How Reading Together Connects Our Family

Today, I want to share with you one of the best ways that I have found to connect with my children: through reading together.

Whether we are reading picture books, Bible stories, or chapter books, reading provides connection for my family like nothing else that I have found!

books we like to read

 

How Reading Helps Me to Connect with My Children

Reading provides physical connection. Part of connecting is being physically close.  My children love to sit close by and even have "snuggle time" when I read to them.

Reading helps my children to listen to me. My children are hearing my voice as I read to them. I truly think that this helps them to listen to me when I speak to them about other things!

Reading opens up discussions. Just talking about what the characters do in a story creates some very good conversations in our family. There are also many discussions about life lessons that books can initiate.

Reading creates special play time. I honestly cannot tell you how many times there have been that my children engage in imaginative play because of books we have read (And they love it when I play along with them!) They love to pretending to be different characters! We have had adventures as the Boxcar Children, the Characters from Little House in the Big Woods, the Miller Family, and the Animals from the Burgess Books (to name a few).

boxcar children props bennys pink cup henrys trophy blueberries bread milk and cheese
Our Boxcar Children Props, including Benny's pink cup and Henry's trophy.

WHY Connecting with Your Children Is So Important 

A few years ago I read this amazing book called Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers.

This book really inspired the way that I think about connecting with my children.

The main message of the book is this:

As children grow, they begin to spend more time with other children and less time with parents. This changes their natural attachment to parents and instead attaches children to peers.

(This is due to the way our society is now set up and not the natural dynamic!)

The problem with this shift in attachment causes children to become "peer-oriented," valuing the thoughts and opinions of their peers more than those of their parents.

And this begins young (think preschool and kindergarten), but really manifests in the teen years.

The authors (A Ph.D. in child development and an M.D.) see this trend in our society as problematic. And I completely agree!

I want my children to remain attached to me and not transfer that attachment to peers because I believe that an attachment to parents is truly what's best for children.

So I encourage you to find ways to connect with your children. Reading helps me to connect with my children, but you may find something else that works better for your family. 🙂

I would love to hear from you!

Does your family enjoy reading together, too? What ways have you found to connect with your children?

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)

Why We Love Homeschooling Year-Round

One of the most important things that I have learned about homeschooling is that it doesn't have to look like "school at home."

While this concept includes the traditional learning style of textbooks and notebook paper and the 8:00AM to 3:00PM mentality, I have found that it also reaches much deeper than that.

It also includes the yearly homeschool schedule.

homeschool planner calendar

We homeschool year-round, and it works great for our family. Here are a few reasons why:

Flexibility in Our Schedule.

Instead of 36 weeks of the year to complete school, we have 52 weeks. This allows for a day off here and there for whatever reason without having to stress about it.

Our school fits around our life instead of our life being shaped by school.

More Frequent Breaks.

Homeschooling year round allows for more breaks during times when we want a break. We choose not to take a long summer break, but instead take more frequent breaks throughout the year.

We typically take a long break between Thanksgiving and Christmas to enjoy extra activities and to focus on the meaning of the holiday season.  And in the Spring when the weather is nice, we take more time off then as well.

We also greatly enjoy off-season vacations when the rates and crowds are lower.

Monticello homeschool field trip
Our day at Monticello early this Spring. Almost no one else was there!

To Make Learning a Lifestyle.

I grew up in a typical public school setting (as most children do) where school begins in the fall and ends at the beginning of summer.

But as I teach my own children, I have discovered that I want them to think of school as more than just a fall to summer occurrence.

I don't want them to be trained to take a vacation from learning. I want them to enjoy learning and not see it as a task to be completed.

I want my children to view learning as a lifestyle.

charlotte mason homeschool quote education is an atmosphere an discipline a life

Do you homeschool year-round? How does it work for your family?

Please leave me a comment below. I would love to hear from you!

4 Reasons Why Nature Study with Young Children is Important

little flowers chickweed nature study

Some of my best memories as a child are times of being outside in nature to explore. I loved to study rocks, pick wildflowers, and chase butterflies.

I remember going on walks with my dad, who showed me interesting things. He taught me how to identify trees, showed me animal tracks in the dirt, and allowed me to help plant and harvest in his garden.

I believe that my early introduction to nature is why I grew to love it, and why I continue to love nature today. 

I have seen my children begin to develop a love for nature as well. And I've got to tell you that it thrills my heart!

Here are 4 good reasons why taking time for nature study with young children is important:

1. Nature Study Teaches Attention To Detail.

Attention to detail is a skill that will serve anyone well for an entire lifetime.

There are so many details in nature. When efforts are made to make children aware of these small wonders all around them, it's amazing how many little things they will notice on their own!

On occasion I have pointed out small insects, little flowers, and beautiful colors to my children.

nature study young child collection rocks twig flower moss

And now they are eager to show me the things they find!

2. Nature Study Encourages Exploration and Self-Directed Learning.

I don't think there is anything that stimulates more curiosity in children and a desire to research the way a new discovery in nature does.

When children see something interesting in nature, they naturally want to know more about it. So many good questions come from observing nature.

Children who have been exposed to nature study seem to be sort of different in that they notice “nature things” in the city when others are only seeing the city. They look for different flowers, birds, rocks, and bugs everywhere they go...

3. Nature Study is the Best Introduction to Science that a Child Can Have.

winter crocus nature study

In one way or another, nature study involves most of the sciences.

Nature study introduces concepts in Biology, Entomology, Botany, Zoology, Geology, and Astronomy just to name a few.

Chances are that children who study nature will already have some understanding (and real life experience) regarding many topics they encounter in early science books.

And because of their early hands on experiences with these topics, the subject of science will be fascinating to them.

4. Nature Study Inspires Awe and Reverence of The Creator.  

One way that God reveals Himself to us is in nature.

Psalm 19:1-3 says:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” 

And look at Job 12:7-9:

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Who does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?” 

Even Jesus used the wonders of nature to illustrate truths about the Kingdom of Heaven in His parables (Parable of the 4 Soils, Parable of the Growing Seed, and others.)

forsythia blooming spring nature study

Nature is so full of God's wonder. I believe that God teaches us through nature and helps us to grow closer to Him by it.

I love the words about nature study recorded by Charlotte Mason, a well-known British educator of the late 1800s:

“From the flower in the crannied wall to the glorious firmament on high, all the things of Nature proclaim without ceasing, ‘Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty’ ”

So how do you "do" Nature Study? 

The truth is, there is no single way to do nature study. Nature study can be what you want it to be.

The important thing is to get outside in the fresh air and sunshine, and then simply take notice of the world around you.

Point things out to your children.

Observe the birds. Look closely at flowers. Watch a busy insect. Look at the details of rocks.

And just be amazed by the world around you.

For information on a more formal approach to nature study, consider these sources:

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)

Right Now on Amazon – The Boxcar Children Book Series #1-12 Only $3.99!

Right now Amazon has the Kindle Edition of The Boxcar Children Mysteries: Books One Through Twelve available to download for just $3.99 (regular price is $59.99)!

The Boxcar Children Series follows the life and adventures of four orphaned siblings - Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny - and everywhere they go, they find a mystery to solve.

We LOVE the Boxcar Children!

Last year, we read aloud the entire original series (Books 1 through 19) as a family. We are currently reading the newer books. My children even pretend to be the Boxcar Children sometimes, which I think is great 🙂

You can read more about WHY we are such big fans of the Boxcar Children.

And did you know that you don't need a Kindle device to read Kindle ebooks?

Simply download the FREE Kindle Reading App that allows you to read your eBooks on ANY device including your computer! (And there are many great ebooks for the Kindle Reading App that are FREE!)

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)

Healthy Strawberry Banana “Ice Cream”

A Cool Valentine's Day Treat (Dairy Free and Sugar Free!) 

Healthy eating is a challenge (for children and adults alike).

My husband and I make an effort to eat a healthy diet. We try to include lots of fruits and vegetables and limit our sugar intake. And we try to teach our children to do the same.

But it's really tough.

We have a long way to go when it comes to eating super healthy.

easy strawberry banana ice cream sugar free dairy free made with Vitamix blender

And we don't always make healthy choices. But we do try, and we are teaching our children to make healthy choices as much as possible.

One of our best investments for adding fruits and vegetables to our diet was the purchase of a Vitamix Blender. We especially love using it to make a variety of smoothies and frozen treats.

It literally took us a few years to decide to purchase one because of the price. They are SO expensive! But we are so glad that we did!

I just wanted to share a recipe with you today that I made up. It's super simple and we really like it:

Strawberry Banana "Ice Cream"

You will need:

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 very ripe frozen banana (peeled)

1/2 cup cold water

drizzle of honey

Put all ingredients in Vitamix and blend on Frozen Treats Setting.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

This would probably work in a regular blender, but it may be more chunky.  (If you try it in a regular blender, let me know how it turns out!)

Click on the image to save this recipe on Pinterest 🙂

What we absolutely love about the Vitamix is how smooth our frozen treats turn out.  This really helps children who are sensitive to certain textures of fruits and vegetables (like my daughter) to get more nutrition.

I hope you and your family enjoy this cool healthy treat.

How do you teach your children about healthy eating? I would love to hear from you. Please comment below.

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)

Why My Daughter is Learning Cursive

Over the past year or so, to teach or not to teach cursive handwriting has been a major topic among elementary educators.

When I first heard of this debate, I actually could not believe that this was even a discussion.

I mean, why wouldn't you learn cursive? But then I began to really think about this question.

I remember when I learned how to write in cursive in 2nd grade. I LOVED learning how to write in cursive! I still remember how "grown up" I felt when I could finally do it!

And I can't help but to think of the valuable skill that came along with learning to write in cursive: the ability to READ cursive.

writing cursive at home

I could finally read what my mother was writing and what the handwritten notes in my birthday cards from my grandmother said!

But I must say that I can understand why cursive is not a necessity in today's world of education, and how the time could be better spent developing typing and computer skills.

But this post isn't meant to be an informative post about why you should or shouldn't teach your child cursive: It's about WHY I'm teaching my daughter cursive.

And the answer is quite simple:

I'm teaching my daughter cursive because she wants to learn cursive.

My daughter came to me last week and said that she wanted to learn how to write in cursive, so I started teaching her.

In the few years that I have been teaching my children, I have found that the right time to teach them something is when they truly WANT to learn it.

(This is why I think it is best to wait until a child is ready to learn how to read and should not be pressured into reading before they are ready, but that's another post 🙂 )

Learning happens best when a child (or anyone) is truly interested in knowing something. If children are allowed to learn in this manner, I have found that it truly keeps the love of learning alive.

When I asked my 6 year old daughter why she wants to learn how to write in cursive, her answer was "because it looks pretty."

So she is learning cursive right now because it's what she wants to do, and she is learning it well and loving it too!

 

Pie Baking and Birdhouse Making: Making Time for Fun Projects as a Family

Happy New Year!

Yes, I know it's February 1st, but I took the entire month of January off from blogging 🙂

But now I'm back and will hopefully be posting at least once a week.

I just wanted to share with you something that we have decided to do as a family each week in the year 2017.

One of our family goals for this year is to do a fun project together each week.

During the Christmas season, we did a fun project every day for 12 days.

(In case you missed it, see Our 12 Days of Christmas Crafts).

This was great fun! The children and I really enjoyed it. Since we were taking a break from official schoolwork during this time, we had extra time in our day for these craft projects.

In case you haven't noticed, we really enjoy crafts around here 🙂

But we decided that our weekly projects of 2017 don't have to be a traditional art type craft, but just some fun activity we can do together.

We received this Peanuts Wooden Birdhouse Set as a Christmas present, so we decided make it our very first project:

painting snoopy woodstock peanuts wooden birdhouse
putting together wooden birdhouse
putting stickers on woodstock birdhouse
snoopy Woodstock peanuts wooden birdhouse art set

Other projects we have done together so far this year:

We have worked a 200-piece puzzle together.  And we have baked a peach pie from scratch.

peach pie from scratch

I know working a puzzle and baking a pie may not seem much like craft projects, but here is why that doesn't really matter:

This goal we have isn't so much about what we are making - it's more about just doing something together so that we can enjoy time with each other.

I am looking forward to many more creative family time projects this year, and I hope to share some of them with you.

What are your favorite ways to spend time with your family? How do you make time?

I would love to hear from you! Please comment below.

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)

Top 5 Educational Toy Gifts for Preschoolers

Preschoolers are natural learners. They are curious about the world around them and learn so much through play, and they find simple things fascinating. (Is it just me, or does anyone else's preschool age child prefer to play with my kitchen utensils and tupperware containers over their toys?)

Choosing good toys for preschoolers does not have to be complicated. When buying toys for 3 to 4 year olds, there are so many options for toys that are just simply fun to play with and promote hands on learning at the same time.

Here is my top 5 list of toy gifts for preschoolers that will both entertain and teach:

1. Blocks

Blocks help fine motor coordination through stacking, and they foster imaginative play through creative building. Depending on the block set, they can help with learning colors, letters and numbers as well.

There are so many different kinds of blocks that preschoolers love. Traditional stacking wooden blocks and snap together type like LEGO DUPLO Sets are two great choices.

For wooden blocks, this Alphabet Blocks Wooden Truck is one of my all time favorite block toys for children and both of my children loved it as preschoolers. I love the colorful alphabet blocks and how easily they can be stored on the truck.

For snap together blocks, one of our favorite sets is this Lego Duplo House. It is great for imaginative play and can be used to help reinforce daytime and nighttime routines with the special printed blocks that come with it.

Melissa and Doug Alphabet Block Truck
Lego Duplo Playhouse Set

2. Play Food

I believe that this is a favorite toy of all preschool children. Learning Resources brand makes some very sturdy play food pieces like this Fresh Picked Fruit And Veggie Tote that is fun for imaginative play. Other food toys like  this Super Sorting Pie help with color recognition, fine motor skills, and sorting.

learning-resources-play-foo

3. Little People Sets

We love Little People! There are so many different sets that are fun and imaginative for preschoolers.

Our favorites are two that you may remember from your childhood: the Fisher-Price Little People Animal Friends Farm and the Little People House.

Little People Animal Farm

4. Puzzles

Preschoolers enjoy puzzles. I think both the board puzzles and jigsaw puzzles are good for this age.

For board puzzles, we really like both the Melissa and Doug Wooden Chunky Puzzles and Wooden Peg Animal Puzzles Set. I have seen preschoolers have great fun in just working the puzzles alone, and also with playing this puzzle game that helps with learning to taking turns.

These Melissa and Doug Sound Puzzles are really neat, too.

While jigsaw puzzles may be advanced for some 3 and 4 year olds, others enjoy them as an activity to do with help from an older sibling or adult. There are even beginner jigsaw puzzles available with as few as 12 pieces.

Wooden Board Puzzles

5. Magnets

Magnets are just fascinating. Magnetic alphabet letters and numbers can be purchased to play with on the refrigerator, or there are magnetic chalk board sets that come with letters and numbers.

Magnetic Blocks are also another fun magnetic toy to consider.

melissa-and-doug-alphabet-c

There are some really great choices for preschool toys out there that are both fun and educational. Here are some other educational toys that you may consider for preschoolers:

Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! Activity Book, 3-Pack - Animals, Alphabet, and Numbers
Play-Doh Fun Factory Set
Learning Resources Pretend & Play Teaching Cash Register

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)

Why Our Christmas Tree is Up Before Thanksgiving

 

christmas-tree So yesterday we put up our Christmas tree. I know what you’re thinking, we haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet!

Yes, our Christmas tree is up 4 days before Thanksgiving. And I have to say that this is earliest I have EVER had a Christmas tree in my house.

I know that many people are against early Christmas decorations because of the widespread commercialism of the holiday and the “skipping over Thanksgiving.” I have to admit that I have had similar thoughts in the past, so we have never put our tree up before Thanksgiving.

So when my children asked yesterday if we could please get our Christmas tree out (They have literally been asking since October!), I had a thought that actually changed the way I think about early Christmas decorating.

Here was my thought:

Christmas is actually a big part of Thanksgiving to me.

I know it does sound strange when you first hear this, but allow me to explain my thought:

So everyone knows that Thanksgiving is a time to pause and give thanks to God for all that we have. I love Thanksgiving! It’s one day of the year that we are especially mindful of all the blessings we have.

Fisher Price Little People Thanksgiving Set

Thanksgiving is a time we remember the history of the Pilgrims coming to America, their successful first year of harvest, and how God had provided for them after the initial hardships they faced.

My daughter and I have been reading about this in detail and have learned so much in one of her history books this year called Stories Of The Pilgrims.

So that’s Thanksgiving.

Now let’s look at Christmas.

Christmas is about celebrating the Savior’s birth. Without Jesus coming to Earth as a baby, He could not have gone to the cross to pay for our sins (and not just for our sins, but for the sins of the whole world, “whosoever believes” 1 John 2:1-2, John 3:16).

Christmas Tree Close up

This truth was really brought to life for me at Christmastime last year as my family and I enjoyed reading a book together called One Wintry Night.

My favorite quote from this book resonates in my mind as we approach Thanksgiving this year:

“Since the beginning of time, we needed Christmas.”

What a beautiful thought this is!

When you think of it this way, we really should be celebrating Christmas everyday of the year, the humble first coming of the Savior we all so desperately need!

So yesterday, 4 days before Thanksgiving, we put up our Christmas tree.

And while having a Christmas tree up doesn’t necessarily remind me of all the blessings I have to be thankful for, it does remind of of something that I am most thankful for:

God’s saving grace that was made possible only through Jesus, who first had to come as a baby in a manger.

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!

I hope the blessing of Christmas will be a big part of your Thanksgiving this year!

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)

 

Rod and Staff Preschool Workbooks

 

Rod and Staff Preschool Workbooks Set of 7 ABC SeriesToday, my two little hearts were so excited because of a box that was delivered to our front door. It was a box from Milestone Books and contained our new Rod and Staff Workbooks!

I was introduced to Rod and Staff through the Heart of Dakota Curriculum, Little Hearts for His Glory. My 6 year old completed this amazing curriculum last year, and these simple, yet beautiful workbooks called Going on Eagerly and Just Thinking and Choosing were part of the fine motor skills schoolwork. She absolutely loved these workbooks – the cutting and pasting, the tracing, the simple illustrations, and the learning about various animals. I have to admit that I was equally impressed. They were so simple, yet so profound. And the cost of them – I absolutely loved that part. They were just over 3 dollars each. There aren’t many good quality workbooks to be found at this price!

 

Just to tell you a little about Rod and Staff, if you haven’t heart of them. Rod and Staff Publishers was founded in 1958 as Pilgrim Mennonite Press and is located in Crockett, Kentucky.  Their purpose stated in their printed catalog is to “supply Christian homes and schools with Bible-based textbooks and literature that impart truth and that in no way compromise the Word of God.” They do not sell directly online. They can be contacted directly by phone (606-522-4348) to obtain a catalog or to place an order. If you wish to order online, Milestone Books is the major distributor for them. And some of their products can also be found here on Amazon. But even if you do get free shipping from Amazon, I have found that the prices of the workbooks are much cheaper at Milestone Books. (Most of the workbooks are just $3.60 each!)

So this year, as my daughter has moved into the next Heart of Dakota Guide (Beyond Little Hearts), Rod and Staff workbooks were not part of the curriculum. She has missed doing these workbooks SO MUCH. So when I discovered that there were other workbooks available, we ordered them! And to my 3 year old son’s delight there were some available that he could do too!

I bought the Set of 7 ABC Series (pictured above) for my son. It’s called the ABC Series because the title of each book begins with a letter of the alphabet in sequence. They are: Adventures With Books, Bible Pictures to Color (also included was Bible Stories to Read that goes along with it), Counting with Numbers, Do It Carefully, Everywhere we Go, and Finding the Answers.

Rod and Staff Workbooks GHIJKLI also ordered the set of 4 Preschool Activity Workbooks for 3 and 4 year olds. These look like they will be wonderful for him. Four great workbooks for $10.00!

For my daughter, we ordered the GHIJKL Series which came as an add-on with the Set of 7 ABC Series. She has already completed G and J (Going on Eagerly and Just Thinking and Choosing) so those 2 will be put away for my son when he begins Little Hearts for His Glory. But she now has Hearing and Helping, Inside and Outside, Keep Doing It Carefully, and Learning More and More to work through.

I also ordered a Rod and Staff Music Workbook for her as she is becoming interested in learning piano.

Both of my children are so excited to start their new workbooks! And I love seeing them excited about learning.

Friends, if you are looking for some good quality workbooks for your preschooler and young elementary age children, I highly recommend Rod and Staff workbooks. They are so simple, but we all absolutely adore them!

(Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You may read our disclosure policy here.)