Sunday, November 30, 2008

What is Advent?

Today is the first day of Advent, my favorite time of year. This is the season of reflecting on the first coming of Jesus as well as preparing our hearts for His second coming. During these weeks of reading and preparation, we are reminded that God ALWAYS keeps His promises. In writing my Christmas Unit Study, I wanted to make sure that children learned about the Old Testament prophecies and God's fulfillment of each one through His Son. They need a clear picture of God's commitment to us, and His love that knows no bounds. If you are wondering what Advent is all about, here are a few great resources for learning more about this special time:

What is Advent?

The Season of Advent and Hope

Advent Wreath Prayers and Scriptures

All About Advent

Amanda B.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Make some EASY Christmas gifts!

How are things going at your house as we are now one week from Thanksgiving? I'm sure that the "crisis cleaning" has begun in many homes just like ours! :-)  That is one added benefit of having the big annual clan gathering at our house -- everything gets cleaned and scrubbed thoroughly as we head into this season of blessings.

I mentioned yesterday that I would be sharing holiday gift ideas over the next few weeks, and here are today's fun and simple projects that will make much-appreciated gifts:

Making Potholders from Worn Towels and Washcloths

How to Make a Denim Pocket Potholder

How to Make Quilted Pot Holders with Recycled Towels and Fabric Scraps

Hanging Pocket Tool Holder: Vintage Sewing Tutorial
I want this one for MY kitchen!

10 Clever Dish Towel Crafts

54 Free Apron Patterns You Can Make

What a great bunch of ideas that are practical and look like fun! Hope they help your crew with some ideas. Also, remember that many of these gifts would be much appreciated at the nursing home, VA hospital, by neighbors and in the church kitchen.

Counting my blessings,
Amanda B.



Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ideas for a Homemade Christmas

With Thanksgiving just a week away, I've started gathering ideas for those of us who are looking at enjoying the special season in a meaningful and affordable way. I will be blogging about some of my finds over the next few weeks, and more are included in my Christmas Unit Study (which is now downloadable at the TOS store).

This is such a beautiful time of year, a time to be amazed at how our heavenly Father unfolded His plans for us - and how He always keeps His promises. The story of Christmas, the birth of His Son, is rich with characters that we can all learn so much from - here's a website that tells the stories of these twelve in both text and through some wonderful online audio files:  The Twelve Voices of Christmas from Back to the Bible. Don't miss this site!

I recently discovered a great project for kids of all ages, for some gift ideas that can be made around the kitchen table:  Watercolor and Crayon Name. These can be made and placed in inexpensive frames for family and loved ones - using their names!

Then, I had a great idea - what if we used the Watercolor and Crayon Name project and used the names of those Twelve Voices of Christmas? They can then be placed around the house throughout the holidays, as reminders of the real meaning of Christmas. The children could create the drawings for Gabriel, Zacharias, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, and the others. The drawings could be brought out, year after year, and enjoyed for holidays in the years to come.

Stay tuned -- I am gathering quite a collection of ideas for a wonderful homemade Christmas season! Share your own ideas here in the comments, and THANKS!

Amanda B.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Fun online Thanksgiving art project!

This is a fun project, and the outline of the turkey is there to download - wonderful!

Turkey Scratch Drawing

While this project recommends using oil pastels, we have always done these scratch drawings with regular crayons, and the results have been beautiful.

Amanda B.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Favorite Christmas children's book now on sale

I am often asked for a list of our favorite Christmas books for the family, and the one of these is One Wintry Night, by Ruth Bell Graham. Right now, CBD has the gift edition of this book on sale for only $6.99, a savings of $6.00 off of the regular price. This is a beautiful story book, written and illustrated to grab the attention of children and adults alike - it is a must-have for this season. Here's the link and description:

One Wintry Night
By Ruth Bell Graham

"One Wintry Night by Ruth Bell Graham blends a contemporary story with the whole history of God's redeeming love, and is brought to life by rich, beautiful illustrations. When a young mountain boy is caught alone in a sudden snowstorm, he takes refuge in a cabin his grandfather had helped build many years before. The woman living there shelters the boy and attends to his badly swollen ankle. She passes the hours they are snowbound by telling the whole panorama of God's involvement in human history from creation to the resurrection. The rich texture of Richard Jesse Watson's illustrations makes One Wintry Night a captivating reading experience and a family treasure. With both instant appeal and an aura of timelessness, this book will fascinate both those who have heard the Bible story many times as well as those who know only a few details."

Mrs. Graham wrote a lasting story that explains God and His plan, leaving readers and listeners with an unforgettable picture of the reason for our Hope!

Amanda B.

I found the perfect Christmas craft & recipe book!

While getting this year's Christmas Unit Study ready, I came across the best Christmas-for-everyone book:

Gooseberry Patch: Christmas All Around the House

The book will be a keeper here - filled with EASY crafts for folks like me who can be craft-challenged, recipes that are actually SIMPLE, and loads of easy-to-make gifts for the whole family. There are gifts-in-a-jar recipes and ideas that I've never seen, as well as things to make that are practical and definitely affordable - things like neck-warmers, and much more.

I am listening to Christmas music today as I work on my holiday newsletter, and checking out the projects in this great book that we can work on when the house is filled with company for Thanksgiving. Some of these crafts will be perfect for this big clan of family and friends as we gather together to thank the Lord for His abundant blessings!

Giving thanks always,
Amanda B.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pine Cone Turkeys & Pine Cone Bird Feeders!

I know that some of you have  been busy with the Thanksgiving unit, and
making the PInecone Turkeys for decoration. For those of you who aren't familiar with this fun craft, here's the link:

Pine Cone Turkeys

Now, when you get finished with these, your children can use the
leftover pine cones to make some fun bird feeders, and here are a few
links that will help:

Pine Cone Birdfeeder 1

Pine Cone Birdfeeder 2

We made these when I was a child, and the birds loved these feeders. We also strung popcorn to hang on the trees for the birds, which was also a big hit with our feathered friends. Be creative, and see what your children can do! Then, when the feeders are in place outside, have them keep track of the kinds of birds that visit the feeders, writing it in their journals and identifying the birds.

More Thanksgiving Fun Crafts

No matter what a day holds, it is never boring in a home that

Amanda B.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thanksgiving Learning - Gratitude?

With so much going on this time of year and the rapid approach of Thanksgiving, the lessons of gratitude and giving thanks can sometimes get lost in the shuffle of family life. I was on an airplane last week, listening to a small child and his mother having a loud verbal debate in the seat behind mine, and it was quite entertaining from where I sat!  I always learn SO much when I travel by plane. :-)

It crossed my mind that in this world of growing instant gratification, the lessons on being thankful get so easily overlooked as parents juggle so much and kids begin to expect so much. I have observed that homeschooled children are typically very grateful when working around them at conferences. They have to be learning this somewhere! I know that when our children were small, we focused on being thankful always, particularly around the holidays. We participated in the Operation Christmas Child boxes, food drives, children's shelters, and other ministry opportunities.  

When working on the Thanksgiving study, I made sure that I kept asking about how they thought the Pilgrims might have felt, along with the natives like Squanto and Samoset. The reason was to make them aware of these people and their feelings, along with the feelings of gratitude and thanksgiving that the Pilgrims must have felt after such a long journey, extremely difficult winter, and trying season of planting and harvesting.

What do you do to help your children develop an understanding of gratitude and thanksgiving, especially during this special season?

Amanda B.

New song for veterans from Steven Curtis Chapman!

Drop by this site to hear the song that he wrote for a wounded veteran that he met recently - it is perfect for this day:

Hear the New Song By Steven Curtis Chapman, “Thomas McBride”

God Bless all of our veterans!

Amanda B.

Special Veterans Day Site

On this special day when we honor and remember those that have fought for America, take a moment to visit this website:

Today, we remember and give thanks for those very special people that we call "veterans." A dear family member passed away recently - one of my biggest fans and supporters. He fought bravely in World War II and came back from the war with a commitment to make sure that children learned about our veterans and honored their service. Visiting schools all over Michigan, he and a fellow veteran talked to classroom after classroom over the years - sharing their stories and bearing the torch of patriotism. I miss his smile and nod of reassurance, as well as knowing he was there, talking to kids and sharing his love of this great country.

He was a man to remember, and a man that I am proud to have counted among my friends. When he first read my book on Patriotic Holidays, he went on and on about how this was needed - promoting it with the VFW, teachers, and other veterans. He kept pushing me to keep on writing, and he loved to tell me how much it meant to him to have kids remember the veterans.

So today, we honor Jack, Billy, Patrick, Ken, and all of their fellow veterans - for their service to this great country, and for their service to support America's veterans.

Amanda B.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Holiday Unit Studies now downloadable in the Schoolhouse Store!

Come celebrate - our Thanksgiving and Christmas Unit Studies are now downloadable at the Schoolhouse Store!

The TOS store is growing so quickly and they are working hard to offer SO MUCH to homeschoolers. Make sure you take a minute to check out their offerings and take a look at all that they have on their shelves!

Remember - it's only 2.5 weeks until Thanksgiving - get started making memories as you and your family learn together!

Amanda B.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Time to Give Thanks and Make Memories

The leaves are changing, the mornings are crisp, the apple butter is in the crockpot, and it is that time again - time to gather together and give thanks for our many blessings. I want to take a minute to thank YOU for your commitment to your children. I know just how much it takes to do what you are doing, as I've done it myself for sixteen years. It isn't always easy, and we have to wear many hats - my favorite being the one labeled "Brave and Daring!" :-)

Over the years, I have received many letters and emails, thanking me for the Thanksgiving Unit Study and the lessons and learning that families have ventured through with the study. People have shared lapbooks, journals, photos of costumed Pilgrim and Native American children, and so much more that have all blessed my heart. And the lessons learned seem to have staying power - older and graduate homeschooled kids love to stop me and describe Thanksgiving adventures that they will never forget. They are always smiling when they share their memories, and that's a good sign! You all will never know how much your sharing has blessed ME!

The Blessings Tree concept that I began writing about in the very first edition of this book has now become a lasting memory for children around the globe, according to my mail. I've received some great "Blessings Tree" leaf messages that would melt your heart and others that would make you laugh until the tears flowed. It was a simple concept that has kept us focused on gratitude for our many blessings, and I thank the LORD for the success of this project.

So, let's get busy and get ready - time to give thanks and count our blessings as we go back almost 400 years to the journey of the Mayflower and the courage of those who came to find freedom. The efforts and commitment of a small group people so long ago planted the seeds of freedom that would grow and prosper. Here are a few things that you can do to get ready:

Gather some special Thanksgiving books together from your own bookshelves, the library, the thrift store and garage sales, and put them in a big wicker laundry basket in the living room, and begin a Thanksgiving reading festival. Talk about your blessings, count them and name them, one by one! What are some of YOUR favorite Thanksgiving books? I'll share a few of ours in another post.

Go on a pinecone hunt with the whole crew, from the backyard to the local park, see if you can collect some pinecones for holiday projects like Pine Cone Turkeys and Christmas Bird Feeders.

Find an empty parking lot and chalk out the dimensions of the Mayflower to see just how small that ship was to make such a brave and daring journey!

Bake some autumn food favorites, like gingersnaps or apple butter or caramel corn or pumpkin pie. Share them with friends, neighbors, the local nursing home and especially with others who need a lift.

Hug those kids, and know that your efforts are appreciated!

Amanda B.

Monday, November 3, 2008

It is here at last! We get to VOTE!

Hello everyone!

It has been wonderful to hear the good news about the Elections study
and how much it has been enjoyed by kids of all ages. Thanks to
everyone that has emailed or posted their great reviews and fun. I am
so proud of you!

Just a few things about the BIG day tomorrow:

1. VOTE, please! So many Americans have fought and died to protect
this special freedom over the past 232 years, and we owe them so much
for their bravery, courage and ultimate sacrifice. Also, if possible,
take your children when you vote so that they can see the whole
process and understand the importance that so many people place on
this duty and responsibility of American citizens.

2. HELP those that are working with the election process tomorrow.
If you can, go to the campaign headquarters of your choice and see
what you and your children can do to help. Please realize that the
folks there are mainly volunteers and everyone there will be tired
and stressed as they wrap up this campaign season. They are tired and
can use all kinds of volunteers! Also, think about taking food by the
campaign headquarters and the election polling places. They've all
been living on too much coffee and not enough sleep, and some regular
healthy food, cold bottled water, and special treats would probably
be greatly appreciated.

3. REMEMBER that this election process takes place in America year
after year, at all levels - local, state, and national. While the
office of President is only up for election every four years, the
offices of Congress as well as many other positions rotate in and out
of our voting ballots every year. If your candidates are not elected,
there will be many other opportunities to make your voice heard -
never forget that our government was structured for long-term

4. THANK a soldier if you see one tomorrow - let them know that
their commitment and convictions are appreciated!

5. GRACE - His grace is sufficient to cover all that might happen. I
was just reading an article that was pointing out that half of our
population will be very disappointed on Wednesday, while the other
half will be elated. While Americans tend to be very fair-minded and
just, we tend to all want to be winners. We can't all win, but we can
do our part and accept the outcome with grace.

Now, go and celebrate America, land of the free and home of the brave!

Amanda B.