Holidays Bring Opportunities

Thanksgiving holidays are over for Canadians. We’re gearing up for Remembrance Day and Christmas already. If the snow hasn’t flown yet, it will soon and winter will be settling in. For those in the States, Thanksgiving and Christmas are rolling up faster than you can imagine.

Life presents so many opportunities for discussion. One of the advantages in homeschooling is that we can direct difficult conversations — we can answer questions, or pose them when applicable. We can help our children form their own fact-based opinions in these areas. We can help them discover their thoughts, their own ideas. We can help them think through all the options and information. Sharing what others believe, what we believe, and the reasons why helps our children to critically think through the issues and form their own opinions, which will last longer than if we insist they take only hours.

One of the life opportunities I’m grateful for is Halloween. It’s also just around the corner and, even if you don’t celebrate it, we can’t ignore it. We don’t celebrate Halloween in our home, and I’m grateful my boys don’t question that; they don’t enjoy Halloween or any of the decorations. We can’t bury our heads in the sand, and we can’t ignore the celebration of Halloween when it is all around us.

Halloween has been a time of less media because we don’t enjoy shows that highlight Halloween. It does however, open up many conversations. Some of the conversations revolve around vandalism and lead to respecting other people’s property. We live in the city and during Halloween there are houses TP’d, graffiti increases, and things are destroyed. We have conversations about God vs. Satan, the war between good and evil, and how we must choose which side to be on. We discuss healthy eating, even during holidays — showing self-restraint when the temptation is all around us, even being pushed on us. It’s an opportunity to respectfully engage others in conversation, to be kind even when people disagree with us.

Every opportunity is one for education, for improvement of character. Let’s not miss any simply because we don’t like the holiday or event at hand.

School’s Out for SUMMER!

Summer is upon us in the western hemisphere. Thank goodness!

Homeschooling is full of blessings, but it also adds a special kind of intensity to life. You personally have taken on the education of your children — putting them in your presence pretty much 24 hours a day. Families with kids in school face many other stresses, but the care of their children is given up to someone else for six or more hours every day. That gives them a little bit of breathing room. When you are with your kids nearly nonstop, there are constant reminders that you are their primary example in nearly everything. That’s a lot of responsibility.

Besides an emphasis on growth in character, values, work ethic, and relationship with Christ, your days have been full of math, reading, writing, history, spelling, science, penmanship, grammar, languages, and more. For most of us summer is a welcome deviation from the routine. You may do like our family does, and have a revised summer schedule —just Bible and math, in our case; or you may scale back moderately on academics; or you may chuck anything curriculum related entirely. No matter your approach, the change is a break from a full schedule of daily plodding, and it’s a welcome respite.

Our summer has already started with work skills as we begin our home addition, and we’ve made travel plans to incorporate some much-needed fun. There are also plans for outdoor church and summer campouts with our church family. My son wants to do a little bit of math all summer, too, “so my brain doesn’t forget,” as he says. The aura is different, though. It’s not driven so much as elective.

I hope that no matter how you treat your summer break, that you leave plenty of time to refresh both mind and body. Possibly more importantly, parents: Prioritize some time to refresh with God, too — maybe a new Bible study plan, extra prayer time, even something simple like cultivating the spirit of constantly listening to Him. Your academic schedule will be faced with more enthusiasm next school year by both you and the kids if you’ve enjoyed a season of rejuvenation.

The SDA Homeschool Families blog is also going to take some time off to rest and refresh. We’ve had a dedicated crew of busy writers this year. They’ve spent a lot of time sharing information, resources, and personal experiences that they hope have benefited and blessed you. Many of us will be back in the fall, and hopefully we’ll gain some new writers too. If you have an interest in writing once a month, or even less periodically, for this blog, please contact us by sending a Facebook message to LaDonna Lateadah, Susanna Joy, or me.

See you back here in September. Happy Summer!

Surefooted After the Holidays

dreamstime_xl_35184731 Sure-foot’ed, adjective

  1. unlikely to stumble or slip
  2. confident and competent

I don’t know about you, but I feel lacking in confidence after the holidays when it comes to our home school. We’ve spent much of the last two months absorbed in holiday cooking, do-it-yourself gift making, weekly church musical practices, etc. AND…I did count those as learning opportunities of course! But, at this point in time, I am eager to get my feet back on the ground and into routine with a new focus.

I do love the holidays and the warm early evenings indoors with a good book and my little people gathered around to listen. That being said, I also will admit that holidays stress me out a tad because I get anxious we may lose sight of the true meaning of these events while getting caught up in the pace the world tries to set for us. And so every year, I plan ways we might make these events a blessing to those around us, and an opportunity to be blessed in return. But, this post is about how to gain a strong footing again if we’ve found ourselves losing balance post holiday flurry.

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Count Your Blessings

After you’ve cleaned up and put away the holiday decor, serving ware, etc., have a family date night where you make cookies again (to enjoy for yourselves) and reminisccookiedatenitee over the holiday season and what you’ve enjoyed most so far, and the looks on the faces of those you saw open gifts, or experiences you were happy to share with others. Talk about what you’d like to do again the following year and what it meant to each family member.

Make New Goals

Yes, I do make new years resolutions! I’m saying pick three things you want to do before winter’s over, like go sledding or snowshoeing or make ice cream out of snow — some fun activities that don’t cost money that you can do as a family to continue to enjoy this time of year that you may not have had time or snow to do so before the holidays. This year I’m hoping to try ice skating, which I haven’t done for ages. I also love to pick some personal goals in our home school for each family member, and this year I have some fun ideas which I plan on posting in January as we embark to pursue them.

Declutter and Organize

No matter how much I commit to having a simpler Christmas every year, we always are blessed beyond my imagination, and after the holidays I take the opportunity to find a place for each thoughtful item gifted. The children and I evaluate where we will keep our newly acquired treasures, and often they use this time also to donate items they are replacing or no longer want/need. This sort of coincides with the for-every-item-in-one-goes-out thinking. We do a scan of gently used items we can donate to local charity before the holidays so those things can be a blessing to others in need. But, we often can do it again post gift-giving season. When everyone in the home has received new items, I tend to get overwhelmed if we do not do this final step in closing out the year. “A place for everything and everything in its place!”

I pray these three simple steps help you find a sure footing in your homeschool journey as you prepare for another year of adventure learning beside your precious pupils. May the love we shared over the holidays, as we took comfort in the birth of our Savior and gave thanks over the many things He has done for us, shine forth afresh from our homes and the hearts of each member residing therein!

Blessings,

Allison

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The Why of Jesus’ Birth

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,” Isaiah 9:6.

In all the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations, do we take the time to really think about what the birth of Jesus is all about? There’s also the confusion with the fact that the day we celebrate His birth has its roots in a pagan day.  While we know that Christmas is not the true day of Christ’s birth, we need to understand why He was born at all. Why didn’t Jesus just come down from heaven and live a week or so, then be killed and rise a day or so later? Wouldn’t that have saved us?

With all the controversy over Christmas — from the view that it is totally pagan and should never be celebrated, to the view that it’s roots are insignificant and it should be fully celebrated — maybe we should change our focus to why Jesus would come as baby at all.

As I have pondered why Jesus would come to this earth and be born as a baby, I have seen an importance that we usually miss or pass over lightly. We often look at the cross as being the only thing for our salvation. The cross gives us the forgiveness we need, but His birth gives us the reason and strength to learn how to live godly lives. The why of Jesus’ birth is to give us the desire and strength to live our lives with the connection to Heaven that Jesus had, and to give us the victory over our sinful ways. To have this connection with God in our daily life, as Jesus did, will give us the strength to overcome. This should be something we do every day, so we should celebrate Jesus birth and death every day. Both are vital to our salvation in our lives day by day.

As we enjoy this Christmas season, after all the celebrations and dinners are over, let us not lose the importance of what Jesus came for, and remember His birth every day.

Marrying Nature Study and Handicrafts for the Holidays

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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!