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Making a Tomb Out of Homemade Playdough

IMG_0934I am always looking for was to help the children celebrate the true meaning of holidays – and right now that is Easter.  It’s so hard not to get wrapped up in the Easter Bunny and dyeing eggs and Peeps – and yes, we do those things and enjoy them – but I always want to take every opportunity to point my children back to the Cross.

Which brings me to this amazing new story Bible we’ve been using, called “The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name.”  I ordered this off of Amazon a few months ago after hearing some great reviews, and I have not been disappointed.  Daughter P literally begs to listen to the CDs in the car (we also have an accompanying DVD that she loves to watch).  What is unique and awesome about this Bible is the each story points to Jesus (even the Old Testament ones) – and that is such a great reminder for us that indeed, the WHOLE Bible is about Jesus.  It also teaches children that the Bible is a love letter from God to His children.  It’s beautiful. I tear up a lot while reading it.

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So, we started off today by reading about the crucifixion in this Bible.  Then, we set to work making our own tomb out of homemade playdough.  Here are the ingredients:

  • 4 cups of flour
  • 1.5 cups of salt  (we didn’t have enough salt and had to make a grocery run at this point)
  • 1.5 cups of water
  • 1 Tablespoon of oil

Mix and knead the playdough, adding extra water (about 1/2 cup), until it’s the right consistency.  Use and aluminum can (I used a Campbell’s soup can – I emptied the soup and set it aside for lunch) to create the base of the tombstone and mold the dough around the can to create a hill.  Poke a hole in the top for your cross.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours.  Once your tomb has cooled, paint as you desire, and stick the cross in the top.

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On Friday, we will make a “Jesus” out of pipe cleaners, wrap him in toilet paper, stick him inside and roll the stone over our tomb.  We will wait until Easter Sunday to see if he is still there!

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5 Reasons Why I Use Memoria Press

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I am a second-generation homeschooler.  I started homeschooling as a freshman in high school and eventually graduated with a GED at the age of 17.  During that time, I mostly used ABEKA, because in those days, unless you were unschooling, that’s about all there was (other than BJU and some other homemade types of curriculum).  By the way, as a side note, all of my siblings ended up graduating college, and I have a Master’s Degree, so yes, you can be successful in “real” life after being homeschooled 😉

After deciding to homeschool precious daughter P, I just assumed we would use ABEKA as well, because I didn’t know much about curriculum.  Well, it didn’t take much longer than a few days of their Pre-K4 curriculum to know this was NOT the way to go for her.  She did not the rigidity of the worksheets.  Even coloring was a problem for her.  I will never forget her little four-year-old self telling me, “Well, I’ll color it yellow, but it’s not going to look good.”  If nothing else, she learned how to follow directions that year.

I went to my first homeschool convention last year with no plan in mind.  I had looked into Charlotte Mason, and while I loved the idea of it, I knew for me, I needed a little more structure.  I had also looked into Classical Conversations, which I loved, but I also knew that with my Type-A personality, I would end up putting WAY too much pressure on myself and daughter P and we would probably both end up hating school.

And then I found the Memoria Press display.  I knew in a matter of 5 minutes it was the perfect curriculum for both P and I, and we have loved every minute of our Kindergarten year.  Seriously, I’m sure my homeschooling friends are sick to death of hearing me talk about how much I love this curriculum.  And here’s why:

1. Simplicity of Planning.

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The picture above shows the entire week of lesson plans.  Everything is laid out for you, yet it allows for flexibility with time and ideas.  For Kindergarten, we generally spend 1-2 hours a day on school.  The boxes allow me to check off what we have done, so if we get behind in math or super ahead in reading, it’s still easy to keep track of where we’ve been.  Plus, the guidelines for History and Science are just that, guidelines, so there’s lots of time and space to add additional books, videos and crafts as your days (and desires) allow.

2. The Use of Real Literature.

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The true foundation of Memoria Press is books.  Although there are simple readers used for phonics, the basis is books.  Every week, we read a new book – it teaches vocabulary, comprehension, and context clues.  We also learn about authors and illustrators.  The curriculum then builds upon the fictional book to teach a poem later in the week and incorporates a theme of non-fiction books into history and science on Thursdays and Fridays.  But there are no textbooks, just real books.

3. The Bible is used to teach language instead of worksheets.

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Every week begins with a Bible story.  From there the children begin to memorize a verse.  This verse is also used to teach the rules of English and writing (punctuation, Capitalization, etc).  At the end of the week, they recite the verse and draw a picture (my daughter’s favorite part).

4. The Incorporation of Art and Music.

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This is Daughter P’s absolute favorite part of school.  Each week they learn about a new artist and painting and a new composer and piece of music.  I have created a playlist on my iphone of all the songs and play them while P does her math, as she works better that way.  She asks to listen to the music all throughout the day through.  Sometimes she even plays “symphony” in her room.  How awesome is that?!? Memoria Press has taught my six-year-old to love classical music!

5. The Affordability.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the cost.  For us, Memoria Press was very affordable.  Without a lot of workbooks and Teacher’s Books to buy, the cost naturally comes down.  We did not purchase all of the read aloud books as our library has a great reciprocal system where we can borrow from other libraries and always get what we need.  I spent just over $100 for Kindergarten.  I know Indiana has a PLAC card for about $80 a year where you can borrow from any library in the state, so that may be an option for you if your local library is not very good.

Our convention is at the end of this week, and I cannot wait to buy my Memoria Press for First Grade – we will be starting Latin! Eeek!

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Avoid the Valentine’s Day Trap

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Valentine’s Day really snuck up on me this year.  I just finished hurriedly rushing Daughter P. through writing her name on the back of Princess Sofia cards for her homeschool party tomorrow, which is the equivalent of a major written exam for a six-year-old.
I’m sure it’s no news to you that Valentine’s Day has become this huge high-pressure holiday – especially for men.  I went to the jewelry store the other day to get my ring checked for insurance and the sales lady kept pressuring me to fill out a “wish list” for my husband to fulfill for me for Valentine’s Day.  She just couldn’t believe I didn’t want any more jewelry.
Sure, I appreciate nice gifts – what woman doesn’t – but I don’t get putting pressure on our husbands to fulfill this perfect romantic image society has put on them on this day every single year. And don’t even get me started on this 50 Shades of Gray business.
Last year we had an amazingly romantic Valentine’s Day in Chicago seeing Phantom of the Opera and eating at Twin Anchors, the restaurant from the movie “Return to Me.” It was perfect.
Other years we’ve celebrated with all of our kids and had a “fancy” dinner all together in our kitchen with tapered candles.
This year I’m hanging out with this guy
bigbirdThat’s right – Valentine’s Day is all about Andy this year, and heaven help me, I’m going to Comic Con.  Andy is a big Jim Henson fan and we are going to meet Carol Spinney who is the man behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.  If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.  But it will be perfect, because the man I love will love it.  Isn’t that what the day is supposed to be about – loving each other? Since when did it just become about the women?
I guess it’s really hit home for me this year because Daughter P’s dad is choosing not to spend the evening with her so he and his girlfriend can go out – even though they have the whole weekend together.  That’s hard, because I am going to have a hurt little girl on my hands Saturday night.  So, after Big Bird, Andy and I have reservations at our local Chick-fil-A where they are having a fancy plated dinner and carriage rides, so her evening will be special no matter what.
Don’t fall into the Valentine’s Day trap ladies – don’t ruin the day over a gift (or lack of one). YOU set the tone for your home.  Even if you’re
surrounded by kids, make the day special.
Check out The Dating Divas website for some great ideas or look for The Second Chance Wife on Pinterest to see what I’ve found!
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What Our Children Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Them

We don’t have cable TV in our home.  The only shows we watch are when we have family movies nights, or very occasional PBS cartoons during lunchtime.

So I was appalled this week when Son I. came home from school with this Time “for Kids” Magazine with Malala Yousafzai on the cover.  In case you are not familiar with her, Malala is a young woman who was shot in the head by the Taliban on the way to school in 2012.

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The article talks about how her friends sold her out to the Taliban fighters before they shot her in the head.  According to the article, Malala was voted person of the year over Taylor Swift and Peyton Manning.  I don’t know about you, but I would rather my children vote for a singer or football player and not have any idea about a girl on the other side of the world being shot in the head on the way to school.

Another article in the same magazine talked about the terrorist attacks in France.  It said, “The week before the rallies, gunmen had shot and killed 17 innocent people in three separate attacks.  The victims included eight journalists and three police officers.  The gunmen are believed to have had ties to the terrorist groups of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.”

Son I. is in third grade.  He is nine years old.  Does he really need to know about al-Qaeda and ISIS? More than that, with Common Core, my children can barely figure out multiplication and division, much less write a cohesive paragraph, but they are spending time on this?!?

I know some of you will just tell us if we don’t like public schools to pull them out.  We already homeschool Daughter P, but due to the nature of Andy’s divorce, we have no choice but to keep our other children in the school where they are.

Secondly, I don’t advocate keeping your child naïve of all the wrongs in the world.  We strongly support missionaries in Ghana and our children understand that there are people all over the world who suffer in various ways and don’t have as much as we do in America.

But do our children need to know about terrorists and school shootings and other adult issues? And then we wonder about why childhood anxiety is on the rise.  Time magazine itself had an article suggesting up to 25% of children have a diagnosable anxiety disorder.  From scary dreams to being unable to sleep to general worry – why are we forcing our children to deal with issues that terrify us as adults?

Let our kids be kids!

Dawn

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Why MLK Day Meant So Much to Us This Year

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I grew up in Indiana, literally surrounded by cornfields.  It’s a great place to grow up, but not the most culturally diverse play(especially in the 80’s and in the rural areas).  My entire elementary school had 100 kids in it.  I grew up and went to a Christian college that had maybe a total of 10 African-Americans enrolled (and to say “African-American” is probably not accurate, because many of those students were probably foreign students actually from Africa).  I say all of that to point out that although my parents taught us to be accepting of all races, my experience and knowledge of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was relegated, like most white American children, to that one day in January when we would do some sort of craft or read one book about him.

Once I graduated with my teaching degree, I began teaching in Florida with a more diverse student population and really began focusing on incorporating more African-American history into my lesson plans and book selections.  I purposefully carried that over once I started homeschooling Daughter P, but since she was only in Pre-K last year, the books on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were a little over her head, and I didn’t feel like they made much of an impact.  But I was so wrong.

Last year we decided to go to Atlanta for our family vacation.  Mainly it was because it was only a day’s drive and there were lots of great Groupons available.  We had planned on going to the Aquarium and the Zoo, but Daughter H had recently been bringing home lots of books from the school library on famous African-Americans, so I suggested that we also go to the Martin Luther King Jr. historical sites.

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I have to admit, I wasn’t sure how we would be received – a white family with four kids walking through these historical sites that are so sacred to the African-American community, but everywhere we went, our family was warmly received and we were complimented on how well our children behaved.  But seriously, it was because they were engaged.  Without really lecturing them too much, they just got how very important it was to be where we were.  I will never forget sitting in the empty pews of the Ebenezer Baptist Church with just my family and listening to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preaching over the loudspeakers.  Or how we stood to leave when the sermon was over and the singing began and Daughter P said, “Can we just wait until this song is over?”

It was a scorching hot day, but we walked to each site, ending with the MLK homesite.  We had missed all the tours for the day, but the kids stood on the porch for a picture.  We walked around to the back of the house and were shocked to find the backyard was unfenced and wide open.  My husband and I stood in awe as we watched our four precious young children play in the same backyard that the great Martin Luther King Jr. had once played in as child himself.

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On the way back to the car we talked to the kids and told them maybe someday our home would become a historical site because of something great they do.  What an awesome thought! That visit became their favorite part of the trip, and they are already asking when we can go back to go inside the house.

So, this year for MLK Day, I really want to incorporate some neat activities into Daughter P’s school day.  She’s only in Kindergarten, but I found these great age-appropriate activities online, and they introduced some great discussion (I have included the links when appropriate).

We began the day by watching the “I Have a Dream Speech” on YouTube.  (Yes, Rosie the puppy dog watched too.)

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Next, we read the book “Martin’s Big Words” by Doreen Rappaport and completed this “I Have a Dream” worksheet.

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Lastly, we used this “I Have a Dream” form to examine two differently colored eggs and make some observations.

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We still live in a mostly Caucasian suburb in Indiana.  And no, I don’t believe for one second that such simple activities mean that racism won’t ever be a part of my children’s thoughts or behaviors.  But it’s a start.  Are the race problems in our country solved? Absolutely not.  But I am proud that we have come so far.  I am proud that my children can’t imagine a time in our country when white children and black children weren’t allowed to go to the same school or site together in a movie theater.  I am glad that they don’t pick friends based on the color of their skin, but based on how much they get along with them.  And I pray that I can teach them how to fight injustice, so they will teach their children, and one day perhaps we will live in such a nation that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of.

Dawn

  (p.s. Although MLK day has passed for 2015, these would be great activities to use for Black History Month as well!)

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“Olaf is Melting!” – Teaching The States of Matter to Kindergartners

We use Memoria Press for our home school curriculum.  I hope one day very soon to write a full blog post on why I love it so much, but for now let me just say…I. LOVE. IT.  It is a Classical Approach to learning and it suits Daughter P very well.  One of the things that I love most about the curriculum is that it uses real books to teach all of the subjects (as opposed to texts).  And I can find these books through my local library, which saves us a ton of money.

This week for Science we were to read the book “What Is the World Made Of: All About Solids, Liquids, and Gases” by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld and talk about the states of matter.  I found this fabulous science experiment at The Frugal Teacher, and we were off.

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So, admittedly, science is not one of my strongest subjects, and this is the first real experiment we’ve done this year.  As a result, I’d really been building it up to Daughter P.  Like, for DAYS.  It takes a full day at home to complete the observations, so I had to pick a day where we had nowhere to go, which is tough for us.  The night before I put water in the balloons to freeze and make our “snowman.”  And then I put the balloons in the refrigerator.  Yes, you read that correctly.  The refrigerator.  Not the freezer, as intended.  So, we woke up to not-frozen water balloons which equaled no snowman for our much-anticipated experiment.

“No problem,” I thought, “It’s like 4 degrees outside.  They should freeze in no time.”  And I set the balloons outside.  Daughter P and I finished the rest of our schoolwork.  Balloons still not frozen.  Hours later and a hundred times of Daughter P asking, “Can we check the balloons?”  Two of the balloons were frozen, but not all three.  (Side note – blue balloons freeze slower than other colors).

So, long story short – we ended up with a snowman that only had two parts, not three and our experiment lasted two days instead of one.  Here are our photos:

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“Olaf” as a Solid

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“Olaf” as a Liquid

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“Olaf” as a Gas

If you decide to do this, you must check out the printable that I linked to above.  Daughter P had a great time recording her observations (Thank you, Sid the Science Kid!). And most of all, she really seemed to get and retain the concept of changing states of matter.  What more could a homeschooling Mama ask for?

Dawn

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How the “Mommy Wars” Are Destroying the Christian Church

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“Please don’t judge me.” Her words caught me off guard, as judging her was the last thing on my mind.  Here was my new friend, tears fresh on her cheeks, sick baby on her hip, 4-year-old at her side, rushing her daughter into acting class early on Saturday.  She’d obviously had a rough morning.  She repeated the phrase often that morning while we entertained her boys and waited for our daughters to finish their play practice.  “I’m not judging you.  I think you’re doing a great job.  You’re boys aren’t bothering anyone.  Let them run around.”  I pulled out paper for them to draw on, then my phone, then finally walked around with them as we waited for the time to pass.  Anything to help her de-stress. But I just kept thinking, this is my friend.  Why is she so worried about me judging her?

The answer’s really not that hard is it? That’s what we women do to each other.  ALL. THE. TIME.  Even to our “friends.”  Oh, we’d rarely admit it.  But there’s pretty much a non-stop commentary going on in our heads of what other women are doing (or saying or wearing) that’s wrong.  Even in us Christians.  Maybe especially in us Christians.

Although they officially started way back in 1986, the “Mommy Wars” are alive and well.  And they are destroying us.  Destroying our friendships, destroying our families, and destroying the Church as a whole.  Think about how many friends you have.  True friends.  Friends that you never judge and who you never worry about judging you.  Up until this year, I had maybe one.  My divorce pretty much ruined friendships for me.  I lost ALL of my friends from my previous church in one fell swoop.  I tried out moms groups in my new town after I married Andy, but it seemed like it was just a big competition of who’s kid was smartest or who had the most expensive outfit or purse.  It was exhausting.  I never fit in.

We judge each other on whether we work or stay home.  On whether our kids go to school or are homeschooled.  We judge each other on the types of snacks our kids eat and the brand of clothes they wear.  We judge each other on the cleanliness of our homes and the kinds of birthday parties we throw for our children.  The list is exhaustive.  And exhausting.

So what’s the result? We now live in a society where we was women never truly connect with one another, because we don’t feel we can ever trust each other.  Instead, we are constantly evaluating how the women around us are judging us.  We don’t trust their words, because we believe they are just covering up negative thoughts they are thinking about us.  We have no real friends.

What are the implications for the Church?

  1. It hinders our worship – We are too focused on how others are viewing us to focus on God.  Your mind is not prepared to praise the Lord or learn from His Word when you are worried about how other women in the Sunday School or Sanctuary are viewing you or your children.
  2. We are not fulfilling the command given to women in Titus 2:4- “That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children…” How can we teach one another when we can’t form trusting relationships?
  3. We are not reaching other women for Christ.  If we are too busy judging or worrying about being judged to reach out to new women, we will never be able to share the Gospel with women who desperately need it.

It wasn’t until this year that I finally found a core group of homeschool friends that I can honestly say I never feel judged by.  And it’s amazing.  It’s something that I wish I could give to all of you and a peaceful place I pray you can all find for yourself.

Dawn