My home is filled with grown children now. My oldest daughter is married and we have two grandsons. One of our favorite Christmas traditions remains our beloved Christmas Family Devotions.
We start at the story of the Angel Appearing to Zachariah and move through the entire Christmas story. It is a delight every year to remember this precious story of miracles and love, to celebrate the Birthday that divided history in two.
The Christmas story never grows old.
However, these devotions are old.
I typed them up on an electric typewriter when the children were small. A few years later, we got our first computer and I printed them on our dot matrix printer. Years flew by. I sent them to Office Depot to print several copies because all the children could read. Soon, I was sharing these simple devotions with others.
When the children were little I made a Christmas Tree out of felt and nailed it to a big bulletin board each December. After devotions, the children would put little ornaments on the tree.
We discovered the Christmas Shoebox Tradition when Samaritan's Purse started Operation Christmas Child. The ministry asked people to fill shoeboxes for needy children around the world. My children and I gathered up small toys, toothbrushes, and candy to give to one child. We chose "boy or girl?" and age range.
The shoebox tradition was a great way to involve my children in giving to others while getting to do something they enjoyed: shopping for toys! As the children grew older, I found myself filling the shoebox alone because my children found other ways to give and serve at Christmas.
This year, I decided to fill the Shoebox with my grandson Rusty who is two years old. We went to the Dollar Store together and filled the cart with small toys. We collected toy dinosaurs, balls, stickers, jungle animals, an etch-a-sketch, and a slinky. Now, of course, Rusty came home with some of his own toys, but we had the joy of shopping for others together. I hope it's a new tradition we will continue.
Here is a really fun exercise to teach children to write clearly. We did this in our homeschool co-op, but you can do this at home with the whole family. It's very silly and will get all your writers laughing hysterically.
First of all, everyone writes directions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Simple enough, right?
Well, not so fast. It's hard to write directions. Often children are vague or write something else than what they are trying to communicate to their audience.
After all the direction papers were written, my friend Leanne gathered them all in a pile and everyone headed to the kitchen. Taking each page of sandwich directions, Leanne set out to follow them. Of course she had a knife, jar of peanut butter, jar of jelly, and loaf of bread.
Leanne made each sandwich according to the directions the child gave. If the directions were unclear, she followed them to funniest way possible. We all laughed so hard that our stomachs hurt. I got some photos I will share below.
The lesson of needing to be clear when giving directions hit home and the spent twenty more minutes talking about the "dangers" of not writing clear directions. The kids had a blast together learning to write more effectively. Now, that is learning at its best!
More than any time in their lives, teens need the love and stability of a family! Friendship with Mom and Dad is so important. Don"t let their "squirrely-ness" keep you from spending lots of time with these wonderful young men and women. Now is the time to enjoy what you have sown into their lives. And if there are problems, it is not too late to rebuild relationships.
Rules without relationship breeds rebellion, so take time to invest in your relationship with your teen. That way your young adult knows that you are for him/her and want only what is best. He/she can trust you to protect, guide, and release!
Home is the best place for a teen to be educated! In the family, there is the security of love and acceptance. Teen are testing their wings! Make sure that you are there to cheer them on and send them soaring.
Teens also need friends, good friends who will build them up, not tear them down. Get to know all of their friends well. Make those friends feel loved and accepted. I've always tried to let our home be a hang-out place where teens feel comfortable to hang out and have wholesome fun together.
In the teen years, my own children have each had their own struggle as they enter adulthood. Those struggles have included doubts, insecurities, anger issues, temptations, and a lot more. Those things don't bother me because I know they will come out on the other side loving Jesus and serving Him. It is important during those struggles to maintain a delicate balance of unconditional acceptance and house rules, as well as to listen to them and help them find answers to their questions. Most importantly, introduce them to Jesus who loves them best!
In our house we believe history should be fun!
One way we love to learn about the past is by playing games together. Historical games, that is.
Chess is a great way to learn about the Middle Ages. The knights role in the game of chess is to protect the more important pieces on the board like the king and queen. That's the way it was in the Middle Ages. Back in the days of knights and castles, the knights protected royalty and high church officials.
How many of you remember a beloved Teddy Bear from your childhood? What's the history behind the cuddly stuffed animal? Well, it all started back in the first decade of the 20th Century. President Teddy Roosevelt was out hunting and happened upon a cute bear cub which he refused to shoot. It was a popular story at the time! Everyone loved that bold, courageous Teddy Roosevelt refused to kill a little bear. Soon, there were little Teddy's Bear Cubs being sold to children. We know them today as teddy bears.
The game we call checkers ("Draughts" in Europe) can be traced all the way back to the Fertile Crescent in Ur where archaeologists unearthed a similar game in one of their digs. Of course, we play checkers when we are studying American history, too.
Allow me to introduce you to an award-winning picture book: When I was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant.
This lovely book was awarded as a Caldecott Honor Book and a Reading Rainbow Book. I can see why. I hope you will give it a look as well.
Its 28 pages are all filled with beautiful drawings and simple descriptions of a time gone, by Diane Goode, by that most of us only have pictured in movies and TV shows.
I was introduced to this book as part of a Middle School Writing curriculum. The repeated use of the phrase “When I was young in the mountains” at the beginning of many of the sentences in this book provided an excellent example for young writers to think about when they were young and write a collection of sentences about their own adventures.
Employers send their employees to workshops and professionals have to maintain their licenses with continuing education. There's a lesson here!
We, who pour out our lives, need to be filled back up with times of refreshing and equipping. Our spirits need to be refreshed with joy and truth! Our minds and hearts need to be equipped with knowledge, wisdom and understanding to teach the next generation!
First of all, we need to plug into the source!
We need to be plugged into our Source of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ. Meeting with Him daily is worth whatever effort and sacrifice you have to make. He is our Equipper! He trains us to love and teach our children.
Jesus is our model, traveling with his disciples, who constantly asked questions and then just didn't get it. Patiently, Jesus repeated lessons over and over again, using stories and visual illustrations (vines, sheep, and children) to make the lesson clear. Jesus asked lots of questions, causing people to stop and think! Above all, love and compassion flowed from Jesus to his disciples. He was their Father, Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd all in one!
There are additional ways to be equipped to home educate our children that we are going to talk about, but none can replace going to our Creator, Redeemer, Savior, Lord, King, and Friend Jesus.
Many homeschooled teens will graduate from high school not sure what they want to do with the rest of their lives. That is okay.
Teens don't need to choose their career path or ministry call before they graduate, but they should explore options. Some will know when they graduate. Others have known for years. While still other teens will change their minds later.
The Lord has a call for each man or woman He has created. He loves us and we each have a purpose. No one will feel completely fulfilled if they are not in the center of God's will, so the most important thing you can do for your sons and daughters is to teach them to cultivate a strong relationship with Jesus so they can know His plan.
With that said, high school is a great time to explore careers. Teach your teens to show interest in the careers of all the people in their lives, asking questions and learning more about these careers. I created some simple forms for my teens to fill out on various careers by interviewing people they know whose careers interest them.
I even did some podcasts so my children could learn more about careers: Exploring Careers in Business & Rescue and Exploring Careers in Real Estate and the Pool Business. But, there's more that you can do than just listen to people talk about their careers. You can try careers out through apprentices and volunteering. You can also explore options through online surveys.
Winner of the John Newbery Medal, Sarah Plain and Tall is a delight. I’ve said it before about many other books, but it remains true of this little gem.
Written for children, this book takes us through the emotional story of a little prairie family who lost their mother and hopes to find another.
A difficult childbirth left the young farmer with an infant, Caleb, a little girl, Anna, and no wife. Everything changed that day, but the young farmer struggled on for years, trying to make the best of the situation. Loneliness, perhaps feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work his farm requires, or simply concern for his children led Jacob, also known as Papa, to advertise for a wife. The one reply he received surprised the entire family. Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton from Maine answered his ad.
Sarah seems to be forthright, honest, funny, and a definite possibility. She further adds to her appeal by writing letters to each of the children as well as the father. After exchanging a few letters, Sarah agrees to come to the prairie to meet the family, see the farm, and let everybody concerned decide if Sarah should come to be wife and mother to the small family.
When you teach history, don't just expect your children to memorize facts.
Become investigators together and solve the history mystery.
When did it take place?
Who was involved?
Where did it happen?
Why on earth did it happen?
It all starts with curiosity and a sense of adventure. I will often start with an interesting story like this...
A royal couple was visiting a city in their realm on their anniversary. They were very much in love. But, they had enemies. Those enemies tried to kill them as they were on the way to big get-together. The enemies tried to bomb their car, but instead of hitting them, they hit people in the car behind them. After returning home to rest, the royal couple decided to go visit the folks that had been shot. They felt so sad they were hurt. On the way to the hospital, they were forced to take a detour into a side road. While they were trapped, a gunman shot both of them. They reached out to hold one another. The handsome Duke said to his beautiful wife, "Live, darling, for the children." I am so sorry to tell you that they both died. And that's how World War I began.
Now, I have made it personal and gotten my children's interest. What's next?