Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sharing Time - May Week 1 & 2

After initially being discouraged that I had to pull two weeks out of one topic, I'm now changing my tune.  I've found so many fantastic ideas about this very integral topic.  The fact that we believe in a modern day prophet who receives modern day revelation sets us apart from most religions.  I can't wait to teach my kids and hopefully trickle a little of my excitement into them!

I usually do one week at a time when it comes to sharing time, I really like to spend my time doing research and focus on one topic before moving onto the next.  But seeing as it's the same topic and I really want the learning to build from one week to the next, I decided to talk about both weeks in one post. 

(I love this picture, I can't help but smile when I look at it.)

Attention Getter (for either week)
I saw a cute idea on lds dot org (scroll down to #2) that illustrates how necessary it is to follow the light.  While one child leaves the room, hide a picture of a home in the primary room.  When they come back, have another child (or children) lead them to the picture with the light from flashlight beams.  Physical light helps to show us how to get around, but spiritual light is even more important and our prophets teach us how to walk in the light!

Week 1
This Sunday I'm going to partly follow a fantastic family home evening lesson I found on Sophia's Primary Ideas.  She uses 14 fundamentals for following the prophet as the spine for her lesson (they are found in President Benson's talk here).  I'm going to either grab pictures of each of the apostles from the library (well, 14 of them, that leaves one off) or print them off 4 to a page from lds dot org.  On the back of each picture I'm going to put one of the fundamentals AND one thing that apostle taught in the last conference. 

I was originally thinking of getting pictures of 14 of the 16 modern day prophets, but as I read through the ideas in the Sharing Time Outline, I decided I wanted to focus more on the teachings from our current apostles.  You could still choose to use previous prophets (from any dispensation) if you would like.

The main purpose in having one item or topic each apostle spoke on is because I'm going to use that for a game during Week 2.  They are going to need to know which apostle talked about which things so they can complete the game (or at least be able to guess a little more closely than a random guess). 

I also want to teach them to follow those teachings in their daily lives and I found the perfect idea on lds dot org (scroll down to #5).  We are always saying, "Follow the prophet," but what does that mean everyday?  We'll start talking about it this week by having a large piece of paper up front with a picture of all the apostles (like this one or one from the library) in the center.  Each time we talk about a teaching, I'll write it around the picture (or have the kids write it for me) so by the end, our paper will be full of the teachings of our living apostles (I'm going to use this in the testimony challenge today also).

Another fun idea that goes right along with our search for the apostles is a song the kids can sing as we're looking for pictures (I'm leaning towards only doing it for junior primary, but I haven't decided yet).  To the tune of "Are You Sleeping" sing:

Where's the prophet?  Where's the prophet?
Here he is.  Here he is.
His name is President Monson.  His name is President Monson.
We love him.  We love him.

I found these adorable lyrics on Nurture Mama.  I am thinking of changing the second line to say, Where is he?  Where is he? instead, to go along with the search.  And I might just hide President Monson's picture the best so the kids don't find it until the very end. 

Once you've found a picture, Sophia's Primary Ideas has some tips for how to talk about each of the fundamentals, quotes to read and games to play. You won't have time during sharing time to get to all of it, so pray about what your primary (kids and teachers) need to hear and learn a little more about. 

Testimony Challenge
This weeks challenge is to pick one of the teachings to work on.  Encourage them to set a small, specific goal they can do everyday.  If you're doing the Armor of God theme in your primary, you could also bare your testimony about how when we study and learn the gospel, we are prepared to walk where the prophets ask us.

Week 2
I have a few different ideas for this week, each accomplishing the same goal of testing the kids knowledge of which apostle taught which truths (or said which quote) while re-teaching the truths at the very same time.

You're going to need the paper with the apostles in the center you started filling out last week.  This week, as the kids guess who said which quote or talked about which topic, ask them how they could live the principle and write that on the paper next to the teaching.  By the end, you should have a very full paper with TONS of great ideas for living what our prophets are teaching us.

Idea #1
I think this is my favorite, but it's also the most complicated and I haven't decided if I'm going to opt for one of the simpler choices yet.  This option is a board game, a game of life (which is one of my very favorite board games, by the way) that resembles our life here.  You'll want a nice straight path with birth on one side and Heavenly Father on the other.  Along the nice straight path there will be other paths that detour off leading to no where.  Each of these no where paths begin with a problem that can be solved by following counsel given in the last general conference.  As they correctly guess who taught them the principle, we'll talk about living the teachings in everyday life and add ideas (from the board game and from them) to our apostle paper.

For the older kids I'll have the pictures of the apostles to choose from (with the quote or topic on the back to double check their guesses), for the younger kids, I'll have the topics to pick from and then we'll turn it over to see who said it.  I'm toying with the idea of finding pictures to go along with each topic for junior primary, but I haven't decided if I want to spend the extra time yet.

Idea #2
For this idea we'll act out the different counsel given during conference and the kids will have to guess both what's being acted out and who said it.  After they guess correctly, we'll talk about how to apply the counsel to us and add their ideas to the apostle paper.

I'm not sure how well this idea would work in junior primary (although the kids often surprise me), but I might only do this in senior primary and do the next idea for junior.

Idea #3
This time there won't be any guessing, but we'll still be acting out each principle taught.  I'll call up a child who'll draw a principle out of a bowl and instead of trying to get everyone to guess, we'll tell them what it is and then act it out while singing the chorus to "Follow the Prophet" AND holding the picture of the apostle who taught us the principle.  As we figure out which action to do, we'll talk about how to apply the teachings to us and add to our apostle paper.

Testimony Challenge
This week, we'll look at all the additional ideas on our apostle paper and talk about how simple (and sometimes still hard) it is to live the gospel.  I'll encourage the kids to either choose a new goal or continue to work on the goal they set the last week.

Don't forget to talk about the armor piece we added this month!  As we walk where the prophets ask, we are protected and kept safe.  That doesn't mean that bad things won't happen, but it means that the Holy Ghost will always be able to comfort us and help us along the way.

Good luck with your weeks!!

PS.  I've written more generally about this month's topic here.  You'll also find some ideas on how to learn and teach about our prophets.

PPS (5/3/13).  I went ahead and made up the quotes with a picture.  I think it will help the Senior primary to remember who is who along with Junior. 

As you can see, they fit 4 to a page for easy printing.  I've changed my mind a little on how I'm going to use them also.  I'm still going to hide the apostle pictures around the room, but I'm only going to put the fundamental on the back (which I've typed up also), then we'll stick the apostles picture up on a board next to the quote.  I'll hang up all the quotes and have them waiting to get matched up on the board.  I'm going to use these same pictures for week 2 in our games.

You can save the pictures from my blog but if you'd like a pdf (which has a higher resolution) of the pictures and my master (cheater) list, leave a comment or send me an email!

5/21/2014 - I've made a new set of quotes and pictures to go along with the April 2014 General Conference.  If you'd like to check them out (and download them), click over to the post where I talk about how I best like to use them!

Friday, April 26, 2013

May Holidays

We've had so much fun knowing and learning about some of the wacky holidays and days of recognition through April, I wanted to make sure we take note again in May.

For April, I went to the Calendar Spot, printed out a blank, generic calendar and filled it out with all the days we wanted to take special note of and it ended up looking like this...

I stuck this on the white board in our school room and for the most part, it's helped us to remember the days we wanted to recognize.  I'm going to do it again for May, but I think I'll also put Makenna in charge of reminding us about the holidays (less chance we'll miss one when we get busy).

On to May (if you'd like to see more holidays, yes it boggles the mind that there could be more, or see descriptions of where these got their start, check out Holiday Insights)!

Date Your Mate Month
Now, I know this doesn't have too much school room use, but this is awesome.  I think this means Steve and I should up our date nights.  Maybe we could even do a retro date night (back to when we were first married) and go walk through Wal-Mart.  Heehee.  He isn't a huge fan, but combine the fact that the town we first lived was small and it was one of the only stores, with us being very poor students and we ended up there a lot, just wandering around.  It always brings back fun memories when we're there together.

National Barbeque, Hamburger and Salad Month
No, it's not these together, but I think it's interesting that May is all of these seperately.  Maybe because it's getting warmer which leads to cooking lighter and outside?  Either way, cooking is always a great lesson for kids (and if you happen to have a cub scout in your house, there's always something cooking related they can pass off).  I think we'll try a few new recipes and maybe even have my kids pick them. 

National Photograph Month
Last year I tried doing a photograph a day challenge and it didn't last very long.  Maybe we could do a take on it during the school week.  I could assign a different child to be in charge of the camera each day, giving them each a chance to show me our day from their perspective (which might just lead to masses of pictures, I'm so very thankful for digital cameras and the delete button).  They would LOVE it.

National Police Week
The website says it's the 3rd week of the month, does that mean the 3rd full week?  Which would mean the week of the 20th?  Or would it just be the 3rd week and the week of the 13th?  Either way, we had so much fun in April taking thank you cards to the librarians (for National Librarian's Day), I know my kids would love to make some to take down to our local police station.

1 May Day
The traditional celebration of the beginning of spring, warmer weather and the beautiful flowers they bring.  This is one of my favorite holidays and I'm excited to start a new tradition with my kids. 

Did you know that one traditional activity is to give flowers to your neighbors and friends without being spotted?  I didn't, but it sure sounds like a good time.  I've found two simple flower baskets you can make out of paper and some cute paper flowers to go in them.  One involves candy and the others are a little more plain, both would be so much fun to doorbell ditch at a loved ones home.

2 Brothers and Sisters Day
Last month siblings day was a pretty big hit at our house, so we'll definitely be recognizing Brothers and Sisters Day (even if it might be a made up holiday).  This will be a more low key holiday, one where we focus on loving, serving and leaving surprise notes for each other.

3 Space Day
This day has a lot of potential.  Space is pretty awesome and there are lots of fun activities you can do to go along with it (if you aren't feeling up to being crafty, you can always visit a nearby air and space museum instead).  I found a TON of different crafts for different ability levels at about dot com.

I think we'll make a space ship with a little paint (or a lot depending on which of my kids you're talking to) and a couple of paper plates.  Simple enough for my youngest, but fun enough my oldest will still love it.  If the simple version doesn't float your boat, try out this pretty cool version using a CD, mini touch light and half an easter egg.  In fact, I might just give this a whirl if I can find some cheap lights at the dollar store. 

And if you're still thinking, come on, bring on the SPACE, well then, this craft is for you.  Have you ever wanted your very own Hubble telescope?  Now you can have one.  Of course, it's a smidge smaller than the one in space, but it's pretty great just the same.

4 Bird Day
I know that celebrating two holidays in one day is a little bit crazy and I'm not sure we're going to, but I couldn't decide between Bird Day and Star Wars Day.  As this day happens to fall on a Saturday, we probably won't do any big crafts, but maybe I'll print out some coloring sheets for the kids (like this cute one of a pelican).  If I can manage it, we'll go for a hike on a trail, aptly named Birdsong, not too far from my home and do a little bird watching.

4 Star Wars Day
This unofficial holiday got it's start accidentally when a German news channel mistranslated the famous phrase, "May the force be with you" to say something along the lines of "We'll be with you on May 4th."  So, May the fourth be with you while you go and watch a Star Wars movie, it's what we'll be doing.

5 Cinco de Mayo
I love May.  I love May holidays and Cinco de Mayo is no exception.  This holiday can be so much fun!  Learn a little about Mexican culture (even though the holiday started as a celebration of an important victory against the French in 1862, it's turned into a way to celebrate Mexican heritage and culture), make some super yummy recipes (check out Our Best Bites list of favorite Cinco de Mayo recipes, I LOVE their flour tortillas, simple and YUMMY!), or try out some fun crafts and activities (like the ones on Deb's Pinterest board).

9 Lost Sock Memorial Day
I just thought this one was funny.  Maybe I could have my kids write a eulogy for all the lost socks they love.  Or maybe would should finally go through our un-mated sock bag and get rid of all the ones that have been hanging around for years.  Do you have any fun (or funny) ideas? 

9 National Train Day
I haven't met a kid yet who doesn't like trains.  Yes, I know they are out there, but I still haven't met one.  This will be the perfect day for us to head out to an old train depot not too far away and climb all over the old trains (we're allowed to, don't worry, I'm not a rule breaker).  If you don't happen to have a depot near you, try making your own trains out of construction paper or if that sounds too simple, you could always use pasta instead (so cute)!

12 Limerick Day
We love limericks around here.  We studied them earlier in the year (we read a lot of Edward Lear) and then we used this worksheet to help us write our very own.  I'll admit, my younger kids needed a lot of help, but they still had fun and couldnt' stop laughing at their own rhymes by the end.

15 National Chocolate Chip Day
I think this might take over as my favorite holiday of all time.  Okay, probably not all time, but it's going to be up there.  Did you know there was a National Chocolate Chip day?  Well, why didn't you tell me earlier?! 

My very favorite way to eat chocolate chips is inside cookie dough.  I know, some strange people make cookie dough to make cookies, and they're good that way too, I just happen to prefer the dough.  One of my very favorite, very, very favorite recipes of all time are Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes (they even have cookie dough icing!).  I've made them for my birthday the last two years and I'm pretty sure I'm going to make them again this year.  What's your favorite way to eat chocolate chips? 

18 International Museum Day
I love museums.  My kids love museums.  I see this as a win-win and the perfect opportunity to visit a museum we've been wanting to check out, but haven't made time for yet.  This year the 18th falls on a Saturday, which might be better for some families (letting the whole family go together), but if you're like us and this just adds one more thing to an already over-stressed day, go earlier in the week, we always love a good field trip!

20 Pick Strawberries Day
If you have a place near you (or are lucky enough to be growing your own and they're ready), go pick some.  Eat some.  Yum!!  Or, if you aren't, I think you can count going to the grocery store and buying some as picking them, because either way you get to eat them, which is the part that really matters, right?  If you get tired of eating them by themselves (does that happen?) you can try this freezer jam recipe or try one of my favorites and make some Strawberry Cheesecake Bars.

25 International Jazz Day
I think I might have mentioned before that I'm not a huge music person.  If you ask me what's on my Ipod, I could tell you all about the audiobooks I've got on there, but nothing about the music my husband put on there for me (isn't he's so nice?) and I almost never listen to.  My point is that I want to give my kids a chance to discover and appreciate all different kids of music, in spite of me.  My plan is simple.  I'm going to find a good jazz station and listen.  Let my kids experience the music and see what they think.

27 Memorial Day
Last year for Memorial Day we joined up with some of my husbands family to visit the graves of many of their ancestors.  Do you do that?  I'd never heard of it before, but given the masses of crowds that were out, I'd say it's a fairly normal thing.  If you haven't done it, I highly encourage it.  It was so much fun to hear stories and introduce our kids to family members they haven't gotten a chance to meet.  Plus, the visiting happened with living family we don't see often enough and that was fun too.  A great tradition I'm looking forward to again this year.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sweet Pretzel Pinning

A few weeks ago I made some amazing cookies, super amazing even, Chocolate Chip Caramel Pretzel Cookies.  Yum-yum.

They were so good, I was dying to try another, very similar recipe I'd pinned around the same time. 

These Caramel Pretzel Brownies look pretty good don't they?  I adjusted the recipe a little bit by adding the same caramel bits that were in the cookies and mixing the pretzels in instead of leaving them on top.  I also added some caramel to the top, a recipe I've been wanting to try since I heard my sister raving about it.

There was enough left over after drizzling to fill a regular bread sized loaf pan.  The caramel turned out awesome.  Even more awesome?  It's 5 ingredients and only takes 6 minutes to cook!

Okay, after trying out the brownies, I like the cookies way better.  Although, my husband LOVES the brownies.  You see, I like all sorts of stuff in my brownies and it seemed like these would fit the bill, but somehow, they just turned out kind of like regular brownies (which are my husbands favorite).  I think I would have liked them better if I'd went ahead and poured all the caramel on top instead of drizzling.  Hmmm....I might just have to try it again later.

We're going to be making some savory pretzels tomorrow in honor of National Pretzel Day, do you have any favorite pretzel recipes?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Current Events

I mentioned in a previous post that I have had issues with the news.  I really don't like it and for much of my life I haven't felt that the pro of knowing what's going on in the world outweighed the con of it being full of horrible, depressing negativity.  A fact for which my husband has teased me mercilessly. 

He's also been bothering me for most of this school year about current events (especially for our 6th grader).  Now that I'm homeschooling, am I going to teach my kids about current events?  He tells me they need to know how to find out what's going on, to be exposed to news around the world, and possibly learn to like knowing what's going on.  All things I happen to agree with, but still, actually DOING something about it is another story. 

I figured the first step in implementation is to figure out what my options are.  How exactly do I go about adding current events to our school days?  And, even more important for me, is it possible to meaningfully involve my younger kids (2nd and Kindergarten), which means keeping it quick and simple?

After spending a few hours researching around on the web, I've decided yes, it is.  Now I just need to decide which of the options I've found I'd like to do.  Maybe you can help me. 

For those who have easy access to the Internet in or near your school room, there are lots of different websites you can go to that are geared towards both kids and education.

My favorite (without using it, yet) is Student News Daily.  It showcases one article a day, which I love from the simple and easy perspective, and each day is a different type of article: world events, media bias, editorial, cartoon and then every Friday there is a quiz testing your retention and understanding of the articles you've read throughout the week.  The articles are shorter, easily printed and could be used during the start of each school day. 

I also really like Learn The News because it has two reading levels.  You can choose a lower level (which would be great for my boys) or a more challenging level (much better for my daughter) depending on your needs.  There are comprehension questions and worksheets to go along with the articles and a cartoon character Jimmy who teaches you about journalism and how to write a story.  The downside?  It's not free and it's not cheap.  It costs $90 for a one year subscription (which comes out weekly), but it's meant for a classroom, so perhaps you could use it in your co-op or go in on it with a few friends to create your own "classroom."

Time For Kids has a variety of different articles you can choose from (top story, kid reporter scoops, world and nation).  They also have quizzes, worksheets and more (according to their website), but you can't access anything beyond the articles unless you are a subscriber.  The good news is that you get a print booklet with your subscription and they're pretty cheap.  The bad news is the subscriptions are geared towards normal classroom sizes so you have to order at least 10 subscriptions (the same holds true for all Scholastic magazine subscriptions, and they have lots of different types not just current events).

If you're a fan of the New York Times, they have a teaching and learning website where you can go more in depth with some of their articles through lesson plans, student opinions, questions and quizzes.

This last website I read about isn't geared towards students or kids, but I like it.  I am often stuck in my own little world.  What obviously directly affects me is what I focus on, but in our world today, the world can affect me.  Even when I read about world news, it's definitely viewed through the lens of the United States, World News might help me to view the news differently.  From another perspective, which a good thing.  But this wouldn't just be good for me, it would also be great for older kids.  Helping them to realize that the stance of their country of origin is not the only way to see things.

I already mentioned two up above Time For Kids and Scholastic, both of which require at least 10 subscriptions.  But, on the plus side, both are the cheapest (by a lot) per subscription if you have friends to go in with (a co-op, park or support group?).

My very favorite subscription is from God's World News.  There are a lot of bonuses.  First, the magazines come in different grade levels.  If you more than one child, they're probably not all in the same grade (crazy, I know) and you can get them each their own level to read.  Even cooler?  There are correlating articles in each level so you can still talk about the news you've learned together!  It also ties news into other areas of learning for you (there are teaching tips on almost every page).  For example, if the article is about someone from India, it'll teach you about India.  There are also fun games and worksheets that tie into the news throughout the magazines. 

If that isn't cool enough, with your subscription, you also have access to all articles they've written, answer keys, lessons and a variety of biographies (the sample one you can check out is of Abraham Lincoln, which would be a great Presidents Day activity!).  To look at samples of each level, click the link above and then click on which level you want to look at.  Or check them all out. 

You can get a full year subscription (it's not really full year, they don't deliver in May or December, so a 10 month subscription) for $28 each, which could get a little price-ey with multiple kids.  Or you can order a school subscription (September through April minus December) for $21 a piece.

No matter what you choose to do for current events, there are a few other ideas you can incorporate into your study.  On Elemental Blogging, Paige talks about a few steps, including questions to ask you rkids and writing a summary to show understanding (plus it'd work on summary skills which my kids could always use!).

I also found an article on the HSLDA website that has some pretty good ideas.  Have your kids keep a running list of words they come across that they aren't familiar with and then look them up later.  Learn more about the area an article talks about using at atlas, encyclopedia or even google.  And as they get older (or even not so old), they can start their own newspaper using the skills they've picked up by reading the news.  I especially love this idea, they get to choose topics, do research, look for stories and LEARN disguised as fun!  Oh wait, learning is fun.  Right.  I knew that.

Eclectic Homeschool Online talks about how to learn history through current events by asking yourself (and your kids) one simple question: It all started when...  Look for links from history you've studied, time lines you've made (or purchased) and the news today. 

I've learned that the most important part of teaching is to just get started.  Figure out how much time I want to spend (or have to give), examine my options and then pick one.  I think we might start with Student News Daily for the last few weeks of this year and then add God's World News next year (you couldn't tell I liked that one, could you?).  But I'm still open to ideas.  Do you have a great one I didn't mention?  I'd love to hear about any tips, websites or magazines you've come across!

Disclosure: This was not a sponsored post.  I'm not affiliated with any of these products or websites, I just like how they look!  Any opinions expressed are mine.  Yep.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sharing Time - April Week 4

I spent a few hours yesterday looking through various blogs and websites about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and found some fun things. 

But, before I tell you about them, I have to say that I really like the ideas that are already on Sugardoodle

I love Sofia's Primary Ideas from the research and learning perspective.  She's got some really good looking talks to read about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, so check that out regardless of what idea you choose to use for your sharing time!

I also love the idea on Little LDS Ideas.  It's cute and simple and I don't know about your kids, but mine LOVE to find anything.  We hid a CTR detective last year for the kids to find every Sunday and I think they're going through withdrawals this year not having something to look for every week.  If you haven't had a chance to check it out yet, the idea is to look for stones (representing the stone Joseph found the plates under) and under or in each stone is someone or something related to the translation.  Easy Peasy.

Bean Bags
Chocolate on my Cranium has a fantastically fun and informative family home evening (the best kind).  It's all about the Book of Mormon and parts of it can either be adapted to fit teaching about things related to the translation, or it could be used as a part two to delve into the teachings of the Book or Mormon.  I would use the bean bag toss game and the super cute Book of Mormon reading chart (although if you don't like her chart, but want to do one there are TONS out there, here's a link to a search I did on Pinterest to get you started). 

Just as a quick aside, I know that most kids would throw away or lose the chart, but there might be one that wouldn't.  My daughter read the Book of Mormon for the first time because she was challenged to by her Activity Days leader.  While we can't be sure what we are teaching or encouraging our kids to do sinks in, I don't feel that's our job.  Our job is to offer (with love) and theirs is to do or not.  This is one of the hardest, but at the same time, liberating concepts for me both as a parent and as a leader at church.  If the whole year chart approach still isn't appealing, you can go here to download a certificate encouraging the kids to read with their families for one whole week.

She has several great cards for the bean bag toss game that cover many aspects of Book of Mormon information and you could do those (I'm thinking this would be a fantastic FHE for us next month) or you can substitute clues about the Book of Mormon translation.  For example:

1. He translated the Book or Mormon
2. This was used to help with the translation of the Book or Mormon
3. He was a scribe (someone who writes what you're saying) for a lot of the Book of Mormon translation
4. The power used to translate the Book of Mormon
5. He showed Joseph where to find the plates
6. What Joseph translated the Book of Mormon from
7. June 1829 (translation completed)
8. This is one of the 3 witnesses who saw the Book of Mormon, heard the voice of God and saw and angel
9. This is one of the 8 witnesses who saw the Book of Mormon
10. 4 (number of years of preparation before Joseph received the plates)

If you need a few more ideas (or just want some), you can check out this Friend article from January 1973.

Another thing you can talk about is the translation.  The actual act of translation, how it was and whether or not the kids think it would be difficult.  There are some really fun ideas on Sugardoodle including a code you can use to write them a message that they then get to "translate" into English.  You could work this into either the bean bag toss or the searching game above by having them find part of your coded message with each stone or toss of the bean bag and then the message could be a wrap up.  For example, you could use (or paraphrase) Joseph Smith when he said that a man can get nearer to God by abiding by the precepts in the Book of Mormon than any other book.

If you'd like something more than just a simple number code, I've found another fun one here that uses shapes and symbols.  It even has a code you can use that translates as "Joseph Smith was the prophet of the restoration.  He translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God."  It's a little long for a sharing time, but you could use one symbol per word to make it go a little faster.  Or send it home for the kids to work on and bring back.

If that wasn't enough options, I found another code using simple drawings on Sugardoodle.  Yes, I know, I have a problem with going overboard occasionally, that's why my motto is to keep is simple (and it even sometimes works).

Testimony Challenge
If you choose to send the kids home with a coded message, this would be a great tie in to the testimony challenge.  You could tell them that you want them to pray about (and for the older kids maybe study about) what the message says.  I would probably tell them if they brought it back to primary next week, decoded, they could get a treat or a small prize of some sort to encourage finishing it.

Good luck with your planning and have a great week!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Planet Pinteresting

We're just finishing up studying the planets and I was looking through my some of my boards on Pinterest when I came across a pin for a simple planet project


You can find the instructions and a planet template on the Busy Bee Kids Crafts website.  The one thing I thought about doing, but didn't in the name of simplicity (and slight laziness), was make my own planet templates so they would be the right sizes in relation to each other.  They really aren't, but my kids didn't care.

I was thinking we might make our own later (next week?).  I could set up a project for my 6th grader to decide how big she wants earth and then figure out how big every other planet should be in relation (a good use of math skills).  Then, we can cut them out and hang them on our wall (go teamwork!).  Although, we might need to hang them outside our schoolroom (it's sorta tiny) depending on how big she goes.

I'm still amazed at how much fun my kids have doing any sort of craft project.  It reminds me how important it is to plan ahead enough to get them ready.  Huh, I think this calls for a little more Pinteresting. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Natural History Museum of Utah

A month of two ago I saw a friend post a question on Facebook asking whether our local Natural History Museum would be good for her almost 4 year old son.  I was so excited because I hadn't known there was a natural history museum less than an hour from my house!

I had the opportunity to tag along with my husband last year on a business trip to Washington D.C. and I spent a lot of my alone time (while he was in the conference) walking around the Smithsonian Museums.  My very favorite, by far, was the Natural History Museum and my one regret was that I couldn't take my kids there.  I knew they would love it.

Well, now I could.  I mean, of course, I knew it wouldn't be the same, but I also knew it would be fun. 

And it was.  In addition to all the cool exhibits I knew would be there, they have so many activities to involve kids throughout the entire museum.  We were there two hours and could have easily spent the whole day if we'd stopped to do every activity along the way.

There are five levels including the lower admissions level, so bring your walking shoes.

This is something we didn't do, but think would be a really great learning tool for our older kids.  You can use your smart phone to access extra information all over the museum.  It even says that some of the codes are hidden, so it's like an information treasure hunt trying to find them all. 

There are so many fun activities, I'd encourage anyone in the area to stop by.  If you aren't convinced yet, look through a few of the fun things my kids got to do.

James is "fishing" at the top of the stream in a room with a cave to crawl through and a few terrariums full of critters that will never be allowed in my home, but my kids all LOVE.

This is one of my very favorite activities we got to do and the best part?  They're all over the museum!  You get to smell all sorts of things.  Just push a little button (this one's green) and then sniff at the silver circle near it to see how different plants and animals really smell. 

And they aren't all good smelling.  I had Makenna smell this one and she gleefully encouraged Ben to smell it while she took pictures of him.  I'm not sure he appreciated her excitement.

This is my audition for the Price Is Right (is that show even still on the air?).  I know, I totally missed my calling in life.

Their special exhibit right now is all about weaving and Makenna especially liked the pattern on this bowl.

They all had so much fun creating a sand damn and then filling up one side with water until it washed away (Ben has his hand on one of the spouts).

The best part of our visit?  Okay, it wasn't the best part, but it was pretty great.  We went for FREE!  Now, it's worth the price of admission, but I do love free.  Once every 3 months the museum has a free day, (although you still need tickets to guarantee entrance) and you can check out when they're having the next free day on their website. 

Maybe I'll see you there!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Little List

There are a few things I've been excited about, wanted to post about, but they seemed too small.  So, seeing as I love lists, I'll tell you all about them here.  All mooshed together.

1. I've eaten the my very first produce out of my garden this year.  Asparagus.  Holy yum.  I planted these a few years ago, but this is the first year I've picked any and if you've never tried fresh from your garden asparagus (or your neighbors...with their permission, of course), you should.  I'd even say it's worth the 3 year wait.

2. My sister is coming to visit me in July.  I can't wait.  I tried to convince her to stay for a month, but I'm pretty sure she's not going to.  Darn.

3. I'm not sure how to incorporate current events into our homeschool classroom.  I have a terrible reflex that "forces" me to stick my head in the sand remarkably like an ostrich when it comes to news, which I usually find depressing (the news, not the head in the sand bit).  I've been trying to overcome that urge and keep myself educated about what's going on in the world and I want to bring that into my kids lives, but I haven't figured out how yet.  Any ideas for a kindergartner, 2nd and 6th grader?

**Update 4/24/2013: I decided the only way to figure out what to do with current events would be to do some research.  I thought I'd share what I found, learned and decided (for the moment anyway) and you can find that here.

4. I'm very excited to plan out next year's curriculum, although I'm also a little nervous because I've decided that even though I'm not going with a prepackaged curriculum with a weekly, monthly and whole darn yearly overview (like Sonlight and a few other's I've been looking at), I want the overview.  So, I'm going to have to make my own.  My goal is to do it with absolutely no hyperventilating.  I can do it.

5. I wish the weather person was accurate more often.  I really wanted to go outside in the beautiful sunshine on Saturday (which was forecast up until a day or two before) and work some more in my garden, instead it drizzled off and on all day.  Darn.

6. Yesterday we went to the Natural History Museum in Salt Lake City and it was AWESOME!  There are so many fun activities for kids of all ages (Makenna and I were jumping together on a certain spot trying to make a seismometer move).  If you live in the area, they have a free day every three months (the next one's in July) and you should check it out.  Or go earlier and pay for it.  I just like free stuff. 

7. I've decided that zoo's are sort of like the freeway, there is always a section of it under construction.  Why is that?

Hope you're having a wonderful day! 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Sharing Time - April Week 3

Last week we ended with re-building Christ's church through a bunch of cups to show we truly are the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

This week, tell them we're going to start again with the church being restored, but we're going to have to move backwards through time because we skipped over some very important pieces that led to the restoration.

Now, you might be asking yourself how exactly we're going to be able to move back in time, so, let me tell you!  We're going to make a timeline down the middle of our primary room!  Okay, I might be getting exclamation point crazy, but I'm pretty excited about this idea.  In addition to the timeline, you'll need a board to stick up pictures for each of the dates.

Depending on your room setup, you can put the timeline wherever works best for you.  We happen to have an isle down the center of our primary room, so that would work best for us.  The original idea (found on an old Sophia's Primary Idea's blog post) suggests using string, which would be fun, but I think it would be easier to use tape.  Simply tape your timeline down on your floor wherever works best.  The longer it is, the more fun for the kids.

Your timeline will start with the word Restoration, April 6, 1830 and then have 5 marks for your 5 different dates (or you can just tape your clues/envelopes right to the timeline).  You could space them to show the time, the first 4 would be fairly close together with a larger space until number 5 and an even bigger space until number 6.  So, starting at the front of your room you'll have:

1. April 6, 1830 - Restoration of Christ's church
2. June 1829 - Translation of the Book of Mormon completed
3. May 15 - 29, 1829 - Restoration of Melchizedek Priesthood (see this article for the dates I've used)
4. May 15, 1829 - Restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood
5. Spring of 1820 - First Vision
6. 1789 - American Constitution Established

For senior primary, inside each envelope, stick a code so they have to figure out what the important event is.  To make it simple, I would just mix up the main word from each date.

1. RESTORATION = NIROERSOTAT (I wouldn't mix this one up or put it in an envelope, but it's an option)

You can copy and paste mine, I'd do one word per sheet, fold it up and stick it in the envelope.

Choose a child to come up front and walk back through time AND as you're moving backwards through time, having them walk backwards would be pretty fun.  Once they get to an envelope have them pull it up and pull out the clue (for senior primary, for junior, you can just have a number that correlates to the picture).

Once they guess the word, pull out a picture to stick on the board for further discussion.  You can find and use your own pictures, but if you don't want to, you can either use your own GAK pictures or pick some up from the library. 

1. This is a great starting point as it picks up exactly where last week left off.  We had the apostasy and then there was a restoration!  There isn't a GAK picture depicting the April 6th first meeting, but I did find this one online that you could print out if you'd like one.  You can take a minute to review anything you went over last week or just move on to the next step.

2. GAK 416 - Ask why the Book of Mormon is important and wait for their answers, our kids often surprise me with their thoughtfulness.  Make sure you or they talk about how it restored important gospel truths (but briefly, this is your whole topic next week).

3. GAK 408 - What is important about the Melchizedek Priesthood?  What are some of the things you can do with it?  I think it would be great to have a Melchizedek Priesthood holder talk for a couple (2 or 3) about what he does with his priesthood and how it blesses his life and those around him.

4. GAK 407 - When do boys get the Aaronic Priesthood?  What are things they can do with it?  Have an Aaronic Priesthood holder talk for a few minutes (the same 2 or 3) about his priesthood and the difference honoring it makes in his life and those around him.  You can ask anyone, but the Priest Quorum 1st Assistant would be great and I'm sure they'd love to serve the primary!

5. GAK 403 - The First Vision is a perfect example of our theme (the theme to go along with our armor of god guy) for this month of Knowing, Living and the Loving the gospel.  Joseph read and studied until he knew the scriptures to be true.  He had enough faith to test out or LIVE one of the principles he'd learned, prayer.  Depending on how much time you have left, you can have a child tell you the story of the first vision, or maybe tell you their favorite part.  I really like the Encourage Understanding section in week two where it suggests asking the kids how they would have felt if they had been there, if they could have seen Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  This is such a great opportunity to help them feel the Holy Ghost.

6. This one obviously doesn't have a GAK pictures, but you can download one to print out here (click the download all sizes button and choose the size you want).  I think it's important to realize that the United States was part of God's plan.  It's no coincidence that just over 30 years after it was signed, the First Vision occurred.  Heavenly Father needed a place where we could be free.  Free to choose which religion we wanted.  Free to exercise our agency.  There are many places where these freedoms are found today, but not then.  The freedom had to exist to make the restoration possible, this is why there were so many years in between the last apostasy and the final restoration.  The world, the people, had to be ready.

Testimony Challenge
Bear your testimony of the restoration, of the first vision and the blessings of the priesthood.  Bear your testimony of the importance of having a testimony.  Of working on it everyday, every week.  Encourage the children to learn, to live so they can know and love the gospel.

I also found a couple of cute sheets you could send home with the kids if you like to do that.  The first one is a picture of Joseph and Oliver receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood with a pretty great poem.  The second one is a crossword puzzle, also about the restoration, and some of the different offices held within the priesthood.  They're both pretty fun!

Good luck with your week!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chocolate Chip Pretzel Caramel Cookie Heaven

A few months ago I pinned an amazing dessert on Pinterest.  Well, what looked like an amazing dessert.  In fact, it looked so amazing, I finally decided to make it (okay, that was a month ago, it still took me a while to get there). 

I have this bad habit of pinning lots and lots on Pinterest and then letting all those fun, yummy, interesting, awesome pins just sit there.  Day after day.  Poor pins.

But not this one.  Yesterday, I made it!

Don't they look amazing?!  They taste as good as they look.  If you're a fan of pretzels that have been dipped in caramel and chocolate, you'll love these! 

Here's a link to my pin and if you want to get straight to business without any additional clicking, here's where you can find the recipe for this yummy cookie.  The recipe is only for 2 dozen cookies and as I'm pretty sure that equates to not being worth making, I doubled the recipe and got about 3 1/2 dozen...I must have made them too big.  Whoops.  Although, the size was good for eating.  Maybe that just means I should triple the recipe next time (he-he).

Around the same time I pinned these, I also pinned a recipe for brownies with similar ingredients...I think I'm going to have to try that one next.  Yep.  If you want to follow my recipe board (or just check it out), here's a link.

What's your favorite recipe pin?  Leave me a link and/or description, I'd love to check them out!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I'm not sure how it happened, but somewhere, sometime, awesome became my go to word.  I try really hard not to use it every time it pops into my head, because, well, that would be sort of crazy.

Here are some of the ways and meanings I find useful when using the word awesome.

awesome: This is so awe-inspiringly amazing.  A few years ago we had the opportunity to go to the Grand Canyon (actually, I think it was just last year...man, time is speeding up!) and standing near the edge, looking at all the beauty and wonder brought the word awesome to mind. 

awesome: I'm so excited and feel sort of like a giddy teenager (yes, this still happens...sometimes).  It's usually something small that brings this awesome-ness out, like when my husband surprises me with flowers and I want to jump up and down while clapping my hands with a huge grin on my face.  After I give him a big fat kiss, that is.

awesome: Used with slight (and sometimes not so slight) sarcasm it means to exact opposite of anything related to the word awesome.  This might be when my wonderful child spills his entire cup of juice all over the floor after I've told him to be careful and watch out for his cup somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 times.

awesome: When I'm in shock, I'll often say awesome over and over just because I can't think of anything else to say and this is always the first word to pop into my head.  When I first was asked to be over the primary children in our church, I'm pretty sure I said awesome 5 to 10 times.  Steve (my husband) was asked after I'd fled to our car if that meant I was excited or something else because I'd confused the leaders of our ward (church).

So, basically, I use the word awesome when I'm confused, inspired, excited and upset.  Yep, that's a lot. 

Do you have a go to word?  I bet if you think about it, even if you don't use it quite as much as I do, you can probably think of something you say pretty regularly.  If you think of one, I'd love to hear it (as long as it's clean...pretty please!).

Have an awesome day!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

2013 General Primary Auxiliary Training

I had the opportunity to go down to Salt Lake City last week and watch the Leadership Training live.  I wanted to share a couple of gems I brought home with me afterwards.

1. Everything we do should be centered on Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father's plan.  That's it.  No exceptions.  And the amazing this is, it's not like this is limiting in anyway, there is so much to share, teach and learn with our primaries!

2. It is our responsibility to help their testimonies grow by: baring our testimonies, helping them do so they can learn and providing opportunities to feel the Holy Ghost.

3. I need to let my calling change me.  I'm sort of controlling.  Just a little bit (okay, I'm lying) and one of the hardest things for me to say is, "Thy will be done."  Actually, it was something I was feeling really good about saying in my prayers just before I got this calling...then I stopped for a while.  :)  I'm slowly getting back to not just saying it, but meaning it. 

4. If I can bring enthusiasm and love, the Lord will do the rest.  My favorite teachers throughout my life have always been those who were (and are) excited about what they are teaching.  Those who FEEL what they are teaching.  It takes a little more work sometimes to feel this way, but it is worth it and I'll be able to touch their hearts that much more as I do it.

5. There is nothing the children cannot do.  STOP underestimating them!!  They are so amazing and so ready to learn, let them by not dumbing down the gospel principles.  I also want to get them involved in helping to invite and activate those who struggle with coming.  I'm not sure exactly how this will look (if you have any great ideas, I'd love to hear them), and I'm praying about how to best implement this idea.

6. Teach to the one.  Remember they are individuals.  Know them, look at them individually and teach each child.  I'm praying about how to do this more also and so far I've been feeling like it's being more aware of each child, loving them each and being ready to talk with them when prompted. 

7. Be intentional.  This is a great one for me, mostly because it's already one of my goals so instead of adding another item to my list, I feel reinvigorated to keep moving forward with what I'm doing.  If we don't plan how we want our primaries to run, how we want the members of it to feel and grow, great things might still happen, but not as consistently and possibly not in the direction our Heavenly Father needs them to today.  Everyone is different, see what your needs are and pray about how to fill them.  You, and your primary, will be blessed!

8. And last, "Just get started."  We watched a video about a family who were inspired to start working on family history after listening to Elder Bednar's General Conference talk from October of 2011.  The mom brought their family history consultants into their home and her son, James, at age 10, loved the idea of family history (and getting on the computer to work on it) and got started.  He inspired the rest of his family and got them all thinking of and going to the temple more often.  After the video, he and his mom were brought up for questions and after being asked how other kids who were feeling overwhelmed could begin family history, James looked around and said with a smile, "Just get started."

I love this.  I love how very simple it is.  In all of our righteous endeavors all we need to do is put one foot in front of the other.  Pray and move forward, even a small step at a time.

If you'd like to view the training, you are in luck!  They've got it online for anyone who wasn't able to attend (or if you want to watch parts of it again). 

If you've already watched (or if you attended), what were your favorite parts?  What inspired you?  I'd love to hear!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sharing Time - April Week 2

This month focuses entirely on the restoration of Christ's church (I talk more about preparing for the month in general here).  We start out with the gospel as Christ taught it and how He organized His church, next moving into the apostasy that occurred after His death.  Then, we learn about the restoration, how it happened and some of the most important pieces of the gospel that were restored.  It's going to be a pretty great month (and for those of you who have older kids in the youth programs, they are also studying the apostasy and restoration this month, so don't forget to include them in your discussions)!

As there are only three weeks of primary this month with General Conference (is was AWESOME, by the way!), there needs to be either some form of combination or cutting out.  As I've read through the lesson and read helps and ideas online, I think the best way would be to combine Week 1 with a little bit of Week 2 and then finished off Week 2 combined with Week 3.  Does that make sense?  It will end up being a lesson and a half (ish) each week for the next two weeks. 

I found a great website that teaches simply what dispensation, apostasy and restoration mean.  I would start by asking the kids if they know what a dispensation means?  If no one knows, I'd maybe have them say it with me (especially with the junior primary) and then tell them it's a period of time where the gospel is on the earth.  Many of them may have heard that this is the last dispensation and you can see how many others they can think of (Adam, Enoch, Noah...).

After that you can ask about Jesus' dispensation, what did He do?  How did He organize His church?

I really liked the idea on Pergler's Place, but I don't have lots of empty (or empty-able) bins laying around my house, I do, however, have cups.  I found a few different versions and the one I like the best is on Sugardoodle here (this one is pretty good too, but I like the idea of the apostles being the base with everything else built on top better).  Scroll down to the version by Kelly Buchanon (or read them both and do the one that you like).

If you're sitting there asking yourself something along the lines of "What in the heck is that girl talking about?" I apologize.  I'll tell you.  To talk about the dispensation Christ set up, you use cups and pictures (or printed out words).  You would have a total of 19 cups.  The bottom row has 6 cups with pictures of the 12 apostles (2 on each cup).  The next row has 5 and has different gospel principles taught in the church.  The third row are 4 important ordinances, followed by the three-fold mission of the church.  Last is just one cup, with the Savior on it for the top, the head of the pyramid and the church.  You can get ideas for all the levels by reading through Kelly's idea on sugardoodle.

We are trying to incorporate the scriptures more in primary, partly because the scriptures are an amazing teaching tool and partly because many of our kids are very unfamiliar with them.  We not only read to them, but have the kids look up and find the scriptures with us so they are finding, hearing and reading which hopefully increases the learning.  To start talking about the apostasy, look up 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3.  Ask what falling away means and then you can get into my favorite part of the cup object lesson.

Talk about how once Christ died, the apostles were able to grow the church, but unfortunately, when they died, they took Christ's authority with them because the people were too wicked.  Slowly pull off one of the apostle cups, if you're careful, you can do it without the whole tower falling down.  Talk about how slowly it happened, it wasn't overnight, but slowly they lost their connection with Heavenly Father and then they were just going on their own.

I saw a cute idea about playing telephone to show how easily it is to get information mixed up when you aren't plugged in directly to the source.  Christ taught the apostles and they taught others, but once they were gone, they couldn't fix any misunderstandings that popped up in the church.

Now you can ask what happened next?  If someone mentioned the last dispensation earlier, now might be a good time to go back to them, ask about it again and how it got started?  The authority to run God's church was restored all because a boy learned and lived the gospel (if you have an armor of god guy, you could motion towards and mention him here).  He learned about prayer and then he prayed, trusting in God.  Through Joseph Smith, the church was able to be built again.

Have the kids look up and read D&C 1:30.  Who knows what the word foundation means?  Have one of the kids teach the others, or you teach them and then ask: what is the foundation of our church today, what would be our base if we we're going to build our tower again?  You can stick today's apostles on the back side of the same cups you used earlier (you'll have to stick a few more per cup when you include the 1st Presidency) to build it to look just like the church did in Christ's day.

Testimony Challenge
Bear your testimony and then encourage the kids to gain their own testimonies of the restoration of Christ's church.  A lot of my challenges center on prayer for two reasons, first it fits easiest with many of the gospel principles we are teaching and second, it has the sneaky side-affect of encouraging the kids to pray.  Encourage them to pray about Joseph Smith, the first vision, or that this is truly Christ's church re-established today.  The most important thing is to get them talking with their Heavenly Father and feeling the Holy Ghost in their lives!

If you want to learn a little more about the apostasy and restoration, just for your own information (although, I find the more I know, the more excited I am about sharing and teaching), check out Elder Oak's great talk on the subject.

Have a great week!

PS.  If you have a great idea I didn't mention, I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Family Growth

I love my kids.  I love to watch them grow and change and become their own person with amazingly distinct personalities. 

But it's also fun to look back.  For some reason their cheeks always look squishier when I'm looking at old pictures.

Like these.  Aren't they ADORABLE!

Man, I love these pictures.  I love being able to look at them and having memories flood over me.  As much as I look forward with excitement, looking back brings such happiness.

Kiss your kids today, they grow so darn fast.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April Sharing Time - Jesus Christ Restored His Church in the Latter Days

Last month I decided to delve a little deeper into each months theme.  One of the benefits from teaching is it forces me to LEARN more than I would normally do on my own.  Even though this kind of reading or research isn't strictly necessary in primary, it is for me.  I need to feel like I'm growing (and it's even cooler when I actually am).

If you're following along with the armor of god, this month we're adding the Title of Liberty.
(Here's a link to the guy I'm talking about and here's where I talk about the year's theme)

This is one of my very favorite pieces.  I loved Sister Ann M. Dibb's talk in October's General Conference and the progression through the gospel (and with our testimonies) she spoke of.  We first learn about a gospel principle, then we practice, or live it, in our daily lives and as we live it, our love for it and the gospel as a whole grows. 

Loving and gaining a testimony of this beautiful gospel ties in beautifully with learning about how it was restored in our day.  Like last month, I also found a few talks that go along with the theme to deepen my understanding and hopefully allow me to better teach and lead the members of our primary. 

Preparations for the Restoration and the Second Coming: "My Hand Shall Be over Thee, by Elder Robert D. Hales

The Wondrous Restoration, by Elder Neal A. Maxwell

Apostasy and Restoration, by Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Now is the Time, by Elder M. Russell Ballard

I've started reading the messages, but haven't finished yet.  What I have read is pretty darn great.  I'm excited to help teach not just the kids in our primary, but the adults that are serving with us.

I also found a video, a Mormon Message, that is only a little over 2 minutes long that talks about the restoration.  Most of the kids will have seen this before (or something like it), but sometimes it's a good idea to have a break from us talking and you could ask the kids to think about how watching the video makes them feel (listening for the Holy Ghost) and then talk about it afterwards.

If you've found a great resource (talk, song, video...) you're going to use this month, I'd love to hear about it.  I'll post the ideas I love for Sharing Time starting next week after General Conference (which I'm SO EXCITED about).

Have a wonderful month!
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