to be embraced and welcomed as we crouch low and plunge in to what He has for us.  Every hour steeped in the Spiritual if we open our squinty eyes to just see.
He's there.  His Spirit is there.
Potato digging.
Word spelling.
Math calculating.
Dinner cooking.
Laundry folding.
Drink spilling.
Dig.  Dig through these things, these seemingly simple, regular, mundane moments.  Dig in and see what is just below the surface.  I bet the beautiful, miraculous, mind-boggling is right there, waiting.

See, that whole big field looked like nothing but mud.  But once we started searching expectantly for the blessings - we found piles of gold.

What grace is waiting just below the mucky surface of the day?  Just within grasp of the ordinary, waiting for us to bow low enough to discover?
The digging is dirty and sloppy and sometimes, it's just plain hard.  But, oh, the rewards.

Joy, Truth, Christ Himself.  Right there all along.  If we're willing to pull on the work books and get a little mucky.

And isn't the soul journey like that?

Just like that field of spuds.  We can dig for truth and we can dig for God and if we dig, we will find Him.  If we scratch away the surface of this world, of the temporary - we find the eternal.  Just below the surface lies the upside-down truth.  That this world will waste away but His truth remains forever.  So what truth is in this very second?  What is waiting?
This is a crazy way to live because joy just bubbles up all the time, in every silly thing.  In those moments we regarded as mundane, regular, void of anything spectacular at all.

All of a sudden, everything can be spectacular.  And if not spectacular, deeply spiritual.

And isn't He the only meal that forever sustains us?  His truth - there, always in every waking moment, waiting to be discovered and embraced?  Always with us and always pursuing us, beckoning us to keep digging and keep bowing and keep finding the precious.
His abundance.
His overflow.
His love - a bumper crop of amazing, glory-filled grace, waiting to be gathered.


Healthful Play... what Charlotte Mason says.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sometimes, a good dose of outside activity is all kids need.

But in our culture, countless children are missing out on this crucial outside play time.  They’re over-scheduled, often very inactive, and almost always on media overload.

One afternoon, I realized how vital crazy outside time really is for our children.  They need to let loose and have fun running wild.  Charlotte Mason talks about this kind of play, and its benefits, in Volume One of the original Homeschooling Series: 
“The afternoons’ games after luncheon are an important part of the day’s doings… the more they run, and shout, and toss their arms, the more healthful is the play.”

In fact, she suggested children spend several hours outdoors every afternoon.  She also advocated quite heavily for allowing children to be loud, to run hard, and to play enthusiastically.  Of course, this is done in the right context and at the right time.  She isn’t suggesting a lack of discipline, but quite the opposite.  For everything, there is a time.  And children need a time get a little silly.  They are, after all, kids.

To read more, join me today at The Better Mom.

Five in a Row: Three Names

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I didn't plan to row Thee Names this year.  But then I was gifted with a free copy of the book at a used book sale.  Since it was practically handed to me, I figured I should definitely jump into this fun unit study, so the results are below.  I have to say, this definitely wasn't a full-on unit study for us.  It was an easy week with mostly reading done to supplement.  Still though, such a sweet story with great historical learning.

Here are the books we used for our unit study.  A combination of books about dogs, weather, and early village life (one room school houses is part of the study).


Part of the study encourages families to embrace the concept of gratitude.  Of course, this is something close to my heart.  We decided to create a new Gratitude Tree.  On the tags we wrote down things we were thankful for and felt blessed by.


Country Life and One Room Schoolhouses

This is where we did a ton of reading and chatting.  We read through The Olden Days and read and discussed how schools looked decades ago.  I shared with the children about my Grandpa's experiences with a One Room Schoolhouse in Nova Scotia where he grew up.

We also watched parts of this video, along with a couple episodes of Little House on the Prairie.

One afternoon we also went on a trip to an old fashioned country farm and shop.  Along the way we stopped the van to watch a farmer hard at work in the fields.

The fields just down the road from our home...  so blessed.

A trip to the old country shop...

What's better than fresh cookies from the country bakery?  (And hot coffee for Mama?)


Three Names is focused on the daily experiences of the dog called Three Names.  We read several fantastic dog-centered books, including:  Tornado, Dogs (Usborne), Five True Dog Stories, and many of the stories from James Herriot's tales.

We discussed dog life cycles, dog behavior, dog anatomy, and also dog breeds. 

We were so blessed that our good friends invited us over (several times, bless them...) to see their brand new puppies.  Their two dogs had a litter of beautiful pups and our kids were beyond thrilled to spend countless hours snuggling and watching these sweet newborn puppies.

At this visit, the puppies were only a couple weeks old.  They still required the heat lamp and were kept safe and cozy in a large box.  Naturally, our children climbed INTO the box...



We discussed Tornadoes and various types of weather, including the study of wind and various wind speeds.  We read through several fantastic books about weather and also discussed the water cycle.  I highly recommend any Magic School Bus science book.  The Hurricane one we read was fantastic!

Audrey's quick sketch of the water cycle based on her understanding.

Taking a look at the Fujita Scale and sketching the effects of various intensities.



We talked about where the Prairies are found in North America and how the prairie land related to Tornado Alley.  We studied the characteristics of a prairie as well as the animals you might find there.
For a Prairie art project, I found a great link with some tips for teaching perspective and horizon lines -  it's right HERE.

Where are the Plains?  Where is Tornado Alley?


Prairie perspective drawings.


Talking about perspective and horizon lines.

Other Ideas and Links for Three Names:

  • We played a lot of old fashioned games, which was a ton of fun for the kids.  These games are mentioned in the book.  Here are a few links: Outdoor games, Fox and Geese.
  • We also played Marbles!  You can easily grab a few bags of Marbles at the Dollar Store.  We shared and looked up games in a book.

The Homeschool Village

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Review

Monday, November 18, 2013

When I first started homeschooling, I purchased a print subscription to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  I still remember how much I loved receiving each copy received in the mail (how great it is to actually get snail mail?).  It was a breath of fresh air in my task of educating our children at home.

Let's face it, as home educators, it is easy to feel isolated, especially when we are just starting out.  Connecting with other homeschooling families is so important but I believe reading great blogs, magazines, and resources can also build us up in our journey. 

I also really believe it's my responsibility to continue to grow and learn as much as I can about how to homeschool to the best of my ability. Raising our children is life's greatest calling and I want more than anything to walk obediently to God and do all I can to seek wisdom for the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine offers those little whispers of 'you're not alone' and 'here are some great ideas' and 'this worked for me'.  I think it was through this magazine that I was first introduced to Charlotte Mason and the art of gentle home education.  At the time, I wasn't using Charlotte's philosophies and as I look back I can see how God paved the way for me to gain more understanding about what would really honor Him and work in our home.

And by 'work', I mean help guide us and help urge our children towards truth and the knowledge of their real purpose.  I'm so blessed to educate at home and so blessed to live in a time when resources abound!  Now, we are Charlotte Mason-based and have a joy-filled, peaceful homeschool.  By God's grace alone, friends!!!

My favorite from the current (Nov/Dec) issue:


I loved - Keeping Things In Perspective by Pat Knepley.

I have one particularly art-crazy daughter who will gobble up every bit of art education I give her.  Also, as Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, we enjoy art, art history, and picture study as much as we can.  This article gave me so many great ideas for teaching perspective to our kids.  The matter-of-fact reasoning behind lines and shapes and sizes will relate to our son who is more (excuse the pun) linear.  The paintings and history will relate to my daughter.  The author included five beautiful images of art pieces that show perspective in various styles and offers tips and hints for how to discuss these concepts and these pieces of art.

I will definitely use this article and the art clips for a couple art lessons for our kids.  I could definitely see our children enjoying learning how to draw a 3-D cube and practice drawing horizons.  (In fact we recently were working on this.)  There are even pop-up videos linked in that we can watch together!  Love it!

I'm so glad I took time to really read through The Old Schoolhouse, as I didn't realize it had so many great homeschooling tools like this, not to mention countless other articles, reviews, and inspiration.

Another great thing about The Old Schoolhouse -

 it is a completely FREE resource if you are viewing and reading online!

You can also download various aps for Android, iPhone, etc. if you prefer to read on the go.

To check out the online version right now, simply click here.

This review was written in partnership with the School House Review Crew ~ thanks! 



All Power.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I jog in early morning and feel a cool November breeze on my face.  Nothing compares to calming my spirit in the silence of the country morning.  Trees tower all around me, both sides like a giant wall - and the road stretches before me.  Suddenly, I hear a roar come from behind.  'Car', I instinctively whisper to myself and I move out of the lane.

But no car comes.

I glance back and the roar comes again.  My eyes gaze up at the countless soaring pines, swaying and creaking.  Oh, the roar is the wind.  Or the sound of the wind through the quaking softwoods.   I am like an ant shaking through towering grass blades, small, so small.

It is moments like these that God whispers.  If we are listening, He is there.  And His name is like a whisper, I've heard it said.  Yahweh.  Yahweh.  Yahweh.  Everywhere is Yahweh.  Everywhere and in everything.  Every living thing contains bursts of His glory.  And the intimidating towers of prickly pines all around me?  They remind me of His power.

He is in the wind and with a simple puff of breathe, the 50 foot, 200 year old trees bend and crack.

All power.

All glory.

All history.

All science.

All of everything is in His hands.

Through Him, by Him, from Him, in Him.

He is all powerful. 


But, He is not only all powerful,

He, in His very nature is All Power.


He makes the trees quake and He can make the earth quake.
He redeems and He loves and He surrounds us with Himself.
He waits - He knocks. 
He asks, follow Me?

But do we have time to follow the creator of the Universe and live for Him?
He holds the whole world and the galaxies and the sun is nothing compared to His glory.  And yes, He holds you too and He holds all those you love.  And yet, we worry - we fret.  Why do we do this?

How can we worry, how can we furrow our brow and sit in sadness when we have this truth - the Creator, Alpha and Omega, He who is and will always be - He holds us.  He holds all Eternity.

Follow me, He beckons - and live forever.  Death, has no sting.  We are children of the day... of the Light. 

Follow me.  Live for me.
I mean, with reckless abandon - follow Me, child.  And I will bring you peace and joy overflowing. 
And the Great Wind rushes over us and we are like trees, swaying with His grace.
Are you worried?  Anxious?  Tired?
Lay it all at His feet, friends.

Embrace Him and know,

He is All Power and He holds you.

Can I encourage you to read Romans 1, and Psalm 135 - 136 with me today?  Let's meditate on the greatness and the power of our God... "His name is eternal... He never goes 'out of date'..."  (The Message)
Praying for you today.
I was reminded of this beautiful song this morning... sharing with big hugs.

The Finest Horse in Town (Five in a Row and an Autumn Nature Study)

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Finest Horse in Town was a beautiful study for Autumn.  We spent  quite a bit of time doing Nature Study with trees and changes that come with our Seasons.  We also learned a bunch about horses.

I've documented some of our learning and fun below:

Some of the Usborne books we read with our study.  (We love Usborne!)

Books about Trees that we used.

More books about Horses.  Loved reading the tales from James Herriot's Animal Stories.


Trees, Trees, Trees!

For our study of trees, we really enjoyed going on as many nature walks as possible!  For a good two weeks, I think we were out almost every afternoon just soaking in the Autumn sun and enjoying the beautiful colors.  I can't possibly post all the photos from our walks here (the post would never end...) but here's a little peak -



Learning about Trees-

Learning about the parts of a tree and the various layers of bark.


Here we studied how the process of Photosynthesis relates to Autumn leaves.  We learned why leaves change color and what triggers this change.

We created this map to display the diverse forest life in our country.


Coniferous and Deciduous Trees-

We spent quite a bit of time talking about the different types of trees.  We went on several nature walks and identified various Coniferous and Deciduous trees and tried to name them/classify them.  We also collected leaves and branches to sketch and study at home.

Venn Diagram of Coniferous vs. Deciduous Trees


Learning about Conifers and Pine Cones-

I found a great Science experiment that was fun and so easy to do.  We first collected several pine cones on a nature walk in our neighborhood.  The pine cones were damp as it had rained the night before.  To show how pine cones open up and release seeds, we put them in the oven and actually baked them for several minutes.  Once they were well heated, they opened up and it was easy to remove the tiny seeds.  This was a great way to learn how Conifers release these seeds in nature. 

Seeds, bark, leaves and berries from different trees-

The kids had fun making collections of various nature treasures and organizing and classifying them as they went.  It's really neat to leave a Nature Table accessible to the children.  They will stop and examine various objects several times a day.  They can also use this as a place to sketch and use their magnifying glass, etc.

Taking a look at various types of bark and beautiful colors of a pile of Autumn leaves.


Studying Oak Trees and collecting Acorns-

We have a ton of Oak in our area.  We spent an afternoon in a local park looking at and sketching various Oak Trees.  It was a beautiful time of learning and exploring together.  We even had pair of deer join us for a leisurely stroll through the woods!

Sketching an Acorn for our Nature Journal.

Collecting various acorns and leaves.

Our collection.


 Studying the Black Walnut Tree- 

We have a massive Black Walnut Tree in our front yard.  It provided us with many opportunities for learning and study.  We spent several afternoons cleaning the falling Walnuts too!  When we decided to profile a tree, we thought it made sense to profile the Black Walnut!

A sketch of a Black Walnut Tree, showing comparison to the size of an adult (Mom) standing under it.  Also, on the left, Simon decided to show a close up of the shape of the leaves.

Profile of a Black Walnut - the leaf (taken from the front yard and laminated), the sketch of the tree, and a sketch of the seeds. 


Apple Trees-

We were really blessed to be able to spend a day at a small orchard behind our family church.  It was a great opportunity to study the trees, the apples, and the qualities of the orchard.  What a beautiful afternoon picking apples!

Audrey, coloring for her Nature Journal.

Counting and sorting - I think we picked about 300!


Audrey's Nature Journal page of an Apple Tree (my sketch in on the left, hers is on the right).  She sketched and colored while we were at the orchard.



Art Projects and Fun with Leaves

Top left - Learning to paint scenery with varying colors to show horizon (water color), Bottom Left - Audrey's drawing of a horse and her foal, Bottom Right - color variations using water color.


Leaf Pressing and Printing with paints.

Leaf Rubbing with crayons and pastels.

We took our Leaf Rubbings and made a collage with a poem, "Little by Little".


Preserving Leaves -

Here, we preserved Autumn leaves with sticky paper (laminate) and displayed our collages on our back window.  It was so fun to see the colors as the sun glowed through them.  We also discussed the difference between leaves that were lobed, entire, or serrated.


Preserving leaves using the old fashioned Wax Paper and Iron method.


Preserving leaves using the 'stick them in a book and close it' method.  *wink*


Drawing Techniques - Layering  

We used a great big bowl of apples to practice the technique of layering to show depth and dimension.




For this unit study, I really did choose to study far more about Autumn and Trees than about Horses.  I did, however, read quite a few books to the children with themes related to horses and we completed a few worksheets and art projects to go along with our study. 


A few links:

Thanks for reading, God Bless! 


The Homeschool Village

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