Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ways to Liven Up Winter at Your House - Part 2

If you have the luxury of having snow on the ground, send everyone out with a magnifying glass to study the snowflakes as they fall. They can sketch their favorite flakes, and cut them out to hang in the window. For those of you that don't live in snow country, use the opportunity to study some of William Bentley's photographs of individual flakes and then draw them and cut them out of white paper. The variety in shapes and structures is fascinating, and fun to try to capture on paper.

Of course, when the opportunity presents, the art of snow sculpture has a definite attraction. We've had snow dogs, snow men, snow women, snow bears, and all kinds of fun sculptures! Don't forget to keep the camera handy for these ventures -- the memories are priceless.

So, we've begun our gardening study, covered up the hall walls with sketches of snowflakes, gone outside with a magnifying glass to look at our own snowflakes, and have a whole tray of seedlings started on the kitchen counter what now? As my son reminds me Spring Training begins in mid-February! If there is an interest in baseball or softball in your house, use the time to explore the Internet baseball sites to find out Spring Training plans, trading of players, etc. There are sites for all of the major league teams, as well as many of the minor league teams. The Major League Baseball Association has a very informative web site, as well as the usual sport sites like ESPN.com, etc.

Don't forget have your baseball fans write to the major league teams, and ask for team information, along with a spring and summer game schedule. Several of the teams send bumper stickers, posters, and plenty of fun information. If you want to encourage their interest and learn while in the process, order the Baseball Unit Study on CDROM now, and get ready for a fascinating adventure into the history and science of baseball. What a way to liven up learning during dreary winter days, poring over baseball cards, learning how American history and baseball history intertwine, and more!

For those students interested in playing baseball this spring, the winter can provide some opportunities to begin to get in shape for the season. The books at the library on Little League, baseball training, sports fitness and other topics for children are usually VERY available in the wintertime don't forget to include them in your next library search.

The wintertime also brings everyone closer to home, and plenty of time for cooking, games, and other "together" activities. At our house, we keep the Pioneer Lady's Hearty Winter Cookbook handy, written by Jane Watson Hopping. This book is written like a journal, with some wonderfully simple recipes for delicious home cooked meals. We've dusted off the old Monopoly game, as well as Scrabble, Yahtzee, and a few other classics.

I hope that these ideas help brighten your family's winter. These are special times, that can't be relived and will pass all too quickly. The runny noses, midnight cough sessions and rocking a feverish child will be endured, in love and of course, much patience. Use this season to look ahead, and anticipate the next season of growth and learning, and many smiles. These ARE the special times!

Open up the WORLD to your child
Encourage thinking skills as well as imagination
Build a strong tree of knowledge
Help develop lifelong learners, thinkers, wonderers.
What are you waiting for?


Amanda B.


Unit Study Adventures ~ Ways to Liven Up Winter at YOUR House - Part 1

Happy Winter! Can you believe we are about to begin winter in just a few days?! I can't keep track of where the time goes, but I know that the kids are growing taller and it is cold outside so we must not be standing still in time. As we move into winter, the winter doldrums begin and symptoms of cabin fever appear. Like many families, we tend to read more, work on home and craft projects, and of course, our learning continues full speed ahead. I thought you might enjoy a few suggestions to help you with your family's studies, as well as enjoying the season.

First, remember the saying "bloom where you are planted" -- perfect for being cooped up inside and looking forward to the coming of spring. The seed catalogs will begin arriving next month, and I hope you are going to be receiving some of them. They are wonderful planning tools, bringing a reminder that the bad weather will end soon, and that a whole new season of fun and growing is about to begin. Start preparing for a fun study of gardening. Let each family member choose a vegetable and flower that they would like to grow, and have the children start listing the choices.

Bundle everyone up and send them out with a tape measure to choose a site and size for their future garden. As they choose their site, remind them that the amount of sun that the garden location receives is important, as well as close location to a water resource (or a good long hose!). Once the site and size are determined, have the children draw a plan for the garden, using graph paper to keep the sketch simple and accurate. Don't forget to order the new Garden Unit Study (on CDROM or in downloadable format) to get ready for spring, learning and having fun while it snows outside!

After sketching the outline of the garden, use seed and garden sites on the Internet to order seed catalogs, read articles about planning the garden, and ask questions of gardening experts. If you don't have or want an outside in-the-ground garden, consider doing this same kind of effort with above-ground garden containers, like barrel halves or large buckets that have drain holes. It’s also fun to have an indoor kitchen window-sill garden – that’s where I have grown herbs in the past.

When the seed selection process begins, either online or through the seed catalogs, have the children note the days to produce fruit, as well as the best time to plant that seed for your geographical area. Then, if you have time, plan on starting the seeds inside, in a sunny spot in your house. This can be a great learning experience, even with snow on the ground. We've learned so much just through starting seeds in plastic bags with damp paper towels, watching the roots grow and the seedling develop.

This jump-start on your family's garden will help bring some bright and fun times into the slump of winter. Also, keep an eye out for the small bulb gardens available at your local discount department store this time of year for forcing bulbs in the midst of winter. This can provide some winter color and excitement as you all wait for the first signs of growth, and then for the flowers themselves.

I've also recently discovered a fascinating book about the man that really opened our eyes to the structure of snowflakes -- William Bentley. The book that I refer to is:

Snowflake Bentley, written by Jacqueline B. Martin, and illustrated by Mary Azarian. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.

This book is a biography of his life and fascination with nature and snow, from childhood through adulthood. It is a picture book for all ages, to be enjoyed by all. The book is very interesting, laying out the interests of William Bentley, how his family supported his interests, along with the point that his mother was his teacher until he was fourteen years old. Imagine! When talking about this, the author includes the quote: "She had a set of encyclopedias," Willie said. "I read them all." Through his efforts, he discovered that most snowflakes have six branches, and that each one was a unique "masterpiece of design." This book, along with the book that he wrote and filled with his photographs of snowflakes, Snow Crystals, are all that you need to enjoy a study of snow, as well as perseverance.

Check back next week for Part 2 of this article – see you next week on the Company Porch!

Amanda B.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Christmas: A Study of Love, Part 2

The warm feeling of love, the snug feeling of togetherness and family, and the joy and excitement of celebration –

all to be found in many American homes this time of year.


We have tried to look back at the expectations we had before each baby was born -- the joy, the fear, the concerns and the love. As we talk about these feelings of expectations, we can connect them to the feelings of God's children as they heard for so many years about the coming of the Savior and their own feelings of expectation. Then, how Mary and Joseph must have felt with their own special knowledge about this baby and Who He was. You can celebrate Advent to take a close look at the prophecies, the Birth and what His coming means to you as Christians. We do things like learning some of the prophecies of the Old Testament, and having the older children look to find where each of these prophecies were fulfilled. God does keep His promises, doesn't He!


We also include some geography, following the path of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, and try to understand what their trip was probably like. They had to travel just under one hundred miles over rough roads, using their feet and a donkey for transportation. It took them at least a week to make the journey -- contrast this for the children, using some other trip that they remember that was about that far, and how you covered the distance in under two hours.


We study what the area was like during that time of year -- quite a bit like where we lived in Florida several years ago -- no snow! It would have been a warmer climate, and citrus would have been getting ripe, with plenty of olive, date and palm trees. The children were so amazed to find out that the first Christmas weather was so much like that of Florida -- so then they asked, why do we associate so much snow with Christmas?


Another big question -- why exactly do we celebrate Christmas on December 25th, anyway? After hearing both sides of the argument over whether Christmas is a Christian or a pagan holiday, I decided to do some research of my own to include in the study and the findings were very interesting. Before the fourth century, Jesus' birth was celebrated on January 6th, along with the Epiphany. Then, as Christianity moved through Rome, Pope Liberius of Rome, in 353 A.D., researched historical records to try to establish the actual day of Christ's birth. Remember -- the whole journey to Bethlehem was to participate in a census and pay appropriate taxes -- record keeping! As a result of his work, the Pope decided to make December 25th the official day of celebrating Christ's birth.


Now, for the 12 days of Christmas. I was reading a beautifully written book recently, The Christmas Book by Alice Lawhead. The author has a whole section about slowing down the frenzy and focusing on the meaning of Christmas. She offers ideas like celebrating Christmas throughout the original 12 days of Christmas, which begin on Christmas Eve and continue until January 6th, which is the celebration of Epiphany, marking the Wise Men's visit to the Baby, the first visit of Gentiles to see the new King. Why not make cookies and have more of the festivities throughout those 12 days with family, instead of spending December in a flat-out rush to get it all ready for that one day, and be so eager to have it all out of the house! This way, we can avoid the let-down of December 26th and keep the focus of the celebration where it should be. We also use this study to learn more about the many Christmas traditions, those celebrated in this country as well as other countries. These might include the Yule Log, mumming, the days of posadas, and on and on. Have the children help with the research and then share their findings.


Use the season to read some classics aloud in the evenings while everyone is working on Christmas projects. Consider books like The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates by Mary Dodge, and, of course, we read the Gospels of the Bible.


As children get older, there are two books that they might enjoy, Two from Galilee, Love Story of Mary and Joseph and Three from Galilee, the Young Man from Nazareth both by Majorie Holmes. These books have made the people and the nativity so much more real to all of us, and added new depth and understanding to the event on a human level.


There are so many books about Christmas available now and most of my favorites can be found at local Christian bookstores. Some of them are One Wintry Night, by Ruth Bell Graham, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson, Before and After Christmas: Activities and Ideas for  Advent and Epiphany, by Debbie Trafton O'Neal, and The Scriptures Sing of Christmas: An Advent Study of Christmas, by J. Ellsworth Kalas.


It is my hope that you all relax and enjoy the holidays, learning and sharing as a family, and that the adventures will bring you many happy memories in the years to come. May God bless you and your family abundantly!


Blessed Christmas!


Amanda B.


Merry Christmas - Free Shipping!

Just wanted to let you all know that shipping is free on all website 
orders from now through December 31st!

Plan now to kick off your year with some fun adventures.

Perhaps take on the
Sailing Ships Unit Study, with family reading times
of hot cocoa and Treasure Island. Treasure Island is included as a
bonus on the CDROM!

Or consider taking off with the
Pioneers Unit Study and read along with
Laura Ingalls Wilder's adventures as you all learn about early American
pioneers. The Pioneers Unit Study CDROM version includes both the
Pioneers Notebooking Pages and the Pioneers Timeline as bonuses.

For those of you who have children that are fascinated with trains,
January makes a great month for heading out with the
Trains Unit Study
adventure. Included on the CDROM as a family reading bonus -- The
Railway Children by E. Nesbitt!

Horse lovers in the house? Don't overlook the
Horse Unit Study for the
new year. Included on the CDROM as a family reading bonus -- Black
Beauty for Young Readers.

And of course, you and your clan can gather all of the mementoes of
this wonderful holiday season and use them with the
Scrapbooking Unit
to begin the new year. Don't forget -- Anne of Green Gables is
included as a free bonus with the CDROM version of the study. The
author of Anne of Green Gables, Lucy M. Montgomery, was an avid

I hope that the free shipping and new year ideas help you as you look
for fun, simple and effective learning ideas to launch 2007!

Amanda B.

Christmas Questions and Wonderful Bible-based Answers!

Like many of you, our children have been famous for asking "Why?" about everything - and that has led us on many interesting adventures over the years. As for the birth of Jesus and all that surrounds it, we have learned plenty by their questions of "Why?" However, there are many questions that I wasn't as sure of the answers, and I have discovered a tremendous resource for families that are using the Christmas Unit Study.


Having a very inquisitive mind myself, I couldn't help but pick up the small paperback book titled:


Why the Nativity?
25 Compelling Reasons We Celebrate the Savior's Birth

By David Jeremiah


Here's the link at CBD:


"Drawing from both the Old and New Testaments, David Jeremiah provides answers to 25 of the most thought-provoking questions surrounding the most pivotal moment in human history - the birth of Jesus Christ."


As I have been reading this, I realized that this book provides some great answers for those "Why" questions - here's a summary:

1     Why the Prophecies?
2     Why Did God Become a Man?
3     Why Mary?
4     Why the Song of Mary?
5     Why Joseph?
6     Why Did Jesus Come When He Did?
7     Why Elizabeth and Zechariah's Miracle Baby?
8     Why Bethlehem?
9     Why Was There No Room in the Inn?
10    Why the Stable?
11    Why Call Him Jesus?
Why the Shepherds?
Why the Star?
Why the Angels?
Why the Wise Men?

Why Did Jesus Come?


So many questions, and such simply-stated answers for the whole family. This book would make a great read-aloud for the whole family -- and will probably bring about many discussions that will be remembered for years to come.


I've only had this book for a few weeks, but it is well-worn and much enjoyed. Look for it at your local bookstore - it is a book that you will pull out Christmas after Christmas, to share with your children and your grandchildren. It is also a great gift to include with a jar of hot chocolate mix and a cute coffee mug for friends and family.


Here are just a few thoughts from the book as the author responds to the questions:


From the chapter on
"Why Did Jesus Come When He Did?"
"The Romans themselves were part of the answer... They had constructed the famous Roman roads that would allow messengers to travel safely with news and ideas, as Paul and the first missionaries would do. Ships, too, had come of age. Egypt and Italy, Syria and Spain - so many nations shared the "highway" that the Mediterranean Sea had become. Here was yet another means for the message of Christ to spread far and wide..."


From the chapter on
"Why do Anna and Simeon Challenge Us?"
"The joyful message comes through channels no one expected - not through priests or the crowd favorites but through two old, forgotten relics of good, old-time religion. It comes to them simply because they have been faithful. And one more message resonates through this Nativity story that is filled with messages - the moral being that God rewards the faithful..."


Blessed Christmas,
Amanda B.



Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Unit Studies 101 is on sale now at homeschoolestore.com!

Just a quick note to share that homeschoolestore.com is running a
special on "Amanda's total brain on unit studies," as one lady has
called Unit Studies 101. <smile>

Here's the link - hope it helps!

Amanda B.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Today's the Day! The Nativity Story Opens Today!

"Acclaimed as a spiritual masterpiece, THE NATIVITY STORY releases TODAY. This life-changing motion picture event just had a groundbreaking world premiere at The Vatican and the interest and momentum continues to grow.


Please take a little extra time this weekend and join your family and friends in celebrating the true meaning of Christmas with THE NATIVITY STORY. It could be the best thing you do all season!


"The Nativity Story is THE movie to see this Christmas."
--Gordon Robertson, 700 Club/Christian Broadcasting Network


"It is truly a Christams love story that will change the lives of those who see it!"
--Willie Daniels, Sheridan Gospel Network


"God's hand is on this movie. When I finished watching it...it was just overwhelming to me, the tenderness and beauty of it. The tears came down my cheeks. I couldn't speak."
--Anne Graham Lotz, AnGeL Ministries"



Amanda B.