Tag Archives: family

Celebrating Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day will be a little different for us. We usually celebrate it by making or preparing Valentines during the day, then surprising each other with them at suppertime. Our grandma comes over for a special meal, and we end the day with a lot of chocolate.

This year, however, my husband will be working late, so the kids and I have been wondering what to do. The consensus is that we’ll have a special Valentine’s Day snack instead of a supper during the few minutes in the afternoon he can come home so he won’t miss it. And we’ll still end the day with chocolate. 🙂

There are lots of ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Find picture books at the library about St. Valentine, or look up information about him online. Share his story with your children.
  • Spend some time baking together!  Make Valentine’s Day treats from scratch with your kids. You can find all sorts of recipes to try at KidsCookingActivities.com and Kaboose.com.
  • Decorate a room in your house – Cut out paper hearts and tape them around the room. Our favorite room is our kitchen, and the paper hearts are going up all over the windows. Have the kids write messages on the hearts or the names of the people they love.
  • Create homemade cards for grandparents or neighbors.
  • Make valentines to share with the residents of the local nursing home or for children in the hospital.
  • Write a letter to a friend you don’t see very often.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

New Year’s Around the World

No matter if we’re home together or visiting other family members, we usually celebrate on New Year’s Eve with games, snacks, movies, fireworks, and of course, staying up until midnight. This year, as we get ready for the festivities, we thought it would be interesting to find out how the rest of the world welcomes the new year. Here’s what we discovered:

In England, New Year’s Eve customs are quite similar to our own here in America. Many people celebrate with parties either in their homes, restaurants, or pubs with friends and family. They also watch fireworks displays, and at midnight sing “Auld Lang Syne”. They count down with the clock and toast the new year. Sound familiar? It did to my kids!

But here are some other things we learned:

In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is known as Hogmanay, and it’s an evening full of traditions. One of the customs is called first footing, or being the first person to cross the threshold of a home after midnight. This “first footer” will bring all the luck of the coming year with him, but there are some criteria he must meet. Ideally, he will be tall and handsome with dark hair, but he cannot be a doctor, a minister, or a grave digger. It’s also traditional for the first footer to carry a lump of coal to signify life, comfort, and warmth, along with a cake to represent prosperity.

Omisoko, New Year’s Eve in Japan, is one of the country’s most important holidays, coming second only New Year’s Day. Buckwheat noodles, called toshikoshi soba, are eaten to ensure longevity and prosperity. Families gather to watch the Red and White Song Festival, a television program that features singers whose songs were popular during the year. As the clock approaches midnight, many people visit the shrines and temples. Getting up to watch the sunrise on New Year’s Day is another important tradition, as viewing the first sunrise is considered a good and proper start to the new year. Popular foods for New Year’s Day include fish, fish eggs attached to seaweed, black beans, and kelp. New Year’s postcards sent to friends and family are delivered on New Year’s Day, and children receive monetary gifts in special envelopes.

In Mexico, Año Nuevo (New Year’s Eve) is celebrated by decorating homes in red ( improved lifestyle and love), yellow (blessings and good employment), white (improved health), and green (improved financial situations). Families often celebrate with a late-night dinner of turkey and mole. If Mexican sweet bread is served, it was usually baked with a coin or charm inside the dough. It’s tradition that whoever receives the piece with the coin  will have good luck in the coming year. When the clock strikes midnight, 12 grapes are eaten — one at a time with each chime of the bell – and a wish is made with each one.

People ring in the New Year in so many different ways! What interesting New Year’s traditions do you have in your family?

 

Photo by Matthew Hull

Late for Christmas?

I envisioned this December much differently. We would finish up with schoolwork early in the month, then sit back and enjoy all the sights and sounds of the holiday season. We’d spend a day baking cookies for a friend’s cookie swap party, work on Christmas crafts together, look at the  various holiday light shows, and make some handmade gifts. And I would actually get my Christmas cards out on time this year.

But like everything else lately, Christmas hasn’t come like I thought it would. Our tree still isn’t up. The house isn’t decorated. We haven’t been out to look at the lights. I didn’t make any gifts. And I can’t even seem to locate our advent calendar.

Just days after we arrived home from a Thanksgiving visit with family, my oldest daughter had to go into the hospital with a ruptured appendix. Though my husband was able to get time off so we could take turns sitting with her, things at home fell further behind. It’s as if I’ve spent the last week or so just trying to catch up — trying not to be late for Christmas.

But it’s never too late to consider the real meaning of Christmas. That amid the hustle and bustle of holiday “have-tos”, the reason for the celebration is still there — the birth of Jesus, God’s Son come to earth.

And while we can remind ourselves, we can remind our children, too. Snuggle on the couch and read a Christmas story book. Set up (and even play with) a nativity scene together. Help them wrap a gift for a needy child in your church or neighborhood.  Talk about what it must have been like for Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men as your driving in the car.

So even if the mistletoe isn’t up, the stockings aren’t hung, and the lights aren’t blinking on the lawn, you’re not late for Christmas; any time we think about God’s wondrous gift is the right time.

Thankful

Even with all of my good intentions, this school year has not been an easy one. Come to think of it, I don’t know that any of them could be classified as “easy.” But as we celebrate the holidays, I am reminded of how thankful I am that we are able to homeschool and educate our children in the way we believe benefits them the most. So even on our “off” days, when things aren’t going as I would like them to, I am so thankful that:

  • I know my children’s academic strengths and weaknesses; while I applaud their strengths, we can focus together on the areas that need improvement.
  • I know their character strengths and weaknesses, and I’m around to help guide them through various situations.
  • I know their friends, their friends’ parents, and their friends’ siblings, and I know what they do when they’re just “hanging out”.
  • They’re learning (albeit slowly some days!) how to accept and get along with one another, as well as how to encourage and support one another.
  • They’re learning practical skills as they help out around the home.
  • We have time to deal with “life” as a family, helping each other when the need arises.
  • We have time to reach out to others in need — to friends, family, and people in the community.
  • We are learning and growing together.
Though many of our friends’ children now attend school, homeschooling has definitely proven to still be the best option for our family. So this season, instead of becoming discouraged by the inevitable “bad” days, I’m going to continue reflecting on all the positives we’ve experienced. And I am so very thankful.
How has homeschooling benefited your family? What are you most thankful for?
Photo by ensignmedia

When Life Takes the Front Seat, Avoid Oncoming Cars

It has not been an easy week and a half. But as many homeschoolers can attest, there aren’t that many easy weeks during a school year. Schooling at home means dealing with life at home all day, every day, and sometimes life takes the front seat.  Last week, my oldest son John cut his hand, requiring a trip to the ER, seven stitches, a follow-up trip to the hand doctor, and finally today, outpatient surgery to repair two tendons. Now, I know such an event should have spurred me on to lead the kids in an investigation of muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and  the anatomy of the hand, but instead I decided we should rent a movie and watch it this afternoon. And it wasn’t even educational. It was Cars 2.

We hadn’t seen the movie yet, and it had just come out as a video rental.  John thought it was a good choice, as his younger brother Luke would like it to. So, we gathered around the living room and watched it this afternoon, and I have to say…I was extremely disappointed.

I liked the original Cars movie. Aside from “feeling” like a rather long film (I remember watching it in the theater and wondering when it would end), it was a fun movie with likable characters and a good message. Luke loved it and we ended up buying it, along with all the little action figures.

But this movie was not the same at all. While (I think) the original was geared to 3-7 year old boys, this one must have been intended for older kids. The plot was complicated and way over the heads of the original Cars fans, involving an hour and a half of spies and secret agents.

What I found most appalling, however, was what else the film serves up to young viewers: weapons, torture, bombs, and even death. In one scene, a “good” secret agent is captured and tortured — the bad cars tell him he’s going to die. Then he bursts into flames off camera.

“I can’t believe it!” I said. “They just killed him!”

“No,” my kids assured me. “He’s all right. He’ll come back.” But he never did. Then, towards the end of the film, the bad cars are after Lightning McQueen, determined he’s going to die too. They even rig Mater up with a bomb to unknowingly blow up his friend.

So, while I’m glad we took the afternoon off (we all needed the break), watching Cars 2 was not the way to go. While children may enjoy the races and chase scenes, this film has little else to offer.  So, yay for John for thinking of his little brother, but boo for Pixar for not. 🙁

Fun in the Fall

Fall is my favorite time of year, and it always goes by way too fast. If you’re like me, and the new school year of lessons, projects, and activities have kept you busy, here are a few ways you can take a moment (or a day) to step back and enjoy the season with your children:

Crafts:

My kids love crafts – and I do, too! While you may have thought of doing leaf rubbings, here are a few sites with even more ideas:

Family Fun – On this site, you’ll find thanksgiving cards, a leaf mobile, and more great ideas for fall.

Busy Bee Kids Crafts –  Crafts on this site include an autumn tree collage, pumpkin lollipops, a paper bag scarecrow, and apple stamping.

The Crafty Crow –  with links to other craft sites, at The Crafty Crwo you’ll find directions for creating a leaf picture alphabet, melted crayon autumn leaves, a plastic bottle owl, and marbled shaving cream autumn leaves.

At Danielle’s Place, you’ll find plenty of turkeys for Thanksgiving, including  several paper plate turkey and a turkey potholder.

 

Picture Books:

When the weather becomes a little cooler, it’s the perfect time to snuggle up together with a good picture book. Here are a few of our fall favorites:

Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming

Fall Leaves Fall by Zoe Hall

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

In November by Cynthia Rylant

Countdown to Fall by Fran Hawk

 

Our family also has a few favorite activities we love to do year after year. They include: pumpkin picking, apple picking, attending fall festivals, having backyard picnics, and flying kites. This fall, we’re also going to explore a corn maze and cook up some yummy desserts. What does  your family  do to celebrate fall?

A Picture is Worth…a Lot!

Today, we visited with some new friends from our co-op. And during that visit, I was encouraged to move our photos off of the hard drive to places where everyone could enjoy them.

The family we were with reminds me so much of my own — about five years ago. Their young children, ages 2 – 9,  are always running, shouting, and laughing; it was so much fun to watch. As my friend showed me around the house, I saw some of the neat ways they’ve commemorated holidays, trips, and  occasions with their photographs  — things similar to those I used to do before life became so hectic. So, if time seems to be flying by for you, too, take a day or two or three, and try creating some of these special reminders:

  •  Instead of  just saving your family photos on the computer, display them with a digital photo frame. Some frames have a place for a thumbdrive, so you can easily change out the photos you display. Our friends have separate thumb drives for Christmas pictures (displayed during the holidays), vacation pictures (displayed before they go on vacation again), birthday pictures (showing all the birthday parties of a particular child), etc.
  • Decorate a frame: Buy an inexpensive photo or collage frame for your favorite holiday or vacation pictures. If it’s not the color you want,  paint it with some inexpensive craft acrylic paints. Hot glue fun reminders to the frame: sea shells, ticket stubs, small ornaments, etc.
  • Create a photo book: You can arrange your digital prints in a photo book in which you can add your own captions and text. These are available online at sites such as Snapfish or Blurb, or at local drugstores as well. You’re book can focus on one event or a whole year of events. You could even create a book for your child of photos they took themselves.
  • Display a scrapbook page: If you’re like me, you love scrapbooking but don’t have much free time to do it. Instead, try arranging some photos on just one page, frame it, and hang it on the wall.
Sometimes, when I mention to the kids something that we did when they were little, they don’t remember. But with photos available for the viewing anytime, I know they won’t forget!

Are You A Rule-Follower? – Part 1

Last month, we met with my sister and her family for a fun day at a nearby theme park. We had gone to the same park last year and had such a good time,  and this time my kids were excited about sharing the experience with their cousins. I felt confident about navigating through the park and handling the high food prices — that is, until we went through the main gate.

As with many theme parks, the drinks, snacks, and meal deals weren’t deals at all, but we knew that ahead of time. Last year, we took some snacks along with us to save some money, and no one working at the gates commented on them at all (we did buy our drinks there). Because the park had such a family-friendly policy of allowing snacks into the park, I assured my sister we could do it this year as well.

So, before we headed off to the park, we each packed a bag with snacks and a few extra waters. We were ready for a great day.

That is, until we lined up to go through the turnstile. This summer, as the workers  looked through the bags,  if you had any extra drinks or snacks, they told you to throw them away or take them back to your car, at least a thirty minute walk there and back.

“Really?” I said, incredulous. “Take them back?”

“Yes,” the worker repeated. “You can take your water through this time, but the snacks have to go back.”

My sister went through in a different line. The worker there told her she could keep her snacks just this once, but she had to throw her drinks away. We watched as others had to throw away some of their stuff, too.

Shocked and angry about the randomness of it all, we put a few of our snacks in my sister’s bag, and I headed out with the rest. I wanted to put all of my snacks in her bag, but she insisted that she was a rule-follower, and said that we shouldn’t do it. So we’d eat her snacks, drink my water, and make it through the day without having to spend too much on extra food.

Back in the parking lot, I unlocked the car and put the backpack in the van. I stood there a moment, thinking about all of the snacks in there. Included in the stack of snacks were two tuna packs in foil, the kind you would take if you were camping. I had bought them for my husband, as he’s a big guy and granola bars just don’t fill him up. I thought of him, thought of my sister, then put the packs in the pocket of my shorts. No one would even notice.

On the long walk back into the park, I had a lot of time to think about that tuna. Was it the right thing to do? Was it right to break this rule that just didn’t seem fair? What did it say about my character and integrity?  Could we afford $10.00+ hamburgers for everyone? Did my husband really need that tuna?

I decided he did. After all, it was a bad rule. It was not family-friendly, and I had a family to look after.

On the way out of the park, I had my arm stamped, so to return, I had to go through a special entrance. When I approached the gate, I saw one of the workers and a security guard. I held out my arm to show him the stamp. Then I had to pass through the metal detector.

A metal detector…

Celebrating America…with Books!

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. When I was growing up, it meant picnics with family and friends, swimming in the lake,  and lighting fireworks. And for my kids, it’s still a special time for eating watermelon and setting off firecrackers. But even more importantly, it’s a time to remember our heritage, a time to treasure our freedom, a time to reflect as a family on all that it means to be an American.

There are a lot of great books about the 4th. If you’re looking for some to share with your children, check these out:

 

For Kids:

America the Beautiful by Katherine Bates and Wendell Minor

America: A Patriotic Primer by Lynne Cheney and Robin Preiss Glasser

A is for America by Devin Scillian and Pam Carroll

Fireworks, Picnics, and Flags: The Story of the Fourth of July Symbols by James Giblin and Ursula Arndt.

Looking for Uncle Louie On the Fourth of July by Kathy Whitehead and Pablo Torrecilla.

Fourth of July Mice! by Bethany Roberts

Independence Day by Trudi Strain Trueit

Happy 4th of July, Jenny Sweeney! by Leslie Kimmelman and Nancy Cote

Fourth of July Fireworks (Our Holiday Symbols) by Patrick Merrick

A Fourth of July on the Plains by Jean Van Leeuwen

Fireworks and Freedom: A Fourth of July Story and Activity Book by Carol Amato and Ann Koffsky

Hurray for the 4th of July by Wendy Watson

America Is…by Louise Borden and Stacey Shuett

American Patriotism by Kerry Patton, Kathleen Hawkins,  Rachel Simmons and Paul Vallely

Patriotism (Character Education) by Lucia Raatma

 

For Parents:

The American Patriot’s Almanac: Daily Readings on America by William Bennett and John Cribb

How to Raise and American Patriot: Making it Okay for Our Kids to Be Proud to Be American by Marijo Tinlin

How to Raise an American: 1776 Fun and Easy Tools, Tips, and Activities to Help Your Child Love This Country by Myrna Blyth and Chriss Winston.

 

Photo by wintersixfour

Around the World

This summer, we have a lot of friends traveling all over the world. My niece and her husband came back last month from Rwanda, our neighbor just returned from a trip to Turkey, another friend is on her way to Australia to finish school, and another niece is set to go as a missionary to Uganda for a year. We also have friends who are long-term missionaries in Paraguay. What amazing adventures! Not only do these trips make the world seem much smaller, but they offer great opportunities for learning!

When someone we know travels to another country, it provides a more personal reason to study that country. We can study the culture, language, people, cities, government, religion, landscape, flora and fauna, and cuisine of a particular nation with our friends and family in mind. We’ll discover what they’ll see and experience while they are there.

But even better, we’ll also be able to learn more than we ever would from books or online. We’ll be able to take what we’ve learned from reading and ask them about it. They’ll be able to give us details that would be hard to find in a typical report. For example, we learned that many Australians are very laid back, and use the phrase “No worries!” quite often, even in situations when the average American would be stressing out.

If you have a friend of family member who will be traveling soon, try creating your own unit study about the country they will be visiting. Start off with basic maps and facts about the country. Then tap into your friend’s experiences. If your friend has  a blog or Facebook page, visit it often with your children to see where he is and what’s he’s doing.  Find the cities where he’s been and have the kids mark them on a map. If he posts photos, include those in their notebooks as well.  If he’s staying a while, have them write letters, and add any they receive in return.

So even if you’re not traveling around the world this summer — no worries! Your children will have a great learning experience anyway!

 

Photo by xandert