Nurturing in a Dynamic Way at the Nursing Home

It has been our beautiful experience this year to visit the nursing home several times. What is homeschool (or church for that matter) worth if we aren’t learning compassion, community, and how to communicate despite age or restriction? I’m the director of our church’s Adventurer program (the homeschool-related benefits of such are for another post), and we made these visits with the Adventurer and Pathfinder groups. However, I know, at least from my childhood, that you don’t need an Adventurer program to make a trek to the local nursing home!

In my childhood, we only sang. The singing was beautiful, the singing was important, but I always felt a disconnect…a large chasm between me and the residents. So, I was very intrigued when a friend told me how they take crayons and color with the residents after singing.

I wanted to take it a step further. I have been talking to my kids about the importance of touch, that when we go to the nursing home, our hand on the shoulder, arm, or hand of a resident does much to brighten their day. A side note: Always remember hand-sanitizer before and after visiting. They don’t want our germs as much as we don’t want theirs, but they crave our touch!

Kids are often frightened to go up and shake someone’s hand, but — I’ve seen it with my own eyes — when they are actively engaged in an activity with them, touch happens naturally, and without fear.

So, what activities are safe for little kids, safe for aging (often senile) adults, easy to do with less-than-fine motor skills, easy to clean up, and not too expensive? Here’s what we’ve done so far…

I called the nursing home’s activity director. She was delighted and said that we were more than welcome to do something extra with the residents. I found a tissue paper fall tree craft that begins with a traced hand and wrist. I asked the students to pair up with the residents so that they could trace each other’s hand and help each other with the glue. Instant touch! And the effects were visible on faces. Comfort of the child, and joy of the aged.

They tore off bits of colorful tissue paper, wrapped them around the eraser-end of a pencil (it’s easier to hold) and used the pencil to push the tissue-paper leaves into the glue on the “finger branches.”

I always encourage the students to give their finished product to another resident that wasn’t able to come to activity time on our way out, but of course that’s optional.

Our latest venture was a beaded sun-catcher craft. Just a thin pipe cleaner, translucent pony beads, some odd beads, a twist, and a thread to hang it from. I wanted to sparkle-up their rooms!

I brain-stormed for a month and finally landed on this idea. I could just see them all working together to string the beads. I could hear the objection from the residents, “My eyes aren’t good enough for this,” and my answer, “Well, good news! I brought good eyes and lots and lots of little fingers with me!” And then, the day before we went, the activity director emailed me and said “about half the residents can’t have beads…they’ll try to eat them.”

Aaahhhhhh!!! I hurriedly packed crayons and fun coloring sheets in addition to the beads. The director said that she could seat them at separate tables. (The twist-up crayons encased in plastic are perfect for older hands.) “Half” turned out to be only 4 residents, so the majority got to work with beads, and it was wonderful to watch student and resident working together to make it happen. Haha, remember to ask before you plan.

Jesus knew the value of touch. Sometimes it speaks what cannot be heard…especially if your hearing is not all that good.

Comment below if you have some touch-promoting ideas for me. We are loving it and looking forward to next time. I think one of those giant toy parachutes with all the handles is in our near future!

Marrying Nature Study and Handicrafts for the Holidays

leaf-5

First, a disclaimer: I am not “crafty.” Artistic, yes, but not crafty. I am absolutely positive there are more creative and capable moms out there who could take these crafts to a much higher level. Please feel free to post your ideas (with pictures!) in the comments! No competition here, just sharing the love!

Now that the disclaimer is taken care of…

There just aren’t enough hours in the day around the holidays. I’m all into killing a couple of proverbial birds with one stone, so here goes:

Nature study tends die off in our household about mid-November. Not that we don’t enjoy getting out of doors — we do — but honestly, there is just too much to do! Between the Christmas programs, extra music to learn, seasonal activities, and keeping up with Saxon math (ugh!), the shorter winter days are just not conducive to adding in that extra nature assignment.

In October, as our Adventurer group was collecting leaves for the tree award, it occurred to me that collecting natural materials from the out-of-doors wasn’t a tall assignment, and then we could make Christmas (or other holiday) crafts on colder, icky days in December.

Subjects you can cover with this assignment:

  • Nature Study/Natural Science: Identify those pine and birch trees as you collect needles and bark!
  • History: The Phoenicians were expert dye-makers. What dyes can you make from food or natural materials you have around? How is the process different from in ancient times? What items did the ancients use — or what items were used just a mere 200 years ago? How are paints or dyes for textiles made today?
  • Handicrafts: Charlotte Mason, an educator in the late 19th century, advocated for practical projects that children could make and use (or give away) as an essential part of education. (You might even be able to get some Adventurer awards taken care of with these crafts!)
  • Art: Art history might even be a subject to cover during this time. Perhaps one of your cards is inspired by an impressionist artist, or you are interested in artists who use a particular medium or style. These would be excellent, delight-directed unit study or extracurricular research projects.

Pinterest and internet searches are obvious places to look for ideas, but you might even try collecting items in your yard or along a nature path first, and then brainstorming for ways to use the items.

We concentrated on making Christmas cards using birch bark, pine needles, natural (homemade) dyes, and leaves. I purchased some blank cards with envelopes and a few pieces of scrapbook paper to add to our collected items. We also used ink pads, stamps, twine, and embossing powder to embellish the cards. This was really my first attempt at card-making, so my kids and I were experimenting together!

Starting list of items to collect:

  • Grasses, weeds, pine needles, bark, sticks from lilies, acorns
  • Pressed flowers from spring, summer, and fall
  • Pressed leaves
  • Bird nests
  • Feathers
  • Snake skins
  • Dried lavender and other herbs

Ideas for handicrafts using natural materials:

  • Candle holders (Arrange materials around a glass votive.)
  • Wreaths
  • Shadow boxes (Arrange items and then tack them in; label them if you wish.)
  • Hairpieces
  • Decorative baskets (Hot glue natural materials to the outside of a basket to “spruce” it up, literally.)
  • Art pieces (Include a special feather or grass in a painting for a 3D effect.)
  • Cards or gift tags

Enjoy your completed projects at home or give them away as handmade gifts! Happy holidays!

Making Holiday Memories That Last!

I absolutely love this time of year! I have so many fond memories as a child that I find myself sometimes going a little overboard trying to bring that specialness to my own children — so much so, that I can even resemble Griswold from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”! It can be stressful!! So, I began to think back and evaluate what I really remember as a child. Honestly it wasn’t any of the presents I received or all of the holiday parties we went to. It was those simple traditions that we did together as a family. One of those memories that stands out is of us making sugar cookies together. We made them every year and have carried that tradition on with our own children.

300310_2412045428695_778382947_n

What is it about cookie-making for us? It’s not that they are yummy, or pretty, or messy, or fun….well it’s actually all of that plus more! It’s that we do it together. We get flour on our cheeks and frosting on our fingers. We laugh, talk, create, and eat. Togetherness is what creates the memories that really make an impact on our children’s lives!

163229_1743905005602_5154725_n

10632718_10208442355804613_5330770796296377229_n

During the month of December, I like to switch up our curriculum and take on a more simplified and holiday-focused theme. We learn compassion through gift giving and random acts of kindness. We learn counting and calendars through our Advent calendar. We read classic Christmas literature and poems and work on math, science, and home skills through baking. We also tie in art and music through special church programs and creative crafts we do. We help feed the homeless, and collect items for those in need. There are so many different subjects you can tie into Christmas-themed projects. But, to really make whatever you do memorable, do it together as a family!

409000_3000859508679_479085680_n

393231_3000856908614_878477743_n

Just for you, here is my late mother’s tried and true sugar cookie recipe!

sugar-cookies

Easy Quiet Book for Little Ones

10253943_10208851331308745_1021842760731006372_n

If you’ve ever had a very active toddler like I do, I’m sure you’ve wondered many times what you can do to keep them busy. When my firstborn son was little, my mother lovingly sewed him a quiet book for church. It was beautiful and he loved it! Sadly I was not gifted with the sewing gene, and my mother has since passed on. So, I pondered as to how I could make something for our newest little girl! While I may not be able to sew well or at all, I can laminate like there is no tomorrow!!

1918196_10208851331508750_3171448024542899395_n 165972_10208851331748756_8131460986736096748_n

When my older children were younger, I made tons of laminated file folder games for them. There are so many free file folder games online that you can just print out and laminate! Did I mention I LOVE laminating!! So I thought, “Why not make a laminated quiet book!” How easy is that! I dug through my extensive collection of file folder games and also searched for new free ones online. Then I printed, laminated, and cut out the game pieces.

1927748_10208851331908760_3642457080862896660_n 12743582_10208851332188767_3769213286994073941_n

Next was to find a three-ring binder that was just the right size. I went with a 1″ binder and made a pretty cover for it. Then I affixed magnets onto the laminated game boards, where the pieces would go, and slid them into sheet protectors. I did this so that she wouldn’t be tempted to pull the magnets off. I cut apart business card magnets for the game boards and the pieces. After that I separated out the game pieces into individual ziplock bags and stored them in a three-ring pencil case.

12733993_10208851332308770_7648167435675980573_n 12745921_10208851332508775_7162866818787120953_n

I love the flexibility of this quiet book because I can make up multiple activities, store them in my file cabinet, and change them out. The possibilities are endless! You can make one that is spiritually centered for church, and one that is early learning based, or combine them together. My three-year-old loves hers. I have even thought about making some activities that are seasonally themed also!

12744086_10208851332828783_8842138871512766311_n 12705438_10208821585365115_7626413232925085603_n

Below is the link to my Pinterest board with tons of free File Folder Game Printables!!

File Folder Games – Pinterest

The laminator I have used for years is the Duck Electric Laminator. I originally purchased it at Walmart for $25, but they no longer carry this brand. There are many that are comparable in price and quality though. I love my laminator, and it was one of my best homeschool purchases!

 

Summer Trip Tips

For my last post of the year, it’s only fitting that I share with you a few things that I’ve done as I prepare for and begin our 6,000-mile, six-week expedition across the United States. Driving. With three small people.

My traveling companions are my youngest son who will turn 15 the second week of our trip, precluding his helping me drive (no chance to get a permit), and my two younger daughters, aged 11 and 9 years old.

Our route will encompass the states, beginning in Colorado, of Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ontario (Canada), New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico — not quite half of these 50 United States.

Route

We will leave Colorado before the last snowfall of the year, and hope to get out of Florida before the oppressive heat begins. The race is on!

Fortunately, we won’t be traveling long, brutal hours on the road. Our trip is split up into mostly bite-size stretches of Interstate. We either have family, friends or hotels to allow for a stop of a couple of hours for a meal or even overnight for a brief sleep.

Yes, the kids have electronics but at some point even that becomes incapable of passing the miles and hours. What to do…what to do!

I thought I would share some tips, perhaps a couple of games that I have gleaned from experience and the internet that have been a big hit so far.

So far our favorite game so far is “Cows on My Side.”

I figured the girls would enjoy this game, but as it turned out even my 15-year old got into it and became quite eagle eyed!

Observation is key! What you’re looking for is cows on your side of the vehicle (teams are allowed). The rules are as follows:

When you see a cow on your side of the road, you have to yell, “Cows on my side!”

Every time you call a cow, you get a point. If you see cows on the other side you say, “Cows on your side!” If you call, “Cows on your side,” before the person sees them, you steal a point.

If anyone sees a cemetery they call out, “Ghost cow,” stealing all the other side’s points.

We added the rule that if you called “Cows on my side!” and it turned out to be a horse, dog or clump of dirt, you lose a point.

We also began looking for other unusual animals such as llamas which counted for five points. You could add in other animals that would count for various high-scoring-points depending on the rarity of the animal.

My kids were on the edges of their seats looking for bovines throughout a stretch of Nebraska that was BORRRRRRR-RING!! I couldn’t quite believe that they were engaged with the outdoors and each other instead of their noses buried in electronic gadgets!

For each of the states we will travel, we are referencing the website http://www.50states.com and reading the 50 facts about each state as we are driving in it. This activity doesn’t last long but it provokes some interesting conversations that maximize teachable moments focusing on history!

The other thing I did was prepare several “bingo” cards. The bingo cards were either for restaurants (makes of vehicles (logos for Toyota, Honda, Fords, etc.) or road signs.

Restaurant bingo

I printed these sheets out two to a page and cut them in half. Then I went to Walmart and got three storage clipboards (to store the bingo sheets and other print outs), a package of white-erase markers and three “Scotch Display Pocket” which is like a page protector on steroids. Basically it’s glossy and is heavy duty (vs. the page protector which I was afraid might get beat up).

display pocket

The kids would take a sheet of bingo, place it in the display pocket and could write on it to their hearts content and I won’t have to print out a bunch of colored sheets! Woot!

Then a second benefit of the white-erase markers became apparent: the kids could write on their windows and it was easily cleaned off!

{jaw drops open}

When my oldest two were toddlers, my husband came up with the brilliant idea of letting the boys put stickers on the back seat windows to keep them entertained.

Yeah. That was sarcasm. Worst idea ever.

I had thoughts for which I had to repent as I did my best to get those stickers off the windows with Goof-off and razor blades.

So when I realized that the girls were drawing on the windows, I about had a heart attack! But when I looked back around ready to reprimand, I saw Laurie sedately erasing her beautiful drawing leaving behind nothing more than a few ubiquitous finger prints on the windows…that probably pre-dated said drawings.

Now that was brilliant!

If you’re taking dogs along on your trip, (yep, I have two Italian Greyhounds), keep in mind that you can now find dog parks within a matter of moments on your phone GPS unit. This saved me and my dogs both enormous mental stress!

I was able to locate a beautiful park in Iowa City, Iowa, that had a separate area where small dogs could play unmolested by the large dogs whose area shared a common fence.

That common chain-link fence was amazing! It allowed my little dogs to see and bark at the big dogs then race up and down said fence with the big dogs expending lots and lots of energy without becoming the running squeaky toy of every dog in the place!

When you get to somewhere and the weather is nasty, may I suggest a fantastic way to pass the time!

Also at Walmart, I grabbed Elmer’s glue, fancy yarn (I got much fancier than what is pictured), cheap spray adhesive and colored paper to use as a backing (or matting), making them bigger circles than the circles you cut out of travel pictures and/or maps printed of the major cities where we’d been. You can add glitter – the confetti with shapes – or any other decorations you can think of!

Voila!

Map craft

So far we haven’t had a chance to work on these, but I figure that if nothing else it can be a project for when we get home. Compile all of our pictures, print them out and go to town!

There’s a few ideas from what we’re doing! There’s much more out there than simply the Alphabet Game – always a family favorite.

If you’re inspired by these few little offerings, may I suggest you go to Pinterest and search “travel games.” Prepare to be sucked in for hours at a time!

Have a great summer, y’all! May God bring us all back again this fall from our various wanderings and activities this summer!