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!

Homeschooling as a Single Parent, Part 2: Preparing for Sabbath While Going it Alone

I think one of the hardest challenges I had as a single parent was trying to get all the kids ready for church, arrive in time, and still maintain some type of spiritual awareness. I have to confess that I failed on that last point many times.

It’s hard being a single parent no matter what school choice you make. It’s harder when you are going it alone as a homeschooling parent. You have hardly any free time to just focus on the house or even have “me” time. Then there is the issue of Sabbath and trying to get things ready so the house is ready, Sabbath lunch is prepared, the kids are up and dressed, you are out of the door on time, AND you are spiritually ready to be fed by the pastor that morning.

As I type those words, I can just feel the old feelings coming up in my body, and the thoughts of “that’s impossible” resonate in my mind.

Let me assure you that it is possible. It is not easy, but it is possible.

Many times I have read posts of parents trying to schedule each moment in the school day; yet on Sabbath, the schedule falls to the wayside. In my opinion, the Sabbath is one day when a schedule needs to be followed as much as possible in order to maintain some semblance of order when you are going it alone.

Today, I want to share with you some ideas I’ve garnered over the years on how to maintain a Sabbath rest while dealing with all the challenges of single parenting.

One of the most helpful things someone suggested to me when my kids were young was to make sure I had Sabbath clothes clean and ready on Sunday rather than waking up on Saturday morning with a child yelling they had nothing to wear that was clean. So, Sunday was laundry day. When the children are older, they can become responsible for their own laundry. I assigned days for each child where they would wash their own clothes, once they reached the tween years.

So, once the clothes are washed, dried, and put away (yes, instead of on the couch), each child can pick out their outfit and have it ready on the hanger. Shoes are nearby also.

Weekly housework can be divided up so that most of everything is done by Thursday rather than waiting until Friday. Wait, isn’t Friday Preparation Day? Yes, and unless you want to run yourself ragged trying to get everything done, it’s best to assign chores so that throughout the week, everything is taken care of. The only thing left on Friday should be meal prep for Sabbath, getting things together for the next morning’s rush, and even planning a Sabbath afternoon activity.

If your children are walking, they can be doing chores, even if it is just picking up their own toys. By the time they are teenagers, they would benefit from having learned how to run the whole house on their own. Believe me! I graduated without knowing how to do this. I made sure my children learned. They will be much better off in the long run; plus, it relieves stress and responsibility from you.

For meal planning, the older ones can take turns deciding menus and even cooking the meal. This is good life preparation. It also helps develop good habits for when they are on their own. Sabbath afternoon plans can also be planned by the younger ones. This also teaches life skills. Plus, it gives them ownership in the family. They also learn more about what’s appropriate and what’s not. It also lessens the stress on the parent.

If you need help in getting the house chores done before Friday, FlyLady is a great resource. Donna Young’s site also has some good resources on home management, along with homeschooling. There are also chore lists available to help parents know which chores are appropriate for what age.

Clothes are done. Chores are finished. The house is ready for Sabbath. The menu is planned and prepared. Activity is planned. Now, for the finishing touches of actually going into the Sabbath hours.

We had evening and morning worship in our home. On Friday evening, it would be nice if some special activities could be planned. Perhaps even a special Friday evening meal could be made. Candles could be used. Songs sung. Favorite verses recited. Blessings of the week shared.

Some meal ideas could be potato bar, pizza night, popcorn and smoothies, or whatever is a family favorite. We loved haystacks. It was easy to fix and easy to clean up. Some families will use disposables on Sabbath to save time in clean up. Other families will use the special china on Sabbath. You determine yourself what is most important. Just develop a nice family evening that can be fun and relaxing, while helping you turn your thoughts to God in a special way.

Since the clothes were made ready last Sunday, Fridays can be time to grab baths, perhaps before supper so that evening worship is calm and relaxing. Saturday morning, try to get up early enough yourself so you can have time for your own personal devotion time. I know I would often skip this on Sabbath, thinking I would still have spiritual food at the church service. The problem is that it would lead me where I was not focused on God so much as the things I needed to get done in time.

Always get the kids down to bed on time on Friday so that Saturday morning is easier with a full night’s rest. If you have little kids, be sure to have their Sabbath bags ready on Friday so they are ready to grab as you walk out the door. You can even have the bags in the car when you get the car ready for Sabbath. If you have a diaper bag, that can be ready and in the car already. Snacks, if used, can also be done on Friday.

I am one who feels like if I am not at least 10 minutes early, I am late. It would create stress on me, trying to get the kids up and out the door on time. Give yourself time for those last-minute happenings. We can plan and schedule, but life happens. Build in a time cushion. It’s important for children to learn to be to church on time. Teach them by example. On the other hand, it is also important for them to learn that when we mess up or something happens, it is up to us to show them how to cope with stress. Breathe, pray, ask for forgiveness (if needed), and move on. I hope that the event doesn’t cause yelling and scolding. This can lead to everyone in the home losing Sabbath blessings. Instead, the young ones can learn so many spiritual blessings even in these times.

Once at church, breathe, relax — no matter how things were that morning — and let God bless you. Be sure to enjoy the interaction of your church family. This is a good time to allow those adoptive grandparents to step in and help with the kids. If you do not have to, please do not volunteer for children’s Sabbath School. With you homeschooling and being a single parent, it is good for the children to have other godly adults speak into their lives. Plus, it gives you a chance to soak in spiritual support from other adults.

Sabbath does not have to be the hardest day of the week. It can be the blessing God intends it to be. It takes planning and consistency. It takes asking God for the strength and wisdom each day, especially on the Sabbath.

As you finish the Sabbath hours, it can include family worship, a fun family meal like pizza and popcorn, along with a family activity. We would rotate between board games and family movies. It’s a good time to thank God for the day’s blessings.


Easy Quiet Book for Little Ones


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!!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!


What are you doing to get youth involved in your church services?

I wonder if all churches have the same problem ours does — th2013-05-04 11.10.45at is, where are the youth? Well, OK, many youth during the school year are away at academies, or so you might think. But, in reality, at most only a few families have chosen to send their youth to boarding school. This school year, we have one from our church at the academy; we had only one last year, and that was only part of the year. Does that mean we have a small church? No, we are one of the five largest congregations in the state! So, where are the youth?

Working at summer camp? Well, possibly, but camps don’t run all year.  So, where are our youth?

In the case of our congregation, they simply don’t come, or if they come, they wander around the church or gather in the parking lot to talk; they don’t participate in the church service. Why?

The answer is simple. There is nothing that attracts them.


In our church, what few youth we do have in our congregation tend to migrate to other Adventist churches which have dynamic youth leaders with great programs. That is all well and good, and I’m glad to see they are welcomed and appreciated, but what about our congregation? Even I have had to keep very close eyes on my son and redirect him to the church service at hand when he is distracted by his disinterested friends (on the few occasions they do come to church).

Have you encountered, “I don’t deal with youth well.” Or, “So-and-so can do it, I just don’t have the time.” Or, “My kids aren’t that age, so I have no interest.” Or, “I’ll help if someone else leads out.” I thought so — because not only have I encountered it, I must admit, I have said it.

So, what we have done to change that? My family and I have begun using video cameras and young people (pre-youth age) as our camera crew. About six or seven years ago, the church purchased a couple of cameras and a camera switcher (known as the Tri-Caster). For six months those cameras remained unused, until my husband pushed the church board into providing additional funding to wire the church so we could connect the cameras to the Tri-Caster to use them for our church services.

After a few trial-and-errors, and a lot of desperate attempts to recruit adult help, I finally turned to our pre-youth young people. They were eager and excited! I did have to convince a few very skeptical board members, but with the head elder on my side, we moved forward. Very quickly I had more kids than positions, so I set about making new positions! Over the course of the two-and-a-half years we’ve been using kids, it has been amazing to see what has happened. Families are becoming more involved. One family (and this is a story in itself*) is now involved with Pathfinders and teaching Primary.  Another young person, now a youth, is in academy at her request after spending all her previous school years in public school. Our camera crew kids include those who were naughty and troublesome before, but now are striving to become leaders and positive role models.


Our congregation is giving each of these crew members not only the video skills they are gaining, but also leadership, organization, accountability, and, most importantly, a feeling their church accepts them and loves them.

So, what are you doing to keep your youth, or youth-to-be in your congregation?

*That family that is a story in itself? I didn’t even intend to ask that boy at the time, but I did due to a misidentification. You see, we had two kids, siblings, whose dad had recently passed away. Our head elder had asked me to specifically ask these two kids to be a part of the crew to help them deal with the grief of their dad’s death. As requested, I asked the older girl if she wanted to be a part of this, and she agreed. Then I turned to her younger brother (or so I thought) and asked him. He agreed. A few seconds later I realized my mistake. I couldn’t really un-ask the boy, so as promised, after church, I went to the mother and explained what we do, not saying a word of my mistake. Her reply stunned me and convinced me that in those few brief seconds, God blinded me as to the true identity of the boy I was asking. She told me, “Thank you so much for asking. We were about ready to go to another church which had more activities for him.” Today, not only is this boy a dependable and hardworking member of our crew, but because of his involvement, the whole family is involved with Pathfinders, Sabbath School, and in other offices of the church. And, that boy was recently baptized…all because of a mistaken identity. The family gratefully acknowledges it is because their boy was asked to be part of our camera crew.


Holiday Learning

Our family has been holding Passover Seders for years. That’s the huge family meal and reading which begins the Passover season. Because we’re not Jewish, we take some liberties and always hold it on the first Friday night of Passover, rather than whatever the first night happens to be.

The Seder plate holds the significant items for the meal, and the Haggadah reading explains those items to the participants.

The Seder plate holds the significant items for the meal, and the Haggadah reading explains those items to the participants.

My son has sat through numerous Seders from the time he was a baby. We missed last year, though, so this year — when he was 11 — was really the first year to be truly significant for him. As the eldest child present for the first time, he was selected to ask the traditional four questions to the head of the household:

 Why is this night different from all the other nights?
On all other nights, we eat either leavened bread or matzah; why, on this night—only matzah?
On all other nights, we eat all kinds of herbs; why, on this night, do we especially eat bitter herbs?
On all other nights, we do not dip herbs at all; why, on this night, do we dip them twice?
On all other nights, we eat in an ordinary manner; why, tonight, do we dine with special ceremony?

Micah, 11, got to ask the traditional questions for the first time this year.

Micah, 11, got to ask the traditional questions for the first time this year.

And this year, as a comfortable reader, he was able to participate fully in the round-robin reading of the Haggadah. It has been exciting for me to watch his growth in participation from year to year.

Our Seders are always potluck style, and guests choose what they would like to make from a number of Passover recipes. It’s a flexible event, and easy to add pre-Seder games if you happen to have a lot of children participating. Because we’ve chosen to use a modernized, shorter version of the Haggadah (reading), it keeps the event relatively family friendly for little ones.

Two families joined us this year, including one with little ones.

Two families joined us this year, including one with little ones.

This year, as happens often, the first Friday fell on Easter weekend. This is particularly significant, as so much symbolism in the Seder points to Easter, Jesus our Lamb, and our traditional Communion service. There is the same juice and unleavened bread, as well as finger washing to herald our future foot washing.

The Haggadah we use references several periods in biblical and modern history, as well as current events. It’s an excellent way to view the evils of slavery and the privilege of freedom throughout history.

Invite your friends and family. Crowd in and use folding tables if you have to. There is added joy in having a large group for this event of remembrance.

Invite your friends and family. Crowd in and use folding tables if you have to. There is added joy in having a large group for this event of remembrance.

We don’t make this into “official homeschool learning” event, but I’m confident that our yearly celebration will allow my son to soak up many lessons in tradition, history, spirituality, and hospitality. I invite you to try this next year with your family and friends; and, if there’s interest I’ll attempt to upload a pdf of the Haggadah to the documents on our SDA Homeschool Families Facebook page.

“…Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth,” I Corinthians 5:6-8.