Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Surrounding Ourselves With Reminders

When the hubby and I returned from a little trip before Thanksgiving, we found that my mom and the kids had transformed our refrigerator into a giant, joyous work of winter art.
And ta-da! It's our 2011 tree. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Devotions

And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. 
Deut. 6:6-9

I'm sure you know these verses. They were used just yesterday in a charge to the parents of a new baby in our church. They are an example of what a brilliant curriculum planner God is. No one learns without "hooks": ways for them to hold onto the facts passed along. What better way to give a person a hook then to teach them through everyday life?
I'm sure you also know how difficult these verses can sometimes be to act upon. A whole van ride goes by without any discussion at all, much less working through life's issues Biblically. Or the kids get up, it's time for breakfast, they're off to school and you realize, "I didn't even hug them, much less pray with them."
And so God has given us these brilliant times in the year when these verses get just a bit easier because we are completely surrounded by pointers to the Word of God. 
Christmas is one of those times. We decorate our houses, we buy and wrap presents, we put up a tree. Everyone is talking about the coming, exciting day! Here is a great way to teach our children the Words that the above verse talks about! Let's don't miss it. It's not about checking off devotions on a list. It's not about being holier than the next person on the pew. It's not even about having wonderful family time during the holidays. It's about Jesus! It's about giving our children the gospel in a way that hooks into their brains. And it's about getting closer to our God. 
If you're still not sure that you know just how to pull the Word of God into your holiday in a daily, weekly kind of way, there are SO many helps just for you!
1. Unto Us A King is Born--this free downloadable devotional covers the Christmas story during the month of December (or any other month!) with daily Bible readings and points of reflection.2. Nativity Advent Calendar--One of my friends has this calendar, and it is fun, meaningful and beautiful! Each day, you or your children can open a tiny door to find a magnet to attach to the nativity scene.
3. The Advent Wreath--This is a count down that would be easy to start and finish this week. Light some candles in a circle and talk about the coming of Jesus--simple and effective! Even adults sometimes need to touch and see something (like a candle) for words to sink in. The link takes you to some suggested Advent readings, but if you don't like those, there are many more from which to choose! 

4. Thisadvent devotional is especially great for children.5. As I've mentioned before, the Jesse Tree is a great tool for teaching children (and ourselves) that the entire Bible is about Jesus and that Christmas is a story for the entire year. 
(If you're interested, hot glue will hold almost anything to almost any wall, and it peels right off when you are done.Test on a small area first, of course.)
6. What God Wants for Christmas presents and nativity. We let our youngest open all of these presents over the last week, so that they have a nativity scene on the table that they can play with. The figures change positions at least 10 times a day!

7. If you're into simple plans, this free Advent Christmas Prayer Guide is an exceptional tool! It gives a hymn for each week in Advent and a few verses to read each day to lead up to Christmas. And of course, with a bit of creativity (or just ask your kids to come up with something!) each day's reading could be symbolized with a picture and hung on a tree, just like with the Jesse Tree plan above.
8.Truth in the Tinsel looks like a creative addition to an Advent learning schedule. Each day includes a craft, a scripture, and a little discussion. It looks like it would be great for the crafty learners of all ages! (And it's only $5)
9. If you're looking for something just for you or for older children, how about this book of quotes from guys like Augustine, Luther, Edwards, Spurgeon, Piper or John MacArthur? (edited by Nancy Guthrie)  Come Thou Long Expected Jesus 
10. And one last "experience advent" kind of book: Christmas Extras will give you many ideas for sharing the Gospel with your kids this season.
And just in case all of that just wasn't enough, here's another list of Advent ideas to check out: Advent at Easy Fun School.
Happy Advent! 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Longest Break Ever

I know, I know. It's been a while. Nine days is a big jump here for me on Of Such is the Kingdom. But I have a whole list of (pretty amazingly good) excuses:
**Last Saturday was my 34th birthday and my wonderful hubby took me waaaay down south in Florida to visit a good friend. We slept in, ate out, chatted much and walked the beach for four days. It was wonderfully, beautifully incredible. : ) Oh, and forgive the lack of pics in this post; the camera was left behind at a family member's house on one leg of our journey. Ugh! Lots of pictures of the sun and the sky and the water are definitely coming!
**This was Thanksgiving week and the hubby and I were way too busy being very thankful for me to even have time to check email or blog: thankful for over 10 years together, thankful for our kiddos, thankful to be children of a living, mighty God.
**The oldest's birthday is tomorrow and while the hubby and I were traveling, we bought her a present and planned a very girlie tea party for this coming Monday. Our oldest is eight--hard to believe and another reason to be thankful. She is a beautiful and mature little individual.
**And last but certainly not least, our family has begun the adoption process. We're having another child! We have longed for our fourth child for many years and a few weeks ago it hit me, what are we waiting for? I expected the hubby to need lots of time to process before he was ready, but he came to me the very next morning with all the research pulled up on his laptop. Since then we've filled a preapp at Bethany Christian Services and been pre-approved. We're walking through the stack of questions in the application now. Right now we feel most led toward domestic adoption. Hurray! It is wonderful to open up and see what God will do. If you've made it this far in this wordy, wordy post, would you pray for us?

So back to normal for Of Such is the Kingdom next week with Christmas, Christmas, Christmas! Recipes, activities, crafts, pictures, and more! I hope to see you there.

Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving also have a restful weekend.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Play Time

This "wordless" pic begs for the story. G.I. Joe, Repunzel, Aladdin and Eugene have stolen the magic coin from the mean animals who use it to enhance their powers. The animals have chased them to the cliff where the heroes have escaped by using the strength of the magic coin.
All of this is (I swear) what I was told when I walked in to see what the kids were playing.
Here's another for your viewing enjoying; actually it's just for your listening enjoyment:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Camping Beauty

Just a few images from our camping trip this past weekend. It was cold and beautiful and entirely worth 40 loads of laundry! : )

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Great Learning Gifts For Kids

I love the fact that so many toys out there now are actually teaching our kids. Why just play if you can play and learn at the same time? Of course, kids are learning with any kind of play, but I love it that toy/book/game/music producers seem more in tune with that now than they ever did when I was a kid. Here are my top ten learning toy gifts. These are products we either already have or have on our Christmas list for this year.
1. Songs for Saplings CDs: These are hands down the number one request when I'm the van DJ. And I certainly don't complain. Dana Dirkson has a lovely folksy sound, and she is teaching my kiddos scripture and catechism Q & A to catchy tunes. Check out their bulk order options if you have lots of kids to buy for this Christmas! Listen to a few songs from the new Q & A album on their FB page.

2. Real Kids, Real Places books: I'm excited to find this new series of books filled with facts about places all over the world. And the best part? These facts are hidden inside a thrilling mystery just right for young readers. The reviews put the books for age 8 and up, but from what I read, even the adults were learning a lot about each place. These will be especially great to read right before visiting the places in the book!
3. I'm in love with this toy! Connectagons are a great way to build 3-dimensionally and if your child happens to learn shapes in the process, all the better! These come in all kinds of shapes including these beautiful butterflies, and (I feel like this needs a drum roll, it's so great) if you buy the huge Constructagons, your kids can build creations they actually play in!

4, 5, and 6. I love anything Melissa and Doug too. These wooden toys are favorites in our house. I'm going to be looking for some of their preschool/kindergarten toys for my youngest soon. I think she would like their See and Spell (letters that fit into slots to spell out what you see on your wooden block), their Shape Sorter Clock (learn colors, shapes, numbers, and time all with one simple wooden toy), and their Beginner Pattern Blocks.

7. Anything Magic School Bus gets my vote as well. These books are great for learning science! And since I wrote a report on blood from the viewpoint of a blood cell when I was in 3rd grade, I totally think I came up with part of this idea a long time ago. (ha!) My opinion is that, if your older child is willing, they should be able to watch these as well and maybe answer some deeper questions: Where is the line between fact and fiction? Are there over-simplifications? What are other facts abou this subject that you could write into the plot of this show?
8.I think that this cash register (notice the "learning resources" at the beginning of the name of this toy: They think they are just playing, but you know the truth!) would get lots of play with all three of my children (3, 6, and 8). Pushing buttons + fun sounds + playing with money = hours of fun.
9. This is going to be under the tree for our very artistic boy. Each page has some sort of doodle/drawing already there as well as instructions on how to finish/add to the page. One page even has about 1000 little tiny circles with the instruction to color 624 of them! I think the boy will enjoy the fact that the drawings already in the book are things he can already draw! He'll love finishing and coloring them. We actually bought his at Costco for $9.99. It's great to see that we beat Amazon's price (which are hard to beat!).
10. I am so impressed by this Robotikits 6 in 1 solar powered robot. For only $12.95, you get 6 different robots that don't even require batteries! Your techy child gets to break down and build to his/her heart's content!

So there you have it. Some humble suggestions on gifts that not only entertain but teach your children. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

You Learn Something New Every Day!

I know this is not a super exciting picture for the "Wordless Wednesday" crowd, but I am excited about this new website my hubby introduced me to last night: Khan Academy. Evidently "he's got 3 degrees from M.I.T. and one from Harvard, worked on Wall Street as a financial services guy before quitting to teach," or says my hubby who is definitely in the know about these things. (And he knows how to use Wikipedia). 
Anyway, this Mr. Khan has made over 2600 educational videos and posted them on his site for anyone and everyone to view for free. The kids and I watched the one above this morning as we finished up our unit on our solar system. There are videos on all kinds of arithmetic, physics, history and finance concepts--and much more. 
I'm excited to find a site like this for homeschooling my kids and reschooling myself (and learning for the first time too). And I thought you guys might want to check it out as well. 
Happy learning!