Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April Sharing Time - Easter

Like I mentioned last week, this month I've decided to do a separate Sharing Time all about Easter.  All about our Savior and His last week on Earth.

I knew what I wanted to do right away.  The trouble came when I tried to morph what was in my head into an actual, on paper, Sharing Time.

I knew I wanted something like an awesome Easter activity I found and did with my children last year.  Each day during the week leading up to Easter, we talked about what Jesus did on one of the days leading up do his crucifixion and resurrection.

It was such a great experience, I KNEW I wanted to share it with the primary children.

But, like I said, that was the easy part.  The hard part has been trying to figure out how to share it in a manner that will allow me to share as much of the story as possible, while at the same time involving the kids (in both senior and junior primary), and helping them to feel the spirit.

While looking around online, perusing the "week walk" I did last year and listening to the fantastic advice of my husband, I finally got it all sorted.

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I first want to share with you the different places I found ideas and inspiration.

The first is the one I found last year from We Talk of Christ, We Rejoice in Christ

Next, I found a version that would make a FANTASTIC handout (although I haven't decided if I'm going to use it yet) from Chocolate on my Cranium

Then, I also found a week walk I in a 2011 Friend magazine

Last, and the one I ended up relying on the most (and the one recommended to me by my husband) is from a website called LDS Seasonal Materials.  He has ideas on how to make the gospel a larger part of several different holidays, and while I haven't delved into any other than Easter yet, you can bet I'm going to.

The setup for both primaries will be the same.  I'm going to print out and stick 11 different pictures depicting different events from Christ's last week around a board (along the edges, leaving the center open). 

You might be thinking, ugh, 11 pictures?  While you certainly don't have to print them, and it's possible your library may have some of them and replacements for others, I love having these.  We'll be using them every year in my home (I laminated mine) and so, for me, it's worth the ink.

Before I stick them randomly around the board, I'm going to arrange them in order ON the board and draw chalk line boxes around each picture.  This isn't purely because I'm slightly, well, organized (someone else might say anal...) and I like the pictures to be even on the board.  Then, I'll number the boxes (writing the number inside the box so it'll be covered later) to coincide with the order it occurred during the week.  Aside from my possible OCD, there is a purpose to the boxes and the numbering, trust me. 

The children will be figuring out which picture goes in which box and what they have to do with Christ's last week (if they don't already know) in different ways.

For Junior Primary, I'm going to hide a small cropped bit of each picture around the room.  Each cropped picture has a number on it, so when we find one, we'll know which box the corresponding larger picture goes in.  See, I told you my crazy OCD-ness would make sense!

For Senior Primary, I'm going to have them come up front and draw out a scripture to read in front of everyone.  As the scripture is read, the rest of the primary will be deciding which picture goes along with it.  The scripture slips are also numbered, which will make sticking the pictures in order much easier.

It's true that you could have the kids guess which order they go in, but that would take up time.  Precious time I'd rather spend talking about each picture.

I tried to limit the number of pictures to give at least a little time to spend one each one teaching and testifying about Jesus Christ.

Here are all the pictures I've chosen, along with the artist and name (if I know it...if you know one I haven't included, I'd love it if you left me a comment letting me know).

 Anderson, Triumphal Entry

 Bloch, Cleansing the Temple

 Tissot, The Pharisees Question Jesus

 Tissot, Conspiracy of the Jews

 Bloch, The Last Supper

 Anderson, Jesus Praying in Gethsemane

 Anderson, The Crucifixion

 Bloch, Burial

 Anderson, He Is Risen

I made an Easter Sharing Time Outline that has each scripture and cropped picture piece along with suggestions for discussion or teaching for each piece of art.

I've also put together the pictures, cropped pieces for junior primary, and scriptures for senior primary for you to download.

After we finish going through the week, I'm going to share a quote from this amazing message containing testimonies from our prophet President Monson.  Even if you're not a fan of sharing quotes during Sharing Time, take a few minutes to read through it.  It's short.  And AMAZING!!!

Here is just one,

“I declare my personal witness that death has been conquered, victory over the tomb has been won. May the words made sacred by Him who fulfilled them become actual knowledge to all. Remember them. Cherish them. Honor them. He is risen.

My first priority is to share my testimony and love for my Savior with the children.  To help me with this, I'll take every opportunity to testify to the children as we go through the pictures.  In fact, I might even keep out the clues to the last picture (No. 11, He Is Risen) so we can close with it.  As time runs out, I can pull out that last scripture or cropped picture and bear my testimony.

I'm really looking forward to it. 

Have a wonderful Easter!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

When Do I Start Planning Curriculum for the Next School Year?

I'm a planner.  Big time.

In fact, I sometimes like planning more than doing.  Does that sound crazy?

I think it's because during the planning stage I'm in complete control.  I can envision things however I'd like without any stray details (called life) to get in my way.

Because I love it so much, I also tend to focus a little TOO much on what's coming up instead of what I'm doing right now.  As a result, I try to force myself to dwell in the present, to be thankful for what I have instead of longing for the fun of something new (sort of a grass is always greener complex).

So, then, when is a good time to start the planning process for a new school year?

Well, even though I try to stay in the present, I'm always sort of background planning.  As we make our way through our current curriculum (you can read about the choices we made for 2013-14 over here), I notice what does or does not work. 

I also read a few blogs that talk about different homeschool topics and occasionally I'll stumble across something that sounds pretty great (and then stick it in my Evernote homeschool folder, I'm a HUGE fan of Evernote).

I suppose those are more like note taking and a little less like actual full on planning.

About half way through the school year, I printed out a form I found online called Curriculum Resources. 

I got it from an amazing website.  If you've never visited Tyna's Dynamic Homeschool Plus, well then, you should.  You can make your very own planner or just pick out a few helpful pages like I did.  A lot of it is even editable.  And, guess what?  It's FREE!!!!  I know, I couldn't believe it either.

With one simple page I could write down those few observations I'd already made. 

I first noted the curriculum we already used and knew we wanted to continue.

Then, I stuck it in my binder and kept my eyes open for holes I needed/wanted to fill.  As I came across curriculum, I wrote it on my handy dandy sheet.

It worked fantastic.

Except for one small thing.  I probably should have used pencil.  Except I really don't like pencil.  Maybe I should invest in some erasable pens...I wonder if they work (anybody have any recommendations?).  I've made a few changes (as you can see by my scribbles) and a few more since this picture was taken.

I love that I can see at a glance my plans for each of my kids (in some cases our plans, my oldest has a lot of input on exactly what curriculum she uses).  It keeps me organized and feeling like I've got a head start on next year.

Once the school year is over, I'll turn this simple list into a more detailed spreadsheet of each item we'll need (some of the curriculum requires multiple purchases) along with costs.

Sometime in late July, I'll start to purchase our supplies so I have time to organize them in the school room before our new year starts in mid August.

When do you start to plan?  What's your favorite tool?

Happy Planning,

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Primary Activity - Missionary Training Center - Gathering Activity

For our gathering activity (you know, what you do while you're waiting for everyone to show up) we gave the kids their very own missionary badges and had them write letters to the missionaries out from our ward.  We did this station for about fifteen minutes.

The badges were very simple.  I found a template on Sugardoodle dot net that I adapted a little bit because they weren't exactly the right size.  I made them to fit Avery Pin Style Top Loading Name Badges because they are so darn inexpensive.  I was able to purchase 100 from amazon for only $13.99 (yipee!).  All I had to do was use the right avery template on Microsoft Word, copy and paste the black badges I'd altered and enter in our primary kids names.

For the letters (and for pictures during the activity) we put up a world map on a rolling chalk board with the location of each of our ward missionaries marked with small post its.  Above the map (still on the board), we listed all our missionaries names so the kids could look at it and pick who they wanted to write to.  Next to our rolling board we set up some rectangular tables with blank paper, colored crayons and pencils.  The kids chose who to write to and whether they wanted to draw or write on the blank paper.

We also used the map for pictures throughout the activity.  We had the kids stand by it and point to where they'd been "called" on their mission.

At the end of the 15 minutes, we had our opening prayer and divided all the kids into their different "districts" with their "district leader" ready to lead them throughout the activity.

If you click the links below either set of missionary badges, you can download them in Microsoft Word.  Copy that first page and then paste it as many times as you need for the size of your primary.  When you paste, it may be a little off center, you'll just need to move them around a little bit while everything is still highlighted (it's highlighted when you first paste before you click anywhere else).

If you'd like to check out some of my other posts about our activity:
Issuing the Call

Next, I'll be posting about the four different stations we used, plus our short mission conference that tied everything together so wonderfully.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Primary Activity - Missionary Training Center - Issuing the Call

During the month leading up to the activity we issued "mission calls" to each of the children (we divided them into three groups and gave one group each week).  We asked the bishopric to announce that we were handing them out and encourage the families to open them and go over the packet together.  The packet included their call letter, a My Gospel Standards sheet, and a simple missionary family home evening.

I have two versions of the My Gospel Standards sheet.  The one I made for our activity has a picture of the new Ogden, Utah temple because that's our closest temple.  For those of you that live in other places, I made one that matches the rest of the clipart I've used this year.  It's a beautiful picture of the Salt Lake City temple made by artist Susan Fitch.


To decide which children were going on which mission we had to decide how many groups we wanted to have.  This was partly determined by the size we wanted each group to be, the space we had available in the building and the different languages people in our ward spoke on their missions.  This is where that Mission Survey came in handiest, we looked it over and tried to pick those who had children in primary (to insure greater attendance) and who spoke the language we'd decided we wanted.  Although, we really didn't care which language, as long as it was something other than English.

Next we had to divide the children into an even number of groups. 

And while there may have been an easier way to do this, to divide the groups as evenly as we could, we decided to put together a puzzle.  We printed out a list of all the children in our primary and then cut them apart (we already have our own list, which I talked about on this post).  We sorted them into family groups (usually families come together) and then assigned them into their mission groups in stages.  Stage one was our children and those who faithfully come to every activity, stage two was those whose parents we'd asked to help out at the activity, and stage three was everyone else.  We tried to assign each stage equally across all of our groups and, at the same time, give each group the same number of junior and senior primary children.  It sounds a little complicated, but it went smoothly.

The week or two before, we took "mission calls" around to all the children who hadn't made it to church yet (or who don't normally come) along with a short flyer explaining what the call was for.  The adorable clipart in the flyer is from melonheadz illustrating, it's ADORABLE.

Remember, this one reason I LOVE activities, it gives me a chance to make contact with those families and children I don't get to see all the time.  I feel very strongly it is my job to offer.  I can't do anything more than that, but I can sure as heck do that much.

Just like before, if you click on the link below each picture, you can download an editable version to make planning your activity that much easier!

If you'd like to check out the previous post, I talked about the other things we did to get ready for our FANTASTIC activity.

Next, I'll be talking about our opening activity (I know, four posts in and I'm just getting to the ACTUAL activity).  You know, the one you plan so that when half the kids are late, it doesn't interrupt anything else. 


Monday, April 7, 2014

April Sharing Time - Family is Central & Parents Responsibilities

This month is all about the family.

It's also a little short due to General Conference.

And because of Easter.

Well, Easter wouldn't have to make it shorter, but I've decided to do an Easter lesson for Easter this year, so I'll be combining weeks 1 and 2 from the Sharing Time Outline for week 2 of April.  Then I'll use weeks 3 and 4 for week 4 of April.  Just in case that was confusing, here's my plan:

Week 1 - General Conference
Week 2 - Weeks 1 and 2 from the Sharing Time Outline
Week 3 - Easter lesson
Week 4 - Weeks 3 and 4 from the Sharing Time Outline

I like the opener in the Sharing Time Outline (write "The _______ is ________ to God's plan" on the chalkboard, hide the words "family" and "central" under two random chair's and have the kids look for them to finish the quote).   You can download my simple wordstrips here, along with the clipart that I use later on.

It's possible, especially in senior primary that the kids will already know this statement, so I'll probably have the older kids guess what the statement is purely from the two clue words.  If they have trouble, I'll reveal the statement one word at a time until they get it.

I especially like the opener because it leads to a great discussion of what exactly central means, which the Sharing Time Outline leads you to have.  My only problem is that their definition is wrong.  Or at least, it's not as right as it could be. 

Families are not JUST necessary, they are the center.  Dictionary dot com teaches us central constitutes "something from which other related things proceed or upon which they depend." 

I'm going to ask if they know what central means, if I hear crickets...or not even crickets, I'll ask if central sounds like any other words they know.  Then, I'll stand and wait.  Even in junior primary, I know we can have a fantastic discussion.

Next, we're going to talk about what makes up a family.  I'm sure that in every primary there are the stereotypical families (mom, dad, brothers, and sisters) and I'm equally sure that there are at least a few (if not many) who have families that look different.  I'm going to use this adorable clipart I found years ago (I've never been able to find the artist who made it) to illustrate the many different members of our family (I'm going to print it and then cut it apart) As we talk about, and the kids identify, each different person, we'll put them into our family circle. 

Then, we'll move to the next section and I'll have the kids think of their very favorite primary song.  I can't think of a single primary child who won't have perhaps a little too much fun trying to out sing every one else as they each sing that favorite song. 

I have to admit, I'm not really a fan of lots of noise and envisioning the cacophony that will surely take place makes me shudder just a little bit.  Smile, too, when I think about how much they'll love it.  But, I'll be happy to ask them to stop and then lead them in ONE favorite song (perhaps I'll pick the most exuberant singer's favorite).

I think I might then ask them to tell me who leads in their homes. 

Elder Hales (when he was Presiding Bishop Hales) said, "Children naturally look to their parents to learn of the characteristics of their Heavenly Father."


How simultaneously intimidating and invigorating that thought is. 

I want to read part of the proclamation to the kids and talk about exactly what it means, or what they think it means.

"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."

After our discussion, I want to make a very important point.

The truth is, even though parents lead, families learn and grow together.  In an amazing talk speaking to the youth, but equally applicable to our primary children, Sister Mary N. Cook said, "All families need strengthening, from the ideal to the most troubled.  That strengthening can come from you.  In fact, in some families you may be the only source of spiritual strength.  The Lord is depending on you to bring the blessings of the gospel to your family."

While the manual tells us to show different items and have the children tell us how parents can use those to teach and lead their family, I want to add the idea that we can all grow and teach and learn together.

I'm going to have the children choose one of the family circle clipart we used earlier and also draw out an item, then tell how that person can righteously influence their family with the item. 

After getting through everything else, if there's time left, we won't have much, so I'll just grab a few items from home (for example: the Friend, Family Home Evening Manual, Preach My Gospel, Scriptures, Hymnbook or Children's Songbook, and/or a picture of my son praying (he's used it in a few primary talks). 

Closing her talk, Sister Cook said, "Remember, "the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children."  Eternal families are made up of individuals.  "Do your part to build a happy home."  The Lord is depending on you to assist in the exaltation of your eternal family."

He's depending on all of us.  What an exciting thought!!


Primary Activity - Missionary Training Center - Getting Ready

First, a little background.  The handbook does not state you MUST do any activities, but I feel it's a fantastic way to get into the homes (or at least to their doorstep) of those you may not get to see every Sunday (or any Sunday).  Even if they choose not to attend, I still get to see them and let them know we're thinking about them.

We participate in or plan several activities every year.  We plan and put on two activities strictly for the children (usually one in late winter and one in the summer), one activity just for the teachers and leaders in primary (a BBQ where we both thank them and do a short training), and two others that we help out with (Halloween and Christmas).

Our activity last month was our first activity of the year and while brainstorming during a presidency meeting toward the end of last year, we decided on a missionary theme.  After talking about what goals we hoped to accomplish with our activity (everything from what we wanted our kids to learn to how to increase attendance), we made our master plan.

Like all plans, this one started with preparation. 

A few months before the activity, we passed around a mission sign-up to all the adults.  Okay, that's not really a very good word for it, but I can't think of anything better.  At the top it states that the primary is planning to do a mission activity in the next few months and we wanted to be able to talk about where different members of our ward had served.  We asked that they would write down their name, where they served and what language they spoke.  We then used this "sign-up" later in our planning.

A few weeks before the activity, we asked parents of many of the children to come and help out with the activity (we had specific roles for them, which I'll tell you about later), this ended up being a blessing in more than one way.  I'm certain it increased our attendance, but it also spread out the burden of putting on a pretty big activity.  As a presidency, we spent a lot of time planning and figuring everything out, but after that, it was all pretty simple and about as no-stress as possible.

Then, the Sunday before the activity, we put a flyer in the Sacrament program and asked the bishopric to make another reminder during their announcements.

The only other part we worked on before the activity itself, was sending out the "mission calls."  As we handed out a large packet of information, I'm going to talk about those in my next post.

If you click on the link below each picture, you can download an editable version of EVERY part of our planning process to use in setting up your own activity.


Friday, April 4, 2014


(Image courtesy of Matt Banks/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

A few weeks ago I was reading through a great talk on Agency by Elder Robert D. Hales and while I underlined a lot of different passages, one has really stuck with me.

"By our righteous choices and actions, we liberate [ourselves] from darkness by increasing [our] ability to walk in the light."

This quote changed how I think about light.

Growing up one of my very favorite songs was "Walk in the Light" and it's something I've tried to do, but I've never thought about light as something that we need the ABILITY to walk in.

For the past several years I've had migraines and one of the symptoms is light sensitivity.  During the migraine and for a day or two afterwards, I do not like the light.  It's actually painful.

So, I pull the curtains and sit in the dark (or at least as dim as I can get it and still get my daily activities done).  I, quite literally, cannot walk in the light and I wondered, is that how it is spiritually also?

When we make poor choices, does our Father's light hurt us?  Are we actually unable to walk in it without pain?

If so, then the opposite is also true.

Just as Elder Hales taught, as we make righteous choices, we don't just leave behind the darkness and free ourselves from it, we are immediately increasing in His light.  In our ability to not just withstand, but love His light.

I want to feel His light without pain, with joy and always be seeking to walk more fully in it.

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