Living Lessons in Nature: Seeds

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We recently started a local nature group that meets twice a month.  We really enjoy it.  I thought I would bring you all along on our walks, and share some fun activities we do.  You can join in at home or better yet, start your own nature walks where you live.

We start each adventure with a book. This time we read A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Ashton and Sylvia long.  It is filled with gorgeous pictures, loads of facts, and fun new ways to think of seeds.  It could really make a field guide in it’s own right.

After reading, it’s time for exploring.  We read all about seeds, what they were, how far they traveled, what they did, but could we actually find any seeds on our hike? Here is a video of some of the fun things we discovered.

 

Unfortunately, my camera died, so that’s all the footage I have.  After our walk, we planted seeds and talked about the story of the sower and the seeds.  As I was sharing the story with the children, something new hit me – something I had never thought about.  The story talks about the seed that fell in the good soil, and how those seeds grew and prospered.  There are really three things a seed needs – good soil (where it gets it’s nutrients), water and sunlight.  For the seed of God’s love to grow in our hearts, we only need one thing – Jesus.  He is our nutrients (the Bread of Life), our Living Water and the Light of the World. What a great lesson to learn from God’s amazing creation!

Do you want to do a nature adventure all about seeds? Here are some activities you can do with seeds along with the program plan we used for seeds.

Featured Book: A Seed Is Sleepy by Diana Ashton

Creator Connection: The parable of the sower and the seeds

Activity: As we explored nature, we looked for seeds. Children could plant seeds they found on their walk in cups or they could plant some of the seeds we brought.

OTHER IDEAS FOR HOME:

Books about seeds (I have not previewed all of these):

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
The Way to Start a Day by Byrd Baylor
Giving Thanks by Jonathan London
In the Tall, Tall Grass by Denise Fleming
The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss

From Nature Explore’s Family Club:

“There are many ways to collect seeds. Shake seeds out of pine cones. Crack open nuts. Hunt under trees. Picking up seed pods and opening them is fun! While walking, you could wear heavy socks over shoes or a bracelet of masking tape with the sticky side out so seeds will stay with you. Encourage parents to watch young children carefully because of possible toxicity or choking. Help children plant the seeds. Did you know working with soil releases endorphins just like exercise? So go ahead, get your hands dirty and then watch what happens as your seeds sprout and grow!”

Start or plan a garden:

Now is the perfect time to start seeds inside to transplant into your garden when the weather warms up. You can use seed catalogs to let your kids cut out what they want in the garden and they can glue their choices on green or brown paper.

Gardening books:

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
Zinnia’s Flower Garden by Monica Wellington

Expanding on the Sower and the seed

– Act out the story with your kids

– Try planting the same kinds of seeds in the different kinds of soils – watch with your little ones to see what happens. Use clear cups to help you see even more.

– Color some printable of the sower and the seed and glue your own seeds on.

– Make seed gifts to give to someone to cheer their day.  Include seeds, soil and a little cup – add a little note for extra cheer.  Better yet, get it sprouted, decorate the cup and give them a beautiful flower.

Most of all, have fun and get outside!

Do you have any other ideas to share with us? We’d love to see what you all are doing to learn about God’s amazing seeds!

*The Green Hour by Todd Christopher is a great resource.  Check out chapter 10: Seeking Out Seeds

I have been using a lot of resources from Nature Explore.  You may find the resources helpful too.

 

Out of Focus

What’s wrong with it? I tried again and again. My camera just wouldn’t take the photo even though I had it aimed and I was pressing the button, over and over. I looked closely at it. Suddenly the photo took and I had a blurred print of the patterned carpet in the church. I had received a new camera for Christmas. It is my first introduction to DSLR cameras and I had no comprehension, yet, of the manual settings.Someone kindly fixed that problem for me, the camera timer had been set, but alas I had another equally disappointing problem. Now I discovered the camera wouldn’t focus. No matter what I did, as soon as I would zoom in the photo was blurred. What was wrong this time? My daughter, who had studied a class in photography at university, had borrowed my camera through the week, changed the settings, taken some photos and had not returned the settings  back to my familiar automatic ones. I was totally lost. Nearly all my photos for that day were blurred, ever so slightly, until someone noticed my camera was not set to Automatic Focus. A flick of the switch and instantly my photos were crystal clear. I breathed a sigh of relief as I gained some new knowledge of my camera that day.

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I can come to the Bible in much the same way. I can focus on the history of the Bible, the beauty of the language, the factual information or the texts to be used in debate, to prove my point, but I receive only a blurred picture of Jesus. My focus can be out. To truly see Jesus in full clearness and clarity I need to aim my attention and focus on Him. I need to pray for the Spirit to show me the wonders of Jesus in every page of the Bible and within the facts, the language, the history and the stories. Focus on Jesus today and see Him in all His fullness of beauty, purity and clearness as you open God’s Word.

John 12:21 “…we want to see Jesus.”

Heb 12:2  “We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith”

Food for Thought

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People usually think of food for thought as pertaining to ideas or wisdom that cause us pause to consider.  But there is certainly value in thinking of food for thought in a literal way.  Certain foods truly do produce better brain function, and thus, clearer thought processes.  Brain foods also help decrease depression. Here are some super foods that contain major natural ingredients like tryptophan, omega-3, and melatonin.

1.    Flaxseed.  This super food can be found in most any grocery store these days as its richness in omega-3 has received much positive attention for not only brain health, but also for heart, skin, and general health.  You may enjoy the benefits in ground flax seed or in flaxseed oil.  But avoid using the whole seed as the nutrients are not used as efficiently by the body in that form.  If you want to use the whole seed, you can whiz it in a mini-food processor and store the ground seed in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Flaxseed does not retain all of its nutrients when heated, so use it fresh, sprinkled on cereal, in yogurt, or any food you choose.

2.    Black walnuts and English walnuts are also rich in omega-3.  ¼ cup per day is great food for your brain!

3.    Tofu is an excellent source of tryptophan, which is an ingredient that turns into serotonin in the brain.  This is one of the most versatile foods available.  Tofu may be added to fruit smoothies and other creamy desserts as well as being used (the extra firm variety) for main dishes, such as crumbled in lasagna or used in place of eggs in egg salad.  An internet search for tofu recipes will produce more options than anyone could actually use.

4.    Oats, bananas, corn, and brown rice are excellent sources of melatonin, which is a hormone that helps us handle stress and also boosts the immune system.  A plate of brown rice, topped with black beans and corn with oat muffins on the side is a powerhouse of nutrients for the brain!

5.    Folate is another important nutrient for brain health.  In fact, people with low levels of folate not only often develop depression, but they do not respond well to anti-depressants.  Foods high in folate are black-eye peas, lentils, and navy beans.  Lentils are a great choice to cook often because they cook more quickly than other dry beans and can be wonderfully seasoned with onion, garlic, and other favorite seasonings.

Next time you casually comment that you’re feeling “brain dead,” take a look at what you’ve been eating (or not eating).  You might be more accurate than you think.

Who Are You Racing?

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Background: I am a rookie homeschooling mom of three, ages: 8, 3.5 (going on 16) and 11.5 months. I have had it in my mind and in my heart that I was going to homeschool my children since my oldest was around 3 years old. I was exposed to it from another Adventist family and it intrigued and made perfect sense to me. Due to being bullied as a child, all the recent school shootings and, of course, the worldly views in the public school system, it was a no brainer. I couldn’t wait to start! But due to financial situations we weren’t able to do so. So off my daughter went to Kindergarten. Daycare for my middle child (baby was yet to be). I was sad but I had to work to help keep food on the table. So we came up with a plan: by the end of the school year my husband would be finished with his insurance training and he should be making enough to let me be a stay at home mommy-educator… well that didn’t happen either. I was getting rather impatient. We ended up going backwards and putting more money out in expenses than we were bringing in, so my husband decided he would keep the girls home with him until he found a better paying job. My oldest was soon starting first grade and my husband said he would lead in teaching until we could change our roles around. About a few months later our prayers were answered! He was offered a position at our local veteran’s hospital. By this time I was pregnant with our 3rd and was still working (and I stayed working until maternity leave). Off went my oldest to public school (1st grade) and daycare for my, then, youngest. I really couldn’t stand them being other places but home, but I could see a light at the end of the tunnel!

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Fast Forward: Baby 3 – check. Finally, a stay at home Mom – check. Oldest completing 1st grade in public school – check. Curriculum time! I bought a boxed curriculum (has everything I need, except a few add-ins), I was ecstatic! I couldn’t wait to start. I had day-dreams of all the fun things we were going to do. The school room was ready! I had tot-trays ready for my middle child. Baby boy was going to take naps while I taught! We had a schedule! We were going to get school done faster than public school! It looked and sounded so good! Reality Check: Who was I kidding? It is hard juggling school with three very different children! My oldest has sensory issues and is OCD, so if it’s not perfect in her eyes its total meltdown mayhem! My middle daughter is strong-willed and very hyper (on top of her normal three year old behavior). And my, then, 5 month old only wants to be held and nursed! So bye-bye dreams of a perfectly kept schedule, little babies that took good naps and little girls that did just what they were supposed to (like the robotic ones I envisioned). Hello chaos! But wait, we have a schedule! Wait, I have to be better and faster than public school! Wait, I have to keep up with the other families using this curriculum! They are on week 20 and I’m only on week 13, noooo! And my house chores… not even going there! Yes, we were getting things done but NOT in the perfect picture I had painted in my mind! It was driving me crazy!

A Friend’s Wisdom: I have heard of the Moore’s. I love their work and motto. Better late than early. I can see this benefitting my middle daughter but my oldest was already schooled and was a very good reader so I didn’t want to back track. And because of that, I was feeling so guilty of not being on schedule and lagging behind. Then a friend of mine, who happens to be using the same program, mentioned she was a few weeks behind me (yes that made me feel good) and then stated these beautiful words of wisdom, “who are we racing? The very entity we are keeping our children from (public school)? It doesn’t matter if you get your chapters read…” That hit home. She was right! I was racing other moms, the public school and pushing way too much. In doing so I was creating more stress than necessary for myself and my children! Hurry, get this done. Here, we need to catch up! Why are you taking so long? Well, get it done. On top of that my strong-willed 3 year old is constantly saying “I’m bored, I need something else to do…” and I swear I have bought enough manipulatives and pre-school activities than anyone should ever have to (You’re welcome, Amazon). I see that my stress and hurriedness creates sloppy teaching. I want my children to LOVE learning. So what if we only teach from a book an hour a day? I want them to be kids! I want them to learn while playing outside in nature! I don’t want tears All. Day. Long. I want us to have a connection and for the patience of Jesus to shine through me! I want to teach as Jesus taught; with love, patience, wisdom and grace.

Ellen White writes in her book Education “So we should teach. Let the children learn to see in nature an expression of the love and the wisdom of God; let the thought of Him be linked with bird and flower and tree; let all things seen become to them the interpreters of the unseen, and all the events of life be a means of divine teaching.” And she goes on to say “The little ones should be educated in childlike simplicity…The more quiet and simple the life of the child–the more free from artificial excitement and the more in harmony with nature–the more favorable it is to physical and mental vigor and to spiritual strength.” (Emphasis added).

And here are just a few bible verses that speak to me when I am feeling overwhelmed with my every day duties and how I remind myself to react to my children when I am stressed:

  • Proverbs 17:27 – A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.
  • James 1:19 – My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.
  • Proverbs 22:6 – Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it.
  • Deuteronomy 6:6-7 – And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are away on a journey, when you are lying down and when you are getting up again.
  • Psalm 127:3 – Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.

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Since the words of my friend I have slowed down, taken a deep breath, and let my children play and learn naturally. I do plan on using the Moore formula for my youngest two children and I will allow them to lead their education. I do have many items for my 3 year old to use next year when she is 4, which I will leave out on trays for her, if she wishes to do so (Montessori type play and learning). Mainly I will work on Bible teaching with her and let her just be a kid! There will be structured times for the sake of sanity though! My oldest, however, will be using books and workbooks but on a more lenient schedule and maybe lots of lap books! I did not buy a boxed curriculum (nothing against them, we love the one we are currently using) for next year. I have realized over this first year of homeschooling that my daughter is more hands on and artistic so I will be using that to my advantage next year! I loved this first year of learning at home (and not just the kids, but me too). I have come a long way. I want my kids to learn the God way!

I am inviting all mommies out there that feel overwhelmed to slow down, take a deep breath, read God’s Word and enjoy your children. Bring peace into your home and the learning will come naturally! And remember there are many races we are in and homeschooling doesn’t have to be one against other momma’s or public school. We already won the education race!

  • 2 Timothy 4:7-8 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

Music Festival

DSC_0614A few years ago, I knew that most Seventh-day Adventist conferences have music festivals for junior high school level students. I had been inquiring and discovered the band festival was that year. My oldest son was able to participate as a homeschooled student. One of my friends took him and her daughter, since my youngest would have made it more difficult to be on campus all day, and they stayed at a friend’s house nearby. His overall experience was good. The music wasn’t difficult for him because he was in a good band program at our homeschool co-op. He knew someone else in the trombone section from summer camp and Pathfinder events. He saw other kids he knew from church and Pathfinders, as well as one who came from the conference we had moved from, who was also homeschooled.

Fast forward to this year. Now my youngest was old enough to participate. I started checking and discovered that they had changed the festival to include 5th through 12th grades, and each year it includes choir, band, orchestra, and handbells. They were very welcoming to homeschoolers and were advertising it clearly for homeschooled students as well. My oldest was not interested in going at all. Once he took a look at the band music, he really wasn’t interested, because it was fairly easy. My youngest could sight read it, except for one piece that was very difficult. He also played in the orchestra, which had a bit more difficult music for him. (Next year they will probably limit the students to one group.) The conference subsidizes the festival quite a bit. It cost $35 per student for the festival, which included the music, meals, a room in the dorm, and a t-shirt, and no cost for a sponsor. That is a very good deal!DSC_0615

We had a room in the guest wing of the girls’ dorm. He had a lot of fun playing with his friends from Pathfinders and church. We met other homeschooling families. By talking with them, I discovered that some homeschool families will travel to different Adventist academies for music festivals. Some academies hold special events in other academic areas, such as science, math, and technology. It would have been helpful if the homeschool families could have connected better. It is easy to feel separated when the school kids stick together. Part of my reason for going to the music festival was to expose my son to what a boarding school is like. These events are partially a recruitment anyway. Colleges and universities do the same thing for high school students. I missed the deadline for my oldest to participate at the university, because I hadn’t checked on it soon enough.

All this made me think about our group of Adventist homeschoolers and the relationship with education in the Adventist Church. We have talked about organizing ourselves a bit more occasionally. I would propose that we follow the organization of our church in regards to the divisions, union conferences, and conferences. Then if we had someone from each of those levels be a liaison for that area, we could communicate much better with those who plan events, such as campmeetings and educational events. For example, I live in the North American Division, North Pacific Union Conference, Washington Conference. If those of us living in Washington Conference had one person who would stay in touch with the Conference office, to meet with the education department, and talk with school principals to let them know we would love to participate in a variety of academic activities, I think it would help. How many times do we miss out on communication about special events because we are not in the loop?

It would be interesting to explore the possibilities of how Adventist homeschools could work together with traditional Adventist education. For instance, would it be possible to have homeschooling parents involved in teacher training? I can dream, can’t I? Is it possible, if enough of us wanted to, to have outdoor school for homeschool families at summer camps, science week at an academy or university facility, music festivals, mission trips, Bible camps, math camps, and so on? Would we all want to take advantage of that? Probably not, but if there are enough of us working together, we could figure out what our needs are by regions. Improvement in communication is a very good place to start. A big thank you to the schools and conferences that already have taken steps to include homeschoolers.