Monday, December 5, 2016

Feeling the Spirit at Christmas

When people say it is hard to focus on the real reason for Christmas, it makes me sad.  It doesn't have to be that way.

52 Christmases at Temple Square
When I was around ten years old my entire family was in a Christmas Play at Temple Square in Salt Lake City.  We performed two or three times a day for the entire month of December, except Sundays, to a full house every time. My role was a Christmas Caroler. In the play my part was to listen backstage as the stage-father read the Christmas Story to his adopted family and then, just as he got to the part about the baby Jesus, come to the door singing “Away in a Manger”.   Hearing the Christmas story and singing this carol was without a doubt, heart-warming.  I noticed that even though we repeated it approximately 52 times that month, it never got old.  The Christmas Story and Away in a Manger always brought the spirit, the Holy Ghost, to testify of our Savior Jesus Christ and I loved that feeling. 

Backstage, as the oldest caroler, my job was to re-wrap the Christmas presents for every performance.  It was perhaps a mundane chore, but it was a festive chore and I loved hearing the excitement and gratitude in the orphan children’s voices on stage as they opened their gifts again and again.  I felt the spirit as they said thank you for their gifts even though it was just a play.  I realized with power, that the presents didn’t matter.  Wrapping them pretty makes them special just like dressing up fancy makes church or other events more special.  The children in the play were orphans and they were so grateful for their gifts!   I learned a lot about presents that year.  They are beautiful and a fun tradition and it doesn’t matter too much what is in them.  The giftwrap is half the magic.  If you don’t say thank you for every present, you are missing out on the spirit testifying of gratitude and the warm feeling it can bring.

Being on Temple Square every day of December meant I saw the Christus and the life-sized nativity every day.  There could be no doubt about what Christmas was all about.  Those two things brought the spirit powerfully into my heart every time I saw them.  That is how the spirit works, it testifies of what is true and good.  So to have the Christmas spirit, seek what is true and good.

Uncommercializing Christmas for Kids

Anyway, when I became a parent, I quickly learned to shield my children from toy advertising.  We turned off TV after thanksgiving and watched commercial free videos.  We didn’t take them to the store if at all possible.  I tossed the toy adds in the mail as quickly as I could.  We never, ever mentioned Santa.  It wasn’t necessary, other people did it for us, including aunts and uncles and grandparents.  I didn’t mind if other people taught about Santa, they got the fun tradition in the right proportion that way.  If we went to a party or a store with a Santa, I always whispered to our children that Santa was a very nice man that liked to give presents to kids and when you sat on his lap he would ask what you wanted for Christmas.  I told them the trick was to ask for a candy cane and if they did he would give them one.  This helped reduce the amount of time they spent thinking about themselves and things they wanted but didn't need, an activity which chases the spirit away.  They didn’t know asking Santa for toys was an option until they got into school.  They always asked for a candy cane and were never disappointed, he always gave them one on the spot, sometimes he even gave them bags with coloring books and other treats for which they were truly grateful.  So they “believed”.  These were fun times, but not spiritual.  Sometimes my kids chose Santa books at the library and I remember always changing the words so that Santa said things like how much he wanted to make the celebration for Jesus special and how his gifts were little compared to what Jesus did for us.  That brought the spirit because Santa was testifying of Christ.

I didn't listen to the radio much, because of the commercials.  I played my own Christmas music with songs that almost never mentioned Santa or Christmas Lists.  

When I talked about Santa with my kids, I usually called him that nice man in the red suit and I praised him for being so Christlike.  My kids would ask me if Santa was real and I would say yes, all of them are real.  Anyone who loves children and gives them toys for Christmas is Santa.  To me Santa is a Good Samaritan in a red suit.  (I love the painting of Santa worshipping baby Jesus in the manger.)  I would tell my kids if we were lucky we would meet a Santa during December.    We always hung up stockings, but I never said "Santa is coming",  I just promised that they would fill up with candy and oranges by morning.  They didn’t want oranges and I told them oranges were a must because they represented what used to be candy to my grandpa and generations before us.  The orange is the Christmas spirit in our stocking because it turns our hearts to those before us and makes us grateful.  Each year we left a big red Santa Bag under the Christmas tree for toys and it always got magically filled up Christmas Eve.  We didn’t say who filled it and my kids always thanked Mom and Dad even though we admitted nothing.  I was glad though, that my kids got to thank us for their "Santa" gifts since thanking is one of the most important parts of Christmas.

In the place of talking about Santa during the Christmas season, I spent much time talking about the birthday celebration of Jesus and how we ought to be thankful for Him.  I talk about how we ought to be good because He is watching and it is our gift to him.  I get to testify of Him over and over throughout the month and that certainly brings the spirit.  We write down gifts to Him and put them in a white stocking by our stockings.  We play with the manger scene and act out the Christmas story. 

As far as Christmas shopping goes, I really, really, really, really hate it.  I’d rather clean toilets.  I am pretty minimalist about it.  When the kids are old enough to be toy-advertising proof, I like to take them shopping for their own gifts as another family activity.  My husband and I always buy our own gifts.  After all, I learned when I was ten years old that as long as you wrap it up pretty and give thanks, the spirit of Christmas is there.  The element of surprise isn’t completely necessary.  I do surprise my family as much as I can with stocking stuffers and stuff in the Santa bag, but it is definitely not a requirement I live by.

My recipe for an uncommercial Christmas
Anyway, as I have listened to yet another year of people regretting the insanity of Christmas, I tried to think of why mine has never felt that way, and this is what I came up with.  It minimizes things that are fun, but don't bring the spirit and emphasizes things that do.
1-Minimize the gifts, they don’t even have to be a surprise.  I know giving is a good thing to do, especially to those in need, so that is where we should focus.  However, the spirit in our home comes more strongly from music worshipping the savior, expressions of gratitude, study of the birth and life of Christ, and family activities.  
2-Minimize how much time you allow yourself to talk about, sing about, watch movies about, or even mention Santa.  You'll still get enough and it will still be fun.  
3-Talk about Jesus and the nativity often, sing about him, watch movies about him.  
4-Be choosy about what music you listen too, it is very powerful, but the spirit of Christmas comes primarily when the songs testify of Christ.  
5-Make the holiday beautiful with lights, colors, smells, and tastes talk often of how each of these things testifies of Christ (this gives the spirit a chance to testify.)
6-Persuade your family to spend happy time together (even if it takes gingerbread and piles of candy or they need to be seatbelted into place).  

Then, I promise the spirit will be there in abundance and you will have a Merry Christmas!





Monday, November 7, 2016

Webelos Memory Helps for Leave No Trace Principles and Outdoor Code


Leave No Trace Principles for Kids:

Know before you go,
Choose the right path
Trash your trash
Leave what you find
Be careful with fire
Respect wild life
Be kind to other visitors


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

P is for painting pumpkins preschool day


We did modge podge pumpkins first, using cartoon eyes and pumpkin mouths.  They painted the face area of the pumpkin white with regular modge podge, stuck on a face, and then painted over that.  If the paper wouldn't mold to the pumpkin I had some watered down modgepodge they could use to paint it flat.  You can draw faces or mouths with sharpie on paper and cut it out or use computer clip art.  ( I like to put a bit of orange around the eye and mouth clip art so I don't have to cut very carefully.)

SInce it was P day I had colored polka dots they could "paint" onto their pumpkins as well while I helped the other kids.  I cut out the mouths and noses and teeth in advance and did a quick cut on the eyes.  After they picked a set of eyes, I cut it a bit more carefully for them to glue on.  I stuck  them in my dehydrator to get them to dry faster, that is cheating, but I like to have things dry at the end when parents come.

the boys pumpkins were scary

the girls pumpkins were happy.

The Nursery Rhyme of the day was "This Little Piggy" and "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater" which have cute songs online.
We read lots of books, but these were the letter P books.  We have mostly girls, so I HAD to do pinkalicious.
Since this is the week of Halloween we talked about Halloween Costumes and watched my favorite halloween book
(it is a flash movie, so won't work on my iPad, so sad).  I always turn down the volume and narrate it myself to make it more entertaining.
Then we had popcorn for our snack.  

Here is our coloring page.

Friday, October 21, 2016

2nd grade homeschool curriculum reviews

What we use:

  • Second Story Window morning work and homework, daily 5
  • Adapted Mind math
  • Easy Peasy All-in-one Homeschool Reading-1, Modern History, Science (selections for all four years of study), and Math-2
  • Time4Learning (offline resources only) for 2nd grade Language Arts extensions
  • Piano Wizard, Reading Rainbow, and Bill Nye the Science Guy
  • LDS scripture stories videos

Second Story Window Morning Work and Math/ELA homework:  I love both of these resources.  They are the best worksheets ever!  I was able to print out a workbook for the entire year which covers all the common core for second grade.  (I plan to send him back to public school next year, so I keep in mind what he would be doing if he was there this year)  I can use this book as a thermometer to make sure my child is on grade level and to see what areas I need to supplement.  This resource is fabulous for homeschool because it is beautifully illustrated in black and white and puts 5 times as many activities per page of paper as most workbooks.  The problems are clever and engaging too which is almost unheard of in workbooks.  We start each day with this book. (In theory, it gives me a chance to do the breakfast dishes:)
My Second Grade Math Book contains:
Second Story Window Math/ELA homework
and the Easy Peasy Math-2 pdf.
My Writing book conatains handpicked writing assignments
from Time4Learning Language Arts Extensions and pages for spelling lists

Morning Work: Covers spelling, vocabulary, reading fluency
and comprehension, sight words, writing, grammer, and math

Daily 5: I love this concept which I found on the Second Story Window website and I try to do all five each day.
  1. Read to self (we call this stamina reading and on the first day he read 3 minutes and we are working up to 30-40 minute reading sessions.  On day 40 we are at 17 minutes) 
  2. Read to someone else (We do Easy Peasy Homeschool Reading-1 selections)
  3. Listen to Reading (I try to read two or three books a day to him)
  4. Work with words (vocabulary, spelling, grammar, etc)
  5. Write  (We are also working on handwriting, forming letters correctly, speed of writing, and forming smaller letters)

This is the Math/ELA homework, it prints with Math and Language Arts on every other
page since it was intended for public school homework,  but it works:)
Chunk Spelling:  I put blank spelling pages in the back of the writing workbook
and each week we generate a new spelling list to  study.
Our read to self is library books, Read to someone else is "Easy Peasy Reading -1", and Listen to Reading is library books that I can read to my 3 and 7 year old together.  We mostly use "Second Story Window ELA homework and Morning Work" and "Time4Learing language arts extensions" for the work with words.  I also do a chunk spelling list each week that we model after the Second Story Window chunk spelling lessons.  I have the Time 4 Learning second grade spelling list and I use that for inspiration on which chunks to teach and also challenge words, I also found some great lists by googling chunk spelling.  I like studying chunks in spelling because I am such a passionate proponent of phonics.  Chunk spelling is great for homeschool because it is so easy to tailor the difficulty level.








Adapted Mind: My son and I love this!  We came across ads for this curriculum while doing Easy Peasy Math 2.  My son had been wanting to do multiplication which isn't part of Easy Peasy, but is a part of the Adapted Mind second grade math.   He can also do third grade math when he finishes, which will be long before the school year is over.  We immediately fell in love with this highly user friendly program.  The cost is $10 a month which is steep for one child, but we are hooked, and the first month is free making it $9 a month.  Getting started was so easy and navigating was easy.  Previewing the year was easy.  I get an e-mail each day showing how my child is doing which helps me know how much he actually did.  The only problem is that there are no links to the instruction videos.  I can always find them by googling the lesson topic and Kahn videos.  I think this is intentional.  The program allows you to select any video explanation you would like off of youtube if you don't want to use theirs.  I like that flexibility.  There are also worksheets for extra practice if you want them.  The one thing this program lacks is daily basic addition and subtraction practice.  Easy Peasy offers that, so they pair well together.


Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool:  I think it really is easy peasy.  If I were homeschooling multiple children I would love it even more because it is designed with that in mind!  When I first looked at the curriculum I thought "that doesn't look like enough!", but don't be decieved, it is jam packed with EVERYTHING you need and it is very up to date material.  It is fun too, which was important to me.  The kids learn so much and have a lot of fun doing it.  Navigating the site and planning your year is a breeze.  I couldn't be happier.  I started with Time4Learning and that is horrible to plan your year with.  Easy Peasy also update links often.  This is a 100% free curriculum worth a bundle!  I don't use the language arts for second grade, because I like Second Story Window and Time4Learning better.

Easy Peasy Math pages
Easy Peasy Math -2 I really like how it makes math fun and has more math facts practice than public school.  The concepts for the year are grade appropriate.  I added in the second story math homework 3 times a week because I wanted him doing written work for gross motor development and I like the applied problems so much.  This math is pretty close to what he would be doing in public school and with the Second Story math homeework supplement, he is right on target so he can go back next year.

Learning about Henry Ford was our favorite History lesson so far.  We made assembly line cars with Legos!
Easy Peasy History- Modern.  I chose this since I only plan to homeschool one year and I felt that the topics in this curriculum where what my son was least likely to cover in public school.

Easy Peasy Science I use their science curriculum, but I have picked topics from Zoology (insects, animal classification, ecosystems), Earth Science (earth layers, volcanoes, weather, water cycle, rock cycle), Physics (sound, light, flight), and Biology (plants).  I looked up my state science curriculum for second grade and pulled out the Easy Peasy Lessons that matched and it worked out almost exactly to 180 days.   I wanted to use the Easy Peasy Thinking curriculum, but honestly, our day is pretty full and I don't usually get to it.

Like I said, we use Reading-1.  I started with Reading-2 and realized it was really a third grade reading level.  I went back to Reading-1 and at the same time we did something similar to their Learn to Read lessons 137-212  (advanced phonics such as  sh, ch, oy, ow, oa, or, gh, alk, ight we did two a day) since he wasn't quite ready with the phonics skills.  On day 7, Reading-1 was challenging and I helped by reading a lot of the passages, but now at day 40 and done with the phonics unit, his skills have improved so much that it is perfect for him.  I LOVE Easy Peasy Reading 1.  The literature has a rich style, is interesting, clever, vocabulary building, knowledge enhancing, grammar building, and even seasonally appropriate.  I can incorporate any Language Arts Lessons that I want (listening for details, fact vs opinions, identifying main characters, morals in the text, etc) into what we are reading.





Time4Learning: On day 1 of home school I had intended for this to be our complete curriculum.  I had done my research and it seemed to be what my son would enjoy the best.  It followed our state curriculum very closely which I also liked.  I had a DIFFICULT time planning our year despite the lesson planner on the website.  It was challenging to scan and get a feel for what he would be learning in a lesson.  It wasn't broken into 180 days either and I had know way of knowing where the natural breaks were.  I couldn't print because the format would have taken reams of paper to print.  Also, I wanted to print out workbooks for the year, but to print all the pages from the curriculum (they were all in color) was cost prohibitive (even in black and white).  Also there was a crazy high monthly fee of $20 for using the curriculum.  When my son used the website, he also had a terrible time navigating.  Then we ran into problems with the videos.  They just didn't have play bars.  This was a problem because the videos didn't move fast enough and as a parent I couldn't tell what was in each video without sitting and watching the entire thing myself.  You couldn't skip to the parts you needed.  On week 2 of homeschool, we tried Easy Peasy for one day just to compare and loved it.  I didn't have to plan the year at all, it was already divided into 180 days and scanning content was easy.  I don't use Easy Peasy Language Arts 2.  It is very light which is fine since they do a lot of language arts with other subjects.  I prefer to do more language arts and less of the reading assignments with the other subjects though.  So I do Second Story Window ELA homework, Daily 5, and Time4Learning language arts extensions for our Language Arts curriculum.

 I do like the concept of Time4Learning, but the worksheets and navigation were not user friendly.

I downloaded the Time4Learning Language Arts Extensions guide and printed out every single writing assignment, about 60 of them and made a second grade writing workbook.  We use these in combination with Second Story ELA homework and chunk spelling for our Language Arts.  We do the other worksheets in photoshop, so we didn't have to sink tons of money into printing costs.  The language arts extensions was one part of Time4Learning I could easily scan through in advance, so I liked it best.  The Language arts extensions cover science and social studies topics.  I have set up my year so that the Time4Learning science and Easy Peasy Science topics overlap.  Time4Learning Language Arts extensions has lots of picture book suggestions and when I google them there are usually videos of the books on youtube, this is good addition to our Daily 5 "Listen to Someone Read".

Other resources I like: Bill Nye the Science Guy, Reading Rainbow, and Story Bots when they apply.  I am constantly checking.
For music we use Piano Wizard which is about the only kind of music education my kids will tolerate from me.

Art: This year my son is learning Photoshop and drawing.  We use photoshop for Language Arts extensions, science and history projects.  For drawing we do drawing tutorials on Youtube of whatever sounds fun to draw or whatever we are learning about in Language Arts.  He surprises himself by what he is able to do.



LDS Video Library: Book of Mormon Stories, Old Testament Stories, New Testament Stories, and Doctrine and Covenants Stories: My younger kids watch about three stories a day during breakfast to start their school day.






P.E.: Weather permitting we go to the park for at least 30 minutes a day, I'm still trying to figure out how to keep my 3 and 8 year old physically active during the cold days of winter, but the 30 minute a day requirement comes from a specialist my son is seeing for health reasons and is one of the main reasons we chose to homeschool, so we are pretty committed to this. We also do speech and vision therapy every day.  So much therapy!  Without homeschool we would never get it all done.

Handwriting Without Tears App:  My son happened to love this and it has been worth the money  despite it having glitches with saving his progress.  He used it for the first few weeks of school, now I create handwriting tracing pages online.  For example today he dictated a story for a Language Arts assignment which we made into a handwriting practice page.






Saturday, September 24, 2016

Teaching the Art Merit Badge

Requirement #4
Supplies:
sketch paper, water color paper, brushes, water jars, paper plates/palettes, pencils, erasers, acryclic paints, water color paints, charcoal (or pastels).  Simple objects to draw like fruit, or basic drawing tutorials.

Render a subject in four different mediums:
pencil, acrylic, watercolor, charcoal!




Requirement #1a
What is art?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EKUtYldLA-o
1b the importance of art to humankind...

1c "How does art make you feel?"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kdati4PkKHg









Requirements #2 and #3 see the free ABC's of Art booklets at awesomeartists.com
I also love this poster!
https://www.thinglink.com/scene/700705864780087296

Requirement #5
Design a Logo, explain what it means, put it on Scout equipment, furniture, ceramics, or fabric.

Our boys put logos on ceramic mugs, drawstring bags, t-shirts, camping pillowcases, and even a binder.  We used acrylics, fabric marker, and sharpies.  The notebook was done with vinyl.
 


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Arrow of Light Awards

We just finished our first year on the new program and we have two Arrow of Lights to award. I wish we had done this last year when my son got his, because they look really cool.  We started the year with 6 boys and one den and now we are up to 13.  We have a Webelos/Bear den and a Wolf den.  Because we were combined, our Webelos earned their Arrow of Light in about 9 months because they were doing Wolf and Bear stuff the first few months, I am so impressed with the boys and their den leaders for getting everything done!


Color bands:
purple or light blue=bobcat
red=wolf
teal=bear
green or navy=webelos
yellow, tan, blue=arrow of light

How I made my arrows:
I cut the dowel in half with a saw and then notched the ends for the arrowhead with the pocked knife.  I glued the jute and the arrowheads on with wood glue.  I cut the duck feathers in half with the exacto knife  to make fletchings and glued them on with hot glue.  I added more jute to the end of the arrow.  I painted the colorbands on paper and then mode podged them on, the advantage of paper is that I could have used marker instead of paint and I can get the lines straighter.  You could just thin out white glue if you don't have modge podge to accomplish about the same effect.  The fletchings were the hard part since they aren't straighte and don't want to be glued into a straight line, maybe I needed two people for that part.  Oh well, they look nice now they are all done.

arrowheads=$4.99 (for five on amazon or just find a flat rock and make your own)
duck feathers=$4.81(for 22 on Amazon, not all the feathers were usable this was probably enough for 4 arrows)
dowels=$0.59 at Hobby Lobby

I had everything else at home, so these arrows cost me about $5.50 each.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Youth Arts Festival 2016

Here are a few pictures from the Artist Reception on the last day of this years arts festival. I taught the Lego classes!  Here you get to look at all the fun projects and dream for a whole year about what class to take next year.  Unless of course you would rather dance, be in the play, learn to play ukulele, or learn to perform magic tricks and then your art will be on stage...
  The Lego pictures are my students, I think they did a great job!