Giving the Gift of Books!

dsc_1862-2dsc_1828-2

Books make for wonderful companions. They inspire and inform. They take us to exciting places and give us a taste of new experiences. I love to have bookshelves full of good books that we read over and over again!

And now it’s that time of year when I start getting gifts for the people that I love. At the top of that list are books, of course. From now until Dec 8th you can get $5 off a $15+ book purchase at Amazon using code GIFTBOOK at checkout.  I’ve loved using these codes from Amazon to order the books I had on my list. {affiliate links used}

If you are needing some inspiration, here are a few of our favorites!

Picture Books

Building our House! by Jonathon Bean. I think Greta had me read this to her twice a day for at least a month. It finally landed a spot in our permanent library.

This is our Home, This is our School by Jonathon Bean. Turns out the author of one of my favorite picture books was homeschooled growing up. If you homeschool, this book deserves a place on your shelf. Your kids to read about other kids living this kind of life (the class bully was priceless) and as a mom, you’ll appreciate (and laugh) at his recollections from his childhood. Learning can be messy and this book reminded me to take a big breath and embrace the chaos.

Chapter Book Current Favorites

Dangerous Journey – We’ve read this book probably at least a hundred times. The boys love it. It inspires us to live out this crazy faith walk with its beautiful prose and amazing illustrations.

My Side of the Mountain – This childhood favorite of mine is now a favorite for each of my boys. They’ve all read it multiple times!

The Tripod Trilogy – I discovered this when I was in that tween age and it became a childhood favorite that my kids now love. This series is very well written and it was my first encounter with a literary “Christ-figure.” If you end up reading this, be sure and start with the Trilogy. He wrote a prequel afterwards called When the Tripods Came” that isn’t as interesting unless you’ve read the series first. I compare it to reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe before reading The Magician’s Nephew. You’ll enjoy the prequel far more when you have context.

Swallows and the Amazons This is  a delightful book that my sister gave (along with two more in the series) to my children last year for Christmas.

I love books and referenced great books in each category for my gift guides that inspire learning.  Here are a few more of our favorite books!

AdventureBooks

FaithBuildingChapterBooks

Gifts that Inspire

ChristmasBooks

naturebooklist

 

31 days of gift ideas that will spark and foster your children's love of learning and feed the imagination!

For more ideas see my 31 Day Series on Gift Guides that Inspire Learning. Nearly every one features the best books to capture the imagination and promote learning about history and science! I love to give the grandparents Christmas ideas that relate to what we will be learning about the following semester. It is a win-win because the grandparents get great ideas and they are gifts that inspire the imagination and foster a love of learning!

We are clearing things out and rearranging over there. I’m super excited to put up our teepee again as a permanent reading nook. I can’t get over how much they’ve grown since I took this picture…

homeschool

Stories that Inspire our Children to Live with Purpose

Listening to The Cat of Bubastes!Time seemed to fly by on this particular trip downtown because we were all swept up into the drama of our newest audio adventure, The Cat of Bubastes.  I heard audible sighs as we arrived at our destination and the boys realized that we would need to put the story on hold. Even Greta was disappointed. There is nothing quite like a good audio book or audio adventure to help these longer trips just speed by and with good reason; stories have a profound impact on our lives. Narrative is powerful because it inspires a sense of purpose. As I watch these kids of mine grow so quickly, I’m reminded of the importance of helping them catch a vision and realize that they are here to make a difference in the lives of those around them.  As we listen to these adventure stories, my boys minds are swirling with a world of possibilities.

I’m not sure if it can count as “work” since I enjoy it so much, but I work hard to find great stories to introduce to my children. We love to read aloud – both chapter books and picture books. After several years without, we are ever so thankful that our van now has a working CD player because it means we have lots of opportunity to enjoy stories on the road. Sometimes it is an audio book from the library, other times it is one of our audio dramas!

We love the audio adventures from Heirloom Audio. These tales are high on adventure, always provide some humor, and yet have important lessons to impart. The newest one, The Cat of Bubastes opens with a young prince marching into a life of slavery in Egypt. Instead of being consumed with anger or destroyed by depression, he resolves to make the best of it. Despite the horrible circumstances in his life, he perseveres and lives with integrity.  He becomes a slave in the home of an Egyptian priest who is kind and gracious.  This man reminds his own son to treat others with love and respect, because you never know what life holds for you and when situations might be reversed. And indeed, this story is full of intrigue and mystery and yes, roles are indeed reversed as they encounter the one true God and the cost that comes with following Him.

My boys need to see that no matter their circumstances – whether in times of triumph and success or in your darkest days, that we can live lives full of purpose. We all need reminders that we do not know what the future holds. We need to see that by being faithful to what we are called to do in the moment that we can play a role in the grander scope of history. As Christians, we are regularly reminded that we are called to play a role in the kingdom of God. Stories like these remind us of the everyday opportunities we have to be faithful and how God can use those moments to make a difference. The grand sweep of narrative has the power to inspire us to live a life of purpose, even and especially in the midst of challenges that people oftentimes face. It does so by providing a safe place to deal with the emotions that come with the triumphs and struggles in life. There is a wisdom that comes only with experience that allows one to truly appreciate and understand life from a big picture perspective, but I’m a firm believer that reading about the lives of others infuses our own life with more wisdom and long-term thinking than we would have without them.

And that would be why I let them read while they cook or listen to stories when they do their chores.

And this is why our audiobooks and audio dramas continue to play an important role in our family life. Oftentimes, they’ll listen to one while they build with their legos.  The older two boys received mp3 players for their birthdays this year and love to clip that baby on and listen to a story while they do their chores. I smile and am thankful for the gift of good stories and the lessons they are learning from them.

We love our Heirloom Audio CD’s. I’ve written about them before. The Cat of Bubastes does not disappoint! It is a beautiful story that will inspire everyone to persevere, to be loyal to friends, to remember that God has a grand plan, and that we are called to play a role! It is a welcome reminder that we are called to live with purpose.

 

Trey doesn’t know it yet, but he will get his own MP3 player for Christmas. This one is our favorite. We like that the sports clip, the variety of colors so each child knows which one is theirs, and the lack of wi-fi capabilities that allows us as parents to set what goes on them.  When Greta gets older, they even have a pink one!

{Disclaimer: While we have listened to and loved these audio’s for a few years now, I was sent The Cat of Bubastes for free and compensated for my time invested in putting this post together. All opinions, as always, are solely my own. Please see my disclosure for more information.}

fall16-horizontal-600x150

Introducing Children to the Wonder of Prenatal Development

wonderfullymade

Mommy, mommy!  Look at my blood.

My breath caught in my throat as I heard my daughter screaming this while running in from the backyard. Normally tears accompany blood, but this girl of mine is tough, real tough.

I exhaled, as a quick look assured me she wasn’t leaving a trail of blood; she is simply filled with wonder…  Wonder at how she was made, wonder at the miracle of pregnancy and making connections with what she looked like while in my tummy with what she can see now.

A few weeks ago, my friend Danika Cooley’s new book, Wonderfully Made, arrived in our mailbox.  I hadn’t really talked to Greta about that since there was no obvious reason to do so.  But she has been full of questions for a while as we see pregnant ladies at church or at our weekly park day!  She is at the age where she is asking all kinds of questions about babies and how they bake.  And with her aunt having a little girl this summer, those questions are not going away anytime soon!

Since I know that many of you have new babies coming or already snuggled in your arms, I wanted to share about this book with y’all.  I’m a firm believer in giving our kids accurate, age-appropriate information.

This book definitely fits the bill. Kids who read and comprehend the material in this book will understand more than most of the college students who took my Human Anatomy and Physiology lab at the university. {I was amazed at the responses my students gave on my reproductive anatomy and physiology quizzes.  Apparently years of sex-ed taught them next to nothing about pregnancy, even questions as basic as where does the baby develop… }

The beautiful thing is that this isn’t a book about someone else’s pregnancy.  Nope. This book delightfully connects our children with their own development. It takes you back down what would be memory lane if we could remember and gives us nearly a week by week look at development.

Here is the page that Greta was referencing when she noticed (again) the veins she could see on her hands.

wonderfullymade1

This book is perfect for every child, but I can see how it would be extra special and a fun resource to have around if you are expecting a baby and want to bring your older kids into the wonder of it all since they could easily reference the book at each stage of your pregnancy.

For us, we are content to simply be filled afresh with the wonder of being wonderfully made.

Challenges of blogging... When your son plays with the settings on the phone...

Pregnant and/or looking for hands-on ideas to learn about pregnancy and fetal development: I shared about what we did here!

 

How to Get the Most Out of Your Read-Aloud Time

DSC_6646-hhcom

So you want to read aloud to your kids more…  You understand how important that can be

Where, oh where do you start with growing those precious times of reading aloud to your kids?

Here are 6 ways to cultivate your read-aloud times!

1. Keep it Short, Do it Regularly
The key to making a habit of reading aloud to your kids is ROUTINE, ROUTINE, ROUTINE!  If your kids are young, or you haven’t done very much read aloud, you’ll also want to keep those time periods short as you get started.

Plan times into your day for just sitting down and reading. In our home we start the day on the couch and end the day reading to them in bed!    This is a great place to start.  From there you can add reading for longer periods as they grow to enjoy those special times!  During these hot summer months, we enjoy sitting around in our damp swimsuits, under the fan with a good book!

2. Plan Strategically for Books that Stretch Them
For books that might be a bit of a stretch for my boys, I’ll read during lunch or at bedtime.  Lunch time reading has been especially beneficial as we’ve transitioned into reading more ‘informational’ books that don’t have a story involved.  With tummies being filled, they were happy to listen  and ask questions.  The downer with this is that I end up scrambling for time later to wolf down some food.   So obviously, we don’t do this all the time.  Chapter books at bedtime work beautifully because they are always looking for any excuse to stay up just a bit later and my younger one’s don’t mind the lack of pictures as much.  We love to hear ‘just one more chapter, please!’

3. Go with Your Child’s Interest
Picking books that your pique your child’s interest is a great way to nurture the desire to read and be read to.  This is very important with a reluctant reader/listener when you are wanting to boost your read aloud time.  Does your child like horses?  Find some stories centered around horses.  Do your active little boys like battles?  Find some engaging picture books about knights or the revolutionary war.  Meet them where they are at and pull them into the beauty of reading.

4. Be Willing to Cut Your Losses
Sometimes you start a read-aloud book that you are sure everyone will enjoy, only to find it dragging…  A wise mama will sometimes choose to cut her losses and move on to something else. I give a book 3-4 chapters and if it hasn’t captivated interest, we put it aside and find something different.  Our goal is to raise children who love books and sometimes that means giving up. If you are anything like me, sometimes we need to give ourselves permission to not finish something.  So consider this post your “permission.” I will say that sometimes it really does pay off to persevere.  We just finished The Swiss Family Robinson.  It took us MONTHS to read.  Yep, that’s right.  It had a really, really slow start and the only reason we kept with it was because one of my boys kept asking to return.  We are all now thankful that we persevered.  On the other hand, no one has asked me to pick up Cheaper by the Dozen which was a book that our family gave up on.

5. Choose Well-Written and/or Beautifully Illustrated Read-Aloud Books
Never under-estimate the power of a good picture book.  When I find one with beautiful illustrations and a captivating story line, we will enjoy it over and over again.  Picture books are not just for the really young.  A good picture book will delight any age.  While my kids enjoy the Froggy books, I can only handle them in {very} small doses.  The kids find that those kinds of books ‘need‘ to be returned to the library quickly while the more interesting or creatively illustrated books tend to stick around much longer.  I’m always game for a Tomie dePaola book (like the one’s I’ve mentioned herehere and here) or Robert McCloskey (written about here and here).  In the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing lists of my favorite authors/illustrators and some of our very favorite books!  In the meantime, I’ve enjoyed the book suggestions in Honey for a Child’s Heart and at Simply Charlotte Mason (picture books or by grade level) if you are hankering for some good suggestions right now.

6. Pull in Books Relating to What You are Learning About
Much of our read aloud time is centered around interesting fiction books that relate to what we are learning about!  You can do this no matter what curriculum or educational approach you use and it really goes a long way in not only creating interest in reading, but increases interest in the subject at hand too!  If you check out my collection of blog posts on children’s books we love, you’ll find many examples where we’ve done just that!

How does read-aloud time work in your home?  Would you add anything to this list?  I enjoyed reading some of your ideas on the benefits of reading aloud and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ‘how to’ of this as well.

 

Related Post:
Sweet Rewards of Reading
Benefits of Read-Aloud Time
Why You Should Read the Same Book Over and Over Again

 

Letting Go of Picture Perfect

It's a scary thing to let go of that picture-perfect ideal. But I'm here to tell you that it is well worth it in the end.

I called them in, these boys of mine.  We were studying the tabernacle at the time.  Visions of this exquisite, picture-perfect, to-scale model of the tabernacle were floating around in my head like the one I created during my junior high years with my sisters.  That one that was put on display at church.  Yes, that one.

The boys were excited.  Spray paint and hot glue guns have a special allure, don’t they?

Boys huddled around as building commenced.  In almost reverential awe, each one picked up the small saw and proceeded to cut balsa wood posts for the courtyard.  I hovered over them, Bible in hand, to make sure that it was perfect.

But as I continued to step in, to adjust, to pause the building to consult our Bible and our awesome book on the Tabernacle, they drifted off one-by-one until I finally realized that I was the only one left building.

In frustration, I shouted for them to come back…  This is school for crying out loud.  And fun school at that. But it was too late.  They had lost interest and I had no one to blame but myself.  My obsession with the perfect model had killed their desire.

Letting Go of Perfection – My 2nd Chance!

As the project languished on the front room table, co-op day arrived and I was hosting.

My assignment for the morning – build a walk through replica of the tabernacle and the courtyard.  I told them to be creative.  Boys gave me skeptical looks.  Given how the last week had gone down, I think they expected me to give a lecture on mathematical scaling and beautiful pseudo-authenticity.  But I had come to my senses.  The purpose here was for them to work together, creatively utilizing items from around our home that could symbolize each aspect of the Jewish tabernacle and then give the two moms a tour.

They stuttered briefly, before flying outdoors chattering with their friends as they constructed their own version of the tabernacle.  It was a rousing success.  They had fun and flexed those creative muscles.  They made it their own.  And while these images may not wow anyone on Pinterest, they made it.  ALL.BY.THEMSELVES.

And that my friends, is powerful.
Learning about the Tabernacle: One of the best ways to review what your kids have learned is to have them create a walk-thru model of the tabernacle!Learning about the Tabernacle: One of the best ways to review what your kids have learned is to have them create a walk-thru model of the tabernacle!

Whether it is your high ideal or what seems like someone else’s beautiful reality, we must hold firm to holding things lightly, to letting go of that “perfect idea” and in this case look towards memory making and kid-involved learning rather than parent-driven perfection.

I’m a work-in-progress, but I’m thankful for lessons like this along the way that help me learn to let it go…

And that beautiful Tabernacle diorama? We never finished it.  I ended up throwing away all of the perfectly cut and painted posts, the half constructed tabernacle building, the hand-stitched coverings that the boys did make with the vivid, albeit crooked lines of scarlet and purple…  My friend on the other-hand utilized things she had lying around the house.  They used play dough and popsicle sticks. And it was awesome. Her kids loved it and her husband proudly posted pictures to Facebook.  Let go, my friends.  It’s totally worth it.

Kid-generated Tabernacle model

How to Read-Aloud When You Can’t Read-Aloud

How to sneak in read aloud time when you can't read aloud. Hope and sanity for when a homeschool mom gets sick!

I’m here to tell you a story, my friends.  A story that encompasses much of the last several months…  A story that helps explain why I’ve been so silent here on my blog. {Oh how I’ve missed y’all.} I’ve been sick more in the last several months than I can ever remember before. And we all know that sickness is one of the worst things to happen to a mother.  Thankfully, we are out of the baby phase and the bigger kids can fend for themselves and feed the toddler – now preschooler!  It truly is a blessing when I remember back to what it meant to be sick when you only had littles.

So, yes, this is the story of my summer of sickness. This is the story of a sore throat that simply wouldn’t go away, a story of an antibiotic gone bad, and a story of how YouTube came to our rescue.

It is a story of more sore throats, immense fatigue, and a cough that keeps rearing its ugly head and how audio books have stepped in to help keep us going and preserve my sanity.read-aloud1

As we slowly, bit-by-bit made our way across the USA (metaphorically, of course) in our learning adventures this last summer, the stack of books for the Midwest area was piling higher and higher – so many good books that I wanted to read to the kids.  I am embarrassed to admit that with my kids now being 11, 9, 7, and then 3, I still hadn’t read them the Little House on the Prairie books.  They are childhood classics and we simply hadn’t gotten around to reading them yet.  But I was prepared to make amends for this glaring omission.  We picked the first one up from the library and promised to begin first thing in the morning.

And then it happened.  I woke up with a sore throat just a day before we were to head out of town to visit San Antonio.  Determined to not let it squash our little mini-getaway, I took to the couch to rest up.

That is when YouTube came to the rescue! While I lay on the couch, we listened to the first several chapters, read by a teacher.  Mercifully, all of that rest and the copious amounts of Vitamin C consumed that day meant that I regained use of my voice the following day and we continued our read-aloud time with me actually reading on our way down to San Antonio.

Well, that ended up just being the beginning of my summer spent parked on the couch.  That pesky sore throat came back 2 weeks later with a vengeance and after 5 days of agony, I finally dragged myself down to the doctor who confirmed that I had a really bad case of strep throat.  Through that week of unsuccessfully willing my sore throat away, we checked out audio books from the library and took to the couch, yet again!

And then I reacted to the antibiotic and struggled with extreme fatigue through most of the summer which gave way to this cough – a horrible cough in August that took September off before hitting me AGAIN this last month.  It’s been four looooooooooong weeks, friends, with no signs of letting up.

We have listened to many audiobooks in recent months.  It’s been a blessing birthed out of necessity. Actually, we learned that a lot can be accomplished from the couch.  The boys would pull the piano bench over to act as their table and I’d give a spelling list dictation, we’d discuss math concepts and then I actually had them put in a lot of time reading aloud to me, which is also a very important skill to develop.

On the Banks of Plum Creek, Farmer Boy, Our Island Story, and Charlotte’s Web rounded out our read-aloud selections that I did not read-aloud this summer.

In recent weeks, we’ve listened to the amazing, new radio drama, With Lee in Virginia.  It is the perfect addition to our unit on the Civil War! Naturally, that led to boys donning blue and grey and taking to the backyard to re-enact battles while discussing details from their personal reading in addition to this newest favorite audio. #score

With Lee in Virginia cast

And now when reading aloud continues to bring on fits of coughing, we’ve started listening to Swiss Family Robinson.  We love the Disney movie, but the book… Wow.  It has beautifully complex sentence structure and I love how the family’s faith is displayed – something that rarely makes its way into a movie.

So remember this, my friends, because we are all bound to get sick eventually, right? When you can’t read-aloud, there is another way {cue the music} – AUDIOBOOKS! Now I firmly believe that a parent reading aloud to their children is more powerful than simply listening to an audiobook, but we found that by doing this together as a family, it was so very easy to pause and discuss something.  While I will pull out a movie for the kids sometimes when I’m sick (or they are), we are learning that this is an entertaining option that still feeds their minds in a way that screen-time typically doesn’t.

This summer I re-discovered that while life is wildly unpredictable, learning can happen in the midst of it – both in a more traditional sense as well as learning life and character lessons.

Actually, audiobooks have played another important role in our homeschooling this last year, but that is for another post.

So where do we find these audiobooks?

Loyal Books.com – I love this site.  It divides books by genre.  So we click on the children’s genre and there are so many old classics on there that can be streamed for free.  It is a store-house for libravox recordings.

Library – Libraries typically have a great variety of audiobooks.  I love to check these out because the kids can stick cd’s in our little cd player and even listen to them on their own.  Professional recordings are usually better than the free one’s at loyalbooks.com, although we’ve heard some great ones there, too.

Amazon/Audible – you can join Audible and get two free audiobooks during your first month trial and then another audiobook each month until you stop for $14.95.

Here are a few tried and true favorites of ours that we either own or are on our wishlist!

    • With Lee in Virginia – this is actually not an audiobook, but rather an audio drama.  They are professionally produced with a great cast.  We also own In Freedom’s Cause and Under Drake’s Flag.  These amazing folks have taken G.A. Henty books and brought them to life in radio drama form!  I love having riveting adventures that teach history – history that still includes elements of faith. In Freedom’s Cause was a Christmas gift for the boys last year and we are giving a copy as a Christmas gift to a certain nephew this year!  Here is a sample from With Lee in Virginia to showcase what I’m talking about:

  • Chronicles of Narnia – Oh my word.  You will recognize many of the voices reading these unabridged books!  I can’t wait to get this one.  There is a radio drama version too, but I love the original books so much, I’d prefer to go straight audiobook.  Plus it’s 42% off right now.  I need to get back into Christmas gift mode!

Seriously, check out who is reading each of these books: Kenneth Branaugh, Michael York, Alex Jennings, Lynn Redgrave, Derek Jacobi, Jeremy Northam, and Patrick Stewart.

  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang– My sister told me about this one.  The one narrated by Sachs had mesmerized her then 4 year old son for multiple listens during this “afternoon quiet time.”  It is now on my wishlist.
  • Charlotte’s Web – This is a classic that deserves to be read or listened to over and over.
  • Jim Weiss audiobooks – I’ve found many of his audiobooks at the library.  We love them!

Anyone else love audiobooks?  What are your favorites?

Disclosure: Affiliate links used.  They don’t affect your cost, but it helps support my book-buying habit, giving me more great resources to share with you!  The amazing people behind With Lee in Virginia, kindly gave us a copy to listen to, but of course, all opinions (and I have a great many) are always my own.

Hands-on Discipleship Moments: Ideas for Celebrating the Ascension

Here is a beautiful hands-on way to disciple your children and point their eyes towards Jesus. Celebrate and Learn about the Ascension! {crafts, food, and discussion ideas!}
Celebrating Christmas gives us faith; it affirms that our beliefs have roots in the historical fact of the incarnation.
Celebrating Easter gives us assurance; it affirms that Christ wiped away our sin by his great sacrifice and triumphed over death.
Celebrating the Ascension gives us hope and points us toward transformation; it affirms that we can become more and more like Jesus is right now….Without the ascension, we might look around and forget that Christ is the ruling Lord of this fallen, broken world….not just that he will reign when he comes again or that he did reign over death, but that he is reigning right now.”

Gary Thomas penned this in his amazing book, The Beautiful Fight: Surrendering to the Transforming Presence of God Every Day of Your Life.  I was reading it several years ago in the weeks leading up to Resurrection Sunday and knew right then that I wanted to take time to introduce my children to the wonder of the Ascension.  We love to spend a few weeks building up to Easter and it just seemed to be a natural progression to continue on and celebrate the Ascension (that occurred 40 days after the Resurrection) and then Pentecost (10 days after Jesus ascended)…

Jesus conquered sin and death at the cross and resurrection and He will come again and reign.  But He also reigns here and now.  As Gary Thomas continues, we can participate in the spread of his reign now by “surrendering to his dynamic, life-transforming presence within us, by letting him change the way we see, think, feel, hear, speak, and serve.  It’s the life of Christ in us, continuing his work, exercising his reign, manifesting his presence.”

Focusing on the ascension of Jesus can help us to recapture the dynamic reality of Christ manifesting himself through us!

With that in mind, here is some hands-on inspiration that we’ve utilized to to communicate the glorious nature of the ascension and cultivate in my children an appreciation for and understanding of the ascension.

With young children you want to start by focusing on understanding. Don’t try to tackle ALL of these ideas…  With older children or over a period of a couple of days you can venture into some of the application of Christ’s reign here and now! I found this information on the history of the church celebrating Ascension Day interesting.

Read, discuss, create, savor…

Explaining and Celebrating the Ascension to Children

Key themes you can emphasize:

LOOK UP (anticipate His return) and LOOK OUT (how can we share the Good News)

 

  • Read Acts 1:1-11.  Review how Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples instructing them and opening up the scriptures to them in light of his death and Resurrection.
  • Jesus Returns to Heaven {an ARCH book}Read the ARCH book,  Jesus Returns to Heaven – a book with beautiful illustrations and rhyming text that tells this account or you can check out  correlating accounts in The Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible.  (We love ARCH books. They were favorites in my childhood home and my kids now love them too!)
  • Count out 40 days on our calendar to the ascension, starting on Easter Sunday. The Ascension is historically celebrated on the Thursday 40 days after the resurrection.
  • Talk about the Great Commission.  We have a job to do!  If you have the book, I’ve Got a Job to Do, read it.  It is a wonderful picture book that helps kids connect and build excitement for carrying out the Great Commission! Discuss with the kids about what this can look like for your family!  How can each of you carry out the Great Commission in your local community?  What can you do as a family to support the work of the Great Commission being carried out world-wide? We plan to possibly take another #EndBiblePoverty Challenge this summer.
  • Read Revelation 1:7 in addition to reviewing Acts 1:10-11.  Discuss how Jesus will return again the same way he ascended.
  • Go look at and admire the clouds.  Talk about heaven.  Talk about the return of the KING!

skyjello

  • Make Sky Jello – If your kids are anything like mine, eating a rare sweet treat like this is sure to loosen them up and provide opportunities to review what you’ve discussed! My Sky Jello tutorial is here.
  • Jesus Ascending Craft – Do the below presented craft.  One year, we made it from supplies I had around here and creative energy I had available.  Another year, {hello pregnancy} I was running low on energy and simply ordered a set from Oriental Trading Company that first gave me the inspiration for this craft.  Isn’t it nice to have options!?!?!
  • Dramatize the story.  Gather your legos or little people and have your kids recreate the scene.  They can use the craft they just made!  This will help them make meaningful connections that will really last!  It also gives you a glimpse into what they understand or maybe don’t.

Ascension Craft Tutorial

To mark the ascension which occurred 40 days after Easter (that would be Thursday, May 14th this year), we made this craft so they can re-enact that wonderful event.  We had so many beautiful conversations about Jesus, the ascension, His return and Heaven in the weeks following this craft last year!

Supplies you’ll need:

  • Blue cups or cups covered with blue construction paper (or possibly painted).  We went the construction paper route.
  • Cotton balls and glue.
  • Ribbon, yarn or thin strip of white tulle or whatever you have on hand.
  • Jesus paper figurine.

Jesus-Ascending

>> Start by letting your kids play with the cotton balls and gently pull them apart to make fluffy clouds.

>> Next let them spread glue on their cups.

(This is the favorite part of the craft in our home…  Glue is almost as cool as fire.)

>> Poke a hole through the top of your cup.  Depending on your children’s ages/temperaments and your mood this might be a mommy job.

>> Thread the tulle/ribbon/yarn through the hole-punch and then poke it through the hole in the cup. 

>> The idea is that you can pull the string and ‘lift’ the Jesus figuring up into the clouds.  Let them play and dramatize the story for you over and over and over again!

Expectations are my nemesis, but I dealt them a blow.

Does anyone else ever struggle with unmet expectations? Slipping back into routine is rarely easy for us, but I have to admit that the biggest problem is always, ALWAYS my expectations. But not this week...

Expectations

I have a lot of them, especially at the start of new seasons.

I’m a dreamer, a visionary. In my head I play out how life is going to go and then I plan accordingly.

It works, sometimes.  But usually I’m left a little frustrated and occasionally feeling defeated.  There are beautiful God ordained moments tucked into the everyday and incredible progress.  But if those pesky expectations that I had so much fun dreaming up aren’t met, my emotions get the better of me and it all feels for naught.

We’ve been travelling and or hanging out with family who came to Arizona for the last half of December and the first few days of the new year.  It’s been busy, messy, and yes, beautiful.  This last weekend dawned with an invitation from a friend to tackle a freezer cooking session. {She’s officially hooked me on OnceaMonthMeals.} She prepped a lot.  I talked… and still managed to get some cooking done.

Then lesson planning commenced with fervor.  My goal: to hit the ground running on Monday.  Sunday’s sermon, ironically, addressed this very topic.  Isn’t it crazy how God does that sometimes? He spoke to my pastor and prompted him to preach on the importance of learning to listen and not fall into the American obsession of hitting the ground running (yep, he used those exact words).

While I diligently worked to pull things together that afternoon I quickly realized there was no way to pull it all together.  I was not going to hit the ground running on Monday.

God spoke to me in that moment (and I listened!). He reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend as we prepped those freezer meals.  Her word for the year was “acceptance”.  In this moment, God led me to “borrow” her word.  I not only accepted the situation, I embraced it.

I remembered:

…this season is short.

…drink in the moment.

…it’s about relationships.

The result:

VICTORY over my nemesis, Expectations!  At least in the skirmish called Monday.

Slipping back into routine is rarely easy for us, but I have to admit that the biggest problem is always, ALWAYS my expectations.  But not this week.

Instead we embraced sunshine, delighted in a new read aloud, played with numbers, worked through conflict, and tackled heart issues. It wasn’t easy.  But it was good.

We even embraced week 5 without a car and embarked on a “Walk Across the Neighborhood” in honor of our new read-aloud A Walk Across America.*Does anyone else ever struggle with unmet expectations? Slipping back into routine is rarely easy for us, but I have to admit that the biggest problem is always, ALWAYS my expectations. But not this week...
Trey-man insisted on bringing protection because what adventure isn’t complete without weapons?  And Greta, sweet Greta, is in love with her new backpack and I only ended up hauling her on my back with the ladybug backpack in hand for half of our 2 mile jaunt.
Does anyone else ever struggle with unmet expectations? Slipping back into routine is rarely easy for us, but I have to admit that the biggest problem is always, ALWAYS my expectations. But not this week... Does anyone else ever struggle with unmet expectations? Slipping back into routine is rarely easy for us, but I have to admit that the biggest problem is always, ALWAYS my expectations. But not this week... Does anyone else ever struggle with unmet expectations? Slipping back into routine is rarely easy for us, but I have to admit that the biggest problem is always, ALWAYS my expectations. But not this week...

*I have the fondest memories of my mom reading A Walk Across America when I was a girl and I’m thrilled to be reading it to my kids now.  But I will say that I called my mom because I didn’t remember some of the stuff at the beginning – you know unsaved college student in the early 1970’s kind of stuff.  It does deal with some more mature themes (in a very subtle way) in the beginning of the book. My kids and I had a fascinating discussion on things like Woodstock, Vietnam, the 60’s/70’s and God’s design for relationships…

5 Great “Faith-Building” Chapter Book Series for Boys

Here are 5 series that will inspire your kids in their Christian faith, books that they'll want to read again and again. This post may contain affiliate links.

Books make such wonderful gifts.  But for active boys, the element of adventure is paramount. These books are certainly not for boys only, but for any child that loves adventure! Finding good books that inspire our children is high on my priority list.  I can remember the countless hours I spent reading adventure books as a girl and especially loving the one’s that encouraged me to live radically and yet practically for the Lord.  My desire is to encourage the budding faith in each of my children and inspire them to pursue God whole-heartedly.  It’s easy to get a hold of books at the library, but for my home library I prefer to buy a few classics and then plenty of out-of-print living books in addition to books from a Christian worldview.  These kinds of books are becoming increasingly harder to come by at the local library and these are the books that I want my children to reach for again and again.  So here are 5 wonderful series that might bless your family as much as they’ve blessed ours!

  1. Imagination Station Series – (aimed at 6-12 year olds) I mentioned them in my general post on books that inspire faith last week. There are 14 fun books in this series that follows two cousins as they travel back in time via the Imagination Station to witness various events in history.  They are exciting, full of adventure, and have seamlessly woven in faith lessons.  We read the first book for a boys book club and were hooked.  We’ve gradually been building up our collection and currently own the first 9 books.  You can buy them individually or in sets of 3 (books 1-3, 4-6, 7-9) or buy the whole set at once.
  2. Sugar Creek Gang Series – (aimed at 9-14 year olds) Amazing lessons of courage, faith, & friendship are tucked into each of these adventures.  We own the first 16 books and my 10 year old has read them all at least twice.  Now my 8 year old is working his way through them.  I love how they weave everyday Christian thoughts and messages into it from a young boy’s perspective. You can buy them in groups of 6 books, or just start with the first one and see if your kids like it.
  3. LightKeepers Set: 10 Boys Who…  (aimed at 9-14 year olds) I want to raise world-changers, children who are inspired to do whatever it is that God has in store for them.  Stories have an ability to inspire our kids to do just that and this series is no exception.  (I love the girl set too!)  Our children need real-life heroes and these books showcase several of them.  Each book features a biographical sketch about several amazing boys/men and how their faith influenced what they did.  They are not only interesting to read just for fun, they are wonderful to have on hand to go along with our homeschool studies.  The set includes:
    Ten Boys who Changed the World, Ten Boys who Made a Difference, Ten Boys who Made History, Ten Boys who Used Their Talents, and Ten Boys who Didn’t Give In 
  4. Chronicles of Narnia – (aimed at 8+) Do you own this classic series?  If not, I think it deserves a place on everyone’s bookshelf.  My parents owned a paperback set and we wore them out reading and re-reading them.  She ended up upgrading to a hardcover set.  While the kids won’t grasp the allegory without discussion, once they do the depth tucked into this delightful series will continue to grow and deepen the more they read them.
  5. Cooper Kid Adventures – (aimed at 10-18) Don’t be fooled by the word “kid” in the title.  This is an action packed series that is probably too intense for younger kids. I love how this reviewer summed them up:  “Combine the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew with Indiana Jones, make them Christians in search of Biblical artifacts, and you’ll get the gist of these novels.”  The series follows Dr. Cooper a biblical archaeologist (and widower) and his two kids as they head out into the field.  They are full of action, adventure and showcase faith and a loving family in action.  My mom read these aloud to us as girls and we had many lively discussions about the Bible, archaeology, good vs. evil, and the spiritual realm.  I then went on to read them multiple times by myself. You can purchase them individually, buy the first four books in the series or you can buy all 8 at once.  Once you’ve read the first book to set the stage and establish the characters, each of the remaining books can really be read in any order.

This is post 30 in the series. To check out the rest series31 days of gift ideas that will spark and foster your children's love of learning and feed the imagination!

Related Posts:
10 Adventure Books to Build a Boy’s Faith
11+ Books that Inspire a Girl’s Faith

Raising Daniels
King-Focus
Knights-in-Training {including a free printable}

6 Beautiful Picture Books that I’d Love to Own!

6 beautiful and captivating picture books

As Greta is getting older, we’ve enjoyed reading more and more picture books.  As I wrap up this series on 31 Days that Inspire Learning (only 2 more to go!), I thought I’d share 6 books that we’ve read several times to the boys that I found at either the library or someone else’s home, that I’d love to add to our collection.  As I wrote about this summer, kids benefit from reading the same book over and over again.  The trick is finding books that you as the parent don’t mind reading for the upteenth time.  Here are a few beautiful and engaging options:

1.  The Snail and the WhaleThis is another favorite that we check out every year and read over and over again.  The story is mesmerizing and the words slip off the tip of my tongue in an effortless beautiful kind of way. Even now, I practically have it memorized and I don’t mind one bit reading it over and over again.  Someday, I’ll be reading this one to my grandchildren!

2. The Velveteen Rabbit – I loved this book as a girl and cried the first time I read it to Xander.  Oh yes, I blogged about the experience back in the vintage 2006 days of this blog.

3. Each Peach, Pear, Plum – This delightful book is sort of an “I Spy” book for fairy tale characters.  Beautifully illustrated, it lends itself to precious memory making moments as you study the illustrations together.  I enjoyed reading this to Xander and ‘gasp’ totally forgot about it until now. It is high time that I caught the next three kids up on this beautiful book.

4. The Giraffe that Walked to Paris – I discovered this book when we were learning about world geography almost 4 years ago.  At the time it was out of print and in such great demand that one had to pay over $50 to buy a used copy.  I had to request it through inter-library loan.  I noticed that it is back in print and I’d love to add this engaging true story about the giraffe that walked to Paris!

5. Roxaboxen – I fell in love with this book from the moment I first read it.  I love books that inspire kids to get out in nature.  Most children’s books however center around life in the forest and next to bubbling brooks.  Well, here in the Arizona desert our nature play doesn’t quite look like that.  Roxaboxen takes place in Yuma, Arizona which is in the south western part of our state.  It beautifully illustrates the power of children’s imaginations no matter the surroundings.  For the number of times we’ve checked this out of the library, I think it deserves a permanent place in our home.  If you love imaginative play and the outdoors, this book is a MUST READ!

6. Children of the Forest Elsa Beskow is considered the Beatrix Potter of Sweden. Her nature-infused illustrations are simply magical.  My sister first introduced me to this whimsical book about a tiny forest family, specifically a family with four children.  I hope Greta becomes enchanted with these little forest children and their imaginative romps through the forest.  You can get the mini-book version (7×5) on Amazon, but to get the big 9×11 books, you have to go to Ebay or a specialty store like A Toy Garden.

 

To check out the whole series: 31 days of gift ideas that will spark and foster your children's love of learning and feed the imagination!