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Advent 2012

This year, Advent begins December 2nd and is only 3 weeks long. This gives me a full week after Thanksgiving to prepare for Christmas School. If you are looking for ideas for new traditions throughout a meaningful Advent, you can join us at Advent Idea Box.

In addition to the activities on that site, I add in lots of extra math, science, and language arts activities with a Christmas flair. Here are some links to some great worksheets and activities to supplement your Christmas School!

Teaching Resources
Christmas Pack at 3 Dinosaurs
Common Core Math at TeachersPayTeachers (currently free)
Structured Writing Activities

Cyber Monday

I'm always a bit paranoid about sounding like a used car salesman when I mention Amazon, but I wanted to remind you that tomorrow is Cyber Monday: the relaxed, shop in your pajamas experience that is comparable to Black Friday in deals, but has the convenience of shopping online. Away from people.

Amazon tends to have some fantastic Cyber Monday Deals, as does New Egg, Hands of a Child, Currclick, and ThinkGeek. If you happen to be shopping on Amazon tomorrow, I'd be much obliged if you would consider using this link to get there. A small percentage of your purchase goes towards Amazon store credit for me. It's tiny, but it adds up to books, so that's wonderful!

Also, I'd love to hear about your favorite Cyber Monday hangouts! Where do you find great online deals?

How to Homeschool

Over the past few weeks, I've been approached by several families wanting to know how to start homeschooling. Some had decided to begin homeschooling immediately and needed fast answers, some were considering the idea, but still not sure if it was something that they would be able to do. Some were for Kindergarten aged students that hadn't yet stepped foot in public school; some were for high school students considering a huge leap in their education methods.

1 Thessalonians 5:14  And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. Read more:
After spending a lot of time answering each family individually, I thought it might be helpful to share some basic information for anyone considering the homeschooling journey. I'll make it a series, since there is no way to fit it all in at once. While I'm sure there is plenty that I'm leaving out, here is an attempt to introduce you to homeschooling. Part 1:  

Why homeschool? 
There are about 5,473 reasons to homeschool.  I really can't think of any reasons not to homeschool at the moment, but I'm sure they exist, too. Rather than go through the many reasons to consider homeschooling, let's address the stereotypes against homeschooling, as they might be scaring you a bit.  

What about Socialization?
Socialization is the "process that provides an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within his or her own society." First, let's consider the logic involved in saying that public school is a good place to achieve this process. If "his or her own society" refers to other 2nd graders, then sure, public school will give your child a good skills for participating with other 2nd graders. Maybe. If "his or her own society" means the world around them, then no, not so much. In fact, public school students tend to learn only how to interact with their immediate peers, but are stunted in their growth in interaction with anyone else.

There are awkward homeschoolers. There are also awkward public school students. I was one of them. Freakishly awkward and I'd never even heard of homeschooling. Out of the hundreds of homeschooled students I've met, I've only met 2 that qualified as awkward. I assure you that public school was not going to change that fact. And I can also assure you that I've met many more awkward public school students.

 Fear of Gaps
But what if I leave something out? What if he applies to college and ends up humiliated because he doesn't know Blaise Pascal's middle name? Or how to add? #1, Why would they need to know old Blaise's middle name? #2, You would have to try really, really hard to keep them from learning how to add. The truth is, everyone has gaps. Everyone. You, my friend, have gaps. Do you remember finishing your textbooks at the end of every school year? No, no you don't. It may have happened once or twice, but I doubt you got there without the teacher skipping chapters. The point is to learn how to learn, so that you can continue to grow in your education for the rest of your life.

Please note that homeschool students tend to score significantly higher on standardized tests, so they don't seem to be missing much. And just so you know, Blaise didn't have a middle name.  

How can I teach without a teaching degree?
This is a concern for a lot of first time homeschooling families. It's also a concern expressed by many in the teaching community.  It is an unfounded fear. You know your child better than anyone else. You can do this. If you know how to read, you can teach your child anything. If you struggle with any area, there are resources, many of them free, that can help your student learn without your help. But even better, you can learn with your student!

If the data showing the incredible test scores of homeschooled students (most of whom are taught by parents that don't have teaching certificates) doesn't convince you, then just friend a few teachers and public-schooled high school students on your facebook page. A few weeks of watching their spelling and grammar errors, and you'll feel much better about your abilities.  

How do I know if it will be a good fit for us?
Drink deeply of 1 Chronicles 16:11 and Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Don't let fear step in the way. 2 Timothy 1:7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. If you feel God is directing you toward this method of education, you know that He will give you what you need to do it and do it well. You can do this. Philippians 4:13 says so.
1 Chronicles 16:11  Seek the LORD and his strength;  seek his presence continually!

Strength Through Christ

Philippians 4:13  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Not Of Fear

2 Timothy 1:7  for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Read more:
1 Chronicles 16:11  Seek the LORD and his strength;  seek his presence continually!

Strength Through Christ

Philippians 4:13  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Not Of Fear

2 Timothy 1:7  for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Read more:

Thanksgiving Celebrations

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. It's so uncommercialized, it's even being hidden by Black Friday sales. That's just fine by me. Let the stores and television channels do what they want. We'll be cozy in our Hobbit Hole, enjoying good company and good food. Feasts are hard work, but shared with many hands, the day seems slow and easy. It would be hard not to pause and experience the overwhelming joy of thankfulness for these many blessings!

This year, we've been enjoying some special Bible readings each morning and I've explored some heart-growing thoughts from the book One Thousand Gifts , which I've been sharing with the kids.  We've added in a few fun activities to these studies and to our plans for Thanksgiving Day, and I wanted to share them with you.

A Thanksgiving Tree is a beautiful focal point. Print these meaningful verses, set on adorable leaves and have the whole family take turns reading them, writing down something they are thankful for, and hanging them on a bouquet of twigs. 

Need a walk after that fabulous meal? Here is a Scavenger Hunt list for the whole family, courtesy of Family Fun.

Continue to set your thoughts on thankfulness, long after Thanksgiving Day is over, by starting a weekly Thankfulness Journal.

Above all, be sure to stop and smile. Look around you at the tiny things. Listen for that sweet sound of coffee gurgling in the coffee maker. Enjoy your family. Recognize the Grace that God has poured out for you. I dare you not to smile. 

Turkey Printable

Cute times 10! Download this free Coloring Page from Doodle Art Alley.

Elegance of the Hedgehog

     "Now you make me think, it's not just about the lamps. In fact, there aren't two of anything in Monsieur Ozu's apartment. Well, I must say it makes a pleasant impression."
     "Pleasant in what way?"
     She thinks for a moment, wrinkling her brow.
     "Pleasant like after the Christmas holidays, when you've had too much to eat. I think about the way it feels when everyone has left...My husband and I, we go to the kitchen, I make up a little bouillon with fresh vegetables, I slice some mushrooms real thin and we have our bouillon with those mushrooms in it.  You get the feeling you've just come through a storm, and it's all calm again."
     "No more fear of being short of anything. You're happy with the present moment."
     "You feel it's natural-andthat's the way it should be, when you eat."
     "You enjoy what you have, there's no competition. One sensation after the other."
     "Yes, you have less but you enjoy it more."

 Not the most pleasant of themes, but quite full of oddly profound thoughts, Elegance of the Hedgehog has me deeply questioning my priorities. Deep, deep thoughts cloaked in understated characters in an inconsequential fiction, I find myself contemplating things that never would have occurred to me otherwise. I'm able to finish thoughts that were previously too much for my mind to hold onto long enough to fully form. And this section...this section has me reeling.

"Have our civilizations become so destitute that we can only live in our fear of want? Can we only enjoy our possessions or our senses when we are certain that we shall always be able to enjoy them? Perhaps the Japanese have learned that you can only savor a pleasure when you know it is ephemeral and unique; armed with this knowledge, they are yet able to weave their lives."

Even my love of books stems from a fear of being unable to pick up a friend when I want it later, unable to share a lesson with my children when they come to it in their studies. And I'll be frighteningly honest: I have no immediate plans to do a craft with toilet paper tubes. And yet, I have bookmarked fun activities and crafts that call for toilet paper tubes. Worse yet, I have shopping bag hanging in my hall closet that is full of toilet paper tubes. No, I am not currently in need of them, but perhaps we'll have time for the craft next week or the week after and suppose I don't have them? I'll have to wait a month to collect enough to do the craft.

Is my clutter motivated by fear of lack? Is my lack of pleasure in my possessions motivated by fear?  Do I think that that reassurance of always having things will make them more enjoyable? Is it not the opposite? Should I not enjoy them all the more because they are here. now. at this moment.

I'm having a week of profound Eucharisteo, bombarding me from unexpected corners, trying to teach me something that I haven't quite grasped.

Homeschooling with the Holiday Blog Hop


Homeschooling during the Holidays can be difficult for a lot of families. Moms are exhausted, kids are wired. It always seems like there isn't enough time for everything. We pause our regular classes and start Christmas School during the weeks of Advent. This year, Advent is just over 3 weeks long. There is a week between Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent this year, which gives me extra time to prepare crafts and activities.

These three weeks make a great time for a unit study, if your family enjoys them. Instead, we do a sort of Unit Study every day during Advent. Our Christmas School activities involve cute math worksheets printed off of the internet, Bible memory with our Jesse Tree traditions, lots of reading and copywork, and lots of crafts and activities as we study different countries around the world and some of their traditions and foods. All of this (minus the math worksheets) is shared at Advent Idea Box, which we've been tinkering with for a couple years now.

If you use the site, I would love to hear how you incorporate it into your homeschooling days or Christmas traditions. If you have any tips or suggestions, I would love to know how to make it better for families to use!

Note: there are Amazon ads in the sidebar. Please feel free to ignore them. They are there to go toward our book addiction. Last year was our first try with ads and we actually accumulated $50 after someone used the link to purchase a kindle and some other gifts. It was a nice Christmas surprise!

Arts and Crafts with the Holiday Blog Hop


Arts and crafts play a huge part in our Christmas School. You really need to check out the fun we have, all outlined at Advent Idea Box. Every day of Advent, we study a new country and new traditions from around the world and all through history.

We study the origin of Christmas cards in England

We study Poland make our favorite Kolacky recipe.

We study Russia and The Nutcracker Suite and we make nutcrackers.

 We study Germany and make edible Christmas trees.

We make most unappetizing gingerbread houses you've ever laid eyes on.

We try new crafts and new ideas and we revisit old favorites every year.

Our favorite traditional craft is our Jesse Tree. We decorate ornaments and memorize verses every year to help tell the gospel story, beginning with Creation. 

Gift Giving with the Holiday Blog Hop


Gift-giving is a concern for many of my friends this year. Our economy has caught up with just about everyone at this point, and many are having trouble imagining how they're going to pay for gifts this year. We've always been on a pretty tight budget, the kids' gifts being primarily stocking stuffers from us and packages from Grandparents. But, while I know packages are fun to open, I really don't think kids mind all that much if there are tons of gifts or just a few.

We had one year, after receiving a safety bonus check, that we purchased gifts for the kids. We parked new bicycles for each boy under the tree, and a tricycle for the toddler. We were so excited to see their faces when they saw something so huge on Christmas morning. However, their faces looked no more impressed or amazed than any other Christmas morning we'd ever had. I'll admit, though we KNOW the truth about what really matters, Chris and I had felt a little niggling in the back of our minds as we wished we could give them bigger gifts at Christmas. This particular Christmas revealed to us that our children knew the truth about what really matters even better than we did. They loved the bikes, but they really didn't care. They just love Christmas. They love celebrating what God has already given us. We told them this year that we were pretty much down to socks for Christmas and they grinned and said it sounded great.

I'm trying really hard to make them homemade socks, but we'll see how many I can get finished in the next few weeks.

Homemade is a wonderful way to share a heartfelt gift on a budget. Scarves, mittens, and hats are faster than you might think and they can be used and treasured for years.

This scarf is called a faggot stitch, referring to 'bundle of sticks'. I stitched it on size 11 needles to give it a draping, lacy feel. A faggot stitch is simply K1, YO, K2tog, repeat. I crocheted scallops at the ends to give it a cute, fun edging.

 These hats are from my favorite knitting book, called Baby Beanies .  It has excellent instructions, even for beginning knitters and it gives sizes for more than just babies. I've been able to adjust instructions and knit hats for my husband from this book! 

Cooking is another great way to share a homemade gift. Even when the results aren't the most attractive, they are always appreciated. Our neighbors have received many tree-shaped blobs through the years, but they know our kids had a day full of fun, thinking about them and working hard on their gift.  

 It's not always the prettiest, but children are much more able to grasp the concept of giving when they have a hand in making a gift. My girls still treasure a little stuffed dog that their big brother sewed for them.

The gift of time is possibly the best gift we can give to another, any time of year. Our sweet neighbor takes time out of her busy holiday to sit down with my girls and read them a Christmas story every year. Many people are aching with loneliness this year. Time is the best gift we can give them.

If you are in that group of friends, wishing you had the money to give more this year, please take comfort and remember that it's not about gifts. And even if it were, they don't remember them long anyway. This picture sums it up very well for me. After 3 solid days of opening presents at different families' houses, Honor plopped down, surrounded by new presents, to play with the thirty year old set of Little People her daddy once played with. They really DON'T CARE. And the could learn a few lessons from them.

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Cooking with Holiday Blog Hop and a Freebie!

 Our Thanksgiving holidays are easy: everyone brings something they like. Younger family members experiment and bring new dishes and ideas (I have a feeling that Pinterest is going to be one of our favorite dinner guests this year) and older members bring their dishes that have joined the table for years. It just wouldn't be the same without Grandma's hot rolls, right? Every year, we gather with Chris' family for Thanksgiving (and mine a couple days later) and my family for Christmas (and with his a couple days later.)

Advent means lots of cooking all season long. It's one of our favorite activities! Advent food traditions start the night after Thanksgiving for us with our cold plate meal to sustain us through the heavy task of decorating.

We do feed them throughout the rest of the day, even though this photo makes it look as if Joel is starving. The truth his, he burned a lot of calories dragging those boxes down from the attic.

Cookie baking is one of our favorite activities to do together. We sample cookie recipes from around the world, but always settle back down with a yummy, standard Sugar Cookie. We have a tradition each year that involves getting together with some good friends and decorating cookies together. We've done it since our boys were babies. Now some of their babies have babies! It's still a favorite tradition.

Baking cookies with Grandma just can't be beat. 

Making candy gifts for the neighbors is another favorite tradition.

Last year we learned that not all of the holiday cooking needs to be edible. We had a blast adding Christmas confetti glitter to a homemade play-doh recipe.

All of these ideas and recipes are available at Advent Idea Box. Come and visit for more free Advent activities and ideas.


As you can see, I'm in the very early stages of transferring my blog over here and I could use a little help getting it established. If you would be so kind as to sign up in the sidebar to join this site, I will use that contact information to send you my Holiday Cookbook in PDF format. 

Decorating with Holiday Blog Hop


From the moment the first leaves begin to fall, days seem to take on a new magic. I love living in the Ozarks!

In my garage sits a tub full of fall decorations. I used to pull it out at the very beginning of every September. As the babies came and grew, my box came out later and later. This wasn't so much because I was too tired, but because they opened up my eyes to God's beautiful decorations around me.

Glorious walks and trips to the Pumpkin Patch trumped any decorations I could do around the house.


 Dream filled days with friends made anything we could do around the house pale in comparison.


 As the leaves continue falling, blanketing the ground, we get closer and closer to Thanksgiving. Still, the season is not one of anticipation, but of savoring each moment.


As Thanksgiving nears and the season draws to a close, I begin planning behind the scenes. Thanksgiving requires barely any planning, just enjoying. Family gathering and enjoying good food and good company. Christmas, on the other hand, is soon to follow and our Advent plans require lots of planning.

Unlike Thanksgiving, Christmas season is full of anticipation. I know many parents worry that it is anticipation for presents, but I don't think this is so. My family doesn't do much by way of presents and the kids, while thankful, don't seem to enjoy that part better than any other part of the holiday. Instead, I think Christmas itself is full of anticipation. It is the very essence of Advent: celebrating that He came and joyfully anticipating Him coming again.

Decorating begins the day after Thanksgiving. While I shop on the computer, the men-folk carry down box after box of decorations and books and accessories. We take it easy, eating leftover cranberry salad for breakfast and turkey sandwiches for lunch. The decorating begins that night. We sip on the good cocoa and eat cold plates of olives, cheeses, and dips while dancing to Christmas music and pulling out the tree.

The lights are first, and are now the only part of the tree I have much hand in. Once the white lights are twinkling in their proper OCD formation, the kids pull out ornaments from years gone by. Every year, we each add another ornament to the tree. Someday, they will grow up and decorate their own trees with their own families. We'll likely send these ornaments with them to add some color to those early trees. 

The most important decoration in our home is the Advent Wreath. This takes center stage in our entryway, casting its glow into the livingroom as we read our Advent scriptures each night. This year, Advent doesn't begin until a full week after Thanksgiving, so the anticipation will be palpable.

Every year, we stop our regular homeschooling lessons to go through "Christmas School". The decorating will continue till the end of Advent with snowflakes, gingerbread houses, suncatchers, and more. Please join us at Advent IdeaBox. And be sure to check out more traditions and ideas by my fellow crew members!