Facing the Giant…

I’m back!  Rested, relaxed and with renewed focus.  Sometimes, it is so helpful to refocus and take a break from the norm.  But I’m thankful to return and I have so much that I’m eager to write about…

I set out to battle my personal giant – ‘the black hole that is the internet’, as my sister aptly describes it.  I enjoyed going computer-free for three days a week and plan to continue this habit for the month of March.    

The boys don’t have issues with screen time, because I am ever so vigilant to limit it for them.  {Funny how I can be so good about setting limits for them and let slide the same limitations for myself…} Instead, in our focus on the character trait of COURAGE, we literally came face to face with Goliath.

Adding a hands-on element to our lessons goes a long way to solidify learning and increase retention.  How many times do children hear the story of David and Goliath?  I’d venture to guess it is pretty frequent.  As we read the Biblical account this time, I decided to help make it a little more ‘real’ for them.  So I challenged them to make a life-size drawing of Goliath.  We were all in awe at his size when it was made toweringly visible.  Seriously, he’s big, really big.  Albeit, our version was on the skinny side.  As wonderful as a roll of butcher paper is, I guess it does still have limitations.

I try as often as possible to give minimal directions and back-off to see where they will go with it.  They learn so much more when they have to figure things out for themselves.

Armed with a roll of butcher paper and the knowledge of Goliath’s gargantuan 9 feet of height the boys grabbed daddy’s tape measure to get started.

The {almost} four year old is convinced that he will need armor for this upcoming battle…  hmmm, maybe we should re-read the story again. 🙂
Mommy did have to step in to hold a discussion on body proportions as their initial estimates were six feet of legs with three feet remaining for torso and head.  They adjusted this a bit before drawing their outline.
Afterwards, we set out to paint 5 little stones for their ‘David’ role playing that was to come.  We are grateful for non-toxic paint as the {nearly} four year old swiped a painted, stale marshmallow while I wasn’t looking.  One was enough and he didn’t attempt any more.

We recited this poem to correspond to the colors of our ‘stones.’


Five Little Stones by Ronda Duvall

Red, Blue, Yellow, Orange, and Green,
These five little stones remind me of many things.

Red means stop and pray for courage.
With God on my side never be discouraged.

Blue means it’s okay to feel sad.
But, with the right amount of courage, I don’t need to get

Yellow reminds me to slow down and pray.
Thank God for His blessings every day.

Orange, this stone is very bright.
God is with me, there’s no need to feel fright.

Green means for me to get up and go,
God shows me that He loves me so.

Slingshot and {marshmallow} stones in hand, they stepped up to the challenge of taking him on.  We have a new-found respect for David and the courage that God gave him to face this giant. Sadly, our marshmallow stones did not stand up well to the rigors of being squeezed in our traditional slingshot.  Large pom poms stepped in as default ‘stones’.  {While I like to think of myself as a ‘fun’ mom, I draw the line at anything that could damage windows, lamps, etc…}

This handy little verse card seen below can be found on Danielle’s Place.
God is bigger in our eyes now and there is a calm assurance that He will fill us with courage to do incredible things!

Labor Day Learning Fun

{whistle while you work}

I hope you all are having a fabulous Labor Day weekend.  My boys are so very excited to have their daddy home for an extra day this weekend…  As we enjoy time together as a family, we also plan to take some time to learn about the origins of Labor Day and commemorate the day a bit.  All of life is full of learning opportunities, isn’t it?!?!?

The older I get, the more I see that I am becoming more and more like my mother.  Speaking of my mother, this very creative woman has put together a fabulous resource for having some fun while turning our attention to what Labor Day is all about.

{Huge sigh of relief}  Because my creative juices ebb and flow pretty erratically over here at this point in the pregnancy.  I just keep telling myself 4(ish) more weeks.

So today, she is ‘guest posting’ and sharing her fabulous ideas for the whole family from the littlest to the grandparents!  ENJOY!


Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. Labor Day first began in the 1880s as a day off for the hardworking men and women of America.

Today Labor Day continues to celebrate the efforts of the working person though over the years, it has evolved from a purely labor union celebration into a general last fling of summer.  Labor Day grew out of a celebration and parade in honor of the working class by the Knights of Labor in 1882 in New York. The Knights passed a resolution to hold all future parades in September which was selected to reject any identification with May Day, when the Socialists and Communists commemorated the working man.

The Bible has some good things to say about work and labor:

  • Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Eph. 4:28
  • Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper. Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time. Proverbs 13:4
  • The laborer is worthy of his wages. Luke 10:7

And our countries leaders have said some great things as well:

  • A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned — this is the sum of good government.- Thomas Jefferson
  • Work is not a curse, it is the prerogative of intelligence, the only means to manhood, and the measure of civilization. -Calvin Coolidge

So what to do on labor day – especially with your family and friends:

  1. Whistle While You Work – Your chores will get done faster if you whistle, chant or sing!  Workers in the fields used to set up a steady rhythm and sing about what their jobs entailed to make the time go faster.  You can sing one of the following songs or make up your own about the chores you are doing.  For instance you can sing about dusting, picking up the (various) toys, making your bed, etc. Make three or four verses that you repeat over and over.  Since I am not musical I pick a familiar tune such as The Farmer in the Dell, and write my own lyrics.  Here are some classics:
  • Career Dress Up Day – Ask the children what they would like to be when they grow up.  Let them dress up and pretend to do that.  I would like to do this as a Labor Day party next year!  But you can do it spontaneously this year.
  • Thank you to a Worker – Write (or draw) a card to send to someone whose work you particularly appreciate – maybe a policeman, or a fireman, your doctor, the grocery store clerk or butcher, or the garbage collector (aren’t all kids fascinated with that job?)
  • Labor Games – Play charades or Pictionary with these printable “occupation” cards. There are easy ones of the kids, and some harder ones for the teens and adults.  With a little work you could set up taboo cards if you prefer.
  • Read a Book


  • Have a Discussion – Pick one or more of these questions
  • Is work good? Why or why not?
  • Which is more important, free trade or fair trade? Why?
  • Is all work of equal value to society? Why or why not?
  • (For the kids) What do you hope to do when you grow up? Why? What steps can you take now to help you achieve your goals?
  • (For the adults) What do you like most about your current job? What do you like least? If you could change careers, would you? Why or why not?
  • (For the Grandparents) How has the work force changed in our country during your lifetime?
  • In the US child labor is largely a thing of the past. In other parts of the world, children are still considered a vital part of the work force. Do you think this is good or bad? Why? At what age do you believe children should be allowed to work? What kinds of jobs do you think are appropriate for children?  For teens?
  • Watch a Movie (First three are fun, last two pretty sobering)
  • The Incredibles (All Ages) Mr. Incredible is a hard working man providing for his family. (I know this is a stretch, but I wanted to list one movie for the little ones. 🙂
  • Newsies (All Ages)  A favorite of our family.  My SIL mentioned that the movie makes business the bad guy and unions the good guys.  Yeah, but I still like the movie.
  • The Pajama Game (Teens and up)  Fun with Doris Day and the unions!
  • Tucker – The Man and His Dream (Older kids and up)
  • On the Waterfront (Teens and up)
  • The Grapes of Wrath (Teens and up)
Colene Lewis
wife, mother, speaker, curriculum writer (KONOS Russia curriculum) and currently working for The Alliance Defense Fund.

Homeschooling –> Family Learning

One of my favorite perks of homeschooling is that learning becomes a family adventure!  I remember as a girl my mom getting giddy about understanding something we were studying in a fresh way. She would always tell people that she loved homeschooling because of the great education she was getting.

As an adult, who received a fabulous education growing up, I can still vouch for that. While there is certainly a lot of me imparting instruction and training to them, much of it is a joint learning venture. And as I’ve learned with even the giving instruction and discipling process, there are still lessons for me.

Nothing quite brought this home recently like our study of the military a few months ago. I grew up in a home of three little girls. When it came time to study the military, we had no interest. I’m kicking myself now, especially since my Opa and his father were both career Army and my dad’s father served briefly in the Navy. But no, that didn’t appeal to little girls…

Times have changed and with three little boys, there were great whoops of excitement when this topic was introduced. We did boot camp, drills, awoke to reveille. They marched, learned how to make their beds military style, thanks to my hubby, an expert bedmaker.  I’d probably be discharged for poor bed-making skills alone…  One of their favorite parts was learning to properly salute from my Opa.

We learned details about how the military is structured and its various branches. I finally have a fairly good understanding of ranking now. Although the boys were too young for some of the information, I still found myself reading some of the ‘older’ kids books and gleaning information that I could then pass on to them. This was most definitely a JOINT venture.

The end of our unit perfectly coincided with an airshow that happens only every two years at Luke Air Force Base. {providence} We were all primed and ready…

Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
The boys sat in the cockpit of a helicopter…
…and I genuinely marvelled at the controls!
Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
The boys and I were all giddy and could tell the difference between an Apache and a Black Hawk helicopter. My husband has an amazing knowledge of military aircraft. He was able to fill us in on even more during this particular adventure!
Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
Little guys practiced their salutes!
Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
We talked to air force pilots…
Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
And of course watched the show…
Homeschooling -> A Family Learning Adventure
Oh the joys of homeschooling!!!
It provides the time, opportunity and adventure of on-going learning – as a family!
So what have YOU discovered lately in your learning adventures?

Winners Announced and Kings Crowned…

We emerged briefly from the middle ages to select some winners for our giveaway!!!  The boys were quite excited about it (although disappointed that they couldn’t enter to win the pencils) and wanted to help, so I reverted to the ‘old fashioned’ way of writing down each name on a slip of paper and letting the two bigger boys select the winners.

The winner of the coloring book and Lyra pencils is: Stephanie
The winner of the coloring book is: Mountain Mama

We’ve been delving into the world of kings, queens – both of Bible times, the middle ages and the present.

Today we had two coronations.  I’m actually surprised that there wasn’t a request for a third, but my little guy just assumed that as long as he had a crown, he’d skip the formalities…

After watching the footage from Queen Elizabeth’s coronation on you tube, we set out to have our own coronation.  The boys found a suitable thrown and laid out a path leading up to it with our playsilks.  Using our Wikki Stix we encircled a baseball and converted into our orb.  Classy looking, I know!

We then proceeded with our mimicking the elements from the Coronation that stood out to them. 
The crown was mounted on a royal pillow, there was a {speedy} grand entrance and the king was presented with the Sceptor of the Cross (representing justice and authority) and the Sceptor of the Dove, also referred to as the Rod of Equity and Mercy.  I was pretty giddy after finding two gold crowns and a scepter at a garage sale this weekend while I was out walking!!!
The short Archbishop finally managed to crown the king. 
It was a very serious affair.
Until the official formalities were finished. 
Then there was much celebration and thankfully sharing of ‘authority’.
As always, it is fun to watch their imaginations take hold of new things!  We’ll be parked in the middle ages for a couple more weeks…

Me on the Map

As we embark on this adventure around the world, we felt it best to get a firm handle on where we are on the map!  The book, Me On the Map, was a perfect way to introduce this idea!  Afterwards, we set out to make our own map books!

The boys mapped out their room, their home/street, their town, state, country, continent and planet!

Making a "Me on the Map" book!Making a "Me on the Map" book!
Making a "Me on the Map" book!

The boys loved showing off their finished product to every visitor that came by this week!

Making a "Me on the Map" book is a great way for younger students to understand where they live in relation to world geography!
Making a "Me on the Map" book!

Now that we know where are on the map, we are ready to explore the continents, one-by-one!  Since we’re already here, I guess we will just start with North America!

Related Posts:

Desert Dwellers

We started our study of native americans before Easter and taking a couple of weeks off to learn about birds before it got too hot.  We are now taking that up again as our weather heats up.
Since the boys are so young, I decided to start local and spread out from there.  They were having a hard time grasping geographical regions and it was easier to start with the tribes here in Arizona since the boys can already relate to the desert, climate, geology, plants, etc. 
There is a reason why most preschool-early elementary curriculum focuses on local – my house, my family, my neighborhood, the doctor, grocer, policeman, etc…   It gives the kids a way to relate and categorize what they are learning.  Getting to experience a taste of early american indian life here is far more interesting to them than just reading about foreign climates in books without having an immediate way to relate.
We enjoyed learning about the Tohono O’odham (Pima) and Akimel O’odham (Papago) tribes.  There really aren’t any children’s books that I could find that focused on these two tribes, but our study of the Arizona desert did include elements of the O’odham tribes.  The boys favorite was Desert Giant.  They are now obsessed with looking for saguaro fruit and making plans to knock it down with poles like the O’odham people do.
To find out more about these tribes and how they survived here in the harsh desert, we made a trip to the Arizona Botanical Gardens and their Plants and People trail.  Making learning hands-on is so helpful for these little ‘concrete’ thinkers!
The boys loved grinding mesquite pods.  Watching them grind made me incredibly curious what food with these ground seed pods taste like.  Maybe one of these days we’ll have to experiment…
Xander hanging out in an Akimel/Pima roundhouse. 
And pretending to cook in an Akimel outdoor kitchen area. 
And seeking shelter from the sun under one of these.  They would use these shaded pavilions when going out to harvest and cook the saguaro fruit!

Edible Learning

We’ve been learning about birds and their nests this week!  I was inspired after reading about another family who studied robins and made their own nests.
If I haven’t mentioned it before, I LOVE food.  The prospect of making a tasty treat with my kids that I could pass off as an educational experience was just too hard to pass up!  And Robin Eggs are my FAVORITE spring time candy indulgance!
So we set out to make our own robin’s nests, using Chex cereal, our stale marshmellows and some butter.
Each family member had their own bowl of nest making materials! (about a cup in each bowl)
While I microwaved the butter and marshmellows (1 cube butter/1 bag marshmellows), everybody else set to work on breaking up our ‘dry materials’ a bit.
We made the mistake of trying to formulate our nests with ‘mud’ that was a little too hot.  Nothing a spoon, covered in butter couldn’t remedy while it was still hot before switching to final nest formation with butter covered fingers.
Since we did this activity over the lunch hour, Dad was able to lend his expert advice and recommendations on proper nest construction.
With nests formed, all that was needed were our robin eggs!
Our robin nests made of twigs and mud were complete!
Consumption soon followed!
We ended our sugar high with some mellow reading about birds nests before naptime!
If You Were a Bird ~ centers around a Robin mama and her eggs.  The boys were so excited to find out what happened on each page!
An Egg is Quiet ~ This beautifully illustrated book showcases the eggs from all kinds of birds and other animals.  The watercolor drawings inspired us to go draw some of our own eggs, birds and nests!   This is one of those “feast for the eyes” kind of books and makes me wish I was an artist who could draw and paint…
Amy at Simply Necessary just finished studying birds with her family.  Although I couldn’t find some of the books at my libraries, she has an excellent list of wonderful books.  They loved An Egg is Quiet too!

Where Art and Eating Meet

Playdough is so versatile!  This week we’ve been playing around with color mixing!  It is so much more fun to discover things for oneself than to just be told what’s true…
So we set out to find out what happens when you mix blue and yellow.
It was hard work…
Mixing, mixing, mixing.
Look mom, it’s the same color as peas! 🙂
And blue + red?
Our new colors inspired food-like thoughts…
And put everyone in the mood for a healthy snack!
The things I do to encourage healthy eating habits!
Our favorite playdough recipe (thanks Gin!)
1 c. flour
1/2 c salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 c water (room temp)
1 Tbsp veg oil
1 packet kool-aid (must be no sugar kind) or food dye
In saucepan, mix dry ingredients.  Add water, oil.
Cook over medium heat, stiring constantly about 3 minutes or until it pulls away from the pan. 
Knead and store in airtight container. 

Arizona Explorations

We’ve started our study of Native Americans.  Since my kids are young, I thought it best to start out at the local level first and learn about tribes here in our state before branching out.  Making learning concrete rather than abstract is easier at this age.   
To prepare for this and take advantage of our beautiful spring weather, we’ve been learning about our state and desert habitat!
Due to their recent fascination with anything map related and the inspiration to just jump in and try it from a friend of ours, we made our first salt-dough maps!  I found fabulous directions here.
Since I wanted this to be “more” exact than abstract, we chose to do this after Treyton went down for his afternoon nap…
We started by taping down an outline of Arizona on a piece of cardboard and painting a frame.

While that dried, we mixed up a half-batch of the salt-dough.  The boys loved mixing it by hand!
We then proceeded to spread a thin layer and set the state boundaries.  Afterwards we added more dough for the mountain and the plateau regions, poking holes to represent the three largest cities in our state and making a nice gorge for the Grand Canyon.
The boys were quite proud of the results!
After letting this dry for a day… or two (ok, ok, we got a little side-tracked), we pulled out the paints!  Tan for the southern desert regions of the state, green for the mountain region and reddish-brown for the plateau.

All went relatively well, until we added rivers and lakes to our map.  Keegan got a little carried away with his and added abundant water features to the bottom half of his state.  But he’s three and a little bit of artistic license won’t hurt him.
We also revisited many of our favorite books on the Sonoran desert:

Way Out in the Desert: Pretty much any books by Jennifer Ward rock.  They are rhythmic, simple and entertaining.  This and the next book are perfect for the 2-4year old crowd and a great introduction to the desert for anybody!  This book is set to the tune of “Over in the Meadow” and also includes a count-up with a hidden number on each page.  The boys enjoy counting the animals and searching for the hidden number! 

The Seed and the Giant Saguaro: Based on “This Is the House that Jack Built”, this story builds on itself and also gives visual clues of what is to come.  The boys love the rhyming review and guessing what will come next.  It is a great soft introduction to food chains, pollination and ecosystems.

Creatures of the Desert World ~ Auntie Ev bought this pop-up book for the boys.  It is a gem, but on the fragile side.  There is much excitement when I pull this down from it’s high and safe perch.  With flaps and pop-up pages, the Sonoran desert really comes to life in this amazing book.

Desert Giant: The World of the Saguaro Cactus ~ This beautifully illustrated book goes through the life of a giant saguaro and lays out it’s relationship with the animals and people of the desert.  This is one of the few books that I can find on the Tohono O’Oodham people.

Cactus Hotel ~ This charming book also goes through the life-cycle of a saguaro and tells about the different animals that take shelter in the saguaro.

Horsing Around

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the term “living books”, but it refers to the concept of reading interesting well-written books by authors who are passionate about their subject instead of reading summaries of topics in a textbook.  We learn more and enjoy the process when education is centered around living books than an average textbook. 

While reading “living books” is interesting, interacting with people and the things they are passionate about and getting to experience a bit of their passion is incredible!

Today, we had the most amazing fieldtrip ever.  It happened quite by accident.  I called a friend looking for horseshoes.  She didn’t have any but called a friend of hers who does.  Long story short, we were invited to her home to meet her two miniature horses and three full-sized horses.   This woman is passionate about her horse friends and it was contagious.

The kids loved getting to know Cody, especially since he was just their size. 
They had the opportunity to help groom him.

… take a look at his hooves and learn why it’s important for her to remove rocks from the frog.

 And then help saddle her up for a ride.  Even Treyton had a turn.  His giggles of delight as horse and boy set off still make me smile.  (Sniff, sniff.  He’s definitely not a baby anymore.)

The kids also had a lesson in horse anatomy as she showed us Hookie’s tendon injury and let the kids compare the feel of the injured leg vs. healthy leg.

We ended our time with the horses by giving Cody some special treats!  Squeals of surprise and anticipation were prevalent as the kids learned how to palm a carrot.  Cody didn’t seem to mind the extra attention or special treats! 🙂

One of the cool aspects of an experience like this is getting to watch how each kid takes to it.  For all of his bravado and excitement leading up to our outing, Xander wasn’t overly interested.

Keegan on the other hand, my adorable cowboy Keegan, was just mesmerized with the horses.  At one point pony and boy were nuzzling each other.  While the other kids had gone off to explore the fire pit,  Keegan stayed with the horses.

We learned so much today in a way that is just not possible from a book or computer/television screen.  Nothing quite takes the place of ‘experience.’  We’ll be looking for more of it and excited to see what unconventional opportunities are in our future!