C is for Compassion International

I began sponsoring a child with Compassion when I was in high school.  His name was Jose and he was from the Dominican Republic.  I enjoyed getting letters from him and I kept his picture on my dresser.  Now, my family sponsors two children from Guatemala.  We chose Guatemala because that is Buddy’s birth country.  We sponsor a girl named Maria and a boy named Nelson.  We have really cherished our letters from both children and we pray for them often.  They are an extension of our family and we are glad that we can bless them and pray that our sponsorship is able to pull them from poverty and bring them into a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

We recently had an opportunity to tour the Compassion headquarters here in Colorado Springs.  There are 900 people that work there!  They work with 26 countries around the world, making life better for families in poverty and more importantly, introducing them to Christ.  It was a great learning experience.  Our tour guides were super informative and kind.  We walked through areas that depicted a typical home in Africa, the children hauled their water containers and ended up at the trash dump.  We learned that many families(usually the children) dig through the dump to obtain items to make everyday household items we take for granted–pillows, blankets, window coverings, toys, dishes, etc.  Next we moved back to the home with the water containers to show how a family that has a sponsor, can now have a water filter so that they can have fresh water.  Next we entered a model of a typical Child Development Center.  The children are able to go to this safe place to learn God’s word, sing, play with friends, learn personal care, create and be educated.  Pickles and Buddy were able to make some cards for kids that do not yet have sponsors so that they too can receive something at Christmas.  Letters are so important to these kids!

                                       Toys made of trash


Another opportunity we had was to learn about about a young man named Ben.  He gave a short talk about being a sponsored child at our church’s presentation of The Thorn.  Ben lived in a village in Kenya, that was literally a trash dump.  The people there have little hope and think of themselves as no more than trash.  He was able to go to school and become a Christian due being sponsored by someone in Austin, TX when he was a boy.  He is now living in Colorado and going to college!  What a great testimony to the work of Compassion.  As Ben said, he was once a “packet”.  These kids are real and our sponsorship makes a real impact on the rest of their lives!  You can see Ben’s story here.

Please consider becoming a sponsor to make the difference in a child’s life and to further the kingdom of God. 

Do you run?  Consider joining Team Compassion

USA Today article–how Compassion’s mission is working

Did you know that Compassion has a homeschool curriculum on their website?  Awesome stuff!  Go check it out! 
Homeschool curriculum

If you are currently a sponsor, and don’t know what to do for your child check out these letter writing ideas:
Letter Writing FAQS
Pinterest Board

For your kids
Play Quest for Compassion online game to learn about poverty

Explorer magazine –read online
Pickle’s friend Elise is featured as the Compassionate kid this month! Please check out her partnership with Compassion here–Kids Like John  Pickles has been able to participate in fundraising for this amazing cause!

Follow Compassion on Facebook and Twitter!  Read their blog

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B is for Blocks

I think that blocks are a valuable investment for all families. Simple, safe blocks can be purchased for babies and more complicated can be purchased for the child in all of us! Pickles and Buddy love to play with blocks.  They are 9 and 10 years old and they still love to build.  We make towers, bridges, walls, buildings, etc.  They can exercise their engineering, math and science skills with the variety of blocks that we provide for them.  Beware, if your children are like mine, there may be block creations up in your living areas for days!


What are some of the brain benefits of playing with blocks?

Higher thinking math skills
Spatial skills
Problem solving
Cooperative play
Imagination

What are some possible areas of benefit for a child with autism?

Social skills
Tactile stimulation
Visual stimulation
Cooperative play
Check out this Lego Therapy site

A few of our favorite blocks


good old fashioned wooden blocks, my mother in law found us a large set on Craigslist
Wooden Blocks

Legos  I prefer an assortment of Legos for more imaginative building, but my kids also like the modular sets like Lego City and Lego Friends

Bristle blocks–great tactile blocks

Blik blok–higher thinking skills, problem solving, natural material

Magna tiles not quite blocks, but they are a building toy and kids can experiment with magnetism

Water blocks–great for littler ones, but my kids still like to stick them in their creations

Cardboard blocks  We love this set.  They have become many things–restaurant, car, plane, stuffed animal house, cabin, Great Wall of China, etc.

Haba blocks sets–We have had the Little Amsterdam set for many years, the box is falling apart, but the blocks are holding up!

Wedgits  fun building toy, thinking skills, spatial skills

Kapla plank blocks  These blocks are wonderful!  We first played with them in a children’s science museum and I had to add them to our collection.  The possibilities are really endless with these blocks.  Practice with gravity and balance. Natural pine material.




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A is for Acting

A is for Acting

Acting has become a huge part of our lives.  My once very shy, Pickles, has become a budding actress.     She became interested through taking a co-op class a few years ago.  She was still bashful back then.  Last summer, she and Buddy did an acting camp at a local children’s acting academy.  She caught the bug!  She has since enjoyed being a part of two semester long classes with plays performed at the end.  She also had a main part and solo in The Secret of Snowflake County, our church’s Christmas musical.  This has also led to her taking tap dancing lessons and joining our church youth worship team and choir.  My laptop crashed, so I lost all pics, but found this tiny bow on Major Dad’s computer.

We have obviously seen the benefits of acting when it comes to shyness.  It may not happen for every child, but Pickles has really blossomed.  Buddy was even able to perform the play for camp last summer.  He has high social anxiety and usually shuts down when it comes to speaking to anyone other than family.  I was so proud to see him up there on stage, delivering all of his lines on cue.  There are many other benefits to acting.  It can increase confidence, self esteem, reading skills, focus and attention.  It provides children with opportunity for socializing and teamwork.  Acting is valuable for teaching kids to problem solve and communicate effectively.

Perhaps you aren’t interested in signing up for acting classes or doing a community play.  You can still enjoy acting in your own home!  My kids sometimes spend hours making up plays for us to watch.  They are exercising their imaginations and using up some of their extra energy.  Pickles and Buddy also enjoy putting on puppet shows.  If they are really into pretend play on a school day, I don’t feel guilty about letting them go.  My couch cushions rarely stay in place!  I prefer letting them make up their own plays, using their imaginations or something we have studied.  It really helps get their creative writing juices flowing.  They are also big into improvisation.  You can also purchase/borrow books with plays written for you.  Reader’s Theater books are great for squeezing in some school subjects like science or history!  The possibilities are endless.

We have also been able to enjoy Broadway shows and local productions of plays like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and The Thorn.  I believe that quality theater productions and movies are enriching to children’s(and adults’) lives.  

Resources:
Christian Crafters  Christian plays, skits and puppetry
Puppet Resources  Christian puppet plays
Evan Moor Reader’s Theater
Reading Lady free Reader’s Theater scripts
Scholastic
On Stage

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Enjoying the Warmer Weather

We had a few warmer days here in Colorado last week.  We had a picnic in the backyard and did a little reading aloud of The Sign of the Beaver.  Even the hamsters joined in!

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Homeschooling with a Chronic Illness

I suffer from two different illnesses.  I have Crohn’s Disease (a disease that affects the small intestine) and I also battle depression.  A lot of my days are difficult.  I am either really tired, achy or having stomach pains.  My kids understand, but it is hard to get back in the groove after I take a break from teaching.  I have learned to take better care of myself in order to be a better mom and teacher.  I try to eat right, exercise and sleep enough.  Our days go well when I get an afternoon nap.  I usually lie down around 2 and the kids play quietly.  I used to feel guilty about napping in the middle of the day, but it is a necessity for me.  If I take care of myself, I am a better mom and teacher to my kids.  Not to mention, a better wife!

<sup class="crossreference" style="background-color: white; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 0.65em; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”>Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Sometimes we do schoolwork at night and that is okay.  Thankfully, we can school when it is convenient for our family.  Homeschools can look different from family to family. I also think that there is no shame in asking for outside help.  Maybe a relative or other homeschooling friend can take over a subject or two during a season.  Co-ops, enrichment classes, athletics, etc. have been helpful to me.  I know that my kids are still learning, but some of the burden is off of me.  I use this time to refresh myself by reading or doing something for myself while my kids are being instructed.  At times, we have had more outside activities than other times.  It is wonderful to be able to change how much or how little we do from season to season.

A <sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”>friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.  Proverbs 17:17

If you have a daily battle with your health and homeschooling, I encourage you to keep at it.  Don’t let guilt creep into your conscience.  If God has called you to keep your children home, He will equip you and your children.  Pray and trust.  With God, nothing is impossible.(Luke 1:37)  Spend time in the Word and keep your spirit strong.  If our spirit is strong, we can soldier through the tough days.  Choose joy.  Never give up your hope for healing–God still performs miracles.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  Psalm 103:2-5

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Introducing Me to the 2:1 Conference

I will be attending the Titus 2:1 Conference in April.  It is my first time and I am so excited!  The girls at 2:1 have asked us attendees to answer a few questions, so here I go!

1.  How long have you been blogging and homeschooling?  Which is harder?
    
This is a difficult one to answer.  I have blogged on and off for about 7 years.  I jumped into it back when homeschoolers started blogging on Homeschoolblogger.  I made a lot of online friends and was pretty faithful to blogging for about 2 years.  Then I stopped for a period of time and started a different blog.  It was sporadic at best and I finally deleted it.  I started my most recent blogs within the past year.  
I have homeschooled both of my children from the time they were 4 years old.  So that has been 7 years, as well.  I find both blogging and homeschooling to be challenging because I have a bit of an unorganized mind.  I think a million thoughts, but often forget to put them into action.  

2.  If you were a superhero, what would be your homeschool super power? 

I would be able to beam my children to the location I need them to be in at any moment.  I would be so mesmerizing, they wouldn’t be able to stop paying attention to me.

3. If I could go anywhere, besides the 2:1 Conference, where would be your dream “mom-cation”?
   
I’d like to rent a house in Seaside, FL and read.  There’s a whole world I’d love to explore, though!

4.  What would you like to “get out” of the 2:1 Conference?
    
I’d like to be motivated and encouraged by the wonderful speakers.  I hope to leave with a purpose and direction for my blogs and our homeschool.  I also intend to make lots of like minded friends!  Most importantly, I want to strengthen my relationship with God and really tune in to what He is asking me to do with blogging and homeschooling.  I want everything I do to glorify Him.  

Offline:  I love to read, spend time with my family, travel, be involved in our church and bake.   We move around a lot because my husband is in the military.  We love our lifestyle, but someday want to put down some roots!  

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Our Week in Review in Pictures

 Buddy’s 9th Birthday, snow storm and gymnastics meet
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Easy Sun Craft

We studied the sun last week and found a fun craft to make–a wax model.  We broke up red, orange, yellow and brown crayons into small bits onto a paper plate.  We then microwaved the crayons 15 seconds at a time until all were melted.  Using a craft stick, we then swirled the colors around.  After hardened, we added a few more shavings of yellow and orange to make solar flares and prominences.  My kids thought that their suns were too red, but I think they turned out great!  You could also use this idea to make the planets.

Inspired by this

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Sloppy Shannons(recipe)

Here is another easy meal for those busy homeschool days.  It is the cousin of the Sloppy Joe–Sloppy Shannons!  My mom used to make this recipe all of the time when we would host a yearly Fellowship of Christian Athletes retreat.  She would make them with ground beef, but I added my own healthy touch with ground turkey.  When we started hosting a Bible study in our home, I would make these when we shared a meal together.  A girlfriend of mine dubbed them “Sloppy Shannons” and the name stuck.

Recipe:
1 lb. lean ground turkey
diced onion(if desired)
1 can of cream of celery soup(I’ve tried the healthier version and it didn’t cut it)
mustard
buns

Brown turkey with the onions.  Drain fat, if necessary.  Dump in the soup and simmer for a few minutes to thicken.  Squirt in about 1-2 tablespoons of mustard and stir.  Serve on buns.  Add in some easy microwavable veggies or fries for a side.  So easy!  I keep ground turkey in the freezer and soup in the pantry so I usually just need to shop for buns.

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Winter Fun!

The kids have been having fun with our little homemade ice rink!  We made a frame with 2X4 boards, laid a heavy duty plastic drop cloth in the bottom, filled with water and waited for it to freeze!  The kids have had fun playing hockey on it.  My husband also threw coins in the water before it froze so when it melts, the kids can collect them.  We have had to add more water every few days to keep it going, but it has worked out.

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