Wednesday, December 19, 2007

School Update and Gingerbread Fun

Wow, after Thanksgiving it seems I began to totally neglect this blog. My diligence on my homeschool blog is not always an accurate reflection of my diligence in our actual homeschooling, but in this case... it's pretty close! (Just kidding, we have been doing school.)

We used to take off the entire month of December, but for the past couple of years we haven't. While I enjoyed the ginormous break while it was happening, I found it that much harder to get "back on track" in January. Struggling to get us (well, mainly myself) back up to speed in January seemed to set me up for my annual February Freak-out all the more. So. We started maintaining at least some sort of schedule in December.

This year, however, I let them each choose a subject to not do during the month of December- a break for them and for me. I could hardly get the entire question out of my mouth before my sweet son exclaimed, "Math!!!" So, he's enjoyed a math-free December. My daughter, who is prone to feeling behind if she's not plowing ahead, decided to keep doing all of her subjects but said she would enjoy no tests. I thought that was a great choice! So she has enjoyed a test-free existence these past few weeks. Our "together subjects" that we typically do on Friday- Latin, Art and Mission Study- have fallen by the wayside since Thanksgiving. And that's okay.

All in all, it has been a lighter school month, but a productive one. Today we are officially "out". I have not updated the specifics of our school progress these past few weeks, because as I frequently say, sometimes you're just too busy doing it to post about it!

Over the break between Christmas and New Year (besides celebrating my anniversary with my cute husband) I will be refining our spring semester plans. My daughter and I are looking at adding another science course, and I will be planning their writing. (They've spent fall on grammar.) With our forthcoming adoption and accompanying uncertainty of the travel dates and plans, it looks like we may just plow ahead and do school all summer, right into next fall. (Basically continuously until the baby comes!) to build in some margin time-wise for when we are adjusting and need to take some extended time off. So, as I'm planning our spring I'll be keeping that in mind.

I'll close this "update" with some fun pictures. Every year since they were little we've always made gingerbread houses. ( When I say "made" I mean I went to Linen's N' Things and bought the pre-made houses and we decorated them. I've never gotten the homemade kind to stand up. They would always turn into a "Gingerbread lean-to," which wasn't exactly the look I was going for!) Over the weekend we had some dear "MK" friends stay with us- one of their last weekends in the states!- and they enjoyed making gingerbread houses along with us.

I love this picture because on the wall behind them is the place (a wall planter, actually) where we keep photos of people (especially overseas missionaries) for whom we are praying. Unless we are in Asia working with them, the only way we see these sweet girls is when we see them on their prayer card on our wall. And here they are, right here in our kitchen! What fun.

Kyle had to do his later because he had been on an errand with Dad...

The finished products turned out great!

A gingerbread neighborhood! I eventually moved ours to the china cabinet. We used to leave them out, but then the dogs discovered them. It wasn't pretty.

Well, that's a little of what's been going on at our house. Have a great Christmas break!

Monday, December 03, 2007

This Just In...

For those of you who primarily read this blog and not my "main" one, we've got some fun news!

Go here to read about something new and wonderful happening in our family! What a JOYous season, indeed!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Celebrating Advent with Preschoolers

A couple of people asked in the comments on a post on my other blog about what I used to do for Advent when my kids were younger. The years seem to really fly by! It's hard to believe it's been about 8 years since I had a preschooler! I thought back to what exactly we used to do, and I've been thinking about it all day. The years all seem to run together!

First, let me say that are some wonderful Advent resources on the web, such as here, here, and here. There are also blogs dedicated to Advent ideas like this one Lindsey did last year here. I certainly can't improve or add to what any of those (and many other) sites suggest. But, that wasn't the question. The question was... what did we do?

When my kids were very small, things were chaotic for me. I was involved in many, many things and had quite a few commitments. I spent way too much time feeling "overwhelmed" when my kids were that age. I bought into the "supermom" myth, big time. (By God's grace, I live much differently now!) I also had quite a difficult situation going on in my immediate family that required much of my mental energy, so those were harder years for me. I see some of the wonderful Advent ideas at the above links and I think to myself that as wonderful as they are, it just might have sent me right over the edge back then to have to make ornaments with my small children everyday, or create jars, or any of the many other creative ideas that are out there. At that point in my life what I needed was... simplicity. I don't remember there being a vast quantity of Advent materials or even "how to" books on the subject at the Christian bookstore, and the internet was pretty new. (Wow, that makes me feel old!)

SO... the answer to the question of what we did when my kids were younger was-- keep it simple. For the purpose of this post I will stick to the topic of what we did for Advent, specifically each Sunday in December. Of course, in the midst of it we read tons of children's Christmas stories, went to story times at Barnes and Noble (where Mommy could get a Gingerbread Latte and let some other nice lady read a story!), made crafts and baked cookies. But at some point when they were very small I realized that we needed to make each Sunday during Advent a little more meaningful, so the true purpose of the season didn't get lost among the rest of the activity.

I went to a nearby Christian bookstore and bought an Advent candle wreath like this one:
I bought some greenery and some angels in the floral department at a craft store, wove some ribbon around it. There are some beautiful pre-made advent candle sets now that I've seen, and you could also simply use four votives around a larger candle. Each year I buy some taper candles, sometimes the purple and pink advent candles (which I bought this year) sometimes we just use burgundy which matches our Christmas decor.

I also picked up a Nativity set that was pretty, but that I wouldn't mind the kids handling. For our advent wreath I arrange the Nativity around the wreath and put Jesus in the middle. Here is what ours looked like last year, which is pretty much what I've done each year:

I bought the middle candle last year at Target, and I like it because it has three wicks, signifying the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This year, though, I'm just using a votive holder that has a cross on it... which to me signifies that He came for the cross. See? Each year I do it differently, using whatever I have on hand.

For our "readings" in those early years we used different ones. We used this one (which I just found in my filing cabinet) but there were others. When they were the youngest, we didn't read something or light a candle every night like we do now. We did it each Sunday of Advent and on Christmas morning. We simply read from the readings, read the Christmas story straight from the text of the Bible or from a children's version story book. The main focus was the Bible story. And, each time we read, I would let them hold a different piece of the nativity while they listened. One week they would each hold a shepherd, and we would talk about the shepherds. One week they would each hold an angel, and we'd talk about the angels. (That's why I bought a nativity I didn't mind them handling. I wanted them to be able to touch, feel, and "see" the story as much as possible.)

Over the years as they've gotten older, we've incorporated the Jesse Tree, the Jotham's Journey books, and now the Handel's Messiah Family Advent Reader. But it was in those early years that we developed what I think is the most important Advent "habit" of all... we stopped. We paused regularly and consistently, lit a candle, got quiet(er), and remembered what the season is all about. That's something that I hope will continue for them long after they leave our home.

So, as we begin Advent tonight, it is my prayer that no matter how your family celebrates Advent, you will be blessed by simply stopping and focusing on God's precious gift, Jesus.

Have a blessed Advent!


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