Friday, October 31, 2014

October 31st - Five in Five

I've decided to start something new as part of my effort to preserve my normal life. 

Not preserve as in keep it safe, but preserve so I don't lose all the memories.  The funny, sweet, frustrating and annoying ones that come together to make up my life.

I knew it needed to be simple or there was, an is, no way I'd be able to do it with any consistency.  And it is very easy.

Throughout our five day school week I'll take pictures (Yay for camera phones!).  Then, I'll choose five that represent different parts of our week.  Or that are just funny.  Or sweet.  Or embarrassing.  I could go on for a while.

I can't promise they'll be exciting because my life is pretty unexciting as a rule.  Which I actually kind of like.  Boring isn't always bad. 

So, this week for my very first five in five we've got:

Our first book report done.  Yipee!! 

When I told James we get to pick out books for our next book report on Monday he groaned.   Huh, I guess he's not quite as excited as I am.

I've copied and pasted pictures of simple projects for each holiday we intend to celebrate through our school year.  I then printed them out and stuck them in a binder so I could pull them out, pin them to our white board and have a "list" of fun and easy projects to do without any last minute searching. 

These are our Halloween ideas.

This is what my school room table looks like in the middle of our school day.  Every single day.

Makenna joined a book club last month and has been having a lot of fun.  She won this cute bookmark at her meeting on Monday.

I've been having a pretty great time, too.  It's fun to sit and talk with other homeschool moms.  I don't get to do that often.  Ever. 

And this is how we all feel at the end of the week. 

Well, I do anyway.

Even though this is actually Josh.  Asleep. 

How?  I have no idea.  A boy I knew in college once told me that all boys can sleep anywhere and I'm pretty sure this is proof.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I Know My Savior Lives - Planning for 2015

Okay, I've mentioned before that I'm a planner and I meant it (just in case you weren't sure).  Plans make me happy. 

I like to sit down as a primary presidency and talk about what we want to do for the next year starting in October or November of the previous year (right about now).  We don't plan out every detail of every item, but we do try to at least get a general idea of our plans in several different areas.

What areas?  Well, I'm glad you asked.

We talk and pray about what about the direction we want to take the annual theme, the one our primary needs to focus on and then we try to put that focus into everything we do throughout the year.  Things like: our monthly focuses, bulletin board, a presidency specific focus, spotlights, birthday gifts, baptism gifts, activities, and a Christmas gift.

I know, some of you are shaking your heads at me and asking why in the world I would need to plan a Christmas gift FOR NEXT YEAR!  We haven't even gotten to this year's Christmas yet.  This is one of those things that we mostly toss around ideas about, that way we have more time to "stumble across" something that fits and works great for our primary.  I've seen over and over how planning allows us to be more flexible.  Yup.

We don't have ideas for all of it yet and some of the ideas are a little hazier than others, but I thought I'd share with you what we have so far.  I'll keep you in the loop as we change our minds and share anything I make up in case some of you decide to walk a similar path.

First, we are going to focus on the Savior.  I know, no big surprise there. 

Monthly Focus
Each month we are going to learn about one of Jesus names.  He has a ton of them and each one says something different about the life He lived and the example He set for us.  We'll pick one that goes along with that month's theme from the 2015 Sharing Time Outline

Some of my favorites for next year are: I AM, Savior, Redeemer, Chosen, The Truth, Mediator, The Rock, Revealer, Comforter, Good Shepherd, Bread of Life, Well Beloved, The Way, Living Water, The Rock, Messiah, Holy Child, and Word of God. 

We will study His life, learn what the name teaches us, and apply it in our own lives so we can daily follow Him.  One way we're going to do this is by sending home a simple FHE each month where the children can learn and be challenged to find a way to act with their families.

1/2/2015: I've finished the FHE's for January through June and decided to do a Sunday outline also that details definitions, scriptures and quotes to talk about each week.
Bulletin Board
We'll take that monthly focus and turn it into a bulletin board.  In the center of our board will be a large picture of Jesus.  I'm not sure which one we're going to use, but I like the idea of it being just Him, no background or scenery (any ideas?).  Each month we'll add the name we're learning about somewhere around His picture.

We'll also have monthly posters with the theme and scripture on them to help us as we talk about them each week throughout the month.

12-28-2014: You can check out my posters on this post!

In previous years we tailored the spotlight around that years theme so we could use the forms to easily personalize the primary program.  This year we're thinking we might do something a little different. 

We're thinking about spotlighting people either on their birthday or sometime during their birth month so we aren't done with spotlights half way through the year. 

We are also thinking about doing away with the spotlight forms and having the kids come up and draw a card or two from a box like this one by Anjannete Ludwig.  In the box are questions having to do with the Savior, their testimonies of Him and how they are following in His footsteps.

12/30/14: We went with the box, you can read about it and download your very own in this post!

After they're spotlighted, we'll give them a flower made of their picture surrounded by footprint petals to plant in the front of the room in a planter (this is where I got the idea).  I'm not sure yet what form that planter will take, but I'm hoping to find something I can re-purpose inexpensively.

Birthday Gift
As we're talking both about following Jesus and planting his teachings, we'll give the children a seed packet full of jelly beans for their birthday.  Simple and inexpensive, two of my favorites.

12/30/2014: I've finished the birthday seed packets, you can check them out here!

Baptism Gift
Every year we give pillowcases for the baptism gift.  I like that it's simple and practical, I'm not much for nick knacks.  We always adapt the pillow case to go with the yearly theme, but haven't yet decided what to do for next years (aka, if you have an idea I'd LOVE to hear it). 

We have used stencils to cut the letters CTR out of a pillow case and sown in contrasting fabrics, found theme fabric to sew over part of a plain white pillowcase and had the theme embroidered onto a pillowcase.  All in separate years of course.

The manual does not state that we need to do activities, but I think they're important.  We only plan two a year, but they give us a chance to visit children we don't get to see and invite them out to join us in a less church-ey type setting.

Both activities will be themed around walking as Jesus walked.  In one we'll integrate the different names and do stations where we can do activities to learn about His life and how we can live as He did in our every day lives. 

I read an article recently that talked about how we perceive the iron rod and gave another take on it.  One that had never occurred to me and that I can't stop thinking about it.  In fact, as I read the article, I knew I had to use it in one of our primary activities this year.  In church we sing about how the iron rod is the word of God.  Did you know that Word of God is one of Jesus names?  While I may read or been told that, I've never connected it to the iron rod.  The song, "The Iron Rod," is literally telling us to cling to our Savior, to follow Him, to walk as he walked.

Another idea that goes right along with walking as Jesus did is to serve others.  It's just about impossible to do a big station-ey activity and also, take the children out of the building to serve others, so this would be a second activity. 

A few years ago we had the kids decorate cookies and make cards for some widows in our ward.  Unfortunately, only the children of the presidency got the opportunity to take them around.  I want every child to have the chance to make someones day, to feel the glow and love of our Heavenly Father as they serve someone else, so our second activity will focus on that.

Well, that's it so far.  Do you have any plans?  Ideas?  I'd sure love to hear them!!


Sunday, October 19, 2014

October Sharing Time - Successful Families Work Together

In our primary, we split up the sharing times by the month.  Each member of the presidency takes a turn doing sharing time for one month, another is in charge of conducting that month and the third checks on teachers and fills in where needed.  This has been my month for sharing time and I plan to continue sharing my plans with you every three months when my turn comes back around, but I am not planning to re-start plans every week. 

Just so you know. 

Thanks again for all the wonderful emails and comments!!

Now, on to my planned lesson...

In his most recent General Conference talk Elder L. Tom Perry said, "Many in our worried society understand that the disintegration of the family will bring only sorrow and hopelessness into a troubled world. As members of the Church, we have the responsibility to preserve and protect the family as the basic unit of society and eternity."

I'm going to open with that quote and then spend a little time talking about it with some yarn. 

First, I'll ask what disintegration means.  As we talk about it, I'll unravel one strand of yarn.  There are times in all our lives where we feel like things are falling apart.  Sometimes it's us, like when we throw a tantrum (yes, adults do that too) and other times it's out of our control. 

Next, I'll ask if the quote said that only parents or grown up people are responsible to protect our families?  Elder Perry taught that every member of the church shares that responsibility. 

Then, we'll talk about what our families need while I break some of that unraveled yarn.  We need to work together to make them stronger and to illustrate, I'll have a few kids come up and braid the yarn even stronger than it was in the beginning.

After we finish with the yarn, we'll move on to Noah's charades.  Noah and his family needed to work together to accomplish God's will.  My dad called working together bonding time (my mom still hates to have anything called bonding time) and if that's the case, Noah's family must have been one of the most closely bonded families of all time!

Some ideas for charades (including the outline ideas):
Chopping down wood for ark
Building a fire
Herding animals
Cleaning the animals
Cooking dinner
Hunting for dinner
Building the ark

After you're finished, if you have time, you can have the kids draw something their family does to work together while you talk about how working together makes families stronger.  I think we'll just talk about it, going around the room giving ideas and then I'll send home this sheet making the drawing homework (you can download it from my google drive, it's open to the public, no need to request a share).
The adorable clipart is from Melonheadz where you can find lots for free and to buy, if you haven't been you should check it out!
In closing, I'll talk about how important work is.

I recently found a great talk given back in 1982 by President Dean Jarman, the Stake President of the Salt Lake University 2nd Stake in the Welfare Session of General Conference, titled appropriately enough, "The Blessings of Family Work Projects."  In the talk President Jarman quotes his children describing the values they'd found through hard family work.  His 18 year old son said, “Since I can remember, I have been taught the value of hard work and honoring all of your responsibilities and your family name. As I look back to my experience in family projects, I can see how they have shaped my character and personality by letting me make many important decisions. I have gained confidence by meeting new people and am better able to express myself. But the most important thing about family work projects is that your family comes closer together in love and respect.”

My very favorite part of the quote is the end, after everything else, the most important value in working together as a family is that it brings you together.  It does.  I've experienced it in my life and I'm trying my best to share the value of "bonding time" with my children.

Happy Sharing Time,

Friday, October 17, 2014

School Days

I was reading through a few different blogs last week when I read something that really struck home with me.  This specific blogger hadn't been posting very consistently and the main reason she gave was that nothing exciting was happening.
I totally identify with that.  At least once a day I think about my blog and what I could be posting, especially when it comes to homeschooling, and I'm stumped.  I've always felt like it needs to be a big project or field trip.  Something special.
So, I don't post anything.
Which is funny when you consider that some of my favorite bloggers just blog about their days and every day, normal life.
So, here's a smattering of our life lately:

Josh read his very first book all the way through on his own.  I was more afraid of trying to teach my kids to read than anything else in school.  Terrified, actually, and it has turned into one of the most rewarding areas for me.  Watching the world of books unfold for my children is awesome. 

We learned a little about the life of Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni and decided to find out how it might have been to paint on a ceiling.

I had each child pick one of his works of art which I printed and taped to the bottom of our school room table.  Then, we taped up a piece of watercolor paper and they laid or sat on the floor to get their paint on.

One of my favorite parts of our school room is this white board and we use it throughout the day.  In the lower left hand corner is our calendar, the seasons and a weekly weather chart.  On the right we have a few facts about the state we're learning about while the rest is written on and erased every day. 
The kids might write their spelling words, I'll write down people and places we're studying in history, we'll draw pictures and anything and everything else.  It's amazing and fantastic.

One of my kids favorite parts of every day are projects and experiments.  This video is a simple science experiment we did earlier this month.  I often make slight changes to our experiments so we can use items I already have at home and the results vary.  This didn't go quite as far as we thought it might, but the boys sure had fun trying.

Happy Schooling,

Thursday, October 16, 2014

October Sharing Time - When Family Life is Founded Upon the Teachings of Jesus Christ, We Can Be Happy

Instead of combining two of the Sharing Time Outline ideas into one week (after General Conference, we're short one week), I decided to skip week 2 and go right on to week 3. 

Choose one child before Sunday to bring in a family picture.  If it's last minute and you're blessed to have children in primary, it would be easiest to grab one of your own family pictures and have them do it. 

You can have the chosen child share what they think families should base their lives on or have them ask the other children and lead a short discussion.  I love giving the children the opportunity to teach each other.

After the discussion, display the family picture along with a picture of Jesus Christ.  He is our foundation. 

A fun activity you might do here (especially with junior primary) is have them sing "The Wise Man and the Foolish Man."  After singing, talk about what the song is telling us to do.  Jesus has many names and one of them is The Rock.  He is our sure foundation and when we build on Him/His teachings it will not matter how fierce the storms get in our lives. 

In order to follow His teachings, we have to first learn about them.  The Sharing Time Outline shares three scriptures illustrating three principles that Jesus taught. 

The outline also suggests splitting the primary up and having them discuss the scriptures separately, but that's not the road I'm walking this week.  Every time I try to split them up and have them work through something, they get rowdy.  Rowdy enough that I walk out thinking, "Why in the world did I do that AGAIN."  So, we'll talk about them together as a primary.

The key to doing it together is one I've mentioned before.  Don't be afraid of silence OR if you are, pretend you're not.  I promise they'll answer eventually.  If the silence is killing you, try restating the question, calling on someone, or telling them you want a certain number of answers before you'll move on to motivate the shy and lethargic. 

First: Call on someone to come up, read the scripture, and decide what Jesus is teaching us.  For Senior Primary, I'll have them write it on the board and with Junior Primary, I'll grab a picture from the library that goes along with each scripture to stick on the board.

Second: Talk about how Jesus lived that scripture in His life.  It may be because I'm already excited for next year's theme, but I really want to relate each to Jesus life.  During conference, one of the speakers said while we cannot all walk where Jesus walked, we can all walk AS He walked which really spoke to me and relates fantastically to this weeks theme (I can't remember the speaker, although I did find another great talk while I was looking for it by Elder Gavarett).

Third: Discuss ways each family to do something during the next week to work on that specific instruction.  What ACTION can they take?  Can they encourage their siblings?  Remind parents?  Do a random act of kindness?  Give ideas and if time permits, let each child have a turn telling you something they can do.

I'm going to close with a quote from Elder L. Tom Perry's fantastic talk in October's General Conference "Finding Lasting Peace and Building Eternal Families." 

"Men and women are shaped partly by those among whom they choose to live. Those to whom they look up and try to emulate also shape them. Jesus is the great Exemplar. The only way to find lasting peace is to look to Him and live."

I might add or change the beginning to say boys and girls to help the kids relate it directly to them.  I'll then bear my testimony of the great truth Elder Perry taught. 

We are so very blessed.

Happy Sharing Time,

Thursday, October 9, 2014

October Primary Sharing Time - "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" Came From God to Help My Family

I've been thinking about this weeks sharing time for a few weeks.  I've read through the outline a few times, but finally sat down today to iron out my plans.

My first thought as I re-read the outline was that I wanted to start with a really great quote from one of our modern day prophets about the importance of prophets and their continuing revelation.

My second thought, as I started my search was my thankfulness for the internet.  Seriously.  How in the world did we figure out anything before the internet?  Okay, okay, I know how, I'm not that young, but it was so much more time consuming than tapping a few keys. 

After a minute or two of looking, I came across a FANTASTIC article by President Uchtdorf.  Aptly, it is titled, "Why Do We Need Prophets?"  The whole article is wonderful, but I've decided to start out talking about the Ten Commandments as suggested, discussing revelation just a little and then read my quote.  Along with being both wonderful and fantastic, the article is SHORT, so take a minute, read it over and decide what your primary most needs to hear.

President Uchtdorf said, "Today is not different from ages past. The Lord does not love the people of our day any less than in past times. One of the glorious messages of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ is that God continues to speak to His children! He is not hidden in the heavens but speaks today as He did in ancient days."

I will then ask the kids to give me some examples.  How is God speaking to us today through our prophets?  If no one mentions the Family Proclamation, I'll add that in, although we have been talking about it a lot so I'll be surprised if no one mentions it.

We'll then discuss it's purpose.  Why were our modern day prophets and apostles inspired to issue it?

I love the idea of breaking up the Proclamation and having the kids pick songs that go with it.

I'll make sure to pick up some song books from the library and maybe even quickly review how to use an index as we're passing them out so they have an easier time finding songs on their own. 

I also think I might mix the classes up, at least in junior primary, so there are older kids who can lead the younger ones as opposed to the teachers doing it on their own.  We'll do something simple like count off and then quickly switch seats.

Here are some ideas I came up with based on a few sentences I pulled out of the Proclamation:

IN THE PREMORTAL REALM, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshiped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize his or her divine destiny as an heir of eternal life.

HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalms 127:3).

Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live.

THE FAMILY is ordained of God.

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.

Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.
There are many more songs that would fit and many of these are interchangeable.  I looked up a few just in case a class is well and truly stymied.  Although I'll first try to help (or have a teacher help) them by showing them where to look in the book.

Having given the ideas, I feel I do need to say that I plan to let the kids choose what they want as long as they can somehow show how it links to the sentence. 

Even if it's a bit off base.  Why?

I see the point of this exercise to be getting their juices flowing, get them really thinking about what the Proclamation means and thereby, hopefully, more deeply understand how it can affect their lives if they live it.  That will only happen as they thoughtfully choose their own songs. 

Even if the thoughtfulness goes into trying to explain how a song that might not seem to fit on the surface does work.

I'll close with one more quote from President Uchtdorf, "Brothers and sisters, God does speak to us today. And He desires that all His children listen to and heed His voice. As we do so, the Lord will bless and uphold us greatly, both in this life and through the worlds to come."

I love augmenting my closing testimony with that of our leaders.  Love it.  It helps me to feel the spirit and more easily share it with the rest of the primary.

Good luck on your week!
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