Monday, November 30, 2015

Our 2015 Jesse Tree

With a toddler on the loose at our house this year, we have decided it would be best if we leave our regular Christmas tree in the box. We have no place to put it this year where it would be safe from his curiosity.

So in place of our traditional Christmas tree, we made a simple tree out of construction paper for our living room wall. (I made sure to place it high enough to be out of Little Brother's reach!)

This year our tree is a Jesse Tree. It is fun way to count down the days til Christmas while completing daily Scripture readings that point us to the birth of Jesus! The basis for the Jesse Tree idea is found in the book of Isaiah chapter 11. This is where Isaiah prophesies of the coming of the Savior saying, "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots."

The Scripture readings begin in Genesis and from December 1-25 we will see how all of the Old Testament points to Christ. For each day's Scripture, there is a picture or symbol to place on the tree.

This year, we are using free materials I printed from Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler. She has the daily pictures in both black & white and in color. I glued the black & white pictures on our Jesse Tree this morning. Beginning tomorrow as we read each Scripture, we will place the color version of each picture on top of the black & white version. This way we will have a fun way to see how many days are left until Christmas as our tree becomes more colorful each day until we finally reach the star at the top.

I first heard of the concept of a Jesse Tree last year when Big Brother and I went through the Jesse Tree LEGO Challenge at Proverbial Homemaker We really enjoyed that challenge! Big Brother did the LEGO builds each day, and we pasted each picture in his Bible notebook.

Some people use a regular Christmas tree for their Jesse Tree. We may do that another year! For now, our wall tree is much safer! ;-)

Tomorrow I plan to decorate the top of our big upright piano with lights, garland, and a couple nativity scenes. After all, JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON!!!!

How do you keep your Christmas season focussed on Christ? Have you ever done a Jesse Tree? How do you decorate with toddlers in mind? I would love to hear your suggestions and experiences! Feel free to leave a comment!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bless A Child With A Shoebox Gift!

This morning we delivered our family's shoebox gifts to our local Operation Christmas Child Collection Center. The center is located at a church close by and is staffed by volunteers from our community. We were greeted with lots of friendly smiles and homemade cookies. :)

With National Collection Week soon coming to a close for 2015, I just want to urge you to consider packing a shoebox gift for a needy child. There is still time! Drop Off locations are open through Monday, November 23, 2015.

At our Collection Center, we were able to pick up free Operation Christmas Child brochures, bookmarks, ornaments, stickers, prayer cards, magnets, ink pens, packing lists, balloons, and much more. We also got to see pictures taken by volunteers from our area who have actually been overseas to deliver shoebox gifts. There was also a table that had simple crafts and neat ideas for things that could be included in shoeboxes for next year.

We also got to take a look at what The Greatest Journey discipleship program materials look like. The Greatest Journey is a follow-up Bible study program for Operation Christmas Child shoebox recipients.

The booklets look awesome! Big Brother enjoyed looking at them, so I know children worldwide are going to love them, too!

I love, love, LOVE how this ministry provides a way for children to minister to other children! Click here to download a FREE OCC Let's Be Friends coloring sheet to have your children color and place inside their shoebox gifts! Your child just might make a new friend through Operation Christmas Child!

So now, our family is eagerly waiting to find out where our shoebox "Gospel opportunities" will go thanks to the Follow Your Box option! Big Brother says he hopes our shoeboxes will be sent to little boys somewhere in Africa. We shall see! I will post an update as soon as we get that info!!

Again, if you have not yet...pack Your shoebox gift today! Each one is an opportunity to share Hope and the love of Jesus with a hurting child.

Visit Samaritan's Purse for more information about this amazing ministry and to find out how you can be a part of Operation Christmas Child all year long!!

Images courtesy of Samaritans Purse

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The ABC's of Homeschool Advice

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am a homeschool graduate who is now a homeschool mom. I was homeschooled for 7 years, and my 3rd grade son is currently in his 5th year of homeschooling.

Today I want to share with you what I am calling "The ABC'S of Homeschool Advice." Some of these are inspirational; some are more practical, but hopefully all will be helpful!

A - Accept your God-given calling as a parent to teach your children.

B - Begin each day with God.

C - Character building is more important than any academic subject.

D - Dress for the day. (This was one of my mom's rules that I have continued in our homeschool. Yes, we could spend the day in our PJs...but we feel more alert and ready to learn if we are dressed.)

E - Enjoy your children!

F - Follow your child's interests.

G - Give your children opportunities to serve others: beginning with their own family.

H - Homeschooling does not always have to happen at home! Take field trips, go on nature walks, and meet up with friends for co-op classes.

I - Inspire your children to love learning new things.

J - Join HSLDA!

K - Keep good records of your homeschooling adventures.

L - Let go of the public school's schedule, methods, and mindset.

M - Motivate your children with positive reinforcement. "You'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar!"

N - Never let school interfere with your child's education. (From a quote by Mark Twain)

O - Object to further state regulation of homeschooling!

P - Protect your marriage. Don't let all the busyness of homeschooling cause you to neglect your relationship with your spouse.

Q - Quit worrying about "socialization!"

R - Read. A. Lot. 'Nuff said

S - Surround yourself with people who will support you in your decision to homeschool and will be there for you along the way. A good support group, family members, and church family can all be a blessing!

T - Turn off the TV and interact with your family.

U - Understand that each child is unique with his or her own strengths, weaknesses, interests, and learning styles.

V - Visit your local library regularly.

W - Workboxes are a lifesaver!

X - EXcitement is contagious! When you get excited about your homeschool activities, your children will likely follow your lead.

Y - You know your children better than anyone else. You ARE qualified to teach them.

Z - Zoom through your housework by implementing easy routines.

I hope you found this little ABC list helpful! At some point I would like to do a blog post focussing on each of these little nuggets of wisdom one at a time. What other homeschool advice could you share?

Linking up at: I Choose Joy, Growing in Grace, Fellowship Friday, Faith Filled Friday, TGI Saturday, Dare to Share

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Why is the Ocean Salty? Science Experiment

This week in science, Big Brother is exploring the Ocean!

The question was posed, "Why is the Ocean salty?" He read about how the rivers that flow into the oceans carry minerals like salt with them when they empty into the oceans. We also talked about how some water from the ocean evaporates each day. We believe God created the ocean to be salty.

We did this simple experiment that was suggested by his textbook reading yesterday. I like easy experiments that I can put together quickly! This one gave us an opportunity to discuss some important vocabulary like mineral, dissolve, solution, and evaporate.

Here's what we needed:

liquid measuring cup
small saucepan

Here's what we did

1. Big Brother measured 1 cup of water from the tap into the liquid measuring cup.

2. He measured out 4 Tablespoons of salt and dumped them into the water. As he measured out the salt, We talked about how salt is a mineral. He remembered that a mineral is made up of things that were never alive.

3. He took a spoon and stirred to help dissolve the salt into the water to make a solution. Then he carefully poured the saltwater solution into the saucepan.

4. He turned on the stovetop burner to heat the saucepan. We allowed the water to boil for awhile as we continued our science reading for the day. We observed the steam as the water in the pan began to evaporate.

5. We waited for all the water to evaporate, and then checked to see what was left in the pan. We discovered that there was a lot of salt in the pan...over a cup!

So the ocean is getting saltier because salt is always going in without going back out again.

We are both enjoying 3rd grade science!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Operation Christmas Child 2015

It's that time of year! This week (November 16 to 23, 2015) is National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child!

If your family has packed a shoebox gift, this is the week you need to make sure your box gets to a designated OCC drop off location. You can visit the OCC website to find a location near you.

Never heard of Operation Christmas Child? OCC is a ministry of Samaritan's Purse, a Christian relief organization founded by Franklin Graham (son of famous evangelist Billy Graham). Each year people from the U.S., Canada, and several other countries fill simple shoeboxes with small gifts for needy children around the world. Shoebox gifts are always collected the week before Thanksgiving. OCC has blessed MILLIONS of needy children worldwide with gifts and the Gospel message!

Anyone can pack a shoebox for OCC! I have participated in this ministry since I was a teenager, and I am blessed now to pass on this annual tradition on to my boys.

Yesterday, Big Brother and I went "shoebox shopping" together. Before we left home we set a budget, decided how many shoeboxes we were going to pack, and determined the gender and ages for our gifts. (Shoeboxes should be designated for either a boy or girl, and the age categories are 2-4, 5-9, and 10-14). This year, Big Brother wanted to do 3 "boy" boxes: one for a boy in each age group.

We shopped at our local Dollar Tree and Wal-Mart stores. This is a very good activity for Big Brother because it gives him the chance to practice thinking about the needs of others rather than his own wants and desires.

We had so much fun shopping around and picking out specific items to go in each shoebox! Big Brother helped load and unload items as we checked out at the registers. When we got home, he helped to sort out the items into groups and we worked together to figure out the best way to get all the gifts to fit in each shoebox (this is not always an easy task!!).

Here's a list of what we included in our OCC Shoeboxes this year!

Each shoebox got:

-Travel size toothbrush & toothpaste
-Colored Pencils
-Bar of Soap
-Baggie of Hard Candy
-Pencil Sharpener
-Toy Cars
-Mini Thomas the Train Toy
-Top Toy


Boy Age 2-4

-Sippy Cup
-Small Bowl & Spoon set
-Hand Puppet
-Farm Board Book
-Mini Elmo figurine
-Stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh
-Small Package of Wipes
- 2 Pairs of Mittens

Boy Age 5-9

-Paddleball game
-Tic-Tac-Toe Travel Game
-Slinky Toy
-Ink Pens
-Mickey Mouse Coloring Book
-Glue Stick

Boy Age 10-14

-Same as 5-9 plus a small LEGO set instead of Slinky toy
-Also gave this box extra pens & pencils instead of a coloring book

Of course, the most important thing to pack in any shoebox gift is a PRAYER! We will be praying for the child who will be receiving each of these shoebox gifts. We pray that He will bless these children and give them an opportunity to hear and accept the Gospel. We also pray that the Lord will go before those who will distribute the shoeboxes and that each child will receive the exact gifts they need!

Be sure to check the website to see a list of items that are OK and items that are not OK to put in your shoeboxes.

A $7 donation is requested for each gift-filled shoebox that is donated to Operation Christmas Child. This just helps cover the cost of shipping these gifts to the uttermost parts of the earth. It also helps provide each shoebox recipient with a Gospel storybook in his/her own language and the opportunity to attend a Bible class where they can learn more about Jesus and receive a Bible. What a wonderful ministry!

We are blessed to have a Shoebox Collection Center (staffed each year by volunteers) located at a church less than 2 miles from our home. From this local drop-off point, our shoeboxes will then be transported by semi-truck to one of the OCC Processing Centers where teams of volunteers check each box for safety and prepare them for their journey to a needy child.

In recent years, OCC has added the "Follow Your Box" option so that we are able to see to exactly which country (or countries) our shoebox gifts go! They send an email that also gives lots of information about the country. This makes for a very meaningful geography lesson!

We usually try to include a personal note in each shoebox as well. If you are comfortable including your mailing address, the recipient of your gift might just send you a letter back! My brother ended up with a pen-pal from Malawi that he corresponded with for a few years as a child because of Operation Christmas Child.

So of you have not yet filled your shoebox for this year, you still have a little time! If are too busy to go out and shop, you can actually fill a box online!

This is such a simple missions project that practically anyone can do, and this ministry is really making and impact in the lives of desperate children in need of hope all over the world. I encourage you to consider joining us in spreading the love of Jesus to hurting little ones through the power of a simple shoebox!

Visit Operation Christmas Child for more information!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Tot School: Color Game (18 Months)

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks!!

At 18 months old and full of boundless energy, Little Brother is learning and growing by leaps and bounds every day!

We are working a lot on learning colors. His ABeka Nursery Arts & Crafts book has been great as it has different activities to focus on a new color each month. He has done lots of coloring, fingerpainting, Q-Tip painting, and pasting torn up construction paper to make collages.

He also loves playing with different colors of Play-Doh (mostly he loves tearing it into the tiniest pieces possible and scattering the pieces onto the freshly vacuumed living room carpet...ahem).

Yesterday I made a very simple color matching file folder game for him.

What I Used:

- 1 plain file folder
- 9 sheets of construction paper (9 different colors)
- glue stick
- scissors
- pen
- Play-Doh can lid (for tracing circles)
- clear Duck tape (use a laminator if you have one...I do not)
- markers or crayons to match the construction paper colors

Step 1 -

Trace 2 circles on each sheet of construction paper. Cut them out.

Step 2 -

Paste one circle of each color onto the inside of the file folder. Write the color word under each circle using a matching marker or crayon.

Step 3 -

Laminate each of the remaining circles. I do not have a laminator, but I did happen to have a roll of clear Duck tape! Works just as well! ;-) You just want these little game pieces to be somewhat sturdy before eager little hands get hold of them! I have a Ziploc baggie for storing them. It stays in the file folder.

To Play:

Match the play pieces to the correct color on the file folder!

I introduced the game to Little Brother this morning, and it surprised me how long it held his attention. We spent around 15 minutes practicing saying and signing color words as I helped him figure out how to match up the pieces.

He had never done any kind of matching game like this before, so this is great practice for him. The more we play together, the better he will get. And it's fun!

Later on I will probably make more of these as he moves on to learning shapes and eventually letters and numbers. You could also easily make matching games like this using pictures from any number of themes (holidays, animals, favorite books, pictures of family members, etc.).

These little games are great because they are quick to make, they take up very little space, and they can be easily stored on a bookshelf or in a file box.

Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for more great Tot School ideas!!

Did you find this post inspiring? Feel free to Pin and share! Let me know if you make a game like this of your own! I would love to hear about it!

Linking up at: Tot School Gathering Place, TGI Saturday, Growing in Grace, Hip Homeschool Blog Hop

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Learning Wrap-Ups in Our Homeschool

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks!!

Big Brother is working hard at learning his multiplication tables in math this year. He is doing very well with the 3rd grade Rod & Staff curriculum we use, but I know he needs plenty of practice to make sure he really knows his facts.

So he has been using a set of Multiplication Learning Wrap-Ups for some independent extra math practice. I had no idea he would enjoy using them quite so much! (When was the last time you had to tell your 7 year old it was time to please stop practicing his multiplication tables??)

Learning Wrap-Ups are pretty simple to use. The child starts at the top of the plastic key works his way down wrapping the string around to point to correct answers. Then he can simply unwind the string and do it again!

There are several different kinds of Learning Wrap-Ups available covering various subjects. I would love to get Big Brother more sets soon. (They would be perfect stocking stuffers!)

I love manipulatives like this that make learning a fun, multi-sensory experience! Learning Wrap-Ups appeal to all types of learners. Kinesthetic learners will appreciate being able to physically wrap the string around to point to the correct answers. Visual learners will like being able to see the string matching answers to the facts. Auditory learners will want to say the facts out loud as they wrap the string around the key.

Learning Wrap-Ups can easily be used independently by the student since they are self-checking. All Big Brother has to do is turn the Learning Wrap-Up over and immediately he can see if he matched the answers correctly.

They are great for putting into Big Brother's workboxes. If I need to tend to Little Brother or some household chore, I can give him Learning Wrap-Ups to work on until I get back. So handy!! They are also great for travel.

You can click here to find many sets of Learning Wrap-Ups that are available! Do you use these in your homeschool? I would love to hear about it!