Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Countdown--Christmas Eve

We'll finish our countdown readings with Matthew 27:11-26 and John 19:16-20, 28-30 (Jesus before Pilate, crucifixion, death) and Luke 23:50 through 24:1-8 (burial and resurrection).

I'd like to find a chance today to have the kids make butterfly ornaments for the Christmas tree. It would be the perfect way to tie Christmas to Easter and a yearly reminder about the work Christ came to do.

Otherwise, as I posted on Christmas Eve Eve, we'll just enjoy each other today and I'll let them take the lead on what countdown activities they would still like to fit in. There's also church today so we will celebrate the glad tidings there as well.

Christmas Countdown--Christmas Eve Eve

Our devotion today comes from Luke 22:7-23 and Matthew 26:36-50 (Last Supper and arrest). The kids have really been making the connection that these stories show what Christ came here to do, beginning on that very first Christmas. We'll re-read some of their favorite Christmas stories.

Today and tomorrow we're going to celebrate our Christmas countdown by enjoying each other's company. Maybe we'll listen to or watch the Polar Express, maybe we'll do some Christmas crafts, or maybe we'll just be together. In any case, I'm not planning a particular activity for us today.

Christmas Countdown--3 Days Until Christmas

The Bible reading for today was Luke 19:28-38 (Palm Sunday) and Luke 22:1-6. We read from Jan Brett's Christmas Treasury. The plan was to drive around town tonight and see everyone's Christmas lights displays, however, some of us aren't very healthy. We'll do that another night.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Countdown--4 Days Until Christmas

Our Bible reading will be Luke 4:1-13. With a healthy dose of snow Monday and Tuesday we'll be singing "Let it Snow" and "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas". We'll be enjoying some Jan Brett stories from her Christmas Treasury for our literature.

We usually let the kids decorate a stocking with puffy paint each year. (I usually buy stockings when they're less than $1 at 75% or 90% off.) This year we have a plain white sweatshirt for each of them to decorate and wear on Christmas day. We'll talk about some of our Christmas stories, Bible lessons, and symbols and they'll decorate them as they choose.

Christmas Countdown--5 Days Until Christmas

Our devotion is Luke 3:1-6 and 21-23 (Baptism of Jesus). Our hymn is "Now Sing We Now Rejoice". My second grader has a countdown assignment today to help practice math facts--find out how many gifts were given on each of "The 12 Days of Christmas".

When assignments are completed, we'll play "Pass the Parcel".

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Countdown--6 Days Until Christmas

Our Bible verse for today was 2 Corinthians 8:9 (Christ who was rich became poor). Any Christmas carols and hymns with this idea of the lowly stable and humble furnishings fit well. (From Heaven Above to Earth I Come/Away in a Manger/What Child Is This...)

Today is a good day to re-focus our attention on the meaning of this season.

In one week, all of the presents will be opened, the Christmas ham/turkey will be frozen or discarded, and radio stations will go back to playing their regular music.

Will we be feeling Grinchy? Hopefully after today's literature reading of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and watching the accompanying video, we'll be reminded that Christmas is much more than ribbons and bows.

Christmas is about the message of the coming of our Lord and Savior that we've been looking forward to all these weeks of Advent! It is just the beginning!

Our Bible countdown lessons will shift gears in the coming days to the work Christ came to Earth to do--His life, death, and resurrection to forgive the sins of the world.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Countdown--7 Days Until Christmas

We will read Psalm 98 (a psalm of rejoicing) and sing Joy to the World. Since the kids and I are a bit under the weather, we're just going to cuddle up with the Read-Aloud Christmas Treasury and call it our countdown activity for the day.

Christmas Countdown--8 Days Until Christmas

Our Bible reading was from Matthew 2:1-23 (the visit of the Magi and the flight into Egypt). We sang several Epiphany hymns and I read from the Read-Aloud Christmas Treasury.

Our countdown activity for today was to help decorate at the church.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Countdown--9 Days Until Christmas

Luke 2:21-40 told us about Jesus' presentation in the temple at 8 days old. It also told of the responses of Simeon and Anna who met Him there. We sang the Nunc Dimittis (Simeon's song) from our hymnal.

Our countdown project today was to look at some Christmas art painted by Raphael in the 1500s. We especially discussed his use of line, color, and texture to create a subject and a mood. Then we made drawings to reflect these elements in our work.

We continue to read through the Read-Aloud Christmas Treasury.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Countdown--10 Days Until Christmas

Luke 2:1-20 (birth of Christ) is our lesson for today. Philippians 4:4-9 also shows our response to what Christ has done for us. We will sing several Christmas hymns (Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem...) that tell of Jesus' birth.

We continue to read from the Christmas Treasury book. For our countdown activity we'll watch a Christmas special.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Countdown--11 Days Until Christmas

Our Bible lesson was Mary's visit to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56) and our hymn was the Magnificat (Mary's Song). We continued to read from the Read-Aloud Christmas Treasury. Our countdown activity was a family game of Christmas Carol Pictionary. We also attended a friend's winter band concert.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Countdown--12 Days Until Christmas

The Bible reading was Matthew 1:18-25 (the angel's message to Joseph). It's a perfect time to thank Dad for the person he is in our life. Maybe we can do one of his chores for the day or make him a nice dinner.

We read from the Read Aloud Christmas Treasury illustrated by Marc Brown. We also made some more thank-you cards to send after Christmas.

My basic philosophy on writing thank-you cards is this: If someone shared their gift of time and money to give you a gift, you certainly can make a little time to sincerely thank them for their gift.

It doesn't have to be a long note. Very small children can draw a little picture and the parent can jot the note. Children just a little older can fill in the blanks while you write the rest.

I can't think of any good reason not to share this habit with my children. Yes, as a parent we may have trouble convincing our complaining child why it's important. But teaching them about gratitude is too valuable to avoid simply because "I don't have the time".

Did my child write a letter to Santa? He can take the time to thank "Santa".

Did we make the time to write out birthday invitations? Then we can make the time with them to thank someone for their gift.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Happiness Is...

...wondering what you're going to make for dinner and realizing that you still have plenty of leftover chili on this 5 degree night.

Christmas Countdown--13 Days Until Christmas

Our Advent lesson today will be Luke 1:26-38 (annunciation) and Isaiah 7:13-14 (the prophet foretells this event about 700 years earlier). We will be reading from the Family Read-Aloud Christmas Treasury illustrated by Marc Brown. It's one of my favorite Christmas treasuries for its good mix of poetry and classic stories. Our activity for the day is decorating the house and Christmas tree. We always wait until the third Sunday in Advent (the "rejoice" Sunday) to put up our decorations. After waiting "so long" the kids are very excited.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Countdown--14 Days Until Christmas

Our Bible reading was from Luke 1:5-25 and John 1:19-28 (birth of John the Baptist foretold). We did requests again for the carols/hymns.

We read "Snowmen at Night" and used it to fulfill several of our state standards: Compare a real story with a fantasy story and traits of a character. We also used pantomime (which reminded us of what Zechariah must have done from the Bible lesson after losing his voice) to fulfill other state standards.

Review--Time For Learning

I had the opportunity to try for one month free of charge. In exchange, I agreed to post a review of the site. My goal is to be as honest as possible.

Let me start with the positive aspects of the program.

*The site gave me the gift of time, to the tune of a couple hours during the busy holiday months. I really liked that my kids could be doing learning activities on their own. Even if they only use 30 minutes every day, that is on-task time that I didn't have to plan.

*The kids could select areas of interest. I've wanted to introduce more interest-based learning time into our curriculum. This gave me a taste for what they might enjoy. Whenever given the choice, they tended to lean toward certain subjects and lessons, even repeating their favorites.

*The lessons seem to reflect topics that might appear on standardized tests. We live in a state that requires us to take standardized tests. I feel comfortable knowing that the kids covered some new topics that will probably be on their tests.

*The lessons from grade K-2 seem to be largely "taught". There is a voice that progresses through the lesson and you can't skip past the voice just to rush through and be done.

*You must complete a certain amount of lesson time before going to the playground. The parent sets the amount of required lesson time and playground time. This can be changed at any time and lets me use the site as it fits our day's schedule. Also, when your playground time expires, it shuts down your game. It prevents someone from sneaking in extra playground time.

*For most K-2 lessons, the time-on-task seems to be quite high. There is a good mix of lesson and follow-up questions or quiz.

*Your child can access lessons up to one grade above and below their current grade level (set by you).

I'll also include a few aspects of the program that I was less excited about.

*There seems to be quite a large jump in maturity required for the 3rd grade activities. My 2nd grader is above grade level in several areas so I wanted him to try several grade 3 topics in addition to 2nd grade ones. This proved a bit difficult. The 3rd grade lessons often required a great deal of reading. He could read them. Unfortunately, he didn't really want to. He could skip right through these parts and the lesson was still checked off as if he had finished it. There often didn't seem to be the nice questions or quiz at the end of the lesson as in the grade 2 lessons to check your mastery over the material. If I wanted to know whether he was really doing the lesson, I had to be close by.

*I would have liked more History/Geography/Social Studies in the K-2 grades.

*The cost is a bit prohibitive at $19.99 for the first child and a discount for subsequent children.

*I don't think there was a pre-test to help determine which lessons were most important for them to cover.

*They seem to do monthly maintenance (one Saturday) on the site which lasts about a day. The lessons are all inaccessible at this time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Countdown--15 Days until Christmas

Our Bible lesson for today was Isaiah 11:1-11a. For Christmas hymns and carols we took requests.

Our book was Tomie dePaola's re-telling of the Mexican "Legend of the Poinsettia". After talking about some of the Mexican Christmas customs, we then tried to make as many words as we could from the letters in the word "poinsettia".

Our other countdown activity for the day was a program at our library with holiday poetry and songs.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Countdown--16 Days Until Christmas

After our Advent Bible lesson for today (Isaiah 9:2 and 6-7 with Isaiah 60:1-3) we talked  about our Christmas symbol for today: the bell. We sang Jingle Bells and Carol of the Bells. Instead of reading a bell-related Christmas story, we worked together to write a short story in which a bell made a difference in someone's Christmas. Each of us took turns writing lines of the story.

We also did circuits for PE. At each station there was a bell-shaped note telling what to do at that station (jumping jacks, use the trampoline, use the stepper, stretch your knee to your elbow...). When I rang the bell we all switched stations until each person had completed each station.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Countdown--17 Days until Christmas

Our story came from the Ukrainian/German traditions of the Christmas spider. In these traditions, the spiders leave beautiful webs on the Christmas tree that make it shine in beautiful silvers and golds. We followed up the story by singing "O Christmas Tree" and making pipe cleaner spiders to put into our own Christmas tree.

Our kitchen also became a huge spider web today. As a fun motivational treat, I had attached a note to the end of a string and weaved it over and under, around and through all sorts of places in our kitchen. The other end of the string was taped and labeled with one child's name. (Each child had a different string). When all of their schoolwork was completed, they were allowed to find their labeled string and unwind it until they found their message, granting them a special activity for quiet time.

For our devotion, we reviewed the messages of Comfort and the Good Shepherd from Isaiah 40:1-5 & 9-11. Our hymn was "Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People".

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Countdown--18 Days Until Christmas

On Monday we received our first Christmas card of the season. Today we'll begin a tradition of saying a special prayer for each family as we receive their cards.

The Bible reading is Psalm 24. (What does God do? He acts.) We'll read another of our Christmas Arch Books. Our carol is "Hark the Herald Angels Sing".

For our project we will make a traditional heart-shaped paper basket ornament from Denmark (similar to the simple version on the bottom of this link).

Christmas Countdown--19 Days Until Christmas

Our Bible reading was Psalm 40 (a prayer for deliverance) and we sang "The People That in Darkness Sat". We read one of the Christmas Arch Books from Concordia Publishing House. I remember having Arch Books from my childhood days and I continue to love them as a parent. There are so many to choose from and they're great for preschoolers even into the middle elementary years.

Our project for the day was to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. The kids found gold coin candies in their shoes and we used Story of the World Volume 2 to review the history behind St. Nicholas.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Countdown--20 Days until Christmas

Today's Bible reading is 1 Samuel 16:1b and 16:5-13. We'll read "B is for Bethlehem" and sing "Once in Royal David's City". Our activity for the day will be family Christmas caroling. For today we'll just gather around the piano. In past years we've enjoyed going with a group to a few local elderly apartments and nursing homes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Finding The Perfect Christmas Gifts from the Heart

I wanted to share a really exciting thing that happened to us today.  

I had one more person (aside from the kids) to buy a Christmas gift for. It was someone who pretty much has everything they need. But the person means a lot to us and we wanted to give something useful and thoughtful.

Our literature readings today were about giving gifts from the heart. One story told of a person who had only 60 cents to spend on each of his remaining gifts. One has to get pretty creative to accomplish that. But the gifts that were given ended up being very meaningful--a bundle of sticks with a note saying "Let's always stick together" and a candle with a note saying "You're the light of my life".

My son thought this was absolutely great and proceeded to give his visiting grandmother a roll of tape with a note saying "Let's always stick together". My mind was aflutter with ideas for this last Christmas present I had to buy. Most of the gifts we came up with are quite small, but the notes serve the purpose of sharing things I might not otherwise take the opportunity to say.

 Here's part of my list. I hope you can use this idea for someone special to you as well. My kids enjoyed helping come up with ideas. Feel free to share your ideas, too!

1. (lightbulb) You brighten my life.
2. (pad and pencil) You're all "write".
3. (mints) You're a breath of fresh air.
4. (toothpicks) I'll always pick you.
5. (can of mandarin oranges) Orange you glad we're related?
6. (anything sugary) Taking walks with you is so sweet.
7. (a homemade CD of the kids talking, singing...) We wanted you to CD best of our kids. (This is a far-away relative!)
8. (pen) You're indis pen sible.
9. (coffee creamer) You're the cream of the crop.
10. (wooden spoon) You stir up warm feelings of times spent together.
11. (Teddy Grahams) We wish you a beary Merry Christmas.
12. (roll of toilet paper) Thinking of you as the days roll by. (Or "Thanks for being my "roll" model.)
13. (postage stamps) Your recipes have my stamp of approval.
14. (jar of spices) You spice up our lives.
15. (eraser) I'm so glad you've rubbed off on me.
16. (Christmas tree-shaped Little Debbies) Talking with you is always a "treet".
17. (angel ornament) You're an angel.
18. (Life cereal) I thank God that you're in my Life.
19. (can of frosting) You're the icing on the cake.
20. (box of pudding) Thanks for all the times you "pud" me first. (Or "I appreciate that you never hesitated to "pud" me in my place".)
21. (pet rocks the kids made) You rock! (Or "Our friendship is as strong as a rock".)
22. (nickel) If I had a nickel for every time you came to my rescue, I'd be rich.
23. (pennies) Being your friend makes perfect "cents".
24. (Snickers) Your jokes make me snicker.
25. (candy canes) We're hooked on you.
26. (100 grand bar) Your love is worth more than $100,000.
27. (cheese balls) Every time we're with you we have a ball.
28. (nuts) We're nuts about you (or your cooking...)
29.(Hershey Hugs and Kisses) Closing this with hugs and kisses. 

Many of these things we already had in our school supply stash or in the kitchen. Each is individually wrapped with a note. We won't be able to do all of the ideas this year, but I'm definitely saving the list for a couple people I already bought gifts for, to use next year.

Have fun!

Christmas Countdown--21 Days Until Christmas

The Bible story for today is from the book of Ruth. I'll summarize the book and then read 4:13-17 (Ruth as the relative of King David). The carol will be "What Child is This?" We'll relate the "peasant king" and "King of kings" to our Bible reading. The literature selection for the day is a story from a Christmas anthology.

The kids love making graham cracker "gingerbread" houses and it's a yearly tradition. We have plenty of Teddy Grahams and bits of Halloween treats left over to decorate them.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Countdown--22 Days Until Christmas

Our Bible reading for today is from Deuteronomy 18:15-19. We'll sing "Away in a Manger" and read a couple of short Christmas stories that remind us about the true meaning of the season.

Our big activity for today is a trip to an arboretum about an hour away that has a big lights display and an indoor holiday village.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Countdown--23 Days Until Christmas

As part of today's school, we'll read Genesis 28:10-17 (Jacob's dream). We'll sing angel-related Christmas carols (Angels We Have Heard on High...) and read "The Cat that Climbed the Christmas Tree". To continue the angel theme we'll make some angel ornaments and do an angel-shaped handprint/footprint craft that will make nice thank you cards to use after Christmas.