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!

Unit Studies for All Ages

Our family uses unit studies, interspersed with other methods. For us, the unit study approach helps keep learning energized, and makes it real. It’s also a great way to take a short break, while still learning.2015-08-15 11.31.38

A fun way to utilize the unit study approach with multiple age levels is to pick a topic that the children have shown interest in, or one that you feel important for them to study, and build around the subject.

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One of my older sons, now in college, recently helped me start a unit study on space by taking our homeschoolers to the Kennedy Space Center. While such a trip can actually span into aeronautics, engineering, or many other lines, I chose the more open topic of space as it seemed fitting with the recent updates on Pluto and the interests of our homeschoolers.

2015-08-15 13.24.24While at the Space Center, they experienced enough in a day to fill the unit study itself. It actually was a springboard to study our history of space knowledge and exploration, the difference between theories and true facts, and a bit of math facts combined with physics, as we continue to study size, distance, speed, and more. I’ve even found a way to incorporate nutrition as we discuss what the astronauts eat while in training and in space.

india satelliteA similar technique to developing unit studies can be used for studying people, cultures, or countries. We recently had the opportunity to dine at an Indian restaurant. The food was amazing with many vegetarian options.

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We could have just looked at a map and discussed the country of India for a short while, but I decided to extend this into a true unit study.


India is an amazing country, rich in history with many beautiful geographic locations. There exist many subcultures within this large country; it would be easy to spend an entire year on such a unit study. For us, a week, sometimes two, is a better choice, so we delved into the history, geography, available foods and cuisine.

But then we added in the current population density, the monetary system, and other facts to incorporate math learning. With India, as with any country, social studies of the population and subcultures can be an overview for younger children or quite detailed for older ones.

With any of our unit studies, a journal with photos is expected and a true report might also be appropriate. The journal might be done by each child individually, but sometimes we choose to do a family project.

One major tie-in that always is included is the Bible. There are many ways to bring the Bible in: studying the religions of the region, discussing how God created the universe, and even discussing God’s plans for our own lives.

Unit studies can be part of a structured homeschool program, the center of your homeschooling, or a short break from the norm. They are not our sole method of learning, but they are an important part of our homeschool experience and add an enrichment factor to keep learning focused on real life and God’s many blessings.

The Craft and Project Fair

Isaac is shows the process it takes to submit a new Pathfinder Honor and what it takes to become official.

Isaac is shows the process it takes to submit a new Pathfinder Honor and what it takes to become official.

It always starts out innocently enough. A simple conversation with a newly retired teacher and suddenly I’m involved in another project. I’m an idea person. Thinking up ideas comes easily, but I don’t usually enjoy putting them into practice. So when my friend and fellow church member began the discussion of how homeschool makes it difficult to do oral presentations of projects the idea grew and combined a bit with another idea that had been bouncing around in my head for a long time. This past Sunday was the first annual Craft and Project Fair at our church.

We chose a Sunday morning, but are rethinking that next year we will do it on a Saturday night around the end of January when the sun goes down super early. We had been promoting the event and had a deadline for signing up.

Micah helping someone with his challenge to recognize familiar Bible texts written in Latin that was part of his display.

Micah helping someone with his challenge to recognize familiar Bible texts written in Latin that was part of his display.

We used a form that included information the participant could fill in to help us plan what to provide, such as size of space needed, electrical needs, kitchen needs and so on. We promoted by talking to specific people, making announcements at church, bulletin announcements, and making sure we were available after church to field questions and hand out application forms.

My friend had time to do more of the detailed planning and finishing touches for the event. She organized who would be at which table. She made name-tags for the tables. She also made personalized thank you notes for each participant accompanied by homemade muffins for them the morning of the event. We had a microphone to make announcements when demonstrations would be starting and be able to give out more information during the event.

A retired engineer shares his love for repairing and collecting clocks.

A retired engineer shares his love for repairing and collecting clocks.

We had 25 participants from early elementary school level to the retired older members of our church, and even a friend of one of our church members who had never been to our church before. The variety of displays were enjoyable and well balanced for academic, projects, crafts, hobbies, and food demonstrations. Everyone was engaging in conversations and hands-on activities. We had some that had specific times for demonstrations. One was sharing how she makes blankets for a specific ministry. One high school student shared her biology project and admitted she was glad she signed up for this event so she could get her project done before it was due. Some of the craft items were for sale, and many were contributing to specific mission trips or other church projects. The food demonstrations and the soap making demonstrations drew the largest crowds. The food smelled amazing and then the food items were available for purchase or by donations. We also provided other food items to make it a more complete meal experience and were able to raise more money and recover our expenses for putting on the fair.

A soap-making demonstration draws a crowd.

A soap-making demonstration draws a crowd.

Overall, my goals for the event were met. People interacted and discovered mutual interests or were able to learn something new. My boys had to prepare a project and interact with others about their project. Participating students represented homeschool, public school, and private school. Best of all, the fair proved that we never stop learning and discovering new things no matter how old we are.

After three hours, many were still engaged in conversation and not in a hurry to leave. The clean up went quickly. My husband even commented what a great turn out it was for our congregation and for the first year. My friend and I agreed that we will limit the participation to 25 again next year due to space requirements, but that might change as we continue to debrief and the feedback continues to come in.



Learning by Exchanging Post Cards



The proposal for a postcard exchange with the SDA Homeschool Families Facebook group caused my creative side to jump up and down with enthusiasm. However, my logical side merely stood with arms folded, foot tapping and an eye roll trying to remind me of other commitments needing attention. Ignoring my logical side, I signed up for an opportunity of creative learning in exchange for some expenses and a bit of work.

A total of 30 families joined the project. Two families from Canada, two families from Australia, one from Barbados and the rest from the United States representing 16 of the states. A secret Facebook group provided security sharing addresses. A schedule divided six groups of families to mail postcards to each group over six weeks during September and October.

The excitement swelled as families began the exchange. Some families lived remote enough that they traveled long distances to purchase postcards and postage. Some families opted to make their postcards. Each family had to decide how to approach the language arts activity of writing and deciding content of a brief message. Skills needed for addressing and placing postage on the card became an issue of age and legibility.


Some families followed the mailing schedule with great accuracy. A few vacations or moves delayed some, however most of the postcards eventually got to their destination. (With various delays, my family did get them mailed, but some of the postcards will arrive after the families have read this.)

Reports indicated that other family members joined in the enthusiasm as cards arrived from distant places. Pictures were posted of postcards arriving, postcards in the clutches of delighted children, and postcards next to maps.

Each family possesses a pile of postcards bursting with potential educational opportunities. Families not a part of a postcard exchange can adapt the ideas using a list for friends and family. Or families may wish to make list of missionary families from Adventist Frontier Missions. Somehow make a list of addresses or locations and join in.

The most common activity reported was using maps to show participant locations. This can be done with wall maps or printing out maps or making a notebook. I like the notebook idea for long term learning. Put together some pages with maps and flags and a pocket for the postcard. Add additional information studied about that country/state/province.

Use the postcards to launch into a variety of educational activities. Below are some ideas you may use. I’m looking forward to using them for a long time. Maybe my logical side will eventually forgive my creative side as the learning opportunities continue.


Map reading skills include compass directions, latitude and longitude. Determine who lives the farthest north and south, east and west.

Learn about the International Dateline.  Who begins Sabbath first?

Learn about the hemispheres, biomes, bodies of water, land formations, climates, and seasons in the various places represented by the postcards.

Compare the land mass of the different countries, provinces, and states.


Social Studies, History, and Economics

Learn about the postal system for your country and the other countries. How are zip codes determined? Are zip codes different in another country? When and why were zip codes introduced? What kinds of jobs are connected with the postal system?

Discover flags from the places represented by the postcards.

Compare population ratios of the represented countries, states/provinces.

How many forms of transportation are found in pictures on the postcards?

Find pictures on the postcards representing urban and rural areas.

Research what industries are common in different regions.

What exports are common from the different regions?

What currency do the different countries use?

Are there any historical places, events or people represented on the postcards?

What icons or symbols are used to represent different regions or countries?

What relationship does Great Britain have with each country historically and currently?

How similar/dissimilar are each country’s government?

Can you discover any Church history from the regions represented?

Music and Art

Can you think of or find folk music from the regions represented?

Find recordings and listen to the National Anthems from each country.

Compare the different architecture represented in pictures on some of the postcards.

Look for work done by an artist on the postcards.

Design your own postcard staying within the regulations for the postal system.


Counting skills: count all kinds of things from the postcards themselves to items on postcards.

Calculate the expenses used for postage and postcards.

Orient the postcard’s pictures using the terms vertical/horizontal or portrait/landscape.

Measure each postcard. Calculate the area and the perimeter of the largest and the smallest ones. You may find similar sizes with different proportions to compare how it affects perimeter and area. If you have a scale that can do it, weigh the postcards. Is there a big difference in the weight of each card compared to its area? How much do all of them weigh together?


Learn more about plants, animals and birds found in pictures on the postcards.

Look for anything reflecting engineering, physics or chemistry.

Learn about any unique geological features represented on the postcards.

Language Arts

Look for letters of the alphabet.

Practice reading different handwriting.

Alphabetize names of regions, last name of sender or other items on the postcards.

Learn to spell names and the abbreviations of countries/provinces/states.

Learn the abbreviations used commonly for addresses and learn to spell the full words correctly.

Relate the settings from literature to the regions represented from a postcard.



Have your student be a travel agent and plan an itinerary for a road trip to visit a certain number of families. Adjust to the student’s abilities. Use math skills to determine distances between destinations. Calculate airfare to be able to visit each family. You could increase the difficulty with finding out the estimated expenses for the trip including fuel, motels, and visiting any attractions in the area.

Take a look at each stamp. Compare similarities and differences. Can you read the information from the cancelation stamp? Was the stamp cancelled in the same city the sender lives in? If not, how far did the postcard travel before the stamp was cancelled? Can you find out why some are cancelled in different locations from where they were probably mailed?

Many postcards have barcodes printed on them, so learn more about barcodes.

Sort the postcards by various categories, such as ones that have a certain color, ones that have a picture of an animal or bird, ones that have a building pictured, ones that picture a form of transportation, and ones that are not photographs and so on.

Look for more information from the pictures, stamps, addresses, names, and messages on the postcards which can be used for learning opportunities.