Friday, December 31

EH Best of 2010

Looking back over this blog for the year I find that my voice has actually been a bit quieter.  I pigeonholed myself a bit too much with the homeschooling title and as a result I found that when my thoughts were turned to other facets of life, I tended not to share them.  On the other hand, I did share a lot of reading ideas as well as preschool unit plans.  So, if you're looking for inspiration in those two areas, I hope I helped a little. Here are the 2010 posts that stuck with me longer than it took to hit "publish post."

10.  Thoughts on how we celebrate Epiphany.

9.  A little educational method from Jesus.

8.  How our homeschool group raised over $5,000 for Haiti relief.

7.  In which I reflect on how our kids take after us.

6.  A quiet little momentous occasion.

5.  The one I was afraid to publish.

4.  On teaching friendship.

3.  Doing what you think you ought.

2.  Enjoying our new reality.

1.  The same for one as for the other.

Enjoy what the new year has in store for you.
-- Debra

Wednesday, December 22

Christmas Break

Two nights ago I woke the older two boys up in the middle of the night and invited them outside to watch the eclipse.  We laid huddled together in hats and thick blankets and let the universe do its thing.  We joked about the cold, made up acronyms for each other, looked for constellations and just waited for the first phase to finish. It's amazing how entertaining it was.  Of course, staying up late is a fun treat for all three of us.  We let Dad and S sleep.  To each his own.

We did two days of school this week to finish up our unit study on communication.  One day was spent watching  the Doctor Dolittle musical (we just finished the book).  The next day we finished some art and a book about Helen Keller, finished up a newspaper page, plugged through math and reviewed some timeline cards. We were going to then watch the Miracle Worker, but Christmas break was calling and we wanted to be done.  So we put on Christmas music and read Christmas books and made cookies instead.

It's going to be a quiet Christmas here with just the five of us.  It will be interesting to find out what our own traditions become.  There's no snow in Denver this year but one son is getting a gift that may require a drive up to the mountains to play for a day.  Other than that, I expect to keep going through my reading list.

May you find ways to enjoy what the season has in store for you.

Tuesday, December 21

The Books I Chewed on in 2010

I read 37 books this year.  This is a record for me.  I remember well reading avidly when I was younger -- to complete library summer reading programs, to fill my own wall to wall shelf with books, to escape into the comfort of my inner self -- but since I've been a parent, I haven't put the time into it until now.  These are the ones that left the biggest impression on me:

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation1.  Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer. In the throes of my own identity crisis, I picked up this little book and my soul breathed a relieved, "Thank you."  All those outside voices and unrealistic expectations were put into proper perspective and I felt free to spend the year trying to identify and claim those "birthright gifts" I'd abandoned.

The Secret Life of Bees [Hardcover]2.  The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.  I happened to simultaneously read this as I was preparing some thoughts on mentoring.  Coincidence? No. This novel is a wonderfully composed case study of what effective, loving mentoring looks like and the lifelong effects a nurturing guide can have on a life.  It should be required reading for all spiritual directors.

Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith3.  Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith by Henri J. M. Nouwen.  I went to this hoping for insight into being a more congruent spiritual director for others only to discover it's really a posthumous collection of Henri's ideas on being a spiritual director to the reader.  It was exactly what I needed it to be and more.  My only disappointment is that I read a library copy and don't have it to refer back to again and again.

The Critical Journey, Stages in the Life of Faith, Second Edition4. The Critical Journey, Stages in the Life of Faith by Janet O. Hagberg and Robert A. Guelich.   Our church leadership uses the language in this book to help us understand the community's individual walks of faith.  One weekend, while I was sick, I finally got around to reading it.  It changed the way I understand and address the spiritual journeys of everyone around me.  Placing myself in the spectrum also congealed past experiences to that which was useful and as I work to form priorities toward continued growth I can hang them on the shape of my present stage.  It's exciting stuff.

Happy reading in this coming year.  And let me know the very best stuff you come across.

Sunday, December 19

Top 10 Books I Want To Read in 2011

No Man Is an Island (Shambhala Library)1.  No Man Is an Island  by Thomas Merton.  I haven't read anything by Thomas Merton before.  So, whether it's this book or another, it really doesn't matter.

The Rock That Is Higher: Story as Truth2.  The Rock That Is Higher: Story as Truth by Madeleine L'Engle.  This one has been calling to me for over a year.  It's out of print, but I'll get my hands on it one way or another.

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense3.  Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense by N.T. Wright.  Continuing my complete appreciation for N.T. Wright I'll finally get to this one that everyone else has already read.  It's even on my bookshelf already.

Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship (Shapevine)4.  Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship by Alan and Debra Hirsch.  I'm still thinking hard about spiritual formation and I'm wondering if this one will inform me in this direction.

Let Nothing Disturb You (30 Days With a Great Spiritual Teacher) 5. Let Nothing Disturb You by Teresa of Avila.  The title itself makes me feel more peaceful.  30 days with a great spiritual teacher sounds like a very good idea.

Mind of the Maker6. Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers.  Theology and creativity from the mind of a woman.  That's kind of where I'm at these days.

Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back 7. Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back by Frank Schaeffer.  I've read a few books from now-adults who grew up in the church and am fashioning my own response to them.  Interested to see what Schaeffer has to say.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are 8. One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp.  This doesn't come out until mid-January and I'm waiting very impatiently.  Ann's blog is like a long drink from a deep well.  I can't wait to hold more of her thoughts in my hands.

Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction 9.  Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction by David G. Benner.  I've been thinking about what mentoring looks like and I'm hoping this one helps me form a direction in which to work.

Life Is Mostly Edges: A Memoir 10.  Life Is Mostly Edges: A Memoir by Dr. Calvin Miller.  I stole this one from my friend, Dustin. I've heard Miller speak a few times and I've read some of his other works so I'm positive this should be a very interesting memoir.

Saturday, December 18

Turkey Unit for Preschool

It dawned on me that I hadn't posted this unit, so I'm about a month overdue.  These ideas are pieced together from all over the place.  If you did a quick internet craft search you can easily find tutorials to make a turkey out of different materials every day of the month.  I grew tired of making turkeys and took a couple different turns in our study.  On your nature walks this month, scout out a real feather to use with the fourth book in the list below.   If you don't already have colorful craft feathers you'll want to pick some up from the craft store.

Turkey Unit for Preschool

Verse:  Genesis 1:21 "God created every winged bird after its kind and God saw that it was good."  Create hand motions for the keywords:  God = point upward.  Created = work your fingers together like you're kneeding clay (we use a lot of playdough so this was an easy way to visually connect to the idea of creating).  Winged Bird = flap your arms out wide like your flying and keep doing it until the word "kind".  God = point upward again.  Saw = make glasses around your eyes with your hands.  Good = thumbs up.

Letters: T (turkey) +  F (feathers) -- still more voiceless sounds.
Use 9x15 construction paper.  Cut out a large chunky letter.  Your child will be decorating each letter with things that start with it.  After he does this, I attach it to a different colored full size sheet of construction paper, and write the capital letter, the small letter and the word underneath it.
T = I bought a pack of turkey shaped stickers and he decorated his T with them.
F = We glued colorful craft feathers all over the big letter F.

Food Ideas: 
  • Make turkey sandwiches for lunch.  If you cut the sandwich into different shapes or use a turkey shaped cookie cutter, you can do this several days out of the month.
  • Turkey Track snack:  Buy the dry chow mein noodles.  Coat a cracker with peanut butter or cream cheese and arrange three noodles on the spread to look like a turkey footprint.  
  • Turkey nuggets. If your kids like chicken nuggets, you can make these (especially with leftover Thanksgiving white meat) just as easily.  
  • Turkey cut out cookies. Get a turkey cookie cutter and make some sugar cookie cutouts.  Or if you have letter cookie cutters, spell out t-u-r-k-e-y.
  • Turkey cookie place card.  We made big chocolate chip cookies, wrapped them in saran wrap, then glued a construction paper turkey head to the front and colorful feathers to the back of it.  The kids wrote on the feathers telling Grandpa what they loved about him, and placed it at his place on the Thanksgiving table.

Books and Activities

1.  Hungry Turkey Picture.  The turkey in this story eats and eats and eats.  Glue a simple turkey cut-out to a piece of construction paper.  With brown or black ink pads let him make "fingerprint" feed all over the ground around the turkey.

2.  Eaten Letter.  Put 4 - 6 letter flash cards in front of your child (letters he's learned so far).  Have him close his eyes while you quickly take away a card.  Ask him to open his eyes and identify which one the turkey ate. 

3.  Plastic Spoon Turkey.  Use permanent markers to draw a turkey face on the underside of the bowl of a spoon. Or glue on googly eyes with construction paper beak and waddle. Create a fat, brown construction paper body and glue on colored craft feathers for the turkey's tail. Poke the spoon through the body.  From the back side, tap the end of the spoon and make him peck at some make-believe seed on your table.  Or tape the spoon to the back of the paper to keep it stationary.

4.  Make the Big Letter T.

5.  Turkey Trot Game.  To make three Turkey gamepieces I adhered three turkey stickers (the ones he used to make his big letter T) to craft foam and cut each one out.  I made a gameboard filling a 9x15 sheet of construction paper with 3 columns and 13 rows.  The bottom row in each column says Start.  Place the game pieces on start and race the turkeys.  Use a die to determine how many spaces each turkey goes at a time.  First one to the end,  wins. 

6.  Colorful Turkey Tail. has a really cute Turkey craft online. The feathers are all little spaces for your child to cut out and paste 15 different color swatches.   Use your color ink cartridge and print it on your 'best' quality so you can tell the difference between shades like gray and silver.

7.  Color a Tom Turkey.  I found one on Enchanted Learning that labels the parts of the turkey. 

8.  Bird Sounds.  Print out pictures of different farm birds (rooster, chick, duck, hen, turkey, goose, etc.).  Hold up each one and say the wrong bird sound.  Let your child correct you.   You can add to this activity by reading "Cock-A-Moo Moo" by Juliet Dallas-Conte.

9.  Turkey Bingo.  Print out a blank bingo card which you've fit into the outline drawing of a turkey.  Slip it into a page protector.  With a dry erase pen, fill in the spaces with the letters you've worked on so far.  Write the letters again on the white board or a piece of paper and point to them as you call them out.  Let him erase one letter each time until he has a bingo.  My son always wanted to erase all of his letters -- which was just more good practice for him!

10.  Shaving Cream Art.  Spray a couple handfuls of shaving cream onto a dish or tray.  Drop four or five drops each of red and yellow food coloring into the cream and slightly swirl it in with a craft stick.  Cut out an outline drawing of a turkey and gently press it face-down into the shaving cream.  Let dry to see the bright swirly print your child made.  You'll have a lot of shaving cream left over, so you could do this with several cut-outs of the different farm birds. 

11.  Turkey Nest.  Use some die cut leaves, or cut them out of magazines.  Let your child glue them to a piece of brown construction paper.  Write "Turkey's build their nests on the ground."  Then type 'Turkey Nest Picture' into Google images and print out your favorite one depicting a clutch of turkey eggs.  Let him cut out the picture and paste it onto his nest on the ground.

12.  Turkey Puzzle.  Using whatever large turkey picture you like, print it out or glue it to cardstock.  Cut it into about 6 different jigsaw pieces and then let your child put it together.  Unless you have an avid puzzler, I wouldn't make it more than six pieces.  And making sure you print or draw a border around the edges might be helpful for your little person as well. 

13.  A Turkey is a Bird Booklet.  It's a good time to drive home that turkeys are birds.  Cut out several identical copies of a turkey outline.  Staple them together to make a booklet.  On the front write 'A Turkey is a Bird.'  Then, use this list on First-school and cut out each picture and it's caption (i.e.: the little yellow duckling graphic and "D is for Duck") Draw a "D" on the page for your child to trace.  Let him glue on the captioned duck image and then do the same thing on the other pages for as many birds and letters as you want to practice.

14.  Flying Turkey Mobile.  To practice our memory verse, we wrote each phrase of the verse on little turkey die cuts and glued a fluffy feather on the backside.  We glued two popsicle sticks together to make an X.  Then, we punched a hole in each turkey, tied it with strings of various lengths to the sticks and hung the whole thing from the ceiling.

15.  Make the Big Letter F.

16.  Feather Painting.  Pull out a few colors of tempura paint and let him paint with a real feather instead of a paintbrush.  You can then leave the feathers stuck to the paint on the page.

17.  Find the Turkey.  I have a turkey shaped cookie cutter that worked well for this, but you could just use a picture.  Simply hide it somewhere in the room and have him find it.  This activity never gets old. 

18.  Flannel Board Story.  There are a lot of fun turkey flannel stories you can find online.  I've used "Turkey in the Brown Straw. Ha! Ha! Ha!" (sung to Skip to My Lou) with all my preschoolers.  You can find the instructions and the song a little ways down the page here.  There's other great ideas on that site as well.

19.  Turkey Headband.  You simply have to make one of these from Family Fun

20.  Feather Bookmark.  Simply take a real feather (washed) and adhere it between clear contact paper.  Punch a hole and put a ribbon through to finish the bookmark. 

21.  Two Turkey Handprints.  #1 It's time for the traditional turkey handprint craft!  Paint your child's hand and press it to paper.  Draw a beak, eye and wattle on the thumb and glue craft feathers over the fingers.  THEN  #2 make a Mayflower ship.  Stamp his hand again in the middle of yellow construction paper.  Cut out a wavy ocean from blue paper and adhere it just covering the bottom of his handprint to look like a ship in the ocean.  Then cut out a few squarish sails and glue them to his "mast" fingers.  Add a sun and clouds if you like.  It's adorable. 

22.  Thankful Card Stamping.  I have an acrylic turkey stamp that I let my son use to make little notecards.  We printed "Thankful for you" on each of them.

23.  Pine Cone Turkey.  You can google several different ways to make one of these.  Essentially, get a pinecone and lay it sideways.  Adhere googly eyes, a beak and wattle to the front of it.  Use chenille stems to make some turkey toes for it to stand on and then insert craft feathers for a tail.  Alternately, you can use chenille stems to form tail feathers if you like.  

24. Turkey Sandwich Game.  Using craft foam cut out the following sandwich pieces: two pieces of bread out of white, two or three pieces of sliced turkey out of pink,   two or three tomato slices out of red,  one squiggly line of mustard out of yellow, two pieces of cheese out of orange, two pieces of ruffly lettuce out of light green, two connected pickle pieces out of dark green, and anything else you can think of with any other colors you may have.  Alter a die to cover three of the sides with the letter "T."  Give your child a piece of bread to start.  Let them roll the die.  Every time a "T" comes up he can add a piece of turkey or tomato to his sandwich.  Any other number allows them to pick from the other items.  After three "T" rolls finish the sandwich. 

25. Feather Float.  Take a fuzzy craft feather and hold it over his head.  Have his blow up under it to keep it afloat.  See how long you can keep a feather in the air.  

26.  Thanksgiving Meal.  As you get magazines throughout November cut out pictures of traditional Thanksgiving dishes that your family might enjoy.  Let your child glue them to a paper plate to create his own Thanksgiving dinner.  

As always, this list is not exhaustive and the ideas aren't even original to me.  I've been doing some of them so long I just don't know who to give credit to.  If you want to link back to my Apple or Popcorn units you may find more instructions there for typical activities as well. 

Wednesday, December 8

Take Part in Colorado Gives Day

Even if you don't live in Colorado, you can do something great for someone else today.  We talk a lot about doing something good for ourselves, but there's a balance.  Consider giving one less gift to someone this Christmas and giving that amount to one of these great causes today.

charity: water
1.  charity:water
My church, The Next Level Church in Denver, Colorado, held a benefit last night at a very cool and very premier music venue in town, The Gothic Theater.  Our band was fantastic, my dh gave his most compelling message and we talked about people other than ourselves.  People who have to drink dirty, diseased water.  People who have to walk miles or hours each day just to get this essential nutrient for life.  I water my lawn, run the dishwasher, let my kids fill water balloons with this thing that is really the key to physical life or death.

TNL wants to raise $5,000 to build a well for a developing country.  100% of your donations go to building that well.  The organization funds it's infrastructure in other ways.  Your donation simply gives   If we exceed $5,000, well, then let's just go for $10,000.  The link above will take you there and you don't have to be part of TNL, and you don't have to live in Colorado to be part of a clean water solution.  Just give.

2.  Sponsor a Child
My friend, Eisley Jacobs, a fellow Christian homeschooling mom and soon to be published author of a middle grade fantasy novel, sponsors an Ethiopian child through World Vision.  There are 139 other children living near her child that need a sponsor.  $35 a month.  These kids live in communities severely affected by the HIV virus and your sponsorship gives them nutritious food, health care, education and clean water.  Use the link above to sponsor a child and make Eisley's day knowing that more children will be cared for across the world.  (She's going to Ethiopia herself right after Christmas!)

The Gathering Place
3.  The Gathering Place
This is a Denver day shelter for women and children affected by poverty and homelessness.  It's a phenomenal facility and the motto is essentially, "You are accepted here just as you are."  They have a daycare center, counselors, food, clothing, a nap room, a cafeteria, an art studio... it's a wonderfully affirming place.  Donate to them today like this:
1.  Go to our GivingFirst webpage:
2.  On the checkout screen, enter your dollar amount
3.  Choose "yes" for the question, "Is this a recurring donation?"
4.  Set your "First Installment date" to 12/08/2010
5.  Choose 12/10/2010 for "When should this donation end?"
6.  Click "Add to cart."